Video Visitation in Corrections

DC Public Safety Radio

See the main site at http://media.csosa.gov

See the radio show at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2015/04/video-visiting-in-corrections-national-institute-of-corrections/

Leonard: From the Nation’s capital this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. Ladies and Gentlemen the topic for today, ‘Video visiting in corrections’.It’s an extraordinarily important topic. We have two experts by our microphones from the National Institute of Corrections, Maureen Beull. She joined the National Institute of Correction in 2001 as one of the correctional programme specialist and leads the NCI Justice Involved Women Initiative, assisting jails, prisons, and community correction in the development and implementation of evidence based gender informed policy. By our microphones from Brooklyn, Brooklyn is represented in the house today by Allison Holliham .She is a licensed mental health counselor and holds a masters degree in Urban policy analysis as a programme manager for New York initiative for children and incarcerated parents at the Osborne Association. She advocates for policies and practices that support children of incarcerated parents. She has a background in this issue of video visitation.

I am going to read from a report, a rather comprehensive report done by the national institute of correction and we going to talk about that report today. Research confirms that incarcerated individuals, corrections families, and communities all benefit when incarcerated individuals can communicate and receive visits, from family and supportive community members. Video visitation is an additional form of communication that can build and strengthen social support system for those incarcerated.To Allison and to Maureen welcome back to DC public safety.

MAUREEN: Thank you Leonard.

ALLISON: Thank you.

Leonard: Allison, I going to start off with you after that long introduction. What is video visitation?

ALLISON: Video visits very simply put, is very similar to Skype, it helps families remain connected to their incarcerated loved ones. It first was seen in the correctional setting in the 1990s and with technological advances it really resulted in a lot more user-friendly and affordable equipment. As a result its really expanded at a rapid pace in a correction setting, in fact recently there was a prison policy report that stated that the video visiting is being in over 500 facility across the Nation and we expect that it’s going to continue to expand .

Leonard: Maureen what is the interest in corrections in terms of video visiting?

MAUREEN: Pretty simply our role is working with our constituency, which is the jails, prisons and community corrections across the country. To improve outcomes and to reduce recidivism  and some intermediate outcomes and certainly for those folks that are incarcerated maintaining contact with family, family broadly defined, community members, community services it’s really fundamental for people to get back on their feet.

Leonard: The bottom line question goes to either one of you. The bottom line is more contact people have with their families and significant others, important people in the community ,at least important to them. The more contact they have while in prison or in jail, the better off they are going to do upon release? Can I say that?

MAUREEN: I think you can say that, and I think one of the things we trying to achieve is well,for folks to … So we can really separate them from the criminals justice system and have them become part of the community.

Leonard: Part of the community means a lot of contact?… When I was in correction one of the thing that really amazed me is that whenever we had an opportunity, in the State of Merlin in the correctional system for people coming in visiting, complains went down in fractions, went down … It was a  very peaceful prison people would do anything on the face of the earth not to interfere with that in-person contact. Does video visitation have the same impact?

ALLISON: You know Leonard, that a really good question because we don’t know, its such a new practice. There’s has been very limited research on whether or not video visiting or a combination with in-person visits would actually lead to or build upon a positive outcome.

Leonard: The name of document is called ‘Video Visiting in Correction, benefits, limitations, and implementations considerations’ from the National institute of Corrections. An extraordinary document, I mean anywhere from questionnaires to implementational policies to anything that you ever wanted about video visitation is in this document. I will put the link on the show notes in terms of the document. We have according to the document, 13 States that are doing video visitations? Is that correct?

ALLISON: Oh yes, I anticipate that at this point it’s probably more than that, because this document, the research was done approximately year and a half ago at this point so its surely more.

Leonard: Now 2.7 million people are in prisons and jails on any given day? That’s a huge number 2.7 lets think about that for a second. 2.7 million people in prisons and jails in any given day?

MAUREEN: That’s true.

Leonard: We have  just as one example according  to the report 14,000 children in foster care as a result of incarceration. That’s 14,000 people totally without any contact with their mom or with their dad at all. That is just one example of the potential of video visitations?

MAUREEN: Yes and  I want to add to that, that on any given day their are 2.7 million children alone that have an incarcerated parent and when you add those that have are under some type of community supervision, it goes up to 10 million. This is a huge issue not only for an incarcerated individual and budgets but for children and for the next generation of children who are being cut off from their parents.

