National Conference on Offender Reentry-National Institute of Corrections-DC Public Safety

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/2013/05/national-conference-on-offender-reentry-national-institute-of-corrections-dc-public-safety/

[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes: From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host Leonard Sipes. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a show today. The National Institute of Corrections Conference on Offender Re-entry, www.nicic.gov/go/vc2013. We’ll be giving out that web address all throughout the program and throughout the show notes.  We have two guests with us today. We have Bernie Izler, she is a Correctional Programs Specialist for the National Institute of Corrections at the Academy in Aurora, Colorado; and we have Captain Attila Denes. Yes, indeed, I did say Attila Denes. He is with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office there in Colorado. – And to Bernie and Attila, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Bernie Izler: Thank you.

Captain Attila Denes: Thank you.

Len Sipes: All right. This is exciting. This is a national conference on re-entry, but it’s a virtual conference, and that opens it up to anybody whether it is a community person, whether it is a businessperson, whether it’s an aide to the mayor, an aide to the governor, a student, a college professor; it doesn’t matter. You’re inviting everybody into this national conference, correct?

Bernie Izler: Yes, we are.

Len Sipes: All right. Bernie, it’s June 12th from 9 AM Mountain to 2:00 in the afternoon?

Bernie Izler: Correct.

Len Sipes: Alright, June 12th, 9 AM Mountain; that’s 11:00 Eastern Time. I don’t know what it’s like, what it is for the rest of the country. 9:00 AM Mountain Time there in Aurora, Colorado, and we go to the afternoon. So this is exciting stuff. What called you to create a national conference on offender re-entry? What caused the National Institute of Corrections to create a conference, a national conference, but in this case, do it via personal computers?

Bernie Izler: Okay, well first of all, re-entry in Corrections is everybody’s business is re-entry, and we also were trying to pick a topic in which we could get stakeholders and others in the community, whoever had an interest in this, that they could be involved, and one of the ways to do that is to go virtual with a conference, and that way, people don’t have to travel. There’s no cost involved except people’s time, as accessible as possible, so that was our two-pronged purpose with a virtual conference.

Len Sipes: And the really interesting thing about this is that a lot of the virtual conferences that I go to, it’s listen-only but in this case they’ll be able to watch and listen and ask questions, correct?

Bernie Izler: Correct. It’s kind of like there’ll be a thread of discussion with each of the presentations so that it’s kind of like when you’re at a regular conference and the speaker gets done, and there’s that line standing waiting to talk to the presenter. That thread of discussion is that line; it’s where you can ask that question, and the presenters will be able to talk to you, answer your questions. You can ask them a question, and that’ll go on even post-conference, as well as there’ll be threaded discussions where people can talk to each other, talk to their peers. They’ll just be open-type discussions where they can go in and introduce themselves and basically ask, you know, “Hey, I’m doing this kind of work in re-entry. What are you doing? What works for you?” They can throw that question out there, and they can network with each other.

Len Sipes: Oh, that is so neat. That is so neat because one of the most important parts of any conference is the networking. I think in some cases what takes place in the hallways and in the meeting rooms is just as important as what happens during the conference, so people can really have that same experience.

Bernie Izler: Yes, you’re absolutely right, reaching out to other people in the same kind of situation. They may not know each other. I’m sure there’s people, when it comes to one of our presentations on education, I know in looking at the list of people who are coming, there’s other people who are involved in education with this population, and they can reach out to each other and find out what they’re doing and support each other.

Len Sipes: That is really interesting. Give me some of the topics that you’re going to be covering at the conference, please.

Bernie Izler: Okay, well first of all, educational pathways to success, mental health, creating a cross-systems collaboration with that, cognitive behavioral programs with offenders, the victim’s role in offender re-entry.  There’s one particular program that’s called Starting Over Core, and that’s an offender-led group. Justice-involved women and the special things they deal with. Employment is huge where I think we have three presentations having to do with employment. Sentencing, where it starts, and also juvenile re-entry initiatives, and then our keynote speaker, Ed LaTessa will speak on what’s effective on reducing recidivism.

Len Sipes: What works, what’s evidence-based.

Bernie Izler: Yes. Correct.

Len Sipes: And that’s one of the things, ladies and gentlemen, I think and I see is really taking a lead on is helping the rest of us within the correctional system understand what is evidence-based, what does work, and my hat goes off to the National Institute of Corrections. Boy, in my public’s relations career, they’ve helped me out on a couple different occasions in terms of training and in terms of access, and you’re going to find that the National Institute of Corrections is probably one of the easiest federal agencies to deal with, certainly one of the easiest federal agencies I’ve ever had to deal with. Okay, Attila, where did you get that name and tell me that’s a family name?

Captain Attila Denes: Well, it’s a very common name in Hungary where my parents originated from, and when they came out here, they decided to give me a name to remember my heritage by, and boy darn, did they ever.

Len Sipes: Boy. That’s sort of like “A Boy named Sue,” that Johnny Cash song, I think it was, from decades ago. Now I’m really dating myself.

Captain Attila Denes: Oh yeah. Well, it stands out in a crowd. If there are 300 people in a crowd and someone says, “Hey, Atilla!” – I know exactly who they’re talking to.

Len Sipes: Captain Attila Denes, he’s with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office. There again, Colorado is well represented in terms of this program. Where is Douglas County?

Captain Attila Denes: Douglas County is on the southern rim of the Denver Metro area. We’re a community of about 300,000 people, and on the topic that we’re going to be discussing, it’s actually a partnership with the Arapahoe/Douglas Mental Health Network which is one of the community mental health centers in the Denver Metro area with a service population of around 600,000 folks. So we’re kind of a mid-sized community on the south end of Denver, and that’s what we’re going to be talking about.

Len Sipes: Now, what you’ve done is be able to go out and put together a collaboration of organizations to address mental health and other issues in terms of people coming out of the jail system there, correct?

Captain Attila Denes: That’s correct. Well, collaboration is kind of a vogue topic right now, and it’s certainly something that everybody’s talking about in the academic, scholarly world, you know, very hot topic of how do we combine all of our resources and thoughts and everything because since we’re all basically working with the same population, just in different silos, how do we break down some of those silos and overcome the resistance to working together that sometimes develops in our organizations so that we can actually accomplish greater things, that synergy that everybody talks about. It’s a pretty exciting topic, and definitely you sometimes get the pushback of well, collaboration is great and synergy is great but if you’ve got no money, how is that really going to help us? – And the reality is that there are really practical ways that it can.

Len Sipes: Well, yeah, it can. There’s no doubt that it can but we come, Captain, you and I have been in the criminal justice system for a long time. We’re hard-bitten; we’re cynical, and we are under the mindset that unless government ponies up and actually funds the stuff, it’s really not going to happen. In many cases I’ve heard from practitioners is that they reach out to people and try to form a collaborative relationship with people in the community, and they’re looking at them saying, “Hey, I’m overburdened as it is, and I’m underfunded as it is, and we’re relying heavily upon volunteers, and you want to bring 300 or 400 additional people into my program? We can’t handle that.” So, how do you get around that?

Captain Attila Denes: Yeah, well, it’s a challenge, and looking at it from the front end, it looks like this monumental thing that’s almost impossible to overcome but the reality is that the process of overcoming that is pretty simple. It’s not really rocket science. There have been a lot of scholarly articles published on it. You know, the—

Len Sipes: Oh, there’s an endless amount of literature about collaboration. Oh, there is.

Captain Attila Denes: Oh, exactly.

Len Sipes: And as my friends in the practitioner community are saying, “Okay, yeah, the research –.” It’s really easy for researchers in D.C. to say collaboration. They’re not the ones who have got to go out and live with this on a day-to-day basis. Try doing it, not talking about it but try doing it, but you’ve done it.

Captain Attila Denes: Exactly. Exactly. And, you know, there are different challenges depending on what community you’re dealing with. I worked with NIC on a crisis intervention team’s leadership program that was spearheaded out here in Aurora in 2010, ’11, ’12, and one of the things that we heard from these leadership teams that came out from state prison systems across the U.S. was, you know, “Collaboration is great and putting together these stakeholder groups is great but we’re kind of a closed system. We don’t really have strong ties with the outside community. We’re pretty much self-sufficient, so what do we do in place of that?” And so sometimes it requires a little bit of work to identify who exactly represents the various components of the stakeholder systems that we want to get involved in. I know that sounds high-level but it’s pretty practical when you break it right down.

Len Sipes: But you, being that you’ve done it and you’ve done it successfully, that’s why the National Institute of Corrections wants you to present at the National Conference on Offender Re-entry, and it’s a different name. That’s the name that I gave it. www.nicic.gov/go/vc2013. The VC stands for Virtual Conference. That’s one of the reasons why the National Institute of Corrections wants you to present because you have cynical idiots like me who can’t get together with the program versus somebody who has done what you’ve done. You’ve done it successfully. So you have lessons for me and for everybody else in terms of the fact that a) it can be done, b) how to do it successfully.

Captain Attila Denes: Exactly. And, you know, not to bust our arms patting ourselves on the back out here but the reality is that we were, whether it was by fluke or by design, we were able to come up with a system that worked pretty well, and the great thing about it, looking back on it now ten years down the road is that we have accomplished things that we never would have imagined possible at the front end, and that’s the really exciting piece of this.  You know, the way that this all started, back in 2002 was really a patrol-based law enforcement initiative called Crisis Intervention Team’s Training which was developed back in Memphis all the way back in 1987, and it was kind of spreading like wildfire across the western United States, and Colorado picked up that program in 2002 as a result of a legislative initiative. It was a task force that was in panel back in ’99 that recommended that we establish a CIT program, a statewide-coordinated program to roll it out across the state, and that really started up in 2002, and one of the key components of that planning piece for CIT training was putting together a steering committee, a local steering committee comprised of administrative and executive-level stakeholders from all these different groups that dealt previously in isolation with the same population, the population of people that are constantly going through that revolving door of criminal justice involvement, constantly coming into contact with the police and with the jails, and then going back out onto the street, under the supervision of probation or parole or whatever, and how do we impact those people and impact that population effectively, understanding that we all have limited budgets; we have limited staff; you know, how do we try to maximize that impact?  So we brought together these stakeholders who initially were pretty reluctant to talk very openly with each other because we recognized that, “Yeah, sure, we’re dealing with the same population but we have our own rules and policies and laws that govern how much information we can share and how our money can be used and all this,” but what was kind of magical about that process was, as we started going to each other’s steering committee meetings and working taskforce meetings and working group meetings and all these different meetings, and it was the same group of usual suspects, so to speak, showing up around the table, we started to get to know each other. There was this face-name recognition that developed, and we started to understand each other’s roles within the system, and our specific limitations, and what resources do we bring to the table, and things like that/  And that’s when we started to realize, if we start to share some information, share some resources, I can open up a little bit and say, “Okay, you know what? I can bring this to the table, and if we’re rolling out this training program, I can offer up this, this, and this. And then my colleague across the table in a different system, mental health center or the advocacy role, NAMI, whatever, you know, they can pony up something else, and we all start bringing our respective pieces to the table, and we found that we were able to build a really effective program that was originally just designed around that one small concept, how do we build a local CIT training program?

Len Sipes: But the bottom line, Attila, because I’m going to go for the break quickly, and then we’re going to pick back up, but the bottom line in all of this is that, without the community, in terms of offender re-entry, we’re dead. Without collaboration, we’re not going to get it done because we simply do not, in many cases but particularly jail systems, we do not have the budget for mental health. We do not have the budget for employment. We do not have the budget for substance abuse. Without community collaboration, any sense of successful offender re-entry is dead in the water.

Captain Attila Denes: Yeah, exactly. Exactly.

Len Sipes: And I would imagine, Bernie, that’s the whole idea behind bringing in people like Attila, bringing in people like Captain Denes is to make sure that success stories from the field and what works from an academic point of view, from a research point of view, is all encapsulated within one conference.

Bernie Izler: Correct. The idea of a collaboration is not just that we have limited resources but also to be effective. We really need each other because most of our population, our offenders, when they go out in the community, they don’t have just one issue to deal with. They have multiple issues, multiple barriers to successful re-entry, and so the collaboration also is a way to be much more successful than working individually.

Len Sipes: I want to reintroduce our guests today and the topic. Ladies and gentlemen, the National Institute of Corrections is holding a National Conference on Offender Re-Entry. Everybody should go to this website, and it’ll be in the show notes: www.nicic.gov/go/vc2013. www.nicic.gov/go/vc2013. V is for Virtual Conference VC. This will all take place on June 12th, coming up real soon, 9 AM Mountain Time and the rest of you can figure it out in terms of what applies to you, from about 9:00 in the morning to 2:00 in the afternoon.  It is for everybody. It’s not just for those of us within the criminal justice system. Whether it be a preacher, whether it be a community leader, whether it be the aide to the mayor of Milwaukee, whether it is the aide to the governor of the state of California, everybody is welcome in terms of this national virtual conference. You can watch – it’s just not listen mode. You can watch what’s going on; you can listen in, and you can ask questions, and you can make contacts with everybody else at the conference. Did I summarize it correctly, Bernie?

Bernie Izler: Yes, you did, thank you.

