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

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

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

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

[Audio Begins]

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

Lamont Carey:  Thank you for having me.

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

Lamont Carey:  Right.

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

Lamont Carey:  Right.

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

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

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

Lamont Carey:  Right.

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

Lamont Carey:  Right.

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

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

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

Lamont Carey:  Right.

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

Lamont Carey:  Yeah, but I’m driven.

Len Sipes:  All right.

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

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

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

Len Sipes:  Right.

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

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

Lamont Carey:  Right, right.

Len Sipes:  That’s just within three years.

Lamont Carey:  Right.

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

Lamont Carey:  Right.

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

Lamont Carey:  Right.

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

Lamont Carey:  Right.

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

Lamont Carey:  Right, well I think.

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

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

Len Sipes:  Are you serious?

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

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

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

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

Lamont Carey:  Right, right.

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

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

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

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

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

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

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

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

Len Sipes:  Right, right.

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

Len Sipes:  Everybody’s on the corner.

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

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

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

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

Lamont Carey:  Right, right.

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

Lamont Carey:  Exactly.

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

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

Len Sipes:  Yeah.

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

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

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

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

Lamont Carey:  Okay.

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

Lamont Carey:  Right.

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

Lamont Carey:  Right.

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

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

Len Sipes:  Correct.

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

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

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

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

Lamont Carey:  Right.

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

Lamont Carey:  Right.

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

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

Len Sipes:  Right.

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

Len Sipes:  Right.

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

Len Sipes:  Right.

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

Len Sipes:  Yeah.

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

Len Sipes:  Yep.

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

Len Sipes:  Right.

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

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

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

Len Sipes:  Yeah, piece of cake.

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

Len Sipes:  Right.

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

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

Lamont Carey:  Right.

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

Lamont Carey:  Right.

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

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  So talk to me about all that.

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

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

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

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

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

Len Sipes:  Yeah.

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

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

Lamont Carey:  Right.

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

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

Len Sipes:  Right.

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

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

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

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

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

Len Sipes:  Right.

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

Len Sipes:  Right.

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

Len Sipes:  Right.

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

Len Sipes:  Right.

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

Len Sipes:  Sure.

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

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

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

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

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

Len Sipes:  Right.

Lamont Carey:  But that ain’t my truth.

Len Sipes:  Right.

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

Len Sipes:  You want to game the parole officer.

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

Len Sipes:  Right, right.  Sure, sure.

Lamont Carey:  So I’m going to say –

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

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

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

Lamont Carey:  Right.

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

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

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

Lamont Carey:  Right.

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

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

Len Sipes:  Right, you got to live somewhere.

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

Len Sipes:  Right.

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

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

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  Okay, what else.

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

Len Sipes:  Right.

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

Len Sipes:  Right.

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

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

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

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

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

Len Sipes:  Yes.

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

Len Sipes:  Right.

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

Len Sipes:  Right.

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

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

Lamont Carey:  Right.

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

Lamont Carey:  Right.

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

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

Len Sipes:  Yep.

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

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

Lamont Carey:  Right.

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

Lamont Carey:  Right.

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

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

Len Sipes:  Right.

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

Len Sipes:  Sure.

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

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

Lamont Carey:  Right.

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

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

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

[Audio Ends]

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Faith-Based Efforts to Assist Criminal Offenders-DC Public Safety Radio

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

Radio Program available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2011/10/faith-based-efforts-to-assist-criminal-offenders-dc-public-safety-radio/

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

[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes:  From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. The program today, ladies and gentlemen, is on faith-based initiatives. You know, we have a very large faith-based initiative here in the District of Columbia under my agency, the Court Services and Offenders Supervision Agency. We’ve had 2,000 offenders participate since the program began in 2002. We have 326 offenders participating now. We have 108 faith-based institutions. They are joined by 86 community organizations, and 500 mentors. So this is an extraordinarily large program. Christine Keels, who is the program manager of the faith-based initiative, she is the person who has put all this together, done an extraordinarily good job, an amazing job, of really making this program sing. One of the things that she’s done is to create special emphasis programs, special programs that go along with the faith-based environment. I’m gonna list just a few–women’s empowerment, a relapse prevention, grief counseling, job coaching, parenting skills, family reunification, relationship restoration, housing assistance and a reintegration support group. Joining Christine Keels today at our microphones is Marvin. We’re not gonna use Marvin’s last name. He’s currently under the supervision of my agency—again, Court Services and Offenders Supervision Agency. We are a federal parole and probation agency here in Washington, DC.  And Julia—we’re not gonna use Julia’s last name either—again, she’s currently under supervision of CSOSA, my agency. And to Christine, and to Marvin, and to Julia—welcome to DC Public Safety.

Marvin:  Thank you.

Julia:  Thank you.

Christine Keels:  Thank you for inviting us.

Len Sipes:  Okay, Christine. How in the name of heavens did you put all this together?  I mean, this isn’t a program, it’s a nation! I mean, you’ve got a lot of programs here that in the time that you’ve been in charge of the faith-based program, that you have pretty much instituted, and the amount of people, the amount of faith-based organizations, churches, synagogues, mosques—the amount of organizations, the amount of people, the amount of community organizations–that have been involved in this, have grown substantially. So how did you do all this?

Christine Keels:  Well, I have a very awesome team working with me of three cluster Lead Faith Institutions–Israel Baptist Church, Greater Mt Calvary Holy Church, and Covenant Baptist United Church—and they are very, very supportive, as well as all the staff here at CSOSA.  And so what we have done is looked at what are the needs, and we have developed programs to meet those needs, and classes and workshops. So we’re actively engaged in helping to make people’s lives whole.

Len Sipes:  Now, the whole idea behind the faith-based program—and we have to say this right from the very beginning—because you go and join a mentor from a faith-based institution, it doesn’t matter if that person is Baptist, Catholic, Jewish, a member of the Islamic faith, that person is not asked to buy into that faith. He or she are simply receiving services from a mentor from that organization. So there’s no pressure whatsoever to involve that person under our supervision in their religious life, correct?

Christine Keels:  That’s absolutely right. There’s no proselytizing, but we are focusing on the fact that the faith institution is the number one institution in the community. So we want to reconnect people to those institutions that are in walking distance from where they live. But again, no proselytizing and no pressure.

Len Sipes:  But, you know, the interesting thing is what you just said, the faith-based organizations—the church, the mosque, the synagogue—they are the center points of any community in this country. They are the power sources. They pretty much have an amazing array – some of these churches, mosques and synagogues have an amazing array of services that they can provide. They’re out there as a mentor. We hook them up with somebody who’s currently under our supervision, and they can get an array of services. It’s just not a friendship, it’s just not mentoring, it’s just not helping that person. These organizations also provide a massive array of services!

Christine Keels:  That’s correct—from food to housing, clothing, mentoring, support, counseling. So it’s a natural connection.

Len Sipes:  And there’s a long tradition here in Washington DC, and I would imagine every city in the United States would make this claim, that again, the faith-based institutions are the rocks that their communities are built upon. And you know, offenders come out of the prison system, they generally tend to hang out on a corner, which gets them in trouble. They generally tend to hang out with other organizations or gangs, which gets them into trouble. The faith-based organizations strike me as being a gang for good. So instead of, you know, that person needs companionship, that person needs guidance, that person needs people to embrace him or her; wouldn’t you rather that person be involved in a faith-based organization than hanging out on the corner? Isn’t that the whole idea behind the program?

Christine Keels:  Well, Leonard, let me update you on your terms. We now call it “pro-social”, we don’t call it a “gang”. And so we’re looking for excellent pro-social community support, and the faith-based institutions provide that, from counseling groups as well as activity groups and events that our offenders can attend.

Len Sipes:  Okay. Alright, Marvin, it’s your turn. Now, you’re working. You’re no longer involved in the faith-based program. All of your goals have been pretty much accomplished. How did you do that? Can you tell me a little bit about your story? How did you get involved in the faith-based program, and how did you accomplish all your goals?

Marvin:  Oh, well, I met my mentor through SRTP, a program I was at, Ducie Soza and I come in contact with him for—excuse me—maybe a couple, maybe a month or two.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Marvin:  After that I lost contact with him. I just decided to do, [PH] it was supposed to have been done anyway, to try to stay out from going back and forth to jail, and be a better individual and a father.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Marvin:  So I just stayed away from the past crowds and spent more time with my family.

Len Sipes:  Did you find the faith-based program to be helpful?

Marvin:  Yeah, I found my mentor, he was real helpful. He was like somebody – he called and tried to keep in contact with me, basically like somebody that really cared, even though I just met him.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Marvin:  And I’m really not too good with just associating with people like that, but the [PH] Lord time that I did know him though, he was okay.

Len Sipes:  Now, a lot of the people coming out of the prison system, they’re pretty suspicious of everybody and everything. How did you find – how comfortable were you with your mentor? You just said that you were a little uncomfortable with this. I mean, most people feel that – you know, coming out of the prison system – feel that everybody is out there, even if they’re trying to help them, they’re doing it for a reason, they’re not really doing it because they really want to help; they really don’t want to help the person under supervision, there’s gotta be another motive. So, did it take a long time for that person to break the ice, to get to know you, to get to talk to you, to build up your confidence?

Marvin:  No, it was just – I guess it was just conversation, the way he spoke, the way he – he didn’t seem like this was a job. This was like something he wanted to do, like he wanted to help me, he wanted to look out for me.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Marvin:  So, I decided to start talking to him a little more, and the times that we did talk, it was more like a friendly conversation than this is something that I have to do, or somebody that I have to talk to. But it was more genuine. We was more basically like friends almost.

Len Sipes:  Got it. And how important was that to you in terms of making your transformation from prison to the community? How important was that relationship?

Marvin:  I mean, it was important, ‘cause he tried to make sure – he called and checked up, and made sure my kids and everything was okay. That type of motivation just help me motivate to do what I was supposed to, done what I did, come on the streets.

Len Sipes:  If you, if everybody who came out of the prison system had a mentor like you did, do you think that it’s gonna cut down on people going back to crime, going back to drugs, going back to the corner? Do you think it would be a big help? Do you think it would be of marginal help? How much of an impact, if everybody had a mentor, what do you think the impact would be?

Marvin:  I mean, it could help, but it’s all on what they do, what they mind frame is.

Len Sipes:  Yeah.

Marvin:  ‘Cause as much as a mentor try to help, if you don’t want no help –

Len Sipes:  Right.

Marvin:  – you gonna still do what you do, to go right back the way you just came from, or whatever you wanna do.

Len Sipes:  Right. But a lot of people coming out of the prison system, their lives, 80 per cent have histories of substance abuse. A lot of folks coming out of the prison system have mental health issues. A lot of people coming out of the prison system don’t have a job history. I mean they do need help. They do need somebody to guide them, don’t you think?

Marvin:  Yeah, they probably – I think they do need help. A lot of people do need help, and a lot of people need to help theyself by they’s thinking. If they don’t come out wanting to do it, no matter how much help you give them, they not gonna do it.