Leonard: But you did mention a study in a reported self, talking about reduction in recidivism based upon on the amount of contact that they had with in prison. Correct?

MAUREEN: Oh yes, absolutely. There was a recent study done by the Minnesota department of correction. It looked at 16,000 incarcerated individuals and looked at how visiting impacted their success and recidivism rates. They found that even one visit alone reduced recidivism  rates. It really underscored and added to what we know about visiting, that it is important for incarcerated individuals to receive visits throughout the incarceration and not just right prior to reentry. To be able to support their success.

Leonard: Now with running institutions correctional facilities, and the 14 years that I was with Merlin Department of public safety in correctional services, we had three correctional systems. Those visits, contact with the outside world meant peaceful institutions. We not just talking about video visitation, we not talking about necessarily doing the right thing, we also talking about reducing cost, we also talking about improving security, we also talking about the possibility of reentry, we also talking about the possibility, even if this is not the focus of this report, Video based instruction. This is meaningful to many people for many reasons and that why I wanted to expand conceptually what it is we talking about.

MAUREEN: I think one of the things for NIC to have jumped into grading this document with Osborne Association, was that one of the things we are aware of is that we know how important in-persons visits are .We also know that there are some challenges for families to be able to travel to facilities, for getting there and finding out that a visit has been cancelled. I think that video visiting has come on the forefront but I think the thing that we really want folks to be aware of that are thinking of either adopting video visiting or enhancing what they have is to really know: what it offers, What it entails, what they are getting into, what the cost are, what the benefits are? Its not a panacea but I think that these guide really provides a lot of thoughtful questions and opportunities to really take a look at this. Does this fit for your system?

Leonard: It sure does, I mean the document is amazingly comprehensive; right down to the questionnaire down to the surveys, right down to the implementation policy. Its not just a discussion document on video visitation, if you want to consider doing this, if you want to do this, its all encapsulated within one document.

MAUREEN: Nicely said, thank you

Leonard: Do you like that?

MAUREEN: I do, thank you,

ALLISON: Thank you.

Leonard: Alright W.W.W …

ALLISON: And Leonard …

Leonard: Go ahead. let me get the website as long as I have intrigued people. WWW.nicic.gov is the website for the National Institute of Correction and you can find the document there it will be in our show note. Allison go ahead.

ALLISON: I wanted to add certainly there are a lot of benefits of using video visiting to kind of bridge the gap for families that are so far away that they cannot travel to the facility or maybe they are elderly and they can’t get to the facility. So they are a lot  benefits, but there is also challenges for families. Some families do not have the money to have their own computer, they don’t have the technological savvy to be able to navigate signing up for an account. You know, I am just thinking about my grandmother who has trouble navigating how to turn the computer on, let alone using it to schedule time. There is the challenge with some video visits when they are home based there is  a cost  attached to that. So any money or savings that may have been incurred from not travelling to the facility maybe outweighed by the expensive cost and all the service fee that are attached to the home based video visiting. There is a lot of considerations that need to be looked at before moving forward.

Leonard: Well that’s the sole point because I have seen newspaper articles from throughout the country and here within Washington DC. That video visitation was put on by a private company that charged fees that people thought were to high. The person cannot afford to make the 300 mile trip between gas and tolls and spending the nights and taking all the family it’s a 200-300 dollar proposition but still video visitation maybe, 1/10 of that but it still something that they cannot afford. Isn’t that part of this discussion?

ALLISON: Yeah absolutely, to also consider that most of the places where video visiting is being implemented currently are at the county jail. When you looking at those families they are not travelling nearly as far as those that are gonna go visit a loved one in a prison in the State.

Leonard: Good point.

ALLISON: So their travel cost are significantly lower and in some cases the challenge is that the jails are actually requiring people to come to the jail. Visits at the facility in almost every case there is no charge for that. There is only a few jails that are still charging but still the family is going through the burden of getting to the facility. They get there and then they don’t actually see their loved one and that really matters for family and it matters a lot for children.

Leonard: Because we do want in-person wherever possible. In the District of Columbia if you commit a violation and your sent to prison even if though it’s a DC code violation where a federal agency. Those offenders are sent to federal prison they could be all through out the country if there is not video visitation then they are not going to get visits at all. So this issue,… I understand Allison your point about it it could be the local jail, but also at the same time that person could be 1000-3000 miles away.