Len Sipes: Okay. Now, I would imagine for the National Institute of Corrections, this was a pretty significant undertaking. I mean, you all had to say to yourselves at a certain point that we in the field no longer have the money to go to conferences, and this is probably a more powerful and more effective way to do a national conference on Offender Re-Entry. I’m assuming you’re saying, “Hey, this is a no-brainer considering everybody’s fiscal constraints. Let’s do this virtually through computers where anybody can sit in in their home, anybody can sit in in their office and participate in this national conference.

Bernie Izler: Yes, correct. As you talked about earlier about NIC being focused on service, one of the things that really caught my attention with the virtual conference is that we can reach down to the smallest jail, to any corrections professional; we can reach out to anybody, and when you have walk-in conferences, you only have people there who can afford to be there. So this was another way to really reach out and serve our community as well as corrections.  So .yeah, it was quite an undertaking because it was new and so it was a huge learning curve for us in putting this together and how it works and how it’s going to work for the field itself, just technology alone. How do we make sure that as many people as possible can access it because we know in corrections that we have firewalls and so on that, so, how’s that going to work, and how can we be successful getting to that group as well as the community?

Len Sipes: Well for what it’s worth, I’m going to more and more virtual conferences, more and more instead of attending. Even in Washington, D.C., where I’m located, even in terms of traveling three or four stops by subway and walking three or four blocks, which is pretty easy and pretty accessible, I’m finding more and more of these issues are taking place via my computer, and we’ve got the same firewalls that everybody else has and that doesn’t seem to be a problem, so more and more, we’re going to see more virtual conferences, more virtual meetings, more of these issues discussed via computer.

Bernie Izler: Yes, and the other thing that’s really great is we have, on June 5th, whoever’s registered will be able to come in to look at the site and access the on-demand presentations, and then on the 12th will be the live and the on-demand, and then all of it will be recorded. So that will be available after the conference too, so not only a matter of travel and so on, but time, so if there’s one presentation that you didn’t get to see live, once the recorded versions are up, if you’ve got an hour or so at your workplace, you can say, “Hey, I want to go in and look at that,” and you can still see it.

Len Sipes: But isn’t that, I mean, all of this, in terms of a virtual national conference, in terms of podcasting and what I’m doing, in terms of you recording it and placing it so other people can download, I mean, I ride in from the train from Baltimore to D.C. every single day, and yes, I’m crazy, for those of you who know how long that takes, but I get to read all the stuff from NIC. I’m the best-read person in my organization because I have two hours a day on the train so I read all of your material. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to download that through iTunes or download it through the National Institute of Corrections website and be able to participate, virtually, while I’m sitting, riding on my train ride from Baltimore to D.C. or back and forth? That, I think, is where all this is going. Don’t you agree?

Bernie Izler: Yes. I don’t know that we have that capacity with this conference but looking down the road, we’ve started to think in terms of what’s next and, certainly that’s what’s next. It will be a link for people on our website that they can go to it. I’m not exactly sure that we’re there yet with podcasts or that kind of thing but certainly on particular mobile devices, they’ll be able to access it.

Len Sipes: Oh, I’ll be more than happy to come out and train you on podcasting, not necessarily on Skype with all the problems we had before the beginning of the show. Hey, Captain Denes, again, convince everybody out there in the practitioner community, again, those of us hard-bitten and cynical about everything that comes along, convince the rest of us that this is something that everybody needs to participate in.

Captain Attila Denes: Oh, well, I think that just what we gain from each other is something that, it’s hard to picture the end result when you’re on the front end of it, you know. Like I was describing earlier, our collaboration here with the Mental Health Center and with NAMI and with all the other stakeholder groups, centered around just putting together a patrol-based training initiative, a crisis intervention team’s training, and we soon realized that, you know what, where this is really happening is in the local jails where people with mental illnesses and substance abuse disorders are over-represented three or four times versus what you would find out in the general population, and so the folks that are working with that population inside really needed those skills almost more than the patrol officers dealing with them on the outside.  And so as we started getting into that, then we started realizing, you know what? Maybe there’s some case management that needs to happen here. Not only are we trying to defer people from criminal involvement on the front end but sometimes these folks do end up in jails and prisons, and, you know, I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know there but as we’re getting ready to release them back out into the community, how can we connect them with services in advance of their release so that they’re not going through that revolving door over and over again.  So that whole piece of community re-entry was something we started talking about here in Arapahoe and Douglas Counties back in like 2003, 2004, and so we instituted a real small program at first, just one or two case managers at the re-entry level, working in the local jails, and we found that it was so effective that these same stakeholders started showing up at these conference tables over and over and over again. We thought, okay, what’s next? Where else can we go with this? And so one of the next things that happened was what we initially called Mental Health Court, which was a specialty problem-solving court for people with felony charges, nonviolent felony charges, who could be safely deferred from criminal justice involvement through evidence-based direct case management services and intensive treatment, and so, we now call that program the Wellness Court but it’s enormously successful here in Colorado.  That led to a Metro area, in the Denver Metro area, we had about a year-and-a-half long cross-systems services and gaps analysis that was facilitated for us by the National GAINS Center, and again, huge numbers of people showing up at these meetings, stakeholder groups from all across all different systems, and we realized, again, we’re all dealing with the same population but we’re dealing with them in isolation. How can we break down those walls, break down those silos, overcome institutional inertia, start sharing resources and information so that we’re not dealing with the same people over and over again but instead we’re getting them into effective treatment programs, diverting them from criminal justice involvement, making it so that they’re not filling our jails and prisons. That’s what it was all about.

Len Sipes: But everybody out there has exactly the same problems you do there in Douglas County. It doesn’t matter whether in Minnesota, Hawaii, Alaska, the state of Maryland, everybody has the same issues, so the bottom line is that they can learn from you and they can contact you and you can contact others. It’s a matter of sharing what works at the local level. Is that not the heart and soul of this conference?

Captain Attila Denes: Absolutely.

Len Sipes: Okay, and that’s one of the reasons why you’re there. So again, Bernie, the whole idea is to share what works at the local level by real people dealing with real problems, dealing with the same circumstances everybody else is dealing with. If Attila Denes can get it right, and the sheriff’s department there in Douglas County can get it right, that means everybody else can do it correctly and solve the same problems, and then again, that’s the whole idea behind this conference.

Bernie Izler: Yes. Well, and it’s also a mixture of we tried to get two successful programs in different areas as well as some experts in the field, like Professor Latessa, who’s going to talk about evidence-based practices. So it’s a mixture of both because sometimes the experts are like, “Okay, it’s a place to start, somewhere.” And then how does that look in the community? And you’re right; it can look very, you know, you may have the same problems but as Captain Denes said, it can look very different in each community as to what you have available and so on. So yeah, so it’s a mixture of all of those things.

Len Sipes: But the fact that they can reach out to Attila and actually talk to him and email him – Atilla, I’m not quite sure you want me to say this – but the fact that they can is encouraging because all these systems are sharing the same problems and the same concerns, so why not everybody get together through this national conference and help each other out?

Bernie Izler: Yeah, and that’s what the threaded discussions are about. Like I said, for each presentation, there’ll be a threaded discussion, and so our presenters will be monitoring those, and when you go in a register you sign up and you can say in each thread if you want it sent to your email, and then whatever goes on in that thread will come to your email.

Len Sipes: Oh, that’s so cool.

Bernie Izler: And then, also to our presenters, so they can see what the discussion is so the discussion will continue.

Len Sipes: You know, Bernie, I just wanted to ask you this question before we leave the program. This had to be scary for you. I mean, this is the first time NIC is doing something on this scale in terms of re-entry, correct?

Bernie Izler: Correct. Yes, I’ve had several times where I’ve been up at 2:30 AM in the morning, wide awake going, “Oh my gosh, what if we create it and nobody comes?” So yeah, and I’ve had a wonderful team here at NIC. There’s a lot of different people at NIC that have participated and made it possible. Our goal was 1,000, and once we passed that number, I’m not having those 2:30 A.M. wake-up calls. So we’re very excited that we’ve passed our goal and that it can go on, and having it up recorded online for four months, I’m very hopeful that we could even double that number.

Len Sipes: Oh, you’re going to easily double that number. In fact, I can tell you right now that you’re going to get 3, 4, 5 times the amount of people downloading it than listening to it live. All of my friends who do stuff live say that it’s 5, 10 times the amount of people that come in after the live presentation so you’re going to get your 1,000. I would bet my Buick that you’re going to get at least 5,000 people exposed to your conference but most of them are going to come in afterwards. Final minute, Bernie, Attila, final issues you want to discuss?

Captain Attila Denes: One thing I just wanted to throw out there from the cost standpoint is the criminal justice system is probably the least cost-effective method of obtaining mental health and substance abuse treatment. There are tons of community services that provide those same services at a much reduced cost and so from a taxpayer’s perspective, collaboration is the way to go.

Len Sipes: Alright, Bernie, final words? Thirty seconds.

Bernie Izler: Just that we welcome everybody to the conference. We’re very excited about it. We think it’s a very timely topic. Please, come and register for the updates. Our agenda came out today so people can look at that and just go to www.nicic.gov/go/vc2013.

Len Sipes: And you’re going to have a link to this on the front page of the National Institute of Corrections website, correct?

Bernie Izler: I am hoping so soon. We’ve kind of put this publicity out in pieces, so kind of—

Len Sipes: Okay. That would be a good idea because a lot of people may not remember the address but they will know National Institute of Corrections.

Bernie Izler: Yes, and when they go to the website, if they can’t find it, if they just type in [PH 0:29:31] tough key to door key, they’ll find it.

Len Sipes: Got it. Okay. Ladies and gentlemen, the National Institute of Corrections Conference on Offender Re-entry: www.nicic.gov/go/vc2013, June 12th from 9 A.M. Mountain to 2:00 in the afternoon. Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. We appreciate your calls, we even appreciate your criticisms, and we want everybody to have yourselves a very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]

Share

Green Corrections’ Impact on Cost Savings and Reentry-National Institute of Corrections-DC Public Safety

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/2013/04/green-corrections-impact-on-cost-savings-and-reentry-national-institute-of-corrections-dc-public-safety/

[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes: From the nation’s capital this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. We have a really interesting show today, ladies and gentlemen. We have a show on green corrections which is more than the concept sounds. What we’re talking about is economic development, what we’re talking about is saving millions of dollars for state correctional facilities throughout the United States. We’re also talking about inmate training today and using green corrections as a way of transitioning offenders from the prison system to the larger community. We have via Skype from the State of Washington, Washington Department of Corrections, Dan Pacholke. He is assistant secretary, www.doc.ua.gov. Also, we have Stephanie Davison. She is a senior program officer for FHI360, www.fhi360.org. Again, both Dan and Stephanie are here to talk about green corrections. Dan and Stephanie, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Dan Pacholke: Thank you.

Stephanie Davison: Thank you.

Len Sipes: All right. Good. Before we start, what is FHI360, Stephanie?

Stephanie Davison: FHI is an international development organization dedicated to improving the lives of individuals internationally.

Len Sipes: Okay and you’re under contract to the National Institute of Corrections which is the producer of today’s show, Donna Ledbetter, was kind enough to set up this show today. So you’re under contract to the National Institute of Corrections of the US Department of Justice, correct?

Stephanie Davison: Yes, we’ve coordinated several activities for green corrections through NIC for the last few years.

Len Sipes: All right. Stephanie, the first question goes to you. What in the name of heavens is green corrections?

Stephanie Davison: Green corrections is a series of programs in which correctional system can operate the prison system to be more environmentally friendly and hopefully save money and then also operate education and training programs for offenders geared toward job placement once they exit.

Len Sipes: And that’s pretty interesting because we’re talking before the program, Dan, that the State of Washington had save, what, well over $3 million by implementing green corrections?

Dan Pacholke: Yes and between the years 2005 and 2010, we saved about $3.5 million by using basically, you know, environmental greening principles.

Len Sipes: And give me a sense as to what you mean by environmentally friendly principles?

Dan Pacholke: Well, I mean – I mean some of it comes down to reducing your carbon footprint. We have zero waste garbage sorting centers, composting. We’ve done a lot on different energy packages, strategies to save water, strategies to save waste water, so just in some of those bulk areas about, you know, ways in which you spend money that aren’t wise or unproductive so we’ve reduce a lot of expenditures in those areas and ultimately we’ve asked questions about why we buy things only to throw them away and try to eliminate those items upstream also.

Len Sipes: People don’t understand, Dan, that the correctional systems are like big cities and I don’t know how many prisons that you operate there in the State of Washington but each and every one of them – when I was with the Maryland Department of Public Safety, we had 23 correctional facilities throughout the state. They all held between 2000 to 3000 individuals. I mean they were operating like little cities so there are, I would imagine, endless opportunities to go green and save any state a tremendous amount of money.

Dan Pacholke: Absolutely. I mean there’s what, 2.3 million people incarcerated in federal state and county prisons and jails across the country.

Len Sipes: Right.

Dan Pacholke: And as you look at some of these strategies that, you know, as we’ve kind of talk about it, at least a couple of them, you know, we’re giving you examples of a relatively mid-sized prison system so if you apply that you know across the country I mean there’s lots and lots of money that can be saved just in the sense of savings and on top of that you can begin to use prison as a mechanism to assist a community in meeting other needs as well.