Len Sipes:  And you know what, Marvin? In 20 years of doing programs—radio and television programs–interviewing folks caught up in the criminal justice system, everybody has pretty much said that, is that you’ve got to have it inside your heart that you really want to change, that you really are going to change. So you’re right. What you’re saying is –  I’ve heard from everybody else. It’s not necessarily the programs, but the programs do help. I mean, you’ve gotta have that intestinal fortitude, you’ve gotta have that determination that you’re gonna succeed, but some people, you know – how many people have I run into in  life who said, “I’m not going back to prison” but ended up back in prison? You know, sometimes a mentor can make all the difference, and I’m just wondering if that’s right or wrong?

Marvin:  No, they get – I mean, you right, you absolutely right because a lot of people need help regardless, and just with somebody they can sit down and talk to, that could be a start. There might be individuals that didn’t like to listen, and they pay [INDISCERNIBLE] or sitting down and listening could help them in their future now. So somebody wanna sit back and speak to you, it ain’t – they not telling you what to do, they talking to you.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Marvin:   They ask you and they trying to help you, so that mean a whole lot than somebody saying “go do this”.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Marvin:  And you like, “I really don’t want to, so I’m not” instead of “C’mon, let me go with you while we do this.”

Len Sipes:  Right. All right, Julia, I’m gonna go over to you. I’m not gonna use your last name. You’re currently under supervision. You’re a homemaker. You have three grandchildren at home, so thank you very much for having the fortitude to take your three grandchildren. You said that your goals were to get sober, to be a better parent, and you’re looking for work. How are you gonna find work and take care of three grandkids at the same time? That’s a huge job!

Julia:  Well I’m actually, at this present time, all my grandchildren do not reside in the same home as I do, but I do babysit them a lot, and I do spend time with them, a lot more now than I have in the past. As far as finding work, when I completed the Lifetime Makeover, which is a faith initiative based group, it gave me more confidence in myself, and then someone will probably say, “Well, why would you need to go to a group, you know, to believe in yourself again?” Because sometimes in life, when you’ve been in the criminal justice system, and you’re already labeled by society that, you know, this person got locked up, and you know, they’re just no good, and they can’t re-enter back into society and they can’t, you know, do anything but the same old things again, these groups help. Personally for myself, it helped me with my self-esteem. It made me believe that I always wanted to be a homeowner, that I know one day I could be a home owner. For all the goals and dreams that I ever had in life, I believe now more so than ever that I can do these things; and it was all from being a part of that group.

Len Sipes:  Now, if the group wasn’t there, if you came out of the prison system and the group did not exist and you were entirely on your own, you would have what most agencies call a parole and probation agent. We call them community supervision officers here in the District of Columbia. But if you didn’t have the auspices of the faith-based group, if you didn’t have all of these various programs that we talked about at the beginning of the program, where would you be now?

Julia:  I think it goes back to the statement that Marvin made, it’s all up to the individual. But I found within inside myself, with the group, it helped. It’s like unity. It’s like a small family. It’s a lot of support. It just gives you that initiative that you want to do better, you know? And you’re not labeled. And it’s like a family, you know, and it’s just so many things that you know you always probably could do, but you know, you really know now that you can do it, because there’s so much support. You know? And it’s people that really care, it’s not just groups that they’ve thrown together and they say, “Well, you have to do it because you’re on probation, or your probation officer suggested this.” You’re selected, you know, for these groups, and it’s because you’re in compliance and you’re doing the right things. And also, even if you’re not in compliance, some of the groups are there to help you, because they want you to get in compliance and be able to get back out in the work world, in society, to be able to live your life, you know, as a normal person without drugs and alcohol –

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Julia:  – and all of the things that we should do anyway.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Julia:  So, I just think it’s awesome. I really do personally. A lot of people probably would say, “Well, you know, I don’t want to do this and that, I already have to report. You know, I have to do your analysis test. You know, they got me doing enough things, so why should I do this?” But that’s the whole secret to it, that one thing that they want you to do is the answer to everything.

Len Sipes:  First round and we’re already halfway through the program. Even before we get to go with the question number two, I want to re-introduce our guest today, Christine Keels, program manager of faith-based initiatives from my agency, Court Services and Offenders Supervision Agency, a federal parole and probation agency here in Washington DC. Marvin, who is currently under supervision, who is off the program, he’s just basically accomplished all of his goals, and the last person you heard from is Julia. She is currently under supervision and she is doing extraordinarily well. I do want to give out the web site for Court Services and Offenders Supervision Agency, www.csosa.gov, www.csosa.gov, and Christine has foolishly decided to give out her phone number, 202-515-0892; 202-515-0892. I do want everybody to fill up Christine’s phone mailbox, and I’ll be mentioning the web site and Christine’s contact point throughout the program. Christine, we do want more people from more faith-based institutions to mentor more people caught up in the criminal justice system. The clusters, although – we’re the federal government, so we can’t accept donations, but our three clusters—the Lead Faith organizations that much pretty much organize the city for us, they can take donations. So if anybody wants to talk about providing donations through this extraordinarily worthy cause, they can get back in touch with us.

Christine Keels:  Yes, and let me correct the phone number. It’s 202-510-0892. That’s 202-510-0892. That’s my government cell phone, and I’d love to talk to you.

Len Sipes:  You know, I’ve got a group of people up in New York, and I constantly make reference to them because whenever I screw up a name, I get e-mails saying, “Leonard, you can’t pronounce a name to save your life!” Now they’re gonna say, “Leonard, you can’t get a phone number correct to save your life.” So, in any event, Christine, you know, the faith-based concept, you know, government can only do so much. Government has always been somewhat limited in terms of what it is that we can do. We don’t have the legitimacy of the faith-based organizations. You go to any Baptist church, you go into any mosque, you go into any synagogue, they’re the power. There is the power.

Christine Keels:  Mm-hm.

Len Sipes:  Here are the people who have access, the jobs. Here are the people who have access to resources. Here are the people who care.

Christine Keels:  Mm-hm.

Len Sipes:  And that, to me, has always been the power of the faith-based initiative. I mean, people caught up in the criminal justice systems take a look at people like you and I saying, “Well, you’re paid to do this.” But they take a look at the volunteers and they’re saying, “Hey, they’re not paid to do this, so they’re doing this because they want to help me get over all the ills that I’ve had in my life, and they want to see me succeed.” Isn’t that the heart and soul of the faith-based initiative?

Christine Keels:  Yes, and for me, it fulfills my mission and helps me fulfill my faith journey as well. And to have people in the community who oftentimes our offenders already know, they already know these folks, they’ve gone to the faith institutions, they know them as Miss Suzy next door or Mr. Charles down the street. And to help them to reconnect with those persons is just so important. And our faith-based mentors are very committed. They are volunteers, which means they are not paid. They come to us with a lot of skills and talents from their professional and life skills, and they’re able to bring that back to us and to share, –

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Christine Keels:  – and we’re just so appreciative of that. We do provide training on basic mentoring, communication, and a number of other special emphasis skills.  Marvin referred to our secured residential treatment facility, which is a place where he participated in a diagnosis of his addiction, and that particular program prepared him for a mentor.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Christine Keels:  A mentor came in, and then began to help him remember “What are some of the triggers, what are some of the things that he needs to watch out for, how does he prevent relapse?” And so the mentors are just – they’re life coaches.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Christine Keels:  You know, we think of the word “mentor” and we think of when we were teenagers, somebody who took us to the circus and took us to the zoo, and I tell our offenders that if you wanna go to the circus or the zoo, we’ll take you there; but the basic role of the mentors is to help them make decisions, find resources and to be able to communicate effectively with their community supervision officers.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Christine Keels:  Those are skills that they take into their life, beyond CSOSA.

Len Sipes:  I want to get back to a question to any one of you, but particularly Marvin and Julia. We talked about this a little bit before the program, and that is that people have stereotypes of people who are caught up in the criminal justice system. Now, again, I’ve been doing this for 20 years, interviewing people caught up in the criminal justice system, both on radio and television, and I said before the program that, you know, people have this image in their mind of criminal, and they have a preconceived notion. They’ve watched the evening news, they’ve read the newspaper, they’ve looked at the cable stations, the programs about people in prison, and they say to themselves, “I don’t want to come into contact with anybody who has been caught up in the criminal justice system. All I hear about are the negatives. Parolee does this, parolee does that.” So how do you break through that in terms of when you go on the job, when you deal with your mentor? And does mentoring help you overcome that stereotype that society has of you? Julia, I’m gonna start with you. So Julia, you’re a criminal.

Julia:  Well, no, I’m not a criminal. I committed a criminal act. I would say to anyone in the criminal justice system, just know that, you know, you’re a human being and you made a mistake. I could use for an example, let’s say a doctor. You know, a doctor could not have done a surgery in over 20 years, and he performs a surgery on a patient and he makes an awful mistake, and it calls for a malpractice suit.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Julia:  So does that make him a criminal? I mean, do you wanna just take his license from him because he did a poor operation he didn’t do? So, I mean, look at people that have committed crimes in the same manner. We deserve, you know, another chance. And some of us don’t get it right the first time.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Julia:  Sometimes we get convicted two, three, four times. You know, some of us get it right, and then some of us may never get it right. But it’s up to that individual. You know, it’s up to what you want to do in life. But just society as a whole, I mean, I believe that overall, maybe every state in the United States, there’s one family or more where someone in their family has been in the criminal justice system.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Julia:  So if you were to say, “Well, I’m not gonna hire her because, you know, she got caught for shoplifting”, and you know, you have a store. Why not give her that chance? You know, because she did it once, doesn’t mean she’ll do it again. It’s not that every offender is a repeat offender. And for those that are, they still deserve a chance.

Len Sipes:  Now did the faith-based environment give you the strength, give you the confidence, build you up to the point where you’re saying to yourself, “I don’t care what the stereotype is –

Julia:  Oh, very much so!

Len Sipes:  – I know who I am, I know what I’m capable of doing –

Julia:  Exactly.

Len Sipes:  – I’m not gonna let that stereotype get in my way. I’m gonna succeed.” Now did the faith-based environment help you get there?

Julia:  It helped me in a way that only me and my Higher Power know. And I say that because, as I said before, a lot of people that are in the criminal justice system, they lose faith in their self. They lose that self-esteem. They lose the love that they have for their self as a human being.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Julia:  Because, like you said, you’re stereotyped. But I wake up every morning, I thank God for waking me up. I have wonderful children, I have beautiful grandchildren. I have a loving family overall, which was there anyway –

Len Sipes:  Right.

Julia:  – before I even got in trouble.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Julia:  I mean, I just believe everyone deserves a chance, and that’s just why I used the doctor, for example.