MAUREEN: I think that’s one of the considerations in putting the guide together so that there’s so many different permutations. You may have folks that are more immediate to the facility, you may have the example you just gave Leonard but I think that a site that is thinking about adapting this really need to weigh those considerations. I think one of the things that is in the guide very interesting even talking to the folks that will be using a system  like this whether or not video visiting actually is gonna be something that they use I think one of the other things that we are well aware of that is in the guide is  there is a number of different of video visitings and I think Allison alluded to that earlier.

Leonard: Well Allison go ahead give me those types one more time cause I don’t remember.

ALLISON: Sure, there three basic models the one that was really kind of best practiced and can address a lot of challenges is the higher breed model. So you have in-person visiting and video visiting. It gives families the opportunities to choose what is best for them. Then there is the three actual different ways to use the equipment: You can have the facility based, which is where the video at the facility at some outside area so the family don’t have to go through the security and there set up in rows and [inaudible 00:13:30] and the family goes there and visit. They are usually free visits or at the very least one or two free visits per week and then additional visits they will need to pay for.

Then you have the model where the corrections will partner with a community based organisation, and there is a lot of advantages to that partnership because you then having families come to the community based organisation video visits from there. If you partnering with the organisation that provides services to the incarcerated while they are on the inside and upon their return and support to the families, then you are really able to get the families in early and do that continuum of holistic services and start working with that organisation to support the incarcerated individual reentry process.

Leonard: But the bottom line…

ALLISON: And…

Leonard: Good … Am sorry go ahead

ALLISON: And the final model would be the home based, that is where people can video visit from their home based computers and in some cases their cell phones, or tablets, and those are most exclusively paid for a fee.

Leonard: But I mean that would be the holy grail? Would it not? the idea of having  that level of contact. Because you have to have a security provision, am assuming in all this because abstentively the whole idea is to sit down a child and mother reuniting over the course of 5 or 600 miles through a home based system inevitably, there is gonna be somebody who is going to,… Instead of the child they substitute that child for a gang member, so there’s  gonna be a some security component to this correct?

ALLISON: Well, there is a software that can monitor the visits. You can do live monitoring which certainly labor intensive. We have had concerns about there being, people being inappropriate during visits.  for example in Oregon they have been using video visiting in their state for a length of couple of years now I believe. They found they have 0.15% incident rate so that in the grand scheme of things is so nominal that we are not really seeing that be a big concern.

Leonard: I do want to talk more about that in the experience of other states,but before we get into the second half: Maureen Buell form the National Institute of Correction. We  have Alison Hollihan and she is with the Osborne Association. Let me give out the web address for the Osborne association, have it up close to see if I can read it correctly  www.osborneny.org. For the National Institute of correction www.nicic.gov. The document itself its called ‘Video Visiting in corrections, benefits limitations and implementation considerations. It’s a completely comprehensive document NIC should be congratulated for doing it. So where do we take the conversation from here? You just mentioned one state and it was only 1.5% incidence of security violation Allison?

ALISON: It was Oregon Department of Correction then and it was actually 0.15 %.

Leonard: 0.15,okay so that’s pretty then going good?

ALISON: Yes, and you know with the software they can flag certain words, if certain words are said, they can automatically stop the feed. There is always [inaudible 00:16:58] concern that the person who supposed to be the visitor isn’t truly the visitor but in most cases its grandmas, and moms and children that want to have this visits with their loved ones so we really need to look the larger picture before jumping to the fear that these is going to just increase communication with the wrong people.

Leonard: Let me throw out a hypothetical that is not on anybody’s question sheet. If we handle level of contact… Work s philosophical for me a little bit Allison … If we had the level of contact instead of now a mother ,father, or a brother or a significant community member, instead of the once a year trip to a prison two or three hundred miles away. If they were in touch with this individual almost everyday from say the comfort of their own home  through a computer where that information can be exchanged about: When you coming back ,what are you bringing something to wear, where you going to live and having this discussions flashed out before hand. Where are you looking for work? are you gonna go back to school? What difference would that make Allison?