Len Sipes: Well, it’s an amazing concept. I’m really enjoying this because in this day and age where all of us within the criminal justice system are charged with saving taxpayer dollars. I mean we would do that regardless but nevertheless. I mean this is one way of saving tax paid dollars and providing job training for people coming out of the prison systems. Stephanie Davison, why don’t you tell me a little bit about that concept of training people – training inmates for jobs in green corrections?

Stephanie Davison: Right. So training individuals for green jobs is very similar to training individuals for regular jobs. You’re just tweaking what you’ve done.

Len Sipes: Right.

Stephanie Davison: For example, FHI has worked with the State of Minnesota to green their programs in which we worked with their teachers to think about how to use green products and green training concepts…

Len Sipes: Okay.

Stephanie Davison: …to connect inmates to jobs in green fields after exiting.

Len Sipes: But give me a sense as to what sort of jobs are we talking about.

Stephanie Davison: Sure [PH] jobs. So almost any job can be made green.

Len Sipes: Right.

Stephanie Davison: A common one would be carpentry. You may be using green cleaning products green finishing materials. You’ll also learn how to produce your products where you create less waste.

Len Sipes: Okay. But are there specific training like an electrician, like a plumber, like any other person involved in hard skills. I mean is there green corrections that would lead to a career path?

Stephanie Davison: It can, yes. There are a lot of green certifications. They’re valued in different ways within different communities throughout the US. For example the US Green Building Council has a lead certificate to do construction in green manners.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Stephanie Davison: That can be great. It requires some time so it’s not necessarily valued in every community.

Len Sipes: Right. But I mean there are hard and fast jobs where that inmate can come out into the community and find himself or herself employed as a result of being involved in green corrections.

Stephanie Davison: Yes. Some of the solid ones would be landscaping.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Stephanie Davison: That’s considered a green job. It’s something you can be trained within the correctional facility especially states like Washington have gardens that could be used to train offenders.

Len Sipes: Right.

Stephanie Davison: And then they can be – enter those sorts of jobs once they exit.

Len Sipes: Okay, Stephanie. Dan is not light up. So you’re going to have to answer this question. Why would the National Institute of Corrections, which is part of the bureau – Federal Bureau of Prisons, part of the US Department of Justice, why would the National Institute of Corrections care about green corrections? Why would they’d be involved?

Stephanie Davison: I think there are two reasons. One is it can save the taxpayer’s money…

Len Sipes: Right.

Stephanie Davison: …and, two, it can have benefits to the offender upon reentry.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Stephanie Davison: There are jobs. There are also some behavioral aspects that we can talk about different programs that can benefit an offender when they leave.

Len Sipes: Okay. Talk to me about the behavioral aspects.

Stephanie Davison: So there are some programs and I’ll let Dan jump into this little bit more such as dog training programs that they’ve learned or from experience can find that offenders within the yard are calmer. There’s less incidence of violence and then when they exit, reentry is often smoother.

Len Sipes: Dan, you mentioned in the pre-show about this concept of making safer correctional facilities. In the 14 years that I spent with Maryland Department of Public Safety, our philosophy was anything that made that day productive for that inmate created a safer prison facility. I would imagine you will go along with that thought?

Dan Pacholke: Absolutely and I believe that’s one of the reasons why NIC is interested. In addition to cost containment and cost savings for reentry, on top of that what you want to do is make for a safe operating environment in the prison both for the staff that work there and the offenders that live there as well. So part of what can be done, I supposed, in the greening effort is to create opportunities for an inmate to contribute and I use that word opportunity to contribute because it’s meaningful activity in the sense – from the sense of an inmate. So whether it’s dog restoration or training dogs or whether it’s working with endangered species, both plants and animals, or whether or not it’s contributing to scientific research, what the inmates gain from that is the sense that they’re contributing to a broader social need. It’s something your family can benefit from. It’s something the community can benefit from and what we’ve found is that inmates that are involved in those kinds of activities tend to be less likely to violate rules. It makes them more – a more therapeutic environment in that regard. So it does enhance institutional safety and ultimately begins to change the nature of prisons so that community partners and organization see a prison as a benefit to someone that can contribute to local geographic community needs and there are several states that are doing environmental restoration today.

Len Sipes: How many states are involved in green corrections, either one of you?

Stephanie Davison: I would say a large proportion of states are involved to one degree or another.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Stephanie Davison: For example, many states are involved just because the governor has set forward executive orders that reduce the set goals for energy reduction over time.

Len Sipes: Right and, Dan, give me an honest answer here. I’ve been in the criminal justice system for over 40 years and somebody came to me and said, Leonard, you’re now going to be doing green corrections. I would have sat there and went, eh? What is green corrections? Because the order came down on high from the governor’s office to reduce expenditures but when – after talking with you and talking with Stephanie, I get the sense that this has major payoffs economically, major payoffs in terms of the safety of the institution, and major payoffs in terms of reentry upon release.

Dan Pacholke: It does. I mean when you think of corrections, the center of the plate is always like evidence-based practices, doing things that reduce the likelihood that inmates reoffend upon release. Over the last five years, we’ve been in extremely lean economic times nationally…

Len Sipes: Yes.

Dan Pacholke: …and so we tend to engage in issues that are more on the margin that are complimentary to an evidence-based framework. So on the one hand, its low cost opportunities to program offenders, to get offenders involved in meaningful activity. Engage more offenders to make the prison safer. There is the environmental economics to it. They’re going to reduce the operating cost over a long period of time, over life cycles, and then, of course, you know there is the benefit to the community that kind of goes along with that, the reentry, the job training, the skills upon release. So it’s really complimentary to that framework and it begins to broaden kind of the scope of corrections in a way that we wouldn’t have done in good economic times. I think it is the product of tougher economic times where partners are reaching out for each other in order to accomplish a goal.

Len Sipes: All right. It’s taking lemons and making lemonade.

Dan Pacholke: Correct.

Len Sipes: Yeah, yeah I like that. Now, but help me with this sense and a lot of people that are going to be listening to this program today may not be familiar with the inside of prison systems. I have always maintained that you can walk inside of a prison and either feel that lack of tension or feel the tension almost instantaneously as soon as you walk in through the front door. Feel free to correct me, feel free to disagree, but a lot of the institutions that I’ve walked into in the past that have been based upon a therapeutic environment, based upon the inmates involved in lots of different things, their days are filled with different issues where – that they find humanizing. You can walk inside of that prison and immediately feel it. You can immediately feel the lack of tension because the inmates there are – again, they’re involved in constructive activities. I’m getting the sense that some of the things that we’re talking about with green correction fills that bill. Am I right or wrong?

Dan Pacholke: No, you’re absolutely right and you can certainly, you know, feel the difference in institutions that have a lot of activity than those that don’t in such attention. So, yes, you know green corrections are the philosophy of a sustainable prison. Certainly aids to a much calmer operating tone, a much more pro-social environment, you know, in area that has greater humanity which really is an environment that’s more conducive to the educational, vocational training, or cognitive behavior change…

Len Sipes: Right.

Dan Pacholke: … is that the context to prisons begins to change in a humanizing sort of way.

Len Sipes: If all the states of the United States employed green corrections and I am going to come back to you guys for more – for a larger number of specific examples as to what green corrections is because I’m still a bit confused. I understand landscaping, I understand dealing with animals, I understand mulching, I understand that sort of thing, but I’m getting a sense that it does go a little bit beyond that. I may be missing that but in essence what we’re dealing with here is stakeholder buy in. We’re talking about is that you don’t do this on your own. I would imagine the state of Washington and other states have to reach out to other people to help them implement a green corrections program. Either one of you can talk to me about that?

Stephanie Davison: So when we worked with several states, they find external partners both from other state agencies and then community-based organizations are critical.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Stephanie Davison: For example, in Maryland, they used the Department of National – Natural Resources…

Len Sipes: Right.

Stephanie Davison: …to give inmate opportunities to do restoration projects within their community. That’s critical.

Len Sipes: Okay. So they take the prelease offenders and they go out and they do restoration projects.

Stephanie Davison: Yes.

Len Sipes: Okay. Okay. So, again, help me with the cynical side of spending 40 years in the criminal justice system. Okay. So they go out and dig holes and put in trees. I mean but we are talking about the possibility of jobs upon release. So anybody can go out and dig a hole put in a tree.

Stephanie Davison: Right.

Len Sipes: So help me understand that.

Stephanie Davison: So they’re learning how to maintain the tree and either an urban forest or a traditional forest over the long term.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Stephanie Davison: So that’s an important skill. Another example in Maryland is right to know they were leaning how to deconstruct an old prison and then they’ll build signs made out of the old bricks.

Len Sipes: Really?

Stephanie Davison: It’s an interesting project.

Len Sipes: And that’s – and that’s the Maryland Correctional Institute at Jessup?

Stephanie Davison: Yes.

Len Sipes: Yes. That’s the prison you’re talking about.

Stephanie Davison: Yes, I am.

Len Sipes: I’ve been in there a thousand times under – under nasty circumstances.

Stephanie Davison: Yes.

Len Sipes: And I’m so happy when they closed the prison down. So they’re taking the – their dismantling the prison and they’re doing what with it?

Stephanie Davison: And they will be using the bricks from the prison to create signs within the community.

Len Sipes: That is neat.

Stephanie Davison: It’s a cool project and it’s great because the old building won’t be going into the waste stream.

Len Sipes: Right.

Stephanie Davison: And all of those products will be in a very visible way contributing to their community.

Len Sipes: Well that’s neat. Maryland should start a buy-a-brick program. This is an authentic brick. You know what we used to call that institution?

Stephanie Davison: No, I don’t.

Len Sipes: The cut.

Stephanie Davison: Oh.

Len Sipes: Yes and it has a world famous because it was an old prison it was called the cut, some people say he was named after the railroad cut that ran by it and the other people say it was nicknamed the cut because of the all the stabbings at the place. So it has a very, very – just in case the listeners are remotely interested, it has a very unique background. Ladies and gentlemen we’re doing a show today on green corrections and I find this really interesting. Dan Pacholke, he’s the assistant secretary of the State of Washington Department of Corrections, www.doc.wa.gov. Stephanie Davison, she is a senior program officer with FHI360. It’s www.fhi360.org. They are a contractor to the National Institute of Corrections of the Federal Bureau of Prisons of the US Department of Justice and they’re trying to implement this concept of green corrections throughout the United States. There is a website that I do want to say which is a website at the National Institute of Corrections specifically focusing on green corrections, www.nicic.gov/greencorrections. I’ll give that one more time now and at the end of the program, www.nicic.gov/greencorrections. Donna, I hope I got that correct, okay. I’m getting a thumbs up. All right. Where do you we go to with all of this? I mean are states really buying into this? Are states really – I mean you said the bulk of the states, Stephanie. Is this is something that they’re enthusiastically pursuing or they’re saying, oh, my gosh, here’s another mandate from the governor, another mandate from the federal government although I don’t think it’s a mandate. I think they’re simply guiding. So as you go out and talk to hard bitten state correctional administrators when you talk to them about green corrections, what sort of reception do you get?

Stephanie Davison: It really varies on the state and it depends on who you’re talking to. If you’re talking to someone who needs to save money…

Len Sipes: Right.

Stephanie Davison: …then they buy into it right away.

Len Sipes: There you go.

Stephanie Davison: They understand it. If it’s an officer working the yard, it’s a little different.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Stephanie Davison: And we found that buy in is really important with those individuals.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Stephanie Davison: So – and I’ll let Dan speak to this a little bit more but we found it’s important to have an understanding of why green is important when you’re trying to do it at a grassroots level. When you’re trying to get the officer to get on board that they have to understand the why.

Len Sipes: Right. But they do see the obvious. I mean look, I’ve been in, as I said before, some prisons where there are a lot of programming and the officers within the prisons with lots of programming are much happier human beings because the level of violence goes down and, Dan, quickly correct me if I’m overselling this concept but in those institutions where there are lots of programs where they are meaningfully engaged in doing pro-social things throughout the course of the day, either GED programs or substance abuse or they’re doing work-related programs, because I think this is part of correctional industries. Dan, is this part of correctional industries in the State of Washington?

Dan Pacholke: No, it’s actually – well, it is but I mean it’s part of the Department of Corrections as a whole and certainly correctional industries is involved in sustainability activities also.

Len Sipes: Right and we should explain what the correctional industry is. It’s job programs within prisons.

Dan Pacholke: Correct. I mean it really does two or three things. It mimics real world business activity inside the prison.

Len Sipes: Right.

Dan Pacholke: So they create real world jobs. On top of that they provide, you know, job training and then ultimately they produce products that are useful to state governments and certainly our department as well.

Len Sipes: Right. But to Stephanie’s point of some of the correctional staff – I mean they may not get it, they may not understand it at the very beginning but if it calms the institution and makes their day more productive and makes their day safer, I would imagine there is a certain point where they say, oh, okay, now I get this.