Len Sipes:  Marvin, I’m gonna go and basically ask the same question of you. I mean, people take a look, hear the word “criminal” and they have that vision in their mind, and as far as they’re concerned, that’s it. They say to themselves, “You know, we’ve got people without work, we’ve got elderly people who need to be taken care of, we’ve got schools that need to be taken care of, why am I gonna spend my time dealing with quote/unquote “criminals”. So why would people spend their time dealing with quote/unquote “criminals”?

Marvin:  Okay, I look at criminal, that’s just a – I guess that’s just a nametag or something you get when you make a mistake. I ain’t so sure, you know what I’m saying, but it’s all on – I mean, if you gotta go to these type of people and that’s the way they look at you, then there’s really not too much you can do about it. It’s something that they gotta work on and change, ‘cause there’s gonna be somebody that’s gonna have – wherever you got that name tag and that, eventually, and then you just gotta do the best at what you can get.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm. And again, I get back to the power of the faith-based program. I get back to that, because in my mind, I don’t care what situation you are  in life, if you surround yourself with positive influences, if you surround yourself with positive people, everybody – everybody listening to this program and everybody in this room, including me, has had tough times. And you need to surround yourself with positive people who are gonna embrace you and lift you up and say, “Uh-huh, what’s happening now is temporary. Here’s where you going.” To me, every time I’ve dealt with a faith-based program, that’s my takeaway, that there are people there who are willing to help people cross that bridge. Chris?

Christine Keels:  When we make mistakes, the most important formula is nurture and care. We restore ourselves from any mistake we make with nurture and care. And so when someone makes a mistake, the rest of the community around that person has to provide nurture and care. In order to be restored again, I say nurture and care. Even when a baby falls from his attempt to walk, we provide nurture and care. We say, “Get up, try it again.” And we tell them the new way to try it. We don’t say, you know, “Fall again”, we tell them a new way to be able to make that walk perfectly. And life is a walk. We all go through this journey from life to death, and so what we do is continue to nurture and care. And the faith-based institution, that’s their number two ingredient—number one and number two ingredient–nurture and care.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Christine Keels:  And so we can’t afford to give up on anybody.

Len Sipes:  Well, but people do. We give up on people all the time. We give up and you know, we say, “They’re a drug addict. I don’t have time with deal with drug addicts. They’re an alcoholic. I don’t have time to deal with alcoholics.  They’re people who are just hanging out on the corner, why are they always hanging out on the corner? I don’t wanna deal with that person.” That’s the image that people have. Now admittedly when we first started the faith-based program, it’s not like everybody flocked to our side.

Christine Keels:  That’s true.

Len Sipes:  Okay? And they had to overcome. Even the faith-based community had to overcome that stereotype. But now you’ve built a small army.

Christine Keels:  Well, I did that by making sure people realized that they’re –

Len Sipes:  Even the cluster coordinators –

Christine Keels:  That’s right.

Len Sipes:  I’m sorry, not the –

Christine Keels:  Not just Miss Keels, not just Miss Keels –

Len Sipes:  – not just the cluster coordinator part of it.

Christine Keels:  – my entire team.

Len Sipes:  That’s right, the entire team.

Christine Keels:  Over 500 people or more –

Len Sipes:  That’s right.

Christine Keels:  – have put this together. What we do is put a face in front of that label. We get rid of the label by putting a face, a personality, and flesh around that, so that people can see it’s a human being–human beings make mistakes—and that we provide nurture and care. And CSISO is very, very strong on support, resources and building. And so putting CSISO with the faith-based community, what a wonderful match of being able to look at “How do you help someone restore themselves, revive themselves?”  You know, someone said to me one time, “How do you revive something that didn’t exist? If the person didn’t have it in them, how do you revive it?” Then you create it, you mold it, you shape it, you introduce it, so that you bring that person back to a level of competency, so that they can live successfully.

Len Sipes:  But the important thing that people need to hear is that these programs do help individuals caught up in the criminal justice system cross that bridge. Because when they cross that bridge, look at in Julia’s case, she’s taking care of three children.

Christine Keels:  That’s right.

Len Sipes:  There’s three human beings who are now taken care of because she was able to cross that bridge. People go from tax burdens to tax payers. People go from committing crimes to not committing crimes.

Christine Keels:  That’s absolutely correct.

Len Sipes:  People go from not taking care of their kids to taking care of the kids. I mean, these are the successes that you pull off routinely. And I mean, Marvin and Julia, chime in here. Am I right or wrong?

Julia:  You’re right. You’re absolutely right—excuse me.

Len Sipes:  Now I know you have to have it inside you. I know it’s just not the availability of the program. You have to have the willingness to change, as Marvin said at the beginning of the program. But if you don’t have the opportunities, if you don’t have people surrounding you who are gonna lift you up, what happens to you?

Julia:  Then you’ll fall astray, and that’s just being honest and that’s facing reality. It feels good with the mentors when they give you their card or their phone number and they say, “You can call me any time—morning, noon and night.” I mean, how many people will do that? I mean, even your best friend. You know, you call the house at five in the morning, “What do you want?”   So for someone to care that much about you, then why should you not care about yourself? If they’re willing to believe in you and give you a chance, why can’t you believe in yourself? It’s so remarkable, and it’s so overwhelming. It was even moments during my sessions at group that, I mean I’m not embarrassed to say it, I even went home and cried.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Julia:  Because it was just overwhelming that someone loved me that much and believed in me that much. And it just made me know that I can do anything now. I know it takes time. You know, I didn’t make a mistake overnight. My life is just not gonna snap in the instant of a finger and become better overnight. But I’m sitting here today doing an interview with you, so this is a –

Len Sipes:  Yeah, that’s, that’s –

Julia:  – a big plus, you know? I’ve never did a radio interview, you know, so it’s showing growth already with me.

Len Sipes:  Marvin, you’ve got just a couple of seconds, because we have to give 30 seconds to close. So you’ve heard everything that I’ve said in terms of this whole concept of the group coming to your assistance. Does it really make a difference? It made a difference in your life. Does it really make a difference in the lives of others?

Marvin:  Yeah, it can; as long as they let it.

Len Sipes:  As long as they let it.

Marvin:  As long as they let it. If they don’t – I mean, it’s basically on the individual. They gotta want it, and there’s help for them. It might take time for them to open up for the help, but as long as they let it happen then it’ll work for them.

Len Sipes:  Okay, Marvin, you’ve got the final word. I really do appreciate everybody being here today. I love it whenever I do a program on faith-based initiative and hearing the success stories of the people involved. And so to Marvin and Julia, thank you very much. And to Christine Keels, and to all the faith-based people within the faith-based community in Washington DC and throughout the United States and throughout the world, we really appreciate it. Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. I am your host Leonard Sipes. We appreciate your comments. Have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]

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Offender and Victim Advocacy: Is there a Middle Ground? DC Public Safety-220,000 Requests a Month

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

See http://media.csosa.gov for our television shows, blog and transcripts. We now average 200,000 requests a month.

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

This radio program is available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2010/04/offender-and-victim-advocacy-is-there-a-middle-ground-dc-public-safety-220000-requests-a-month/

[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes:  From the nation’s capital, this is D.C. Public Safety.  I’m your host, Leonard Sipes.  We have, what I believe, is another very interesting show.  We’re going to be talking about crime victims, and I know we’ve been talking a lot about crime victims lately, but this time, we’re going to do it from the faith based perspective, the fact that my agency, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency really has what I consider to be one of the best faith based programs in the United States in terms of reaching out to criminal offenders, volunteers and churches, mosques, synagogues to help them readjust from prison, or even on probation, but in this context, we’re going to be talking about it in terms of the faith based initiative.  Anne Seymour is one of our guests today.  She is with Justice Solutions.  She’s a national expert on the issue of victims and victimology.  Anne’s website is www.justicesolutions.org.  I’ll be giving that out again all throughout the program.  Reverend Bernard Keels, the director of the University Memorial Chapel at Morgan State University in the great city of Baltimore, Maryland, where I am from, www.morgan.edu, he’s also joining with us today.  He’s a mentor and facilitator in terms of faith based groups.  Before we begin the show, our usual commercials, we’re up to 200,000 requests a month for D.C. Public Safety, television, radio, blog, and transcripts.  That’s media, M-E-D-I-A – dot-CSOSA – C-S-O-S-A – dot-gov.  Your input into these shows is what makes the show enjoyable, and what makes the show come alive, and we really appreciate every email, every comment on our comments box, your responses via twitter, and your responses, once again, via email.  If you want to get in touch with me directly, it is Leonard – L-E-O-N-A-R-D – dot-Sipes – S-I-P as in Peculiar-P-E-S – @csosa.gov, or you can follow us via twitter at twitter.com/lensipes.  Back to our guests, Anne Seymour and Reverend Bernard Keels.  Welcome to D.C. Public Safety.

Anne Seymour:  Thank you.

Bernard Keels:  Thank you.

Len Sipes:  Anne Seymour, now I’ve read your resume and been on your website, Justice Solutions, www.justicesolutions.org.  You’ve done a ton of work with the U.S. Department of Justice in terms of victims’ issues.  You are, what I was told by Christine Keels, the person who heads up our faith based program, truly one of the national experts when it comes to victims’ related issues.  We’re approaching National Victims’ Week in April.  Give me a sense as to what’s happening with the victims’ movement throughout the country.  Is there a way of summarizing that in a couple minutes?

Anne Seymour:  Yeah, I think, boy, summarizing the victims’ movement, we’re a very, very diverse movement.  So it’s hard to summarize, but I will say that, you know, we’ve got 32,000 laws across the states and the Indian country at the federal level that protect crime victims.  A big issue now for victims is making sure that these laws are more than just rhetoric, and so we’re looking a lot at compliance issues.  For me personally, one of my big issues is also making sure that we’re identifying victims who choose not to go through the justice process, which is the majority of victims who don’t report crimes, and they never know that services are available to assist them, and so I’m working a lot now with victims who choose not to report, as well as with agencies like CSOSA, which has been really a national model in terms of the work they do with crime victims.

Len Sipes:  And I think, and I thank you for that, and I think Christine Keels, the person who heads the faith-based program, really deserves a lot of credit for that and really has re-invigorated the whole faith based initiative. It’s interesting you talk about people not reporting crimes.  Most crimes are not reported to law enforcement.  40% of property crimes and about 50% of violent crimes are reported.  So I’ve oftentimes wondered what happens to those people who float through their victimization without going through the formal criminal justice system; that you’ve just brought up a very interesting issue.

Anne Seymour:  It’s interesting, and I think it’s also very sad.  I mean, one of the things we need to do is to make sure that everyone in a community knows about victims’ services, because I may not report to the police, but I may talk to my hairdresser, to my child’s student, or if I’m at school, I may talk to the school nurse and still not want to report.  That’s my choice, and I support victims who choose that, but we still want them to know that they can access services for mental health counseling, for medical services that they may need.  There’s a lot of services that do not require reporting and going through the system.