ALISON: A tremendous difference ,I want to speak to the importance of children, just because that is my area of specialty. When we run a programme here at the Osborne association to come to our office they come to a child friendly setting. Its setup like a living-room, they connect with their parents, who are in an Upstate prison 10 hours away so just had to use this as an example. This children may visit maybe once a year, cause its a 10 hour trip and now that they come in for monthly, sometime s a couple of times a month visits they do tele-visits. They are able to do their home-works in the visits, they are able to show their mom their spelling words, their math problems on a chalk boards ,they have the same books here as the moms have in the facility so they can read together. And these are experiences that you can’t have on the phone. The parent can’t see the child stand in front of a measuring stick and see how they growing from visit to visit.

We find it so critical, because then the children are able to make sense of their world. They are able to have the additional support that is so valuable for them. They are able to physically see that the parent is safe and doing well. Then they are able to go and visit once twice and hopefully more to have the important in person visits. so that’s very critical for children.

Leonard: Maureen…

ALISON: You know Alison as you talking I was just thinking of an example you were telling me about. That is when a child a small child 3-4 yr old child, gets on a telephone and is just holding a telephone and really doesn’t have any kind of a face in front of that child. There is really no conversation. The beauty I think of systems who do have video visiting is that they see the person, they see the parent. I think that something we don’t think about in the current systems we have.

MAUREEN: Yeah absolutely.

Leonard: I do want to put to our listeners that my agency, the court services, and the offender supervision agency is a pioneer in-terms of video visitations. We do quarterly ,and it’s an all day affair and we have a network of prisons throughout the federal Bureau of prisons. That participate in this a community of resources day where we bring in people from all through out the community in terms of alcohol, substance abuse, housing, jobs you do name it. We do this all day seminar, and that’s recorded.  We have been involved in the issue of video and communication within correctional facilities for a long time. We also are piloting an experimental programme where we do hookup female offenders in prison with their children from the District of Columbia but that is in its earlier stages but that is what we are doing. What is the future either one of you in terms of video visitation?

MAUREEN: You know one thing that just occurs to me is, … I have been doing criminal justice work for sometime, one of the things that I think am well aware of is that, historically our focus has been just on the individual, the individual that is incarcerated. I think with the emerging research and the best practices one of the things we’ve realized is that for people to be successful, they have got to have these connections. I mean it works for us  in the free world why should it be any different for an offender that is within the criminal justice system . I think that if folks become pretty knowledgeable about how critical it is to maintain and build those healthy connection, I think that pairing in person visitation with technology such as video visitation I think the opportunities I think its unlimited.

Leonard: They are unlimited. I did a television show on family reunification, I hosted the show and one of the things that is really profound is all the kids that are left behind, they feel abandoned. We know from research that they have higher degrees of problems in terms of substance abuse, in terms of involvement with the criminal justice systems. But they are 8,9,10 years old. They didn’t ask for this? So they feel completely abandoned, completely separated, from their incarcerated parent. At least in this case not looking at security, not looking at safety, not looking at recidivism, not looking at the benefits to the criminal justice systems but in terms of looking at the benefits to the kids it would probably be enormous.

ALLISON: Absolutely, we do know from some research, and definitely from observation that we have here through our programmes that connect children with their incarcerated parents. Visiting really minimizes the trauma, while increasing the support for children. It allows children to have very important conversations about, why are you there? when are you coming home? It helps through healing and we find that the children that are able to maintain the connection with their incarcerated parents. Children who have appropriate support in the community they go on to thrive and do wonderful its only a small percentage of these children with incarcerated parents do go on to have these challenges that you mention and its a really real concern but we have an opportunity here to support this children so that they can go on to have bright and healthy futures.

Leonard: But its interesting that the conversation that nobody has. The kids caught up in all of this nobody seems to focus on them at all. They do feel completely left alone, they feel completely ignored and this would be a way of looking at that. Where do we go to for the future? For video visiting? I mean is this going to be something that you would want to expand through out the entire country? Are we going to start using tablets? Start using home computers? Are the correctional systems going to be more accepting of this? Map out the next five years either one of you?

ALLISON: Yeah I believe that it is inevitably going to be in every facility at some point. The question is it going to be implemented in a thoughtful way that balances the need for correction and families or is it going to be driven by companies out there that are trying to make money by charging for the visits and putting big service fees on the families which will be in the end counter productive right? Because we going to have families that used to be able to go for free visits at the county jail, that now are not able to visit as often because of the fees.