Dan Pacholke: I think in the last five years that a lot of correctional staff that have been sold on the cost containment aspect of it.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Dan Pacholke: It does save money and it takes it out of areas where stuff like garbage or energy and it allows us to buy equipment or training or whatever the case maybe for line level staff. So on the one hand, I think they get the cost containment. On the other hand, as you’ve indicated, correctional officers know that meaningful activity to an offender gets them out of the housing unit, gets them involved in something and in most cases, with few exceptions, they are less prone to act out, less prone to violate rules.

Len Sipes: Now, the other thing that comes to mind is that all – most of the prisons that I’ve been in, either in the State of Maryland or beyond the State of Maryland, are pretty stark places. I mean it’s barbwired, it’s concrete buildings, it’s not designed to look nice. It’s designed to keep inmates in the prison. The first rule of corrections is I shall not escape. So we’re talking about a pretty stark environment here and I would imagine if you start using the common areas of the prison system and start landscaping them and start doing things with them that brings an environment. I mean, look, the average correctional officer has got a tough job. They are in there for 20 or 30 years. The average inmate could be in there for 10 or 20 years or longer. So they’re all in this very confined area. It’s stark. It’s not the prettiest of areas. I’m guessing that if you green up these areas and teach inmates how to sustain them being green, I would imagine that cannot transform but it can certainly add to the pleasantness of the interactions of inmates and staff throughout the course of the day. It makes simply – makes a nicer environment.

Dan Pacholke: Well, it certainly changes the culture or context of incarceration. Even in high security facilities, you can find places to create green space or you can do organic gardening or you can co-locate dog training areas next to housing units and certainly bringing dogs into living unit adds an element to it that is not typically there and will bring a calming aspect. You’ll see them laughing or smiling which is not always the case. So you know part of what you’re doing in bringing nature inside prison is you’re creating more of therapeutic environment and it’s not missed by the offender population and certainly, it creates a better environment for staff as well. So there’s great examples out there how you can do it in very high security prisons and you know all the way down to low security prisons. There are some model 2000 prisons out there today that are doing everything in the areas of gardening and garbage sorting and composting and raising tilapia, dog training, and bicycle restoration that have highly programmatic routines you know, 100 inmates involved in activities that would be greening activities.

Len Sipes: Bicycle restoration, that didn’t even cross my mind and as a fairly avid bike rider, that intrigues me. Tell me more about bicycle restoration?

Dan Pacholke: Well, once again, I mean once you adopt a green principle or sustainable principle in your mind that you want to do things that are sustainable and also that you wanted to contribute to the community, I mean, you start outreaching a little bit. We probably have four prisons that receive bicycles either from police departments or from special interest groups in the community. They bring them in. They often times contribute money. We set up an area where offenders will do bicycle restoration and then typically, they’re turned back over to community and they give them to children in need. So once again, it’s an opportunity to contribute to something larger than themselves. It’s an opportunity to give back to children. It’s an opportunity to work with community partners that are interested in the outcome that you’re going to achieve. So essentially a community begins to see you as a resource rather than a black hole behind a big wall that we just throw money into.

Len Sipes: That’s an interesting concept. I mean that is – I’ve never heard of that. I mean I’ve been in part of this system for – again, for decades and bicycle restoration, what a great idea. How long has that been going on in the State of Washington?

Dan Pacholke: Oh, you know, I think we started the first one probably 6 or 7 years ago.

Len Sipes: Wow.

Dan Pacholke: We probably have half a dozen prisons that are doing it today but along those same lines, it’s the same thing we’re going canine rescue. We have canine rescue in 12 different prisons across the state and, of course, there are many, many dog advocates and training everything up to assistance dogs. Once again, a community has a need, it’s tough environmental times, they need help. They provide training to the inmates. It is a therapeutic activity and then in the end, of course, the community, you know, gets the animal and we have 100% adoption rate. So as you start going down this line about a being a good community partner, I mean there are several states and we’re one of them that are doing environmental restoration projects whether it’s raising the endangered Oregon spotted frog or the Taylor checkerspot butterfly or endangered puri [PH] plants that there are community partners, scientists, biologists, US Department of Fish and Wildlife that need assistance in taking care of or nurturing or growing these creatures or plants. They lack funding and, of course, prisons are full of people that have nothing but time.

Len Sipes: Right.

Dan Pacholke: Many times they are pretty talented as well so – once again, it’s another way to bridge and to give inmates an opportunity to contribute and certainly give a community partner a different view inside the prison where they begin to see you as a resource that can help solve local problems.

Len Sipes: You know the more I talk to the two of you about this the more encouraged – the more enthusiastic I become because when you first hear the term green corrections, Dan, you’re not quite sure what it means and where we’re going with this but that’s true. I mean if you’re doing a lot of community restoration for inmates at the pre-release level who can safely go out, if you’re doing things like repairing bikes or taking care of wounded animals or training dogs, I mean, my heavens, how many millions of dogs are there in this country that needs some sort of intervention or they’re simply going to be put down. So it sounds as if the State of Washington is being really innovative in terms of coming up with not just pro-social things for the inmate population to do but a way for the prison to contribute to the betterment of the larger community.

Dan Pacholke: Yeah. I think that is part of what you’ll find across the country. I mean Maryland is doing steps around Chesapeake Bay, you know and Ohio is doing stuff with the Cincinnati Zoo and I think they’re about ready to start a restoration project on an endangered salamander called the hellbender and so there are different examples out there where people are beginning to engage community partners in a way that provides opportunities for inmates that are therapeutic, they teach empathy, compassion, and responsibility. At the same time, you’ll have scientists or biologists or both that are interested in these projects and ultimately, you know, we have a controlled environment where we can develop protocols around some of these science restoration project so you begin to expand the kind of agenda of greening a corrections. I mean you start with something simple like cost containment, certainly moving areas to training and jobs and then, of course, you bridge into more local geographic community needs and we’re certainly in need of many, many more environmental restoration projects across this country.

Len Sipes: It’s an amazing thought. Okay, we’re in the final couple of minutes of the programs Stephanie. Well, tell me more about – I’m hearing all these wonderful things coming out of the State of Washington and so you’re telling me that other – and Dan did mention that Maryland is doing some stuff, Ohio is doing some stuff, does everybody get green corrections?

Stephanie Davison: Not everybody…

Len Sipes: Do they understand it?

Stephanie Davison: … gets green corrections but they could.

Len Sipes: They could.

Stephanie Davison: I would encourage people to go the NIC website…

Len Sipes: Okay.

Stephanie Davison: …and look an example of – and look at a guidebook called the Greening of Corrections: Creating a Sustainable System.

Len Sipes: Right. Okay.

Stephanie Davison: We have examples from all over the country from the deep south to the progressive west and you can see how it can be done anywhere.

Len Sipes: Okay and we are talking about, as Dan said, $3.5 million worth of savings. So if you do it for no other reason besides saving taxpayers – you know, 50 times, 50 states, and seven territories x $3.5 million that’s a lot of money and I’m going to give the website out one more time before the close that will give greater time for the close, www.nicic.gov/greencorrections, www.nicic.gov/greencorrections. Okay. We’re in our final minute of the program, who wants it? Stephanie, any final wrap up?

Stephanie Davison: One final word, I’d like to say in the next few months, we’ll be releasing a challenge on challenge.gov so that…

Len Sipes: Really?

Stephanie Davison: …State Departments of Correction can share their activities with us and then we’ll be able to broadcast them and share them with a larger community.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Stephanie Davison: So keep your eyes peeled for that.

Len Sipes: So you’re going to pit one state against the other and see who’s doing the best, right?

Stephanie Davison: A little bit. We want the examples of the best work that’s being done.

Len Sipes: And, obviously, some of the best work that’s being done is being done by the Washington Department of Corrections. So, Dan, how’s it feel to be known for something else besides the day-to-day grind of corrections? I mean the people come to you and say, hey, tell me more about green corrections in the State of Washington.

Dan Pacholke: Well, I think it’s – on one hand, it’s fun. I mean it is in activity that started kind of on the margin and has worked its way more to the center of the plate. It’s really encouraging for us, I supposed all of us, just to see more growth in the area of people like Stephanie, you know NIC, other states like Maryland, Ohio, and Oregon and California. I mean there’s lots of people doing different activities out there so, you know, one of these days, we’re going to see a new prison design that’s based on sustainable principles that articulates or identifies everything that we’re talking about here. So I’m just interested in seeing more best practice come of it and learning from others and hopefully continuing to push this in a way that’s both economically beneficial as well as humanizing corrections and making the operations of prison safer.

Len Sipes: Dan, you’ve got the final word. Ladies and gentlemen, we’re doing a show today- have done a show today on green corrections produced by the National Institute of Corrections. Our guests today have been Dan Pacholke, assistant secretary of the State of Washington Department of Corrections; Stephanie Davison, she is a senior program officer with FHI360, www.fhi360.org. Ladies and gentlemen this is DC Public Safety. We appreciate your calls, letters, concepts, criticisms, and please yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]

Share

Reinventing the Criminal Justice System-Justice Reinvestment-Urban Institute-DC Public Safety

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/2013/01/reinventing-the-criminal-justice-system-justice-reinvestment-urban-institute-dc-public-safety/

[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 Reinventing the Criminal Justice System, Justice Reinvestment; I think one of the more important topics that we’re going to be discussing and one of the more complicated topics we are going to be discussing this year. Dr. Nancy La Vigne, Director of the Justice Policy Center for The Urban Institute is our guest today. – www.urban.org. We’ll be making reference to that website throughout the program because, ladies and gentlemen, this is, again, an extraordinarily difficult concept to understand, complicated but unbelievably important to the future of the criminal justice system. I’ll try to summarize it and then turn the entire program over to Nancy. Number one, states and locales all throughout the country are complaining of budget cuts, and it really has impacted the criminal justice system. And I’ll read a passage, a quick passage from a publication, “What can county and city managers do reduce these costs without compromising public safety, they can engage in Justice Reinvestment. Justice Reinvestment can help prioritize local justice spending for those who pose the greatest risk to public safety while also informing which individuals would be better off in the community, where services and treatment are more readily available.” And then bottom line, I’m thinking, about Justice Reinvestment are the savings. If there are savings, a portion of those savings go back to the states and local jurisdictions to even provide more programs. Nancy, am I somewhere in the ballpark of even beginning to describe what Justice Reinvestment is all about?

Nancy La Vigne: Yes, you are, and you did it quite succinctly, I will say. It’s a multi-step process and so it does take some time to explain but perhaps we should start with a little bit of history. You did refer to the fact that the impetus behind a lot of states and localities getting on the Justice Reinvestment bandwagon is because of the budget shortfalls, and that’s definitely accurate, but there were other issues as well. First of all, as I think we all know, a lot of those budget shortfalls are being fed by rising criminal justice costs. They may not be the entire – as a matter of fact they’re a rather small, 8% to 10% of the total state budget in any given state but still we’re talking about hundreds of millions of dollars so with states and localities thinking, “What can we do? How can we save money? How can we deal with these budget shortfalls,” it’s a natural inclination to look at the criminal justice system because those costs continue to rise because the populations have been rising historically. Now you may be aware of recent studies that show that state prison populations are on the decline but actually, as my colleague Jesse Jannetta recently blogged about, that’s driven almost entirely by California.

Len Sipes: By the state of California, that’s right, and those overall declines are not all that dramatic.

Nancy La Vigne: They’re marginal, but states realize that this is an issue and they’ve been grappling with it for a while, and many have tried different efforts to control the growth of the prison population that have been maybe mildly successful but not sustained over time, and arguably it’s because they haven’t engaged in this Justice Reinvestment process which requires a couple of things to be place. First, you need to have all the people in the system, all the key stakeholders at the table and on board. If you only work one end of the system, it’s just going to bulge out somewhere else kind of like squeezing a water balloon so you need everyone at the table. At the state level, it’s critical that you have representation from both sides of the aisle, and you’ve got the support of the Governor and the House leadership, the Senate leadership, minority, majority, as well as the Head of the Department of Corrections, and parole and probation and so forth, and judges, prosecutors, everyone who drives the system. If you don’t have them all on board, it’s not going to work because either changes will be made and they’ll be fought and they won’t get through or they won’t be sustained over time because you don’t have this joint buy-in.

Len Sipes: You’re as good as your weakest link.

Nancy La Vigne: Exactly. Exactly. Some of those weak links are quiet powerful, as you may know.

Len Sipes: Yes! Yes!

Nancy La Vigne: So there’s that. It’s having the right people at the table. And then it’s guiding the decision-making process with hard empirical data, and that data is often supplied by the state or the locality but typically in the Justice Reinvestment model, it’s analyzed by a technical assistance partner, funded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs —

Len Sipes: Thank you.

Nancy La Vigne: — in partnership with the Pew Center on the states for the state-level initiative, they together have funded this initiative and supported four technical assistance providers, two that work with states, two that work with localities. I can share who those are if you wish.

Len Sipes: 17 states are doing this?

Nancy La Vigne: 17 states right now are engaged in this process. Some states early on have already engaged in the process and declared victory and moved on. A lot of people point to Texas as an example of that. They were the earliest adopter I can think of, and they were looking towards the future and had planned to spend billions of dollars on new prison construction —

Len Sipes: And did not.

Nancy La Vigne: — and did not. They chose not to.

Len Sipes: And the crime rates have basically gone down in Texas.

Nancy La Vigne: And they took some of the money they would have spent on prisons and funded treatment beds.