Len Sipes:  Okay.  Reverend Bernard Keels, director, University Memorial Chapel, Morgan State University in the great city of Baltimore, again, where I’m from.  Morgan, www.morgan.edu, one of the well known institutions of higher learning in the Baltimore Metropolitan Area.  You’re a mentor and a facilitator in terms of faith based organizations where, here in D.C., in Baltimore?

Bernard Keels:  Yeah, with the Family Reunification Program in D.C.  One of the things that I think Anne has touched on that is so powerful is that the whole issue of the rhetoric that is present in our society, churches and faith based organizations oftentimes had to separate the historical imperative from what’s happened in contemporary times.  Going back to the Cain and Abel saga, where the first, probably the first victim was Abel, I think churches have to really begin to understand that there is a duality, if you will, with how people who are victims of crimes need to have restitution, need to have restorative justice that happens to them, and many, many times, churches tend to be so caught up into the dogma of worship that they forget the everyday issues that affect the people who are worshipping, i.e. crime victims, and yes, people do report crime victims to hairdressers and to strangers, and sometimes, the last place they come is a faith based institution because of the built in negative images of what it means to accuse, for instance, a cleric of abuse.  Some of the institutional abuse you hear about, pedophilia in some of the mainline denominational churches, so faith based churches and institutions need to really broaden their understanding that it’s okay to leap out with your faith, but to understand the very basic issues that affect people, because people, after all, bring the whole idea of parishioners, and I think that’s where we have to become more relevant.

Len Sipes:  The, especially when it applies to women victims, most, in most cases, women know who attacked them.  In most cases, there is prior knowledge or a prior relationship.  That is extraordinarily difficult when your best friend/brother/husband/friend of five years/somebody that you’ve known for the last 30 days victimizes you, and thereby the struggle, and we understand that, in terms of people not reporting crimes, they see this in many cases as a personal event, not necessarily an event that you would report to the criminal justice system, but she’s a victim nevertheless.  So I would imagine, I can see that person going to their Imam.  I can see that person going to their priest, going to their minister, going to their rabbi, and saying, although I don’t want to report this to the criminal justice system, I am reporting it to you, I need spiritual counseling in terms of best, next steps.  What should I do, correct?

Bernard Keels:  Yeah.  Not only are you correct, but it’s so incumbent upon that spiritual director to recognize the boundaries of their ability, his or her ability, to become a meaningful mentor, a meaningful person that could intervene in it.  So many times, people will go to their cleric, the imam, the rabbi as a way of sort of ameliorating the situation and saying that prayer will change that, or the fact that I’ll come to church will make it easier, and it takes a very strong and well-trained cleric to realize that it’s okay to be able to access those governmental, or organizations like a CSOSA, to be able to partner with those governmental organizations and partner with Anne’s group, and to be able to say, help me learn how to translate what I do so that a victim actually has a face and a person they can believe in in the process of healing.

Len Sipes:  Now before going on in the program, to cretae clarity, some clarity out of all the issues we’re dealing with over the course of the next 25 minutes, we have to deal with the faith based component, and the faith based component, ordinarily, is one of mentoring people under supervision. So we’ve got to be dealing with the fact that there are people under supervision, and we use the faith community to mentor to them, to help them regain their footing, not do drugs, get together and take care of their families and not continue a criminal lifestyle.  We’ve got to deal with that.  We’ve got to deal with that in the context of the victims’ movement, and we’ve got to deal with the victims’ movement across the board.  So that’s three gigantic topics that we now have, oh, 20 minutes to deal with.  Do we want to start off with the mentoring to people under supervision/criminal offenders?  Do we want to start off with that component and how that interacts with the victims’ movement?

Bernard Keels:  Yeah, one of the ways that we started was to be able to help offenders understand that there’s not that much difference between a mentor and a mentee.  So many times, we draw an invisible yet concrete barrier between those who have transgressed society and those who are nice, normal people.  I’ve found that it’s important to tell your story and be a very good listener so that a person realizes that no matter how far you’ve gone, you can come home.  The Hebrew biblical story of the prodigal son comes to mind.  It’s important to realize that if we live against society, rehabilitation and restorative justice is possible, then that offender has to have the very realistic goal that if he or she can begin to first seek some forgiveness within themselves, their higher being, whatever it might be, then and only then can they begin to go to that person that they’ve transgressed and try to be able to create a more helpful and hopeful dialogue.  So mentors have to be very careful not to prejudge a situation based on their own concept of morality, their own concept of religion.  Religion becomes so narrowly defined sometimes that it can become dangerous when we begin to judge people from a unidimensional yardstick that says, if you’ve done this, then this is the result.  I don’t know a person’s story, but I can hear who they are and interact with who they’ve been, and then share a bit of my own story.  So I think that that mentoring thing, in the faith based community, has to be able to step outside of its own power, if you will, its own sense of history, and look in the universal sense of, what does it mean if I have offended Anne, to know that Anne has the right to come to her own terms of forgiving my offense.

Len Sipes:  All right, so basically what I’m hearing is, first, the individual has to heal themselves.  The faith based mentor, whatever religion that persons happens to represent, can’t be too judgmental.  He’s there to help that person cross a bridge, but there is a certain point where he or she needs to acknowledge that they’ve done a tremendous amount of harm to another human being, they need to acknowledge they’ve done harm, a tremendous amount of harm to the community, so it’s just not that particular act in isolation.  There’s no such thing as a burglary.  There’s no such thing as a rape.  It is multiple, multiple victims.  It may be one person that the state uses to prosecute, but there’s an entire family, there’s an entire community that’s been harmed, and that offender needs to come to grips with that community –

Anne Seymour:  And their own family as well.

Len Sipes:  Yes.

Bernard Keels:  Good.

Len Sipes:  Go ahead –

Anne Seymour:  Oh, I was just going to say, that’s the whole concept of restorative justice, is that you really need to look at the harm you’ve done to yourself.  I really agree.  You’ve got to go to yourself first.  It’s not about me first as a victim advocate, or as someone who’s a probation officer, it is really looking at you and the harm that you did, but how I hurt you and your family first, and then your victim, and then your neighborhood, and then your community, so it’s very, very important that we understand, it’s almost like a tidal wave that occurs.  It may start out as a little wave, but when you think about the impact of crime, it goes so far in our society, and I think traditionally, a lot of folks that are under community supervision, we’ve never made them think about it, and a big part of what we’re talking about today is that we want them to think about it, and we’re going to give them help to acknowledge that they have caused harm to people, and that we’re giving them an opportunity to make up for the harm that they’ve caused.

Bernard Keels:  From a spiritual point of view, acknowledgment is only part of it, Leonard.  Understanding becomes an even deeper part, because when you understand something, there’s a possibility for transformation to take place.  So many times, people carry on the label of being an alcoholic or a drug addict or a recovering drug addict.  I try to get a person to the point where they both acknowledge and understand they can become a delivered person so they don’t go that pathway again.  They discover new pathways to conflict resolution, new pathways to understand that their personal issues don’t have dominance over someone else’s issue because of their role or their gender or their relationship or their wealth, and so many times, society begins to casually assign value on crimes based on who’s committing the crime.

Len Sipes:  Well, the society puts labels on each and every one of us for a thousand different reasons, whether you’re African American, whether you’re white, whether you’re short, whether you’re tall, whether you’re Hispanic, whether you’re a male, whether you’re female, whether you’re from the United States, or whether you’re from Germany, we all tend to provide stereotypes.  So the stereotype of the criminal offender, or the stereotype of the person under supervision, however you want to describe that person, doesn’t that come with the territory?  Anne?

Anne Seymour:  You know, I think it does.  I think we are judgmental, even though we’re all mamby pamby and say we’re not supposed to be, but we do judge.  We very often do judge a book by its cover.  But it’s the same thing when, you know, when we talk about victims, people see victims as weak, as someone who might have been partially responsible for what happened to them.  We make judgments about victims, and when we talk about why crime victims don’t report crimes, it’s because they are afraid that no one’s going to believe them, and they’re afraid of being blamed, and the thing that you mentioned, Leonard, I think is so important.  Very often, they know the person, and so they don’t want to get that person in trouble, or they’re fearful of that person.  So we need to recognize that we do judge people who have committed offenses, and very often, I think our judgments are way off, just as they are with crime victims, that we should not make assumptions that anyone is a certain way because they committed an offense, or because someone committed one against them.  With victims, for me, it’s always so important to, despite all the research that tells us about domestic violence victims, and kids who are child abuse victims, everyone is unique.  Every single person has their own story.  Every person came to the path of victimization with a lot of stuff that came before that we need to recognize, which is going to affect how they cope with the victimization.

Len Sipes:  I want to reintroduce my guests halfway through the program, and it’s going by like wildfire.  Anne Seymour, Justice Solutions, www.justicesolutions.org, national expert in terms of victim assistance.  Reverend Bernard Keel is director of University Memorial Chapel at Morgan State University in grand and glorious Baltimore, Maryland, www.morgan.edu.  We go with the research, and you go with a certain sense of pragmatism, and I just want to touch upon this whole sense of labeling very quickly and then move on.  If I don’t introduce that, if I don’t introduce the anger on the part of the crime victims, if I don’t introduce the anger on the part of the average citizen who happens to listen to this program, they don’t see the program is relevant.  They say, Leonard, for the love of good god, at least acknowledge the fact that we are suffering and the community is suffering.  Yeah, I do understand that programs need to be there for offenders/people under supervision.  I need, I understand all of that, but somewhere along the line, you’ve got to acknowledge the harm.  Okay, so if we acknowledge the harm, then we can move on and say that the research is pretty clear that these programs, and programs run the gamut from drug treatment to mental health treatment to finding jobs to dealing with a wide array of other social issues, do have a way of lessening recidivism, which means fewer offenders go back to the criminal justice system, which saves a) victims from being victims, and b) taxpayers from having to pay additional taxes.  The research indicates that there’s approximately a 10-20% reduction in recidivism, so Reverend Keels, by mentoring to individuals, helping them cross that bridge, that’s accelerating that process, is it not?

Bernard Keels:  Not only is it accelerating the process, but it really assures that recidivism does not become the revolving door that so many times is in the criminal justice system.  Apart from the understanding of the offender, I want to really talk a bit about the victim.  So many times, the victim, in his or her silence, has been shunned by all of the institutional support.  Most of the institutional support in America is for offenders, and so the support, there’s parole, probation, there’s –

Len Sipes:  98% of it is focused on the person, the participant within the criminal system.

Bernard Keels:  This is where the community becomes important.  The community becomes the holistic vehicle by which we can rally around the whole adage about, it takes a village to heal something, can rally around and begin to say that it’s not your fault, that there is a way of you being able to come to grips with your own hurt, and maybe someday, at your pace, forgive, but not to put the victim in a sense of being revictimized.

Len Sipes:  Yes.

Bernard Keels:  So many times, faith communities make that mistake, Leonard, to revictimize the person.