I think that if its done in a thoughtful way, it could increase the connections for family and I think its going to be a great benefit to the re-entry planning process. We didn’t speak much about that, but to think about being able to bring families into a case management conference with the incarcerated conference with the incarcerated individual prior to release to determine how they can be of support. Think about the transitional housing director who can come to a facility or community organisation and have an interview with someone who is incarcerated 5 hrs away from the area to where they are returning to, and the have that with the housing resource ready for them before they are released. You can have job interviews, you could have interviews with treatment providers.I mean the possibilities are endless.

Leonard: Well that is just it the possibilities are endless and we just barely scratching the surface in terms of the possibilities. Everything you have just mentioned could be, should be on the table. Now my question is and anybody listening to the program is going to be … If that degree of importance, if it’s at that level of importance we have not even discussed the medical angle, to this and where these could really cut costs through states by millions of dollars in terms of video consultations on medical issues. Then why do we have to rely upon private providers at all? Why doesn’t government simply pick this up if it’s so important to so many people for so many reasons?

ALLISON: Well thinking from the importance of in-persons vist’s just for visits. Think about the importance of a doctor or a nurse doing triage to be able to physically see and touch that person. I think that there’s definitely room for having consultations or simple follow ups but it can never replace the importance of the medical community to be able to interact with a person.

Leonard: But my question is more along the lines of the fees that are being charged the fees of private company’s’,or some people who are objecting to the fees. They say that they are too high if it is as important as we making it to be, why wouldn’t the government pick up the cost,[inaudible 00:27:06] eliminate the fees entirely? That sounds unrealistic in today’s  budget cutting era?

MAUREEN: That’s a hard question, I mean it’s hard because you know, am just looking at sort of the environment that we are living in today in terms of politics and budgets and all sorts of things. I think what we really were interested in is having both criminal justice systems and users of systems like this, just to be thoughtful of consumers and to really know what the potential and the possibilities are but really know the right questions and the right things to consider.

Leonard: And that’s exactly what the document does?

MAUREEN: That’s what we hoped for?

Leonard: (Laughs)… Very comprehensive. Alison did you want to have a quick followup we just about out of time.

ALLISON: I think that the main take away here, is that we should never look at video replacing in-person activity, no matter what it maybe from visiting to tele-medicine. We need to be thoughtful about making sure that the fees associated are not counterproductive and just reducing the ability for the incarcerated to maintain their connection with their family.

Leonard: Some people are exuberant about this possibility. They suggest that it could really fix a lot of the problem within correction so they would be even more enthusiastic than you. Maureen final comments?

MAUREEN: Well I think that’s why we called the document Benefits ,limitations and implementations considerations.

Leonard: Just to cover all bases…

MAUREEN: You got it.

Leonard: (Laughs)Ladies and gentlemen, we are doing a show today…we doing a show today on Video visitation in the correction setting. Our guest today has been Maureen Buell from the National Institute of Correction and Allison Hollihan. She is with the Osborne association. The document itself as Maureen just said ‘Video Visiting in corrections, benefits, limitations, implementations considerations, www.nicic.gov.This programme was produced today by [inaudible 00:29:16] and we always appreciate her production assistance in-terms of putting this together. The inner website for the Osborne Association Allison Hollihan organisation www.osborneny.org.

Ladies and gentlemen this is DC Public Safety. We appreciate your comments and we even appreciate your criticism and we want everybody to have themselves a very pleasant day.

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The Task Force on 21st Century Policing

DC Public Safety Radio

See the main site at http://media.csosa.gov

See the radio program at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2015/03/presidents-task-force-on-21st-century-policing-laurie-robinson/

Leonard: From the nation’s capital, this DC Public Safety. I am your host Leonard Sipes. The title of today’s program, ladies and gentlemen, the Task Force on 21st Century Policing. Our guest, back at our microphones, Laurie Robinson. Laurie, welcome back to DC Public Safety.

Laurie: Hello, Leonard, and happy to be here.

Leonard: I am going to read an introduction about Laurie. Laurie is a George Mason University professor. She was named Co-Chair to the President’s Policing Task Force or The Task Force on 21st Century Policing. The new task force is part of the White House’s response to the ongoing turmoil in Ferguson, Missouri and other cities. Robinson is Co-Chair of the task force with Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey. Charles is a former Chief of Police here in Washington DC.