Len Sipes: And that is the heart and soul of Justice Reinvestment, is it not? – Using data, doing things differently. If there’s cost-savings, those cost-savings are shared with the states and localities, and they buy more treatment options for people in the criminal option system.

Nancy La Vigne: That’s the way it’s been playing out, not only treatment options or programming. Sometimes it’s to shore up supervision. In some states they’ve identified that the wrong people are being supervised and some people are not being supervised at all so, you know, folks who are maxing out and are exiting after often serving time for pretty serious crimes without any supervision, and of course with supervision comes support. It’s not just about surveillance; it’s about support and providing the necessary programs and services, so shifting who gets supervised, how long they get supervised. You know, some low-level offenders perhaps shouldn’t be supervised at all or certainly shouldn’t be supervised for the length of time that they are. That can save money. But also with those savings, putting it into implementation of graduated sanctions to prevent revocations and other best practices that are supported by evidence.

Len Sipes: One other person – I won’t name this person – this is what he told me, not knowing it, but he said it with all the conviction in the world, that every governor in every state in the United States has had a discussion with his or her Correctional Administrator basically saying that costs have to be reduced. That was his proposition.

Nancy La Vigne: So do you know what I find really frustrating about that?

Len Sipes: Please.

Nancy La Vigne: The assumption that the head of the DOC has control over that population. I mean yes, they are housed within his or her domain or control but that suggests that they’re the ones that drive the growth in the population, and what we’ve learned from the experiences in the states is that’s not really the case.

Len Sipes: True.

Nancy La Vigne: Revocations, often technical revocations, are driving that growth.

Len Sipes: That’s why everybody’s got to be on board.

Nancy La Vigne: Sentencing decisions, sentencing low-level drug offenders, low-level property offenders to increasingly lengthy terms behind bars – that’s not under the control of the head of the DoC. That’s a decision that prosecutors and judges make.

Len Sipes: But after 42 years in the criminal justice system, we are stodgy. We are bureaucrats. We are round-peg in a round-hole kind of people. We’re not used to people coming along and saying, “We’re going to basically readjust/reinvent/change the way that you conduct business.” The criminal justice system, when I joined when I was 18 as a cadet for the Maryland State Police, is basically 90% of the criminal justice system I see as I’m looking at the end of my career.

Nancy La Vigne: Yeah, and I agree with that. You are stodgy. However – however – when you look at this process, how it plays out in action, it’s a wonder to witness. The Urban Institute is in a role as the oversight coordination and assessment entity for this project so we get to kind of go to all the states and localities and observe how this works, so the Counsel of State Governments, for example, they’ve been leading the charge on the state side. They literally embed people in a state and develop the relationships and share the data and engage in intensive policy conversations and work a tremendous amount of time behind the scenes, getting people on board, educating people, identifying folks that may be reticent to get on board, and finding ways to persuade them that it’s not just in their best interests but in the best interests of the system. They are that neutral outside entity that can speak with authority based on extensive experience working in many states, and presenting the data that can just kind of dispel a lot of the anecdotes that you hear that nay-sayers often argue based on stories rather than fact. They can demonstrate how it is a system-wide problem not just owned by one player, and that can really nudge some stodgy people into action.

Len Sipes: Yeah. Yeah. Let’s give some examples because I’m afraid some of our listeners possibly could be confused with the process. We are talking about in essence focusing our resources on those people who pose the greatest risk to public safety and doing “something else” with those people who do not necessarily pose a great risk to public safety.

Nancy La Vigne: Well, that is one of the many interventions that states have chosen to implement. Really, the interventions should be guided by the identified drivers of population growth so in some states it may be one driver and in some it might be another, and across the 17 states, the most common drivers are revocations, both probation and parole revocations, and a high, high percentage of them being technical.

Len Sipes: In your report, you cited one state with 50% as having histories of parole and probation revocations coming in through their prison system. I spent 14 years with the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. At one point for us it was 70%.

Nancy La Vigne: 70%.

Len Sipes: 70%, yes it was.

Nancy La Vigne: Well, I would call that low-hanging fruit. There’s a lot that could be done there. So certainly with the revocation issue, the response to that is to look at what sanctions are in place, do people need to be returned to prison for technical violations, can you create graduated sanctions, can you create incentives for not engaging in technical violations, can you return people for shorter periods of time or return them to local jails rather than to state facilities. All of that saves a ton of money.

Len Sipes: And Project Hope basically said those short, meaningful interventions of a day or two days or three days were effective enough to dramatically reduce recidivism, dramatically reduce technical violations. It was wonderful across the board. So Project Hope is the epitome of an example as to the effectiveness of that approach.

Nancy La Vigne: That’s exactly right, and several of the states who are grappling with high revocation rates did choose to implementation Hope models or Hope-like models. That’s exactly right. But then there’s other drivers, and I mentioned before, sentencing practices and the incarceration of low-level offenders. In Louisiana, for example, non-violent, non-sex offenses represented over 60% of prison admissions so, you know, what can we do with that population? Some may need to go, some may could be diverted, and also what’s stunning to me is that there’s also been a trend in many states of increased lengths of stay for these low-level, non-violent, property and drug offenders So that’s another place where you could look to see making changes. Sentencing reform is tremendously challenging.

Len Sipes: It’s a huge issue.

Nancy La Vigne: It’s very challenging, so most states don’t choose to go the sentencing reform route. They usually look at some kind of back-end way to – although some do pass statutes to change the thresholds by which people should be —

Len Sipes: The research on specialty courts has been very encouraging, diverting people out of the prosecution prison route and going into the specialty courts, and specialty courts have had good returns basically in terms of recidivism and cost-savings.

Nancy La Vigne: Um-hum, uum-hum. It’s true, and then another common driver we observed across states is the issue of delays in parole processing or reductions in the parole grant rate, and these too are relatively simple changes, figuring out what’s slowing things down and how can you speed them up, or how can you change or guide parole boards in a way that they’re incentivized to make decisions to grant parole, perhaps supported by evidence, and the most obvious evidence would be a risk assessment that gives them more comfort in knowing who they should release. In other cases, the parole grants get stalled because people don’t have a home plan. Well, that is an issue of resources often behind bars. If you don’t have a case manager that can help line up a home plan then no one gets released, and then you have this backlog which is really unnecessary.

Len Sipes: And the interesting data in terms of parole is that those paroled have consistently much less of a rate of recidivism than those not paroled, so fewer people coming back to prison, once again, as long as they are released with conditions and those conditions are enforceable.

Nancy La Vigne: Exactly.

Len Sipes: So what else?

Nancy La Vigne: What else?

Len Sipes: It’s very complicated.

Nancy La Vigne: Yes. Well, so what’s complicated about it is how long it takes to explain why it’s called Justice Reinvestment because up till now what we’ve discussed is data-driven, collaborative approaches to reducing the prison population and saving money through identifying the drivers and developing responses to the drivers. Where does this word “reinvestment” come in?

Len Sipes: Yes.

Nancy La Vigne: That comes in at the very, very end with the anticipated savings associated with making all these changes. Now this is very complicated because the savings might not be hard cold cash that you have in your hands and you can put elsewhere, as a matter of fact it’s rarely that. A lot of the savings are projected savings that aren’t realized until several years into the future however the process still encourages states to think about upfront reinvestment. So in looking at prison projections had they done nothing and then the projections associated with the changes that they plan to make, they can anticipate that, you know, five years down the road they’re going to save however many millions of dollars – why not reinvest some of that upfront into programs, supervision, services that help support the entire system and reduce recidivism?

Len Sipes: So the reductions in terms of the cost outlays to the criminal justice system are actually reinvested to make the system even better, so it’s a win-win situation across the board.

Nancy La Vigne: Um-hum.

Len Sipes: All right. Let me reintroduce you, and ladies and gentlemen, we’re a little bit more than halfway through the program. We’re talking about reinventing the criminal justice system – that’s my title – Justice Reinvestment, Nancy La Vigne, Director of the Justice Policy Center, Urban Institute, www.urban.org – www.urban.org. Again, we reemphasize that this is a joint project of the Bureau of Justice Assistance, the Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice, the Pew Center on the states and the – I’m sorry, the Centers for State Government, correct?

Nancy La Vigne: The Counsel of State Governments.

Len Sipes: The Counsel of State Governments, I’m sorry, my apologies, but this is a massive undertaking on the part of 17 states, a lot of different jurisdictions, with the understanding that people have been talking about reinventing the criminal justice system, doing “something different” with the criminal justice system for a multiple of reasons but budget, in my opinion, seems to be the principle driver behind all of this. People are more than welcome to disagree with my assessment but I do think it’s budget that’s pushing an awful lot of this, and this is exciting stuff because what it does is bring an awful lot of people in one room, data-driven, taking a look at an awful lot of data and saying, “What can we do to reduce the amount of people flowing through the criminal justice system without having an adverse impact on public safety and saving money and taking those savings and reinvesting those savings in terms of either more prosecutors, more parole and probation agents, more programs, more resources for the criminal justice system so they can do a better job to begin with so it can be data-driven in the future so we can continue this philosophy down the road, right?

Nancy La Vigne: That’s right – data-driven and evidence-based.

Len Sipes: Right.

Nancy La Vigne: Before we continue, I do want to acknowledge all of our partners in this initiative.

Len Sipes: Please. Please. Please.

Nancy La Vigne: We mentioned, of course, the Bureau of Office Assistance and the Pew Center on the States are the funding partners. The Counsel of State Governments and the Vera Institute of Justice have both been working with states, and the way that works is that the Counsel of State of Governments helps identify the drivers and the policy options, and gets states to the point where they pass legislation, and then Vera comes in and helps implement. And then at the local level, it’s the Center for Effective Public Policy and the Crime and Justice Institute that are working with counties across the country.

Len Sipes: Oh, lots of different people, lots of jurisdictions involved in this.

Nancy La Vigne: Yeah, a lot of players, a lot of very, very seasoned criminal justice professionals, often former practitioners and/or data analysts that come into states and localities and, as I said before, really embed themselves in the system, develop the relationships and the trust, and really make things happen.

Len Sipes: This is, in my mind, the most significant story of the criminal justice system as we move into the 21st century and yet it gets zero coverage. There’s nobody from the Boston Globe, there’s nobody from the New York Times, there’s nobody from the Washington Post, there’s nobody looking at this systematically, and yet this, in my mind, is a fundamental change in terms of how we within the criminal justice system operate. Why is that? Is it just a bunch of policy wonks sitting with a bunch of budget-cutters and saying, “Hey, what’s the best way we that can rearrange the deck chairs?” or is this really a substantive, hard-nosed examination of the fact that we can do this better without imposing so much of a fiscal burden on the states and counties and cities?

Nancy La Vigne: It’s definitely the latter because it’s not just budget-cutters and policy wonks. It’s all the key players in the system that have a shared interest in doing things differently and getting more bang for their buck. I mean, the return on investment has been really poor. If you look at the increased expenditures on corrections across the country —

Len Sipes: Massive.

Nancy La Vigne: — massive, with no real discernible change in the recidivism rate.

Len Sipes: But isn’t it interesting of how you take a look at conservative politicians – not to touch upon politics in any way, shape, or form – but conservative politicians are demanding that the criminal justice system prove its cost effectiveness, demanding that we get a bigger bang for our criminal justice dollar. I mean, I find that to be interesting.

Nancy La Vigne: This is why it’s been so popular an initiative, it’s because it garners support on both sides of the aisle. The left has always been more sympathetic to rehabilitation spending and perhaps diverting people from prison. The right has observed that this is not just a wise use of taxpayer dollars, and they do, they want to see a better return on the investment and that’s what we’re seeing. You know, we talked at the end of the first segment about the projected savings and how they get reinvested. Across the 17 states that are currently engaged in justice reinvestment, they’re projecting between 9 and 438 million dollars in savings.

Len Sipes: That’s amazing. Now is that per state or is that total?

Nancy La Vigne: An average of $163 million per state.

Len Sipes: An average of $163 million cost savings per state.

Nancy La Vigne: Yes. Um-hum. Yeah. It’s huge!

Len Sipes: Who’s getting the Nobel Prize for this?

Nancy La Vigne: I’d love to see it. Well, we have to see those savings, realized, right?

Len Sipes: Of course. Of course.

Nancy La Vigne: A lot of these are projections and we hope they’re accurate but even if they’re off by 50%, that’s still a tremendous savings. Across all the states, in five years the projected savings is $2.12 billion.

Len Sipes: $2.12 billion.

Nancy La Vigne: And that speaks volumes, I think.

Len Sipes: Well, it does speak volumes if we can hold down the rate of recidivism, if we can ensure public safety, if we focus on those people who pose a clear and present danger to our well-being.

Nancy La Vigne: Well, the beauty of this model is that a lot of the policy responses to the drivers of growth embody those principles. Every single state that engages in Justice Reinvestment is refining their risk assessment tools and validating them, and using them to guide decisions on diversion, on supervision, on everything including on needs and who should great treatment, and everything in between; and that is evidence-based, and we know that that’s tied to better outcomes in terms of recidivism rates.