Len Sipes:  And that’s part of the problem here, in terms of the calls and letters that I get, or the emails, is that, don’t revictimize people who are victimized by crime.  We do understand that you’re advocating for more programs for criminal offenders, and we understand that, but somewhere along the line, you have to advocate for us, which is the reasons why we’re doing these radio shows in.

Anne Seymour:  I just remember, as a young victim advocate, and this was 25 years ago, I was training probation officers, and a woman lingered afterwards, and told me about being a battered woman.  She was a probation officer who was in a chronic battering, and she told me about going to her minister, and he said to her, if you would just be a better wife and think about your children, it’s important that you stay with him for the sake of the family.  And I remember her crying, and I remember crying myself thinking, oh my gosh, we have to do something if that’s the advice that faith communities are giving to victims, and that’s why I’m so happy to be addressing this subject today, because people do not, they’re not mean to victims intentionally, but they say the wrong things, and the faith community, in trying to keep the family together and trying to stick with, especially the Christian requirement forgiveness can be extremely hurtful to victims.  So we have partnered, over the years, and developed wonderful training programs, and a lot of work like the mentoring that the reverend is doing, that helps them understand that they have two options: they can help victims, or they can hurt victims, and we’re kind of hoping that everyone sides on the help part, because there’s a lot of help needed by victims.

Len Sipes:  There is middle ground.  From what I’m hearing from both of you, there is a way of mentoring to victims, and to be sure that their rights and responsibilities are constitutional rights in most of the states, so there is a constitutional right in terms of the federal crimes, they are, they have constitutional protections.  There is a way of taking care of the victim, and at the same time, being sure that the people under supervision, by my agency or any other agency out there, we’re talking about five million human beings, seven million people caught up in the criminal justice system and the correctional system, but the vast majority of them belong to us, the people who provide community supervision.  There is a way to take care of the victims’ issues, and there is a way to take care of the people under supervision to provide them with that bridge, and in many ways, and I’ve seen it first hand in the 20 years that I’ve been dealing directly with the offender community, there are literally hundreds of thousands of people who have crossed that bridge, who do come to an understanding that they’ve done a tremendous amount of harm, who have gotten the programs and the services necessary to help them go from tax burden to taxpayer.  So we can do it all, is the point.

Bernard Keels:  Traditionally, institutions like faith based institutions have done, by every means necessary, to protect the pristine image of being perfect.  Nothing bad happens here.  Everything that walks through this door gets returned to a perfect relationship with the creator and all those kinds of things.  One of the things that I try to do personally and professionally is to realize the need to be able to acknowledge brokenness with the victim, and to talk about those issues both biblically, historically, interpersonally, where broken does, when it becomes uncared for, brokenness becomes a characteristic, if you will, or a habitual cyclical thing where people feel to be broken.  Case in point, and Anne reminded me so much, you’re talking about that crime victim went to her pastor, I had a young lady come to me some years ago, battered and bruised, and told me that she needed to be a better wife because she knew her husband loved her, and I said why, because he beat me.  And you know, for her, that was her Judeo-Christian training in terms of wives, submit to your husbands.  Property issues.  And I said to her that, let’s rethink that again.  If you remain in a state of brokenness, normally, you do not become well, you might pass that brokenness on to your offspring.  So your children may begin to understand that that’s the role of a woman, to be battered, not to be made, self-actualized through her own abilities, her own talents, and when pastors and imams and rabbis are not properly trained, they will almost always go to maintain the integrity of the institution, and not the integrity of the individual who’s hurting within an institution, so it’s critical to do that.

Len Sipes:  These are all extraordinarily sensitive issues, and I think we’re tackling them rather well.  We’re not avoiding them.  We’re not being a bunch of bureaucrats.  Let me throw in one more.  The great majority of, according to research, especially women caught up in the criminal justice system, they’ve been crime victims themselves.  Males, I mean, there’s a strong piece of research, series of research articles out there talking about the fact that everybody caught up in the criminal, not everybody, the majority caught up in the criminal justice system are subject, have been the recipients of child abuse and neglect.  The instance of women offenders being sexually assaulted, especially as children, especially by people they know is astounding.  I understand why, after 40 years in the criminal justice system, why so many people do take to drugs, why so many people, in fact, it’s 50%+ claim mental health issues, not diagnosable mental health, but they claim their own mental health issues.  I understand a lot of that, not trying to rationalize the criminal behavior or excuse the criminal behavior, but when you come from that sort of a background, I understand why they get into drugs, and I understand why drugs, in many cases, leads to criminal behavior.  Who wants to tackle that?

Anne Seymour:  Well, I’m happy to tackle that, and thank you for bringing up female offenders.  I think a real theme of what we’re talking about is that, in the old days, we would have the people who worked with offenders, or people in prison on one side, and the victim people way on the other side, and we have come to a rightful conclusion that it is not black and white.  We are all gray in this, and you raise a great example of women offenders, at least 90% of them have victimization and trauma in their background, which causes them very often to use and abuse, to cope with the trauma, which puts them in dangerous situations, which sometimes lead to criminal situations.  Now tell me that’s not a victim assistance issue!  And I actually am starting  to work on women offender issues, but similarly, I think of CSOSA as a great example.  Why does CSOSA have a victim assistance program? People go, they’re supposed to be working with people on probation.  It is great!  Every probationer, and people talk about victimless crimes.  I’ll make the case that there is no such thing as a victimless crime!  For every probationer, someone is hurt by that.  So they need to be having victim services to be able to recognize that fact, and I will give you another example.  Prison rape is an issue.  That’s a huge concern now in this country.  Who is stepping up to the plate to work with people who are incarcerated, men and women and youthful offenders?  It is victim advocates.  We have a moral obligation to not say, this person’s a criminal or a murderer, or they raped themselves.  That doesn’t matter to us.  They’re a victim in need of help, and so I just say that, because we not only judge people, as we said earlier, but we tend to pigeonhole people, and the beauty of what CSOSA is doing, and I hope a lot of other programs out in this country and internationally is recognizing that we’ve, we can’t box ourselves in anymore.  We just can’t.  Everyone is or knows a victim of crime.  Everyone knows someone who has been through some sort of criminal or juvenile justice supervision, so let’s look at it from that perspective.  This affects every single one of us.

Len Sipes:  It’s a massive amount of suffering, whether you’re the victim, whether you’re the person caught up in the criminal justice system, whether the person caught up in the criminal justice system who was victimized when they were young, there’s just a massive amount of pain going on out there, and I guess it’s our job, in terms of the victims’ community and the faith based community and government, I sort of have to laugh when you say government.

Anne Seymour:  No, it’s a big role.

Len Sipes:  Well, we would like to, but I think the leadership is going to come from the victims’ community, and I think the leadership is going to come from the faith based community, quite frankly, because you all can say and do things that we can’t in government.

Anne Seymour:  The giant sucking sound we want.

Len Sipes:  The giant –

Anne Seymour:  – to get wrapped into what we’re doing.

Len Sipes:  The giant, the giant sucking sound.  Well, but we also want, at the same time, we want to convince people that it’s all shades of gray, that there’s very little black and white here, that it’s very little E=MC2, that there is a massive amount of suffering.  If the faith community steps up to the plate and provides the leadership which they’re so capable of doing, and can mentor to individuals in a way that government, quite frankly, cannot.  I’m paid to do what I do.  So that person, regardless of where I spent my career, part of my career in terms of helping people caught up in the criminal justice system, I’m still paid to do it.  The mentors are there because they see it as God’s work.

Anne Seymour:  And the keyword in all that is servant leadership.  Leadership by itself does not hold, I think, the true sense of what can be accomplished by serving others, a servant leader takes, at the very center of his or her setting to meet a person at the point of their need, and the need of victims, the need of offenders, the needs of the secondary and tertiary victims who sometimes feel helpless because someone they love has been victimized are really, really important, and one of the things that I try to consistently understand is this marvelous study in the Hebrew scripture about Nathan, the friend of David.  David had victimized people without realizing, because his authority said you can do it.  You’re the king, take Uriah and kill him.  You know, you’re the king, do whatever you want to do, and Nathan appeals to the core of who he is, and here through the friend, the king, who has an influence over his subjects, comes and writes one of the most powerful restorative psalms that you can read in Hebrew scripture.  So I think that it’s important that that victim realizes, never be forgotten, that Anne and I are crucial to what you do, but you are crucial too, because a part of the government, the rules and the issues become subtle and arrived at, and we’ve got to be able to go into institutions and say, for instance, the homosexual rape, indeed, is victimizing people.

Len Sipes:  Okay.  Anne, I’m going to give you the final 30 seconds of the program.

Anne Seymour:  I just want to reiterate that I think we’re all in this together where we are victims or people who choose to victimize others, everyone’s going to have needs, and we as a community, I think, have an obligation to identify the needs of victims and try to meet them, but also recognize, I really appreciate what we’ve said, this whole thing is that, I think a lot of offenders, not all of them, a lot of them deserve a second chance, and the only way they can get that chance is if a community is willing to accept them and accept the fact that they have done something terribly wrong and give them opportunities to be held accountable to their victim and to their own community.

Len Sipes:  Our guests today have been Anne Seymour of Justice Solutions, www.justicesolutions.org, a national expert on the issue of victimology.  Reverend Bernard Keel is director of the University Memorial Chapel of Morgan State University, www.morgan – M-O-R-G-A-N – dot-edu, a mentor and faith based group facilitator.  Ladies and gentlemen, this is D.C. Public Safety.  Once again, we are extraordinarily appreciative of all the contact that you provide us, either through the show notes, the comments, and our four websites at media – M-E-D-I-A – dot-csosa.gov, or reach me directly via email, Leonard – L-E-O-N-A-R-D – dot-sipes – S-I-P-E-S – @csosa.gov, or follow us by twitter – twitter.com/lensipes.  I want everybody to have themselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]

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Community Based Support for Offenders and Their Families

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

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

This television program is available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/video/2010/07/community-based-support-for-offenders-and-their-families/

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

[Video Begins]

NARRATOR:  In January 1997, former President Bill Clinton outlined their vision to revitalize Washington D.C.  From this vision, CSOSA was created by the National Capital Revitalization and Self Government Improvement Act of 1997.  The central mission of CSOSA is to increase public safety, prevent crime, reduce recidivism, and develop collaboration with the community to expand the capacity to assist offenders and their families.

ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON:  Hello, this is Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton.  We are very fortunate in this city to have a fully funded federal agency, CSOSA, which supervises our residents on probation or returning to us from prison, and they do a lot more.  That residential treatment center, built from federal appropriation from the Congress, is very important, because it not only takes people off of drugs, it keeps them from going back to prison.  That leaves a lot more, a lot more than only community and faith based groups can do.  There‚Äôs a lot you can do.  There‚Äôs a lot that‚Äôs already being done by faith based groups, by community groups, and helping with job training, even with jobs, with housing, with mentoring, with reaching out to these D.C. residents.  Won‚Äôt you help us?

NARRATOR:  CSOSA provides probation and post-incarceration supervision for approximately 16,000 adult offenders in Washington, D.C, and provides comprehensive public safety oriented programming and treatment services combining strict accountability with meaningful opportunity.  Each year, approximately 650,000 offenders return from federal and state correctional institutions throughout the country.  Approximately 2,000 offenders return to the District of Columbia each year.  Most need supervision, services, and support to remain drug and crime free.  An individual‚Äôs passage through the criminal justice system from arrest to prosecution to sentencing through incarceration and release involves several agencies.  Judge Satterfield recognizes the need for innovative collaboration of the entire community.

LEE SATTERFIELD:  When it comes to the individuals that we see more often in our family court and in our criminal division, they typically are young people, they typically are male, and they typically have a host of number of issues that, if they could get resolved, could help them stay out of the system, and I‚Äôm talking about things such as education, many have dropped out of high school, have been truant since they were in middle school, so they lack the type of education that would help them maintain employment.  I‚Äôm talking about employment.  Employment is a necessary thing for anybody, and for anybody to become a productive citizen, employment is always something that is necessary.  And then many of our people that come before us, whether in our adult court or in our family court may have issues involving substance abuse, that they need drug treatment for the drug addiction that they have.  In addition to education, mental health, drug treatment, and those factors, we have things such as housing that‚Äôs also important as well, and so these are the kinds of things that I would ask the community to focus on in helping us help others who are coming back to our community having gone through the criminal justice system or the juvenile justice system.  Your help is needed to help all of our citizens here in the District of Columbia.

NARRATOR:  The results CSOSA seeks depend in part on cooperation from and effective collaboration with community based organizations.  Partnerships with community based organizations result in increased employment, training, and support programming for such services as housing, food distribution, healthcare, and clothing distribution, to name a few.

ASHLEY MCSWAIN:  Basically, Our Place was brought into existence to provide supports for women who were being released after a period of incarceration, and so Our Place provides baseline support, so when you are released from custody, you need clothing, identification, you need resources, access, and relationships.  We have a clothing boutique where the women come in who don‚Äôt have a lot of options for clothing.  We have a boutique that provides those things.  If a woman is interviewing for a job, she can come in and get clothing for that interview.  We also provide legal support.  We have a full time lawyer on staff.  We provide supports around employment, and we also provide HIV and AIDS awareness programs.

DAWN:  Our Place offers women that are coming back into the community many different things.  It gives you a lot of opportunities to get your life back together, but other things, there are other needs that women like me have.

PATRICIA:  When I came here for the first time, they, I did my intake, they‚Äôre very warm and welcome, which is very helpful, because getting back to society, it‚Äôs kind of hard, so they make you feel like that you are welcome back.

NARRATOR:  These resources create a bond between the offender and his or her community and a chance to interact with the community in a positive way.

BRENDA JONES:  Our current program is called Moving On: A Life Changing Program.  This program targets adults and parents living east of the river, and also ex-offenders and their families.  We provide workshops, year round workshops, weekly workshops, parenting, and also on empowering oneself.  We do that for the sole purpose, again, of helping persons who have made decisions in the past that might have gotten them in difficult situations now, helping them to make better decisions in the future.

DARYL SANDERS:  So, a few of our services that we provide, particularly around this area, is our fatherhood initiative, where we are training and working with fathers to become better fathers.  At first, you want to do that by working with them to become better men.  So the collaborative has trained all of the men within our organization to work with this population, to strengthen them, become better fathers, of course will make them stronger and better men, so that‚Äôs one particular area.  We also have housing programs for this population as well.  We have an intake program, so all of our services are provided through our intake department, but again, more services are needed.  The collaboratives cannot do this alone.  The issues are so, so intricate, and again, people think that, oh yes, yeah, they‚Äôre home, and things are fine.  No, there are many, many supports that are needed, there are many, many connections that need to happen that have been severed, and more support and more services are needed in this area for sure.

DERON TAYLOR:  Our program is geared toward assisting men and women who have had challenges, either obtaining or maintaining employment due to a criminal history or substance abuse history.  Our goal is to place these men and women with community agencies that are willing to help them in providing job service training or workshops for one year.

SHAKIRA GANTT:  And our mission is to reduce the incidence of childhood abuse and neglect.  One of the ways that we do that is through supporting parents.  The Georgia Avenue Collaborative offers many community based activities and fun events that will allow you to find out about resources, to get referrals, for job information, or even to develop your resume or to continue your education.  Although the collaborative has been around for 10 years providing these services to our reentering citizens, we have found increasingly that what we provide is really not enough for the need that is coming in.  We‚Äôve got an increase of residents coming in asking for these services, and the challenge has been figuring out how to really service them all, because things are so spread thinly that there just isn‚Äôt enough to go around, and so we‚Äôre really reaching out and asking for other organizations and agencies and entities to step forward.

Thomas Waters:  Marshall Heights Community Development has been in existence in excess of 30 years.  It provides wraparound services.  It‚Äôs like a one-stop center.

RICHARD MAHAFFEY:  I‚Äôm a Ward 7 resident and also an ex-offender.  I‚Äôve lived in Ward 7 most of my life.  My aunt lives in Ward 7 also, and she had told me about a program going on.  I was told about a program and a wiring class, and I was called and told that I would be able to get into it, and I was pretty happy about that, me and my family, because with just my wife working, things have been a little rough, and this program has helped us out gratefully.

NARRATOR:  When members of our community make unfavorable decisions and are held accountable by the criminal justice system, it is CSOSA‚Äôs commitment with assistance from the community to help rebuild lives, heal individuals, and bring restoration to families and the community.  The Advisory Neighborhood Commissions play a vital role in the strategy as well by communicating the need to extend resources.  Gaining their support is integral to CSOSA‚Äôs long term success in achieving their goal of reducing recidivism and reintegrating the offender into the community.

BETTY PAIR:  The success of that program and the success of the people involved depends on education, training, and housing, and if those things are provided, the program will be successful.

MARK DIXON:  We welcome them back in the community.  We need to do more things for them.  If we could have more people to come together, more churches come together, more community organizations, it would help, it would help this tremendously.  Then they won‚Äôt try to go back.  So we can do more things, the community could come together more and help support these people, work with CSOSA, work with other organizations that are out here, then we could help these brothers or sisters.

MARY JACKSON:  I‚Äôve worked with CSOSA for quite a while.  Matter of fact, since its conception.  Ward 7 open its arms to CSOSA and its returning citizens years ago.

SANDRA ‚ÄúSS‚Äù SEEGARS:  Some of the impediments that face the ex-offenders when they come back into the community is housing, not necessarily a criminal record, but credit worthiness, whereas they mess up their credit when they go in normally, and even ex-offenders who are not, who are not sex offenders, they‚Äôre welcome back into the community, but it‚Äôs the credit.

WILLIAM SHELTON:  Most of the challenges that I really see are individuals staying home.  I think that we really have to face a reality of whether or not, not only in this city, but if this country has really embraced the fact that our young people are going, they are incarcerated, and they are returning home, and whether or not we‚Äôre going to put together resources to really address and deal with that.

NARRATOR:  Working collaboratively with CSOSA, the community has an opportunity to establish itself as a mighty cornerstone in a foundation of supportive reentry services.  We have certainly been encouraged by the results of the participating organizations and institutions, and we look forward to expanding their capacity to provide value added services and include additional quality organizations.  Please consider joining CSOSA as we work to rebuild lives, reestablish values, restore social order, strengthen families, and change the communities in which we live and cherish.

CEDRIC HENDRICKS:  One of the very important jobs that I have is to work with our colleagues to build and strengthen partnerships with community based and faith based organizations, organizations that can help our clients meet their important social needs.  Among those needs are obtaining employment, expanding the level of education, strengthening ties with family members, and putting behind them crime and incarceration going forward as productive, contributing members of this community.  So I‚Äôm here to invite all community based and faith based organizations to join us in a partnership, expand the range of resources and services that we have to offer, and help make this city a safer place in which to live.

[Video Ends]

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Meta terms: crime, criminals, criminal justice, parole, probation, prison, drug treatment, reentry, sex offenders.

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Alliance of Concerned Men-DC Public Safety-200,000 Requests a Month

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

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

This radio program is available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2010/02/alliance-of-concerned-men-dc-public-safety-200000-requests-a-month/

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

– Audio begins –

Len Sipes: From our microphones in downtown Washington, DC, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host Leonard Sipes. We’re beginning to do a series, and we’ve been requested in fact by listeners, to do a series when the impact of community organizations and what community organizations bring to the game in terms of crime control, so we’re about to do that – a couple in DC, a couple throughout the United States. Today I’m really pleased to have Tyrone Curtis Parker. Tyrone is extraordinarily well known within the DC community. He’s extraordinarily well known in terms of the former offender community throughout the United States. He is the Executive Director of the Alliance of Concerned Men, which is a 501(c)3, if anybody out there has any money, non-profit organization. Tyrone Curtis Parker comes from the neighborhoods of Washington, DC. He grew up here. When he came out of the prison system, Tyrone wanted to restore the communities that he saw around him to a better shape, a better place. To do that, the Alliance of Concerned Men does a wide variety of things. I’m just going to go over them briefly – gang intervention, substance abuse, life skills, leadership, after school programs, even programs in terms of younger individuals who abscond from the care of juvenile justice facilities. Tyrone says the bottom line for all of this is public safety, and I couldn’t agree with him more on that and the input of the larger community. Before we get on to our conversation with Tyrone, our usual commercial – I want to thank everybody for all of their letters, cards, phone calls, e-mails, you name it, we get it. If you want to get in touch with us directly, you can do so via e-mail. It’s Leonard.sipes@CSOSA.gov or you can follow me via Twitter, that’s twitter.com/lensipes no break. Back to Tyrone Curtis Parker. Welcome to DC Public Safety.

Tyrone Parker: Thanks a million for having me, Leonard.

Len Sipes: You know, this is interesting, Tyrone, because we were having the usual discussion that I have with people who have been previously incarcerated, that words are extraordinarily powerful and that this whole issue of previously incarcerated people, which I don’t disagree at all that that’s the way we should frame the conversation, but the vast majority of the people out there are going to say, oh, you’re talking about ex-offenders. You’re talking about ex-cons. You’re talking about whatever it is, and those are words that you all feel have a negative concept and hold the ex-offender community down, correct?

Tyrone Parker: No question about it. I think when we begin to look at the terminology of ex-offender, jailbird, convict, terms such as that have a strong tendency of basically retaining the person’s spirit, and this is the common denominator. To be able to uplift this population, so they can feel that they are a part of the greater world, the bigger world, and make contributions to it.

Len Sipes: But you do understand that even the most politically correct people out there, especially newspaper reporters, do refer to former offenders as former offenders or as ex-offenders?

Tyrone Parker: No question about it. I understand that it’s a living and learning situation, and that we’ve got to educate individuals how to address this population.

Len Sipes: The Alliance of Concerned Men – how many people are we talking about who are part of this?