Len Sipes: In essence what we’re saying is that there’s a certain portion of the population that comes into the criminal justice system, again, recognizing there’s been an almost continuous 20-year decline in crime per the National Crime Survey in crimes reported to law enforcement agencies and through the FBI, there is still a certain portion of the population coming to the criminal justice system that is better served from a public safety point of view and from a recidivism point of view not to process them in the way that we did ten years ago.

Nancy La Vigne: Um-hum. I think that’s right.

Len Sipes: And that’s taking risks, and that’s why a lot of the people at the local level, at the country level, are saying, “Well, why should we take those risks? Those risks have a way of blowing up in our face.” I think that would be the greatest point of reluctance. Why change it? Why take that risk? Why not simply incarcerate that person for a year or six months instead of putting that person into drug court?

Nancy La Vigne: Well, because it’s just not sustainable, that’s why. There’s just not enough room. There’s not enough money to build more prisons and so if you don’t make these hard decisions now, essentially you’re not making strategic decisions about how to use that space most wisely. You want to free up that space for folks who are really a danger to society but if you don’t make hard decisions about who needs to be in and who shouldn’t be in, those decisions should be backed up by risk assessment tools, then you’re actually engaging in really bad practice.

Len Sipes: And isn’t California the poster child for this whole movement where the courts have ordered the release of tens of thousands of offenders from their prison system in California because of the fact that they could not fund properly their health care system? – And they’ve released massive numbers of offenders, and that’s what we’re trying to avoid.

Nancy La Vigne: Right. Exactly. When you said “poster child” I paused for a section. “No, no, don’t hold up California as the example of Justice Reinvestment!”

Len Sipes: No, no, no, I’m not. I’m not.

Nancy La Vigne: No, this is what could happen to you if you don’t engage, yes. Right. Absolutely.

Len Sipes: If you don’t. Right. Right. Right. There are consequences for not managing your population better. There are consequences for not managing your dollars better.

Nancy La Vigne: Exactly.

Len Sipes: And states, I mean, and one state that you looked at in terms of one of our reports, 12% of their overall budget was the state correctional system. That’s astounding!

Nancy La Vigne: That’s right, I think that was Oregon.

Len Sipes: That’s astounding, that 12% of the budget is Corrections. It raised from I think 4% to 12% in terms of the various states but you’re talking about billions of billions of dollars, and if you can divert individuals from coming back into the criminal justice system, you are saving literally billions dollars in terms of future prison costs, building and operating those prisons. That doesn’t have to happen if you manage your population carefully.

Nancy La Vigne: Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Len Sipes: Okay, but we can, through a data-driven process, assure people that this is not going to have an adverse impact on their public safety.

Nancy La Vigne: Again, states, localities, are using risk-assessment tools – some, not all. The ones they are using are not always validated which means they’re not always accurate. By using these tools, and using them in a way that can guide decision-making, I think that they should have confidence. I have confidence that this is no threat to public safety, in fact it’ a wiser and more efficient use of scarce criminal justice resources.

Len Sipes: Right, and the alternative is billions, billions, billions more or the alternative is what’s happening in California with tens of thousands of offenders court-ordered release so if we don’t manage our resources carefully, if we don’t make data-driven decisions, evidence-based decision, we’re not serving the public.

Nancy La Vigne: That’s right, and getting back to the concept of reinvestment, the ways in which states and localities are looking to reinvest a fraction of the savings is in evidence-based programs that are designed to reduce recidivism so you really are getting at recidivism reduction in two ways. You’re getting at it through better use of risk and needs assessments and you’re getting at it through enhanced programs to help people succeed on the outside.

Len Sipes: Um-hum, and that goes all the way from who do you prosecute to what programs do you provide at the end of it because the criminal justice system has done basically a terrible job in the opinion of many in terms of I think, what, 10%, 12% of people get substance abuse treatment while in prison. The numbers for mental health treatment are even smaller. The percentage getting mental health and substance abuse treatment on community supervision is also small, and that’s come back to bite us.

Nancy La Vigne: Yeah.

Len Sipes: To a certain degree, that’s not cost-effective.

Nancy La Vigne: Agreed.

Len Sipes: And the numbers need to drive that in terms of that larger policy discussion with hard-bitten criminal justice people like myself.

Nancy La Vigne: That’s right. We’ve got to get you out of your stodgy ways, Len.

Len Sipes: I would love to do a bit of the fly-on-the-wall for so many of those meetings where people are saying, “Hey, if we don’t do this, we just have the courts release lots of people, and we don’t have the money to continue doing what we’re doing.”

Nancy La Vigne: Right.

Len Sipes: Yeah, it’s a fascinating thing. I really applaud Urban, I really applaud all the partners, and I applaud the Department of Justice of really trying to take a really unique and different approach, and this is why I called the program Reinventing the Criminal Justice System through Justice-Free Investment. Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. Your guest today has been Nancy La Vigne, Director of the Justice Policy Center of the Urban Institute, www.urban.org – www.urban.org. And we thank everybody for their time and efforts in terms of all the input that you provide for the radio shows here at DC Public Safety. We appreciate your calls. We appreciate your letters. We appreciate your emails, and we want everybody to have themselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]

Share

Jobs in Corrections-Discover Corrections Website–DC Public Safety Radio

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/2012/11/jobs-in-corrections-discover-corrections-website-dc-public-safety-radio/

[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes: From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes, and ladies and gentlemen, today we’re going to be talking about jobs in Corrections. It’s an issue of great importance because the vast majority of people in this country who the criminal justice system supervises are supervised by Corrections personnel. They’re supervised by parole and probation agents or they’re supervised within prisons, they’re supervised within jails, but the overwhelming majority are again, in the community being supervised by parole and probation agents.  We thought we’d do a radio program about jobs in Corrections. We have a new website that is created by the American Probation and Parole Association called “Discover Corrections,” and “Discover Corrections,” there’s a league of agencies involved in this with the American Probation and Parole Association taking the lead. Our guest today is Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt. She is a Research Associate for the or with the American Probation and Parole Association., and Mary Ann, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Thank you, and good afternoon.

Len Sipes: Yep. I’m looking forward to this conversation because, you know, this is a very important topic. The quality of our criminal justice personnel means the quality of justice. It correlates exactly with the quality of justice that we end up providing, correct?

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Oh, exactly, exactly, and this website offers career-based resources for students and graduates as well as our military veterans and other individuals who are seeking their first job in this career, and for those individuals who may be trying to look at Corrections as a second career.

Len Sipes: You know, and one area during this recession that has always been hiring, and that’s Corrections.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Yes, and not only individuals who are seeking positions as parole officers and probation officer but positions that you may not always think of as positions that are in the career field, like registered nurses.

Len Sipes: Oh, absolutely. I mean, there’s an endless number of individuals with individual specialties that corrections agencies throughout the United States whether they be federal, whether they be state, whether they be local, they need a wide array of people to staff these positions.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Yes, exactly.

Len Sipes: Okay. The website for “Discover Corrections” is www.discovercorrections.com – www.discovercorrections.com. Mary Ann, give me a sense as to all the different agencies that are involved in the “Discovery Corrections” website project.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Okay. Just to give you a little history, the Bureau of Justice Assistance, in an effort to address workforce development issues in Corrections – community Corrections, jails, and detention centers, as well as prisons and institutions – provided funds to the Counsel of State Government, the American Probation and Parole Association, to develop and implement this exciting website. So this innovative project is a collaborative effort overseen by APPA, and our partners are the American Correctional Association, the American Jail Association, and the Center for Innovative Public Policies.

Len Sipes: So you’ve got a lot of people involved in this and it’s funded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance of the Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice, so you’ve got federal funding and you’ve got the biggest and best correctional agencies, and very well-respected correctional incremental justice agencies deeply involved in the project, and the American Probation and Parole Association is taking the lead.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Yes. Yes. You know, I can’t say enough regarding our partners and the tremendous amount of work that they put into this project as well, and they really should be commended for all of the material they provided and expertise.

Len Sipes: This will be the first time in the 40-or-so years that I’ve been in the criminal justice system that if you were interested in a career in Corrections, regardless as to where you are in the United States, I mean, you could be sitting in American Samoa and access the website and say, “Son of a gun, that’s something I would like to do in New Mexico” and go for that job.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Yes, yes, and I think when you look at the website, there are four components or key sections to the website. The first one is “Why Corrections”; the second one is “Explore the Field”; the third is “Career Resources”; and then finally you come to “Post your Job and Find your Job.” When you’re looking at the jobs that are available across the country, you’ll find that they’re in Bismarck, North Dakota, Pine City, Minnesota, East Baton Rouge, Idaho. So no matter where you’re looking, there are jobs that are being posted.

Len Sipes: And one of the things that I do want to say, Mary Ann, about the folks who are in Corrections – again, I’ve been in the criminal justice system for over 40 years, started off as a police officer, and I’ve done a lot of different things both on the correctional side and the law enforcement side, and I want to give a shout-out, I suppose, or recognition to people in Corrections. I don’t think there’s any more difficult and exciting job than being a main-stream correctional officer. I’ve been in and out of literally hundreds of prisons, or prisons hundreds of times, and I understand how difficult and how challenging and how exciting that job is; and people, I don’t think correctional officers get the respect that they deserve. I think as far as I’m concerned, as far as a lot of people are concerned in the criminal justice system, correctional officers deserve a huge amount of respect. Parole and probation agents, what we here in Washington D.C. call community supervision officers, again, that is an extraordinarily difficult job. They’re out in high-crime neighborhoods dealing sometimes with people presenting really unique challenges. These are exciting jobs. These are really interesting jobs. These are not boring jobs at all. They pay well in many instances and they have good government benefits behind them so people looking around and they’re uncertain about a career in Corrections, I’m not quite sure they need to be uncertain. I think a life in Corrections is a life of, you know, not just pure excitement from the law enforcement point of view but I think they’re very exciting, very challenging jobs. They’re never boring.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Yeah, I agree. My first job – I was in the field for approximately 28 years based out of Minnesota – and my first job was at the Women’s Facility here in Shakopee. I believe that my first job as a Corrections officer gave me the foundation that I needed for a career in Corrections.

Len Sipes: Well, I have first-hand experience inside of prisons. I have first-hand experience riding along with parole and probation agents, and they have my endless, endless admiration in terms of their ability to protect public safety and their ability to try to help the individuals caught up in the criminal justice system. Okay, so we have a website, “Discover Corrections” – www.discovercorrections.com – and you’ve got the mainstream criminal justice agencies, correctional agencies involved in it. It’s both on the jail side, the prison side, and the community Corrections side. We’ve said it’s funded by the BJA, the Bureau of Justice Assistance of the U.S. Department of Justice. So how has it been? I mean, have you been successful? Has it placed a lot of people? Do you think that you’re getting the interaction that you’re looking for?

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: We’re beginning to analyze some of those key outcomes that you’re pointing out. We believe that people are beginning to go to the “Discover Corrections.” It’s a fairly new website. We are marketing through Facebook and other avenues but we do have close to 200 agencies that have listed jobs on the website.

Len Sipes: That’s great.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: And that also then, you know, when you post jobs, then it brings job candidates, and you see more and more people then accessing the website. But based on our initial surveys, both the job-seekers as well as the employers have provided us with very positive feedback.

Len Sipes: And you said before that there were four primary sections to the website. I’m not quite sure that I gave you full time to explain what they are. Could you give them to me again, please?

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Oh, certainly. “Why Corrections” is the first section when you’re looking at the website.

Len Sipes: What is that designed to do, “Why Corrections,” because people are confused about a career in Corrections possibly?

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Well, possibly confused or maybe wondering, “Is this the direction should I take and really what does it involve?” It explains the three components. It talks about Corrections as a critical component of the criminal justice system, and that it requires dedication, integrity, and commitment to working with individuals who come into the criminal justice system; and that also that there are rewards and that it can be highly gratifying to work in this field and help people make real life changes.

Len Sipes: Well, I’ve seen it firsthand. I have seen especially on the community correction side with parole and probation agencies, with the treatment side, within prisons, I’ve seen people turn the lives around of people caught up in the criminal justice system. It doesn’t happen every time but certainly it is just amazing to see people go from tax burdens to tax payers, and we owe, again, a debt of gratitude towards the people in community Corrections and mainstream Corrections who helped that person get there.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Um-hum, um-hum.

Len Sipes: Now you also have personal stories on the website that I find really interesting. You’ve got some personal stories about people from my agency, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, and you’ve got personal stories from people throughout the country talking addressing why they got involved in Corrections.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Exactly, and that’s I think a very important part of the website. It’s real people telling their stories, and that is in the “Explore the Field” section of the website.

Len Sipes: Okay, so that’s a good segue.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Okay, and there are stories from wardens within our prisons, and there are probation officers. There are other positions such as there’s a nurse, there’s a teacher, and a variety of individuals who are working in our field, both in community Corrections, jails and detention, prisons and institutions.

Len Sipes: You know getting back to teachers for a second, I remember when I was representing the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, which was Law Enforcement and Corrections, and we had the unfortunate privilege I suppose, I can say that now, of taking over the Baltimore City Jail. The state took over the City Jail. And what was truly amazing to me is that the teachers who worked in the Baltimore City Jail who were providing educational services to juveniles and young adults, they had the second highest increase in test scores in the city of Baltimore. Maryland has, I think, the highest test score ranking in the country, and they had the second highest for the city of Baltimore in the Baltimore City Jail, and I was amazed.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Wow.