Tyrone Parker: All right. Now, we’re talking about a staff of about 45 individuals.

Len Sipes: Yeah, it’s not a small group.

Tyrone Parker: Not at this point. We’ve been able to basically bring individuals in that have a commitment to their community to make a transformation there, Leonard.

Len Sipes: But are most of these people previously incarcerated people?

Tyrone Parker: No question about it. I would say, Leonard, that particular staff, about 75 percent of our working staff is previously incarcerated persons.

Len Sipes: Now what happens with this individual? He or she comes out of the prison system and the whole idea is to work within the community to take that individual’s knowledge, take that individual’s power, to take that individual’s savvy if you will, and apply it to people who are struggling themselves in terms of substance abuse or in terms of substance abuse or in terms of crime or in terms of violence, and to directly intervene in their lives and help them find another way. That’s the bottom line, correct?

Tyrone Parker: I think you’re correct. We look at it from the perspective that the solution is in the problem, that we’ve got to begin to understand exactly what the solutions are and therefore begin to deal with that from that perspective. Leonard, we have been extraordinarily successful because we work with a number of prisons around the country where we have our programs. With our Concerned Fathers program, rebuilding,

Len Sipes: Wait a minute. Let me back up. Concerned Fathers program?

Tyrone Parker: Yeah.

Len Sipes: Okay. How many persons are you working with?

Tyrone Parker: Basically at this point about five different prisons across the country.

Len Sipes: Wow, that’s quite a bit. So what’s the message there, in terms of Concerned Fathers?

Tyrone Parker: The term is that a man’s responsibility is not relinquished upon confinement. That’s the concept – to be able to rebuild that man doing the time that he’s incarcerated so he understands what his total responsibilities are, and it’s not just a matter of doing time and not making a contribution. We begin the rebuilding process upon that man coming into the facilities and becoming a part of the movement that’s in those particular facilities to make a difference.

Len Sipes: And nobody’s going to disagree with that, certainly. www.AllianceofConcernedMen.com is the website. www.AllianceofConcernedMen.com. Tyrone, look – this is what I get the sense of decades of working with people coming out of the prison system. I worked with them directly and was a spokesperson in Maryland for the Maryland Department of Public Safety, so indirectly and directly when I used to work with folks in the street – is that they come out and they are totally overwhelmed by the process. Whether or not they want to go straight or whether or not they don’t want to go straight, maybe that’s not the point. Maybe the point is, is that they come out and things are so overwhelming to them, that it’s really difficult to put themselves on a proper footing. And maybe what your group does, and maybe what the faith-based groups do, and the other groups out there working with former offenders, maybe what they do is give them a sense of structure that helps them come to grips with the fact that they’re back in open society, and they still have that substance abuse problem, and they still have kids to take care of, and they still need a job, and they still have anger issues to deal with in terms of their own upbringing – at least what this does is to give them a foothold and people and a structure and an organization where they can basically begin that process of trying to find who they are and what they want to contribute. Am I right or wrong?

Tyrone Parker: You know what Leonard, I think to a very large degree you are absolutely correct. I think one of the components that the Alliance tends to look at is basically due to our own experiences. I’m previously incarcerated myself – still is on parole – have been on parole for the last 38 years of my life, so I understand the contents of what’s occurring in regards to the man himself, having lost a son also during the time I was incarcerated.

Len Sipes: You lost a son?

Tyrone Parker: I lost a son to gang violence. He was killed basically by being at the wrong place at the wrong time, but I also think that due to my absentee, to be able to be a part of his life, also made a contribution,

Len Sipes: Well, that’s a lot of guilt to carry.

Tyrone Parker: Oh, well, I don’t think it’s guilt. I think it’s looking at situations and beginning to rebuild from what have occurred, what some folks would consider as bad, only transforming good from it. We all look at situations that we can actually prepare ourselves. It’s almost like throwing a tab in the ball, I think Leonard, and throwing that ball down on the ground. The harder you throw that ball on the ground the higher it would bounce.

Len Sipes: Well, yeah, but that sounds like pulpit preaching. The reality is that they’re coming here and they’re scared half to death. You know people say all the time, Leonard, stop it with this crap about former offenders and how they feel. We don’t care how they felt. They went to prison, they did something bad, they deserve their time. I don’t mind you doing programs about domestic violence, Leonard, and I don’t mind you doing programs about what you do with the police department and the other things that CSOSA does, but this ex-offender stuff starts getting on my nerves after a certain amount of time. And my response is, look, either we want them as being taxpayers or tax burdens, but to get them there involves a heck of a lot of hard work.

Tyrone Parker: You know, Leonard, I think you’re absolutely correct again. One of the things that actually occurred, they’re there to be punished and not for punishment, you know, the continuation of it, and I think that’s a key component because if you treat a person as though they are an animal, you do not treat them humane, then you produce someone that’s coming back out to make hazard on their own community.

Len Sipes: How many people in your experience, Tyrone, when they come out of prison system really are committed to the fundamental process of dealing with their addiction, reuniting with their kids, finding work, doing what the rest of us do on a day to basis? What percentage would you put on that total population who really want to make the change?

Tyrone Parker: You know what, Leonard, this may be a biased reply, but I would easily say 99.9 and my reasons for saying that is at that point, when you find a man that actually comes out, he does not want to go back again to be treated like a dog or an animal in that perspective. So at the concept of the question, the large majority don’t ever want to go back, but as you said, the conditions of the world produce certain situations that individuals do not have the capabilities to be able to transform or to deal with, but this is when it becomes our obligation to be able to have programs put in place to begin to work with these individuals for public safety purposes if nothing else.

Len Sipes: The larger issue is, do we have all the programs necessary? Do we have all the programs put in place to deal with mental health, to deal with substance abuse, to deal with reuniting fathers with their kids, to find employment – are all those programs in place?

Tyrone Parker: You know, Leonard, no, no to a very large degree. However, is it on the agenda? When we look at emergency situations, we look at the chicken flu, the pig flu, emergencies that are occurring, and you begin to direct resources to deal with the public tragedy. This is a public tragedy. When you look at the District of Columbia, young men between the ages of 18 and 35, one out of every two is under some form of judiciary restrainment. Nationally, one out of every three is under some form of judiciary restrainment. This is a sin that’s occurring in regards to this population.

Len Sipes: And people would say that it’s terribly wrong for it to be that way. On the flip side, you have lots of people that would say, you know, Leonard, that’s why we have public schools. All the person had to do was to go to school, graduate from school, get himself a trade, stay away from drugs, stay away from crime, and he wouldn’t be in that set of circumstances to begin with. So in a competing world, the world competes every day. It’s Haiti or it’s taking care of our elderly citizens or taking care of our youngest citizens or putting money into schools, or putting money into former offenders. Different people are going to say, you know, Leonard, they had a wonderful opportunity, the government gives them that opportunity, and they just chose not to take it. Why am I going to be that concerned about them?

Tyrone Parker: Leonard, you remind me of my grade school teacher who used to always say the right thing at the right time. However, Leonard, I think when we start looking at collaborative damage in regards to an individual, once you get a charge and once you actually indict them for anything, and given the sinners, for the rest of your life you pay for that one situation that had occurred. That’s the first component of this all. That’s why we begin to look at language, why language is so very important. How do we begin to reverse these situations? Sure, opportunities were given. Sure, somebody slipped and fell, but should that be a comma for the rest of their lives? In this society, this is the point that we’re at.

Len Sipes: And that’s really the component that we’re talking about. I think all of us – now, I’ve never robbed anybody nor have I ever raped anybody. I have a hard time with, “There, but for the grace of God, go I,” but I have done and virtually everybody has done things where they could find themselves serving some time in prison or jail, even drinking and driving, when you’re younger and you’re stupid. The question becomes, okay, so the person did more than that. Is it within society’s larger, best interest to have that hanging that person’s head for the rest of their lives?

Tyrone Parker: Leonard, there are very few things that individuals did that should be held over their heads for the rest of their lives. You’re basically taking away all of the rights of a human being in the contents of labeling him or of the collaborative concept. This person can no longer vote. He can no longer get employment. I mean, how’s it the whole nine?

Len Sipes: I have a friend of mine – I wouldn’t call him a friend – an associate that I’ve known for years, did a series of armed robberies, served time in the Maryland prison system, and he now sells insurance. He now makes more money than you and I put together. I’ve been to his house – beautiful home, beautiful kids, beautiful wife, beautiful cars – ex-offender, scared half to death that people will know that background. And the thing is, what he’s told me is that look, I can be one of the down and outers. I can be one of the people that constantly goes back to prison, and if the taxpayer wants to spend all that money on me then that’s fine, but I’m putting so much money back into the tax base by being employed and buying all these things and being as successful as I am. That’s an extreme example, but that is the heart and soul of it. What do we want from people?

Tyrone Parker: You know what, Leonard, and I don’t know if we have the time,a very brief story. We did a rally for ex-offenders, previously incarcerated persons, across the street from the White House maybe about four years ago, and this guy had a beautiful picture. Actual fact. It was himself and his son, dressed up in old, traditional jail clothes, and they had a ball and chain that they had actually made with a cross. Maybe the cross had to be about an eight-foot cross, and on that cross they had a sign, and it had Christians have some redemption for me, have some mercy for me. Christians have some mercy for me. I think that’s so symbolic in the context of showing redemption and showing compassion and showing concern for individuals. When do we get to the point that we have that in place and begin to reach out?

Len Sipes: And what would be the impact, indeed, if we did have the capacity to deal with everybody? What would be the impact on public safety? What would be the crime rate? If you had the 800,000 or so people who come out of the prison system in this country every year, back into their communities, if they all had the wherewithal applied to them, in terms of mentors like your organization does in terms of the services that your organization provides, in terms of job training, job assistance, mental health issues, substance abuse issues, a place to live, and a faith-based person there to guide them and to ride them hard if necessary. If they had all of that, what would it mean for the safety of the average citizen? That’s what it comes down to, correct?

Tyrone Parker: That’s exactly what it comes down to.

Len Sipes: And that’s the larger question. I want to reintroduce our guest today. It is Tyrone Parker, the Alliance of Concerned Men, an extraordinarily well known group in Washington, DC, and certainly a group with a national reputation within the reentry community. www.AllianceofConcernedMen.com, a 501(c)3, which means your contributions are tax deductible. So let’s get back to Tyrone, and so that is, I guess Tyrone, that is the larger issue. If you’re saying that 90 percent of all offenders and more, when they come out of the prison system don’t want to come back, and that’s been my experience at the same time, but they’re back on the street, they’re not,it’s not that they don’t want to work. They’re not quite sure how to go about it and they start hanging with folks on the corner, and they start passing a reefer, and they start being loud, and the neighbors get ticked off, and they call the police, and boom – this person is back in the system almost overnight. Now what I’m describing is that unusual?