Len Sipes: I would sit down and talk to those teachers and say, “How did you accomplish this ?” – And working with the correctional officers and working with the teachers, they told me their game plan, and then years ago I interviewed them for the radio with I was with the State of Maryland. Here are teachers working in a correctional setting, producing the second highest increase in grade average scores for an entire city. I thought that that was phenomenal, so again, it’s a wide-open field. We need lots of good people to come into Corrections not just necessarily as correctional officers but as you said, teachers and nurses and administrators and bean counters and accountants and plumbers and lawyers and ten tons of people.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Exactly, exactly, and so then when you’re viewing the website, then you can also then go on to the third section which is “Career Resources,” and that really is designed to provide specific information. So you’re looking at a state and say you’re interested in going to Montana. Well, it will give you a snapshot of how Corrections is organized in that state.

Len Sipes: Oh, that’s great.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Okay, and also then it provides a glossary of common terms, and also there’s a whole list of national links that you can click as a resource.

Len Sipes: So if I want to go to Hawaii, I can go to Hawaii and just work as a correctional officer. I can work as a parole and probation agent.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: You could.

Len Sipes: I could.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: There’s some openings.

Len Sipes: There are some openings. I’ll think about that in the dead of winter. All right, so have we covered three of the four sections of the website?

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Yes, and then the last one is “Post your Job and Find your Job.”

Len Sipes: Okay, and that’s pretty simple. Now anybody within the criminal justice system can post jobs?

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Correct, both private and public.

Len Sipes: Private and public. Thanks. I was going to ask that. And so anybody, a 17-year-old searching for his or her future can go to that website and say, “Wow, I’ve always wanted to go to Wyoming and they’ve got openings for parole and probation agents in Wyoming.” I mean, it’s open to anybody.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Exactly.

Len Sipes: All right. I think it’s an exciting concept. I’m going to give the website and we’re going to move into the second part of the program. Ladies and gentlemen, we’re talking about jobs in Corrections with Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt. She is a Research Associate with the American Probation and Parole Association. She is the administrator of “Discover Correction,” a really unique website funded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance of the Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice, in league with some of the biggest criminal justice agencies in the country, and she is with the American Probation and Parole Association. The website for the American Probation and Parole Association is www.appa-net.org – www.appa-net.org. The “Discover Corrections” website again is www.discovercorrections.com.

Mary Ann, what has been the response of people seeking jobs o the website? Do they find it useful? Do they find it easy to navigate?

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: They find it easy to navigate. I think what they would like is to see more job openings but that’s throughout the country, and of course we would like to see more job postings but more jobs are coming available, and if you’re willing to consider relocating, there are positions throughout the country that are available.

Len Sipes: Well, I remember talking to a couple of nurses decades ago who spent five years in Alaska then spent two years in Hawaii, and I’m not quite sure I’m encouraging leaving criminal justice jobs but I would imagine this gives you the same opportunity to travel the country and work for a career in Corrections. The people coming to the website, can they find what they’re looking for? That’s the bottom line. Are they satisfied with their experience?

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Yes. Yes.

Len Sipes: Okay, and have they written you back saying, you know, “Gee, I’d like to see more jobs listed,” or “I’d like to see it easier,” or what’s been their feedback?

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Yes, that’s in some of the feedback, and also, you know, I respond to individuals who use other social media outlets such as LinkedIn, and of course people will talk about, you know, it would be nice to be able to stay where they’re at however, you know.

Len Sipes: Yes.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: And then also a number of people throughout the country really recognize the need to be open to be mobile and to consider job opportunities in other areas of the country.

Len Sipes: Sure. It gives you a chance to see the nation and to get a sense as to what’s happening in other areas. If I was a young man, I would love to be a parole and probation agent in Alaska, so there you are. If anybody up in Alaska wants to hire an older individual, please contact me when I retire.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Well, and there are openings. So when you go to the site, there is a U.S. probation officer opening in Bismarck, North Dakota. Pine City, Minnesota, there is a probation officer opening. It’s a lovely part of the country if you like northern Minnesota where it’s very outdoorsy, close to Duluth.

Len Sipes: And I’m glad you brought that up. There’s a lot of federal positions in here. There are federal parole and probation issues that are administered by the individual district courts within the federal system, and there are federal prisons, I’m assuming, that are within the system. So again, if you want to be a correctional officer and have a federal job with all of that security and all the pay that comes with it, and you want to go to a certain area of the country, boom, it’s there for you.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Exactly. And not only are there entry-level positions but there are management and administrative positions as well, so like Salt Lake City is looking for a trial court executive. There’s the Sheriff’s Volunteer Coordinator, which can be an entry-level position. There is also the superintendent of Mental Health Services in Maine; also the Minnesota Sex Offender Program in St. Peter is looking for a facility director, and a business analysis out of Arizona, the Arizona Judicial Branch. So there’s a variety of positions.

Len Sipes: Well, you know, I’ve been on the website several times and I’m just discovering the full complexity of all the different jobs that are available especially, you know, some of these jobs are really interesting. I mean, you can make a career, an exciting career, a very interesting career in any of these. How does an agency get on your website? Is it simply a matter of calling up and saying, “Hey, I’ve got these 20 jobs I want to advertise?”

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: No, you don’t even have to call. You go to the website and where you see “post your jobs,” you simply click on that and you will be able to create a login, you know, there’s a password etc., register your agency, and then begin posting your jobs.

Len Sipes: And is there a cost to agencies in terms of posting information on the website?

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Is there, I’m sorry, what?

Len Sipes: I’m sorry, is there a cost to post information on the website?

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Is there a cost?

Len Sipes: Yes.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: No. T his is free. This service is free so it’s no cost to your agency.

Len Sipes: Mmm, neat, okay. And I guess one of the final questions is launching the “Discover Corrections” website; it is an important enhancement to the field of Corrections, why? Explain why that is. In the past, you sort of were limited, I suppose. If I’m living in Baltimore, Maryland, where I currently live, the only opportunities I’m going to be exposed to are going to be those advertised in the Baltimore Sun. Now suddenly it’s the entire world opens to me, and I would imagine that’s the heart and soul of it.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Yes. And one of the other things, when we really began to examine how we wanted to impact job searching in the Corrections field, was considering some of the feedback that we receive from students. For many students, they do not know now to access career or job information in the field of Corrections. I mean often, at least in the past, you would have to know exactly what agency you wanted to consider employment in, and then you would have to go that agency’s website, where this really allows individuals to go to one website.

Len Sipes: And have it all done right there and see all the varieties of jobs that are open to you.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Um-hum. And it also allows employers to search resumes of registered job seekers.

Len Sipes: Oh, I didn’t know that.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Um-hum, so that’s I think a very positive feature of the website.

Len Sipes: That is a very positive, so I can throw in my own resume upon retirement and then the good folks in Alaska would reach out and say, “Hey, Leonard, come on up. We’d love to have you,” and then my wife would divorce me but that’s beside the point.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: That’s – yes. You know, they can look for the right person because I think oftentimes in this field it is about looking for the right person in that specific position.

Len Sipes: And like any other criminal justice endeavor, we really do have to go through quite a few people to find the right person. It takes a unique human being to be successful in Corrections. Either in mainstream prisons or in terms of community corrections, it takes a unique individual to be able to do these jobs.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: I would agree. It can be challenging yet also very rewarding.

Len Sipes: Mary Ann, did we cover all the topics?

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: I believe so.

Len Sipes: All right, good. Ladies and gentlemen, this has been DC Public Safety. We did a radio show today on jobs in Corrections with Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt, a Research Associate with the American Probation and Parole Association talking about what I think is an extraordinarily good idea website, a national website, or an international website there at www.discovercorrections.com – www.discovercorrections.com. Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. We do appreciate your calls. We appreciate your letters. We appreciate your comments. We appreciate your criticisms. And we want everybody to have themselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]

Share

Criminal History and Employment-University of Maryland-DC Public Safety Radio

Welcome to “DC Public Safety” – Radio and television shows, blog and transcripts on crime, criminal offenders and the criminal justice system. We currently average 90,000 page views a month.

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

Radio Program available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2012/03/criminal-history-and-employment-university-of-maryland-dc-public-safety-radio/

[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes:  From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. Ladies and gentlemen, today’s program is about employment and criminal history and we ask the basic question – at what point do people with arrests represent the same risks as the general population. This has profound impact,  profound policy implications for our society when you have an 18 year old and he’s arrested, but yet he goes 15 years and he’s not rearrested. He has no further contact with the Criminal Justice system. The question is should he be denied jobs? The other question is for people like we have, under parole and probation supervision, at what point do they become safe risks? They’re years away from their last crime in many cases. They’re years away from their last substance abuse positive test and at what point do they become safe risks for society and safe risks for people to employ them? I’m very proud today to have Kiminori Nakamura, Assistant Professor, University of Maryland College Park, Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice. The web address is www.ccjs.umd.edu, www.ccjs.umd.edu and Professor Nakamura’s personal website I’ll have those listed in the show notes. With that introduction, Professor, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Professor Nakamura:  Thank you for having me.

Len Sipes:  Alright, I just want to read very briefly from the New York Times. You got a lot of press for a piece of research you did with Alfred Blumstein from Carnegie Mellon, an extraordinarily important piece of research that has reverberated throughout Criminology and Criminal Justice and has made mainstream media…I’m reading from a very recent opinion from the New York Times. The title was Paying a Price Long After the Crime.

“In 2010, the Chicago public schools declined to higher Darryl Langdon for a job as a boiler room engineer because he had been convicted of possessing a half a gram of cocaine in 1985, a felony for which he received probation. It didn’t matter that Mr. Landon, a single parent of two sons, had been clean since 1988 and hadn’t run into further trouble with the law. Only after The Chicago Tribune wrote about his case did the school system reverse its decision and offer him a job.”

It goes on to say that a stunning number of young people are arrested for this country and those crimes can continue to haunt them for the rest of their lives. Again, Professor Nakamura, University of Maryland, welcome back to DC Public Safety.

Professor Nakamura:  Thank you very much.

Len Sipes:  Okay, where are we with this whole research, Doctor? Can you explain what it is that you did, how you did it and what your research conclusions were?

Professor Nakamura:  Sure, let me start with a sort of background where this research came about. So we, me and Dr. Blumstein, recognized two observations, two trends that we see recently. One is that the criminal background checks have become very, very ubiquitous. According to one survey, about 80-90% of large employers now conduct background checks on potential employees and, largely, I think there are two reasons for the increase in criminal background checks use. One is that technology, the information technology, has made background checking very easy and you can do a lot of background checks even on line. The second in observation is that the criminal records themselves are very much widespread and prevalent. About 92 million criminal records are stored in the State’s Repository of Criminal Records and according to the FBI about 14 million arrests are made each year. So you can imagine the sheer number of people with criminal records.

Len Sipes: That’s 92 million total at the moment with every year adding another 14 million.

Professor Nakamura:  Possibly.

Len Sipes:  That’s amazing.

Professor Nakamura:  Of course, the same person can be arrested multiple times, but even considering that, it’s a huge number of people.

Len Sipes:  Well, with 80-90% of employees checking criminal histories and with those numbers of records there, it’s almost inevitable that a sizeable percentage of our population is going to turn up positive for a past criminal history.

Professor Nakamura:  That’s right and there’s another recent study saying that about one in third people in the United States acquire an arrest record by the age of 30.

Len Sipes:  That’s amazing.

Professor Nakamura:  Right. Again, that tells you that a very large number of people are having criminal records.

Len Sipes:  Well, we do say that, criminologically speaking, that involvement in crime reduces with age. So you can have a person involved in the Criminal Justice system at 16 or 17 or 18 or 19 or 20 and be completely crime free a certain amount of years later.

Professor Nakamura:  That’s correct and a lot of people have very old, single criminal record that had probably occurred when they were young, but still, those people still cannot get a job or get into public housing or getting other sort of social services because of that single, old criminal record.

Len Sipes:  My introduction to the Criminal Justice system when I was a teenager was being picked up by the police and they decided to take me home to my parents. I won’t embarrass everybody and myself in terms of what it is that I did, but they took me home to my parents. Now, if they had processed me through the regular Criminal Justice system, the question is would I be sitting here doing this radio show here today?

Professor Nakamura:  That could have been, yes, if they process you in official channels and you’ve got an arrest record and that arrest record could still potentially show up on criminal background checks.

Len Sipes:  It’s amazing. One-third of the American population having contact with the Criminal Justice system has immense implications. So give me a sense of the research you did with Alfred Blumstein. So you did how many people and it was in New York, correct?

Professor Nakamura:  That’s correct. So we basically got arrest history records, rap sheets, from New York State Criminal History Repository and we basically captured everyone who was arrested for the first time in the state of New York as adults in 1980. So we had about 88,000 people – data.

Len Sipes:  That’s a huge data set.

Professor Nakamura:  That’s correct and we basically followed up their criminal history for over 25 years. So if their first arrest in 1980, we followed them up until 2007 or so. So we can see their criminal risk history for over 25 years.

Len Sipes:  What was the conclusion that you came to in terms of following these people? Now, that’s a huge data set. I mean I’m used to criminological data sets of 500, 700, 1,000, 2,000. Eighty-eight thousand is a huge number of people. So you followed them up after a certain number of years and you found what?

Professor Nakamura:  So, first of all, we found that those who are…the recidivism risk, rearrest risk, of those who are arrested and, actually, we looked at those where people were convicted in 1980. Their rearrest risk declines over time, which suggests that the longer these people stay clean, stay out of crime, the lower the recidivism risk becomes.

Len Sipes:  Right, so its age of onset becomes an important marker within criminology, but age of leaving the Criminal Justice system becomes an equally important marker.

Professor Nakamura:  That’s right. So age is an important factor here. So if you acquire a criminal record when you are young, the recidivism tends to be higher than the counterparts, but the equally important factor here is the length of time clean. So if you stay clean longer, then your risk of being arrested again becomes much lower.

Len Sipes:  Okay, so are we talking about first time offenders, second time offenders, third time offenders? Are we talking about repeat offenders who at one point had a clean history, single offenders who at one point had a clean history or it didn’t matter?

Professor Nakamura:  We basically looked at first time offenders, first time arrestees as well as those who were first time convictees. So we didn’t really look at those people with multiple prior records, but there’s another research paper by researcher Shawn Bushway and others. That paper looks at recidivism risk of those with multiple prior records.

Len Sipes:  Did it show the same thing as your research?

Professor Nakamura:  The pattern is the same, meaning that the recidivism risk declines over time, but those with many prior records, their recidivism risk declines in a much slower place.

Len Sipes:  Ah, okay, so there’s more of a commitment if you have multiple crimes versus singular crimes.

Professor Nakamura:  Right. It takes a longer time.

Len Sipes:  Your research basically said that there’s a certain formula involved here that after…and it depends upon the crime and I think it depends on the age of onset, but I heard different people summarize your research by saying that after seven years of not offending, then your risk is just as the same as that of the regular population. Not the regular criminal population. I’m talking about the American population across the board.

Professor Nakamura:  Right, so in comparison to the general population, the recidivism risk of those who had a single arrest and conviction in 1980 becomes about the same as the general population’s risk of arrest after seven years or so.

Len Sipes:  Okay and then that did vary from crime to crime, correct?

Professor Nakamura:  That’s correct. The crime type of the first arrest and conviction matters to the number as well as the age at first arrest, when they were first arrested.

Len Sipes:  I’m reading from the report from the National Institute of Justice. For burglary, I think it was 3.8 years for robbery. It was 7.7 years…so it does depend upon the crime and it does depend, as you said, upon the age upon arrest.

Professor Nakamura:  That’s correct.

Len Sipes:  In essence, what we are saying here and from a policy implication is that for this particular group, because you were caught up in the Criminal Justice system at one point in your life does not mean that you should be viewed suspiciously by every employer who chooses to look at your criminal history. I mean before we started the show, I talked about a family member. I was at a family affair and a young family member, she was with her counterparts and they were looking at a smartphone. They were taking a look at a court database and this one young lady blurts out to everybody there, “Oh my heavens, you’ve been arrested.” I mean that was a matter of going on a smartphone and plugging in her name and plugging in her date of birth and she was able to find out about the fact that she was arrested. So this is, number one, it’s not unusual, it’s not difficult at all in many states to find out that you’ve been arrested. The second question is – so what? Okay, so because you were arrested at a certain point that means that – in the example that I gave from the New York Times – that means that you should be denied a job for the rest of your life?

Professor Nakamura:  So the problem was that employers, at least in the past, did not really distinguish how old these criminal records are. So if they see a criminal record on their background checks, no matter how old it is, they think that’s an indicator of risk so that they can basically decline or decide not to hire that individual, but what our research suggests is that employers should look at the age of that criminal record. If that criminal record is very old – longer than seven years, ten years – then that criminal record doesn’t have much relevance in predicting future crime.

Len Sipes:  That’s why there are people who will say that after a certain amount of years you should not be asked about your criminal history because it lacks relevance. If it’s been five years, seven years, ten years since the criminal activity and you’ve been clean since that point, there is no need for an employer to ask about that event.

Professor Nakamura:  Yes, but that threshold might be dependent on how the particular employer is risk sensitive. So if you’re talking about jobs at a construction site, they might not be all that concerned about the risk of crime or if the employment includes people working in teams, so there’s sort of like a natural supervision against each other, then they might not be all that concerned about people with criminal records, but if the job is about teachers or other positions that involves contact with the vulnerable populations, then the employer’s that have risk sensitivity is a little higher, so they might need to wait a little longer for someone with a criminal record to be hired by those risk sensitive employers.

Len Sipes:  We’re quickly halfway through the program. Kiminori Nakamura, Assistant Professor, University of Maryland College Park, Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, www.ccjs.umd.edu and within the show notes, I’ll have the exact address for the good Professor’s website. Again, Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice – www.ccjs.umd.edu, Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice for the University of Maryland talking about something that has received a ton of publicity in mainstream media and an awful lot of discussion within criminological circles called Redemption in the Error of Widespread Criminal Background Checks put out by the National Institute of Justice of the Office of Justice Programs of the US Department of Justice.

Professor, if I could get back to what you said before that there has been an updated study that took a look at people with multiple offenses and the finding of that updated study is the fact that they also age out of crime, but they take a little bit longer to age out of crime.

Professor Nakamura:  That’s right. So that’s research by other researchers, other professors, but that paper suggests that if you have more than one, if you have more criminal records, you basically take a little longer to go down to the level of general population’s, let’s say, risk of arrest or sometimes the risk of people with no criminal record. So we can use different benchmarks, but regardless of the benchmark, if you have more records, prior records, it just takes a little longer.

Len Sipes:  Professor, do people come to you and say, “Give me a formula?” Say, ten years we shouldn’t be asking. Now, you just answered the question a little while ago. It depends upon the security needs of the individual. I would imagine if you deal with a lot of money, having someone convicted of fraud involving money, you’re going to look at that person suspiciously regardless as to when the crime occurred, but having said that, do people come to you and say, “Look, there’s a certain point when we’ve got to stop asking about criminal histories. It’s just not fair to the individual.” In some cases, you go 20-25 years carrying that burden with you for the rest of your life for an arrest for something minor that occurred decades ago. I mean is there a point when we should simply stop asking?

Professor Nakamura:  So our first suggestion is that we should remove – what we call – sort of ‘forever rules’. So we should avoid a blanket ban on hiring people with criminal records. That’s not really consistent with what our research indicates. So it does not make any sense for employers to have a sort of policy that says, “We don’t hire people with criminal records.” Going from there, we would usually say about 10-13 years, we should basically stop asking for criminal records regardless of age at first arrest or first conviction, regardless of risk sensitivity for most employers, although, there might be some exceptions.

Len Sipes:  So those are the two – a way to avoid a blanket ban and somewhere in the ballpark of 10-13 years – and that gives some guidance and at least it begins to ask the question in terms of the employment community, is there a time that the person should be – I don’t know – held harmless depending upon the security needs of the institution. Again, if you’re convicted of a sex offense, I’m not quite sure I’d want you to be hired for a daycare position even if it was 15-20 years in the past and there are people who will dispute that, but I understand the perspective of employers, but at least we say avoid a blanket ban across the board and look at 10-13 years as guidance.

Professor Nakamura:  That’s right and then another consideration for employers is that they might want to look at what kinds of crime are they mostly concerned about. Are they concerned about property crime, like fraud/embezzlement type or they’re mostly concerned about violent crime and depending on the concerns for particular crime types, they can basically differentiate what prior criminal records they should watch out for. For example, if the prior criminal record is something about the violence and you’re also concerned about violent crime at the workplace, then that criminal record should maybe indicate the higher level of risk for a longer period of time paired with prior record of some sort of property crime.

Len Sipes:  You seem to be saying take a look at the circumstances. Don’t just have a knee-jerk reaction that because you have an arrest, I’m not going to hire you. Take a look at the circumstances and apply the circumstances of that individual to the circumstances of you job.

Professor Nakamura:  That’s correct.

Len Sipes:  Okay, now, in terms of if I can make the big leap over to people currently under supervision. My agency has 16,000 offenders under our supervision on any given day, we know that there are hundreds of thousands of individuals on parole and probation supervision – I’m sorry – actually millions of people under parole and probation situation throughout the country. I know your research doesn’t go in that direction of people currently under supervision, but my experience and we have job developers who work with these individuals and they tell me that they have people three or four years away from their last criminal involvement and three or four years away from their last positive substance abuse check, drug test and that these are perfectly safe, perfectly skilled individuals. They have hard skills. They have been employed in the banking industry, for the love of heavens. I’ve talked to some people. They’ve been bricklayers. They’ve been electricians, but yet they can’t find jobs. At the same time, they are perfectly safe as far as a risk to public safety or a risk in terms of that employment environment. Do you have any comments on that, sir?

Professor Nakamura:  Yeah, so our research that we just talked about is mostly about this long-term outcome. So people who are just released from prison, they might be able to get a job that is probably not that risk sensitive and he can keep that job for maybe several years and when he wants to move up to a better paying job, that’s when this sort of idea of redemption becomes more relevant because he might be faced with a sort of blanket ban policy that many employers have. That’s when my research becomes a little more important. We always say 10-13 years or 15 years or whatever the number is, that number should not really interfere with the reentry support [INDISCERNIBLE] employment. People released from prison, they should get some sort of job as soon as possible because the research suggests having a job is related to redemption in recidivism.

Len Sipes:  Well, I guess that’s the point. The point is is that we, as an agency, all parole and probation agencies, our job is to reduce recidivism, reduce people going out and committing more crimes, reduce the number of victims. Part of that is through supervision, which is extraordinarily important, but part of that is through programs and finding jobs for these individuals and that job connection is really hampered. I’ve sat down with people under our supervision who are perfectly good risk, yet, employers will not touch them because of their criminal histories, but again, I guess the point I’m trying to make is there may be, based upon age because the average of the people we have under supervision is 31, that maybe there is a point or even people under supervision pose safe risks. I know your research didn’t go there, but is there the possibility that they pose safe risks?

Professor Nakamura:  That’s right, especially for, again, employers that are not that risk sensitive.

Len Sipes:  Where do we go to in terms of future research, Doctor, where do we go to in terms of taking this conversation two or three steps further in engaging the American public, engaging the criminological community with these issues that you and Professor Blumstein brought up in your research?

Professor Nakamura:  So we are kind of pursuing two streams of research. One is to look at this redemption idea for people that have been incarcerated. Like I said, in our previous research, we looked at those first time offenders, first time arrestees or those who have been convicted, but now, we’re kind of looking at the data of people who have been already incarcerated. So they probably have multiple prior records and see if their risks of recidivism declines to the level of general population or not. So that’s something that we are looking at right now.  The other strand of research that I’m pursuing is, like you said, looking at the population of people who are under parole supervision and right now, in most states and most jurisdictions, the length of parole is quite prefixed in the sense that when they are put on supervision, they know how long they have to be under that supervision. What I’m exploring is that if they stay clean under parole supervision, their recidivism also declines. So at some point, there can be discharge prior to sort of the maximum sentence date because their recidivism risk no longer poses a significant amount of risk or if the risk level is sufficiently low, then maybe the supervision level can be adjusted and then maybe these guys can be put on either administrative parole supervision or some low-intensity supervision.

Len Sipes:  Well, that would be a huge plus for those of us who run parole and probation agencies because then we can take those resources and redirect them towards the higher risk offender and even do a greater job in terms of protecting public safety.

Professor Nakamura:  That’s correct. Recidivism is at the highest when they’re released from prison. So it makes more sense for supervision agencies to focus on their resources, treatments or supervision resources on the earlier period of time after they’re released.

Len Sipes:  Well, I know, again, those of us in parole and probation agencies are really going to be looking forward to that research because that’s something we wrestle with right now. Do you have a projected date of delivery on that research or are we years away from the findings?

Professor Nakamura:  Well, I started working on that research topic with people from the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections here, so we started to collect data and we’re about to analyze the data.

Len Sipes:  Ah, so you’re not that terribly far from the process of coming to some intermediate conclusions.

Professor Nakamura:  That’s correct.

Len Sipes:  Well, that would be a wonderful contribution to those of us…I mean for parole and probation administrators, that would be just an enormous piece of research because, again, everyone is struggling with that very question – because of the budget situation, who do you focus your resources on and who do you place on administrative probation or parole or a kiosk sort of program.

Professor Nakamura:  Yup, that’s exactly why we started this research on parole.

Len Sipes:  Well, I’m very proud to talk to you today, Dr. Nakamura. Your research, again, for the people listening to this program, it’s really very hard to describe the level of interest that people throughout the country…and it really has caught the attention of mainstream media because I’ve seen your research being referenced to dozens and dozens of times within mainstream media as well as in the criminological community. Dr. Nakamura, Assistant Professor, University of Maryland College Park, Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, www.ccjs.umd.edu. I’ll put his personal web page in the show notes. Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. We appreciate all of your comments. We appreciate your letters. We appreciate your emails and we appreciate your phone calls in terms of the program and comments and suggestions. Please have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]

Share