Tyrone Parker: No, not at all. I think it reminds me of this great holiday that just got through celebrating, Martin Luther King, and Martin makes mention of it’s one thing to give a beggar a quarter, but it is another thing to deal with the system that has created this beggar. So I think as we begin to look at how do we come out of this maze, we’ve got to also look at means to be able to create a safer community, a healthier family, and a better person. This becomes the common denominator. I find it difficult for individuals to be able to tell me anytime this country can go to the moon or be able to tell me where there is war in Africa or any other country underneath the ground, cannot tell me how to deal with this impact of incarceration at the numbers that are occurring.

Len Sipes: Every night they go home. Every night the average citizen who,they are making the decision as to whether or not to fund this or not fund it. Every night that person goes home and they watch the 6:00 news and they watch the 11:00 news and they watch the litany of man’s inhumanity against man, and you and I both know that the term ‘former offender’ or whatever, previously incarcerated person, was responsible for that crime and people say, ah, if I’ve got money to give, it’s going to go to the Red Cross for the Haitian Relief Fund. I’m sorry – I just don’t have all that compassion for a group that is so responsible for harming the larger society. Is that not what they say? Is that not the reality as to why we don’t have more resources for former offenders?

Tyrone Parker: You know what, Leonard, I think it’s also in the concept of it’s easier for individuals to get resources to be able to retain or to jail this population in the contents of priorities. I think that, Leonard, when you start looking at priorities in this country, you start looking at is it more beneficial for us to channel our money into bombs and planes and defense than it is into human services?

Len Sipes: Okay, but they’re going to say daycare, they’re going to say programs for the elderly, they’re going to say all sorts of other things beyond money for former offenders.

Tyrone Parker: And you’re absolutely correct, but the question that I ask next is what type of society do they really want?

Len Sipes: Okay, but that’s a really interesting question. Do they want safety or don’t they want safety, because there seems to be enough research out there now that indicates, and it’s not all uniform and it doesn’t march in cookie cutter lockstep fashion, and it’s not like the reductions are in the 70 to 80 percent range. They’re closer to the 10 to 20 percent range, but if you can have a 20 percent impact on individuals coming out of the prison system in any city in this country, that 20 percent of them are no longer involved in crime, in fact they’re now working and taking care of their kids and taxes, that’s a huge impact on public safety. That’s a huge impact on money we don’t have to spend in terms of taking care of kids who have no father.

Tyrone Parker: And again, Leonard, you are absolutely correct. I think when you start looking at the impact of programs that have really made an impact in regards to public safety you’ve got to look at the District of Columbia. We’re celebrating here a 45-year low in regards to homicides in this particular city. I know when the Alliance first started homicides were almost at 100 a year.

Len Sipes: And you are all out there on the streets night after night after night working with these communities, working with people who are ready to go to war with each other, and sitting down and basically saying no. Look my man, there’s a better way of doing it and this is how, and somehow, someway, you’re having an impact.

Tyrone Parker: You know what, Leonard, that’s because we put everything on the table. Every means of resource was actually put into that equation. We utilize even the guys that are locked up to be able to help us in regards to facilitating truce, because we understand their impact in regards to their reputations and their relationships and their love for their community, so why not take that energy level and direct it into the best interest of public safety for that man’s family and the community on the greater good?

Len Sipes: And this is something that the ex-offender community, the previously incarcerated person community, this is the community that’s leading this.

Tyrone Parker: Absolutely, because it’s there. One of the things that has occurred, Leonard, is that we’ve come to realize who is really feeling the brunt of this particular impact in regards to violence in our communities, and by process of elimination, it’s us. I’ve seen times at federal prisons, Otisville, New York, federal prison was willing to do a conference with the Metropolitan Police to deal with gang violence. I’ve seen times where this population has negotiated to help us with truce. I’ve seen the demonstration of public safety in healthy building of communities in the prison itself. They’re in these facilities waiting to be utilized. Our greatest challenge is how do we include them in the conversation to utilize the resources that are already there.

Len Sipes: So the bottom line is that it’s don’t give me a dime, let me make your life safer?

Tyrone Parker: Absolutely.

Len Sipes: What you’re saying is that we’re not here for a handout. We’re here for to take leadership.

Tyrone Parker: And for redemption as well.

Len Sipes: Oh, I understand that, but there’s such a huge difference between give me money for programs versus let me take leadership of my own life – by the way, help me out in the process of doing that, but we’re actively involved and we’re effective.

Tyrone Parker: Absolutely. It’s a win-win situation.

Len Sipes: Yes it is.

Tyrone Parker: Nobody loses. I’ve basically working with up in Otisville, and these guys have produced a document basically stating, select the best prison program that there is in regards to public safety, and they had a list of criterias that would actually produce who would be the best. Leonard, when you start looking at our population of men that are locked up, willing to come forth to create programs that would be in the best interest of the community as well as themselves? Man, how can anybody lose with that type of a concept on the table?

Len Sipes: But it’s interesting. It’s why we do these shows, Tyrone, is because the average person is simply not exposed to this. What the average person is exposed to is channel four. I’m not picking on channel four – it could be channel five, could be,doesn’t matter. Every night after night after night and people are saying, I’m getting sick to God of crime and what it’s doing to my community, and by the way, the people responsible for it I’m not favorably predisposed towards them. Isn’t that the bottom line? The former offender community, the previously incarcerated person gets far more negative publicity than positive publicity.

Tyrone Parker: And that’s simply because we had not did well in regards to PR. We have not did well to be to allowed for the successes that we have had in our community. We have not did well in regards to communication and public relationships to individuals. We have not did well at all in that particular area, but one thing that I know – the case is there that can be presented to be able to show another side of this particular population.

Len Sipes: There are organizations throughout the country that are former offender, previously incarcerated person operated. Delancey Street comes to mind, and I studied Delancey Street when I left the police and was in college and studying criminology, and that concept goes back 25 years of former offenders basically saying, we are taking charge of ourselves and we’re going to accept other former offenders, previously incarcerated people into our community and they’re going to have to follow our roles, but if you basically can toe the line and you basically can prove your worth, we will help you transform from tax burden to taxpayer. So this concept is not a new concept and people need to understand that, that it’s happening throughout the country in one way, shape, or form; it’s just not publicized.

Tyrone Parker: That’s what it is. You’re absolutely correct. No question about that. I think that when we begin to do a better job in regards to PR pertaining to this population here, then we’ll be able to basically see a transformation. The same thing has occurred in other great movements, when you start looking at the handicapped disabilities or different movements where they basically came together and began a whole campaign that transformed things.

Len Sipes: Well, we just have a couple of minutes left. I just want to reemphasize one thing – again, you’re free to criticize. I represent a parole and probation organization – federally funded thank God, parole and probation organization. We freely admit that we don’t have everything that we would like to have in terms of drug treatment and in terms of mental health treatment. The programs that we have are substantial and we are grateful to the taxpayers for doing them, but it is an issue of, not just with us but every organization in the country, whether it’s faith-based, whether it’s parole and probation, whether it’s community-based, it is a matter of resources. It is, is it not?

Tyrone Parker: Leonard, I heard you appropriately say, thank God.

Len Sipes: No, we’re federally funded. We have far more than most parole and probation agencies in this country. We have an entire wing of a hospital devoted to drug treatment that we have financed ourselves through the taxpayers.

Tyrone Parker: And it’s making a significant difference.

Len Sipes: Yes, it is. But the average parole and probation agency in this country doesn’t possess a dime for drug treatment, so we are lucky in the District of Columbia that we do have these resources that we can bring to the table, but the question is, is treating 25 percent of the high-risk population enough?

Tyrone Parker: You know what, Leonard? As we begin to turn this ocean liner around, we’re getting a grip on it, even though all the ships may not come in or dock at the same time they’re still coming in. The key is that there is a model in place, which other jurisdictions can begin to look at and begin to build from in the contents of success, and I think the District of Columbia is that particular model at this particular point, because as you said, thank God the resources are there.

Len Sipes: At least in terms of federal resources, but again, we within the criminal justice system, we sit back and we recognize two things – (a) regardless to what we say and regardless of bluster and regardless of whatever confidence that we put on the table, it is the larger community that is going to make us or break us in terms of crime control, not the criminal justice system. And number two, it is groups like yours that are going to have an impact on people coming out of the prison system, not folks like us. It’s going to be the larger organizations that take responsibility, that step up to the plate, and who advocate and who convince people that this is something worth supporting.

Tyrone Parker: No question about it. I often say, Leonard, a healthy father makes a good family, a good family makes a strong community, and a strong community makes a great country, and this is the return fact on what’s occurring. Here in the District you have so many great organizations – Cease Fire, you have Clergy Police Community, you have [INDISCERNIBLE]. You just have a collaboration of excellent programs that have basically,maybe not been on the same page at the same time, but had the same goal, and the goal was public safety.

Len Sipes: And the bottom line and this is worth repeating one more time before we close out the program, in your opinion, is that the great majority of individuals coming out of the prison system don’t want to go back. Who would?

Tyrone Parker: No, there’s no question about it. The large majority of individuals that have come out these particular facilities don’t ever want to go back because they understand their family, they understand themselves, they understand their community, and they understand that they do not want to be treated like an animal.

Len Sipes: But the larger analysis is that somebody – it can’t just be the family. That person may need mental health issues, that person may have substance abuse issues, that person may have dropped out after the 8th grade and needs hard skills in terms of finding work or being trained for work – that’s the problem. Do we have that structure of not just programs, but of fellowship either from the faith community,when I say faith community, I don’t necessarily mean the Christian community. It can be the Islamic community, it could be the Jewish community, it could be anybody. The faith community. Sometimes they need big brothers and big sisters to guide them.

Tyrone Parker: You know what, Leonard, it’s no question about that, but I’m a thorough believer that this whole process begins with the community, but inside these correctional facilities where they can build capacity around themselves by support systems that’s already in place. The Alliance of Concerned Men is doing an extraordinary job with that. We have produced a manual that we feel can make a major difference, and that’s our common denominator. Let’s take a look at doing something out of the box.

Len Sipes: Our guest today has been Tyrone Parker, the Executive Director of the Alliance of Concerned Men. I’m going to repeat the Web address one more time, www.AllianceofConcernedMen.com. That’s all one word by the way. It’s a 501(c)3, which means whatever money that you have Mr. Rich Person sitting back and you’ve got $25,000 to spare, it is a tax deduction. I really want to express my appreciation to Tyrone, and hopefully he’ll come back in about four months or so to talk about other aspects of working with communities in Washington, DC, and in the United States. Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. Once again, thank you very much for your contacts and your suggestions and your criticisms. We don’t care – we’ll take them all. Reach me either through the comments box at media.csosa.gov, that’s how a lot of people do it, or they e-mail me directly at leonard.sipes@CSOSA.gov or follow me via Twitter at twitter.com/lensipes. I want everybody to have themselves a very, very pleasant day.

– Audio ends –

Terms: previously incarcerated people, ex-offenders, offenders, public safety

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