The White House said that the goals were to include new ways to promote effective crime reduction while building public trust. The task force was asked to prepare a report within 90 days, which has been done. Robinson was twice appointed Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs first by President Bill Clinton and then by President Obama. She is the longest-serving agency heads in its 45-year history of.

Laurie, I want to start off the topics. Do you have one sentence that you bring to mind as to the 80-page report, because it’s very comprehensive and involves a lot of implications for the criminal justice system?

Laurie: Yes, Len, I would say, I would sum it up as follows that every citizen and every community should be treated by the police respectfully and fairly, and then at the same time we need to recognize that law enforcement officers have very tough and very risky jobs. I think together that really sums up what we found and recommended in this report.

Leonard: It’s been called the most challenging job in America, American policing. I can’t imagine … I was a police officer for six years. I can’t imagine a tougher job, especially today.

Laurie: Right. We heard from over 120 witnesses, and got many submissions of testimony beyond that, and we heard both from community members and from a number of people in law enforcement and other citizens and professionals beyond that, and that really supports what you’re saying.

Leonard: It is extraordinarily tough. I am going to summarize the 80 pages. This is my summation, not yours. Here is what I got out of the report. Building trust between law enforcement agencies and officers and communities, real emphasis on data collection, a discussion of alternatives to arrest, improving police training, improving police communications, especially as it pertains to social media, but I think it goes far beyond that, and the best use of technology. Did I do a good job summarizing the report?

Laurie: Well, you’ve certainly kind of boiled it down to a very few sentences. Let me emphasize some of those things and kind of expand a little bit beyond that. Certainly, it does talk about the need to build community trust. We talked about, as I mentioned before, fair, impartial, and respectful policing. We talk about the notion of procedural justice as an important issue of ensuring that people are fairly and impartially treated, and the notion of law enforcement adopting, what we call, the guardian mindset rather than a warrior mindset, as a notion of protecting the community.

In the area of better data that’s something that we thought was really important, and that there is an important federal role here as well. So better data, for example, on the use of force, on officer involved shootings, on deaths in custody, on diversity of departments. Now, the Bureau of Justice statistics has gathered data on kind of the makeup of departments over the years, but it’s very incomplete.

Part of that reason, Len, is that many of the departments in this country, as you know, are very small. About half of the 18,000 state and local law enforcement agencies in this country have fewer than 10 sworn officers. Obviously, those small departments don’t have a data collection department within them, and it’s hard for them to regularly collect data and submit it to the federal government. But we think there has to be a better effort made to collect data.

In the data arena, we think it’s very important as well for local departments to survey their communities annually to get a feel for how the community feels about the department. Now, turning to some other areas, training you mentioned.

Leonard: Yes.

Laurie: We do feel that training is a very, very important area, both for new recruits and also for existing officers. There are number of areas where we suggest that training is particularly important. One area for example is on handling the mentally ill.

Leonard: Which is a little bit tough to do.

Laurie: Very tough. And yet, there’s been training developed, what’s called Crisis Intervention Training, CIT, and a number of departments have already instituted that kind of training. But oftentimes it’s for a specialized unit and we recommend that every officer receive this kind of training because you never know when you’re going to need that, when you are going to encounter someone who may have those kind of mental difficulties.

A number of the incidents that have occurred around the country that have tragically escalated into an event with a shooting or some kind of injury, have involved individuals with mental illness. Having officers better equipped with information about how to de-escalate those events in a circumstance where nobody is in danger of immediate injury or bystanders, would be very valuable.

Leonard: It’s interesting that crime is going down over the course of the last 20, 22 years, but the incidents of amount of contact with people who have mental health history seems to be increasing not decreasing. Here at Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, those people diagnosed as having mental health issues and our response to it has certainly grown over the course of years. It just seems to be interesting how crime has had almost a continual decline over the last 22, 23 years, there have been … it’s every once in a while in terms of going back up, but how we are encountering more people with mental health problems?

Laurie: Right. I think we can attribute some of that to the de-institutionalization of the mentally ill over the last decade. Of course, we know that the criminal justice system has been the recipient of those individuals in many cases. Many of the mentally ill, of course, are homeless and encounter police and then the jail system and so on.

We also think the training on procedural justice, as we talked about a minute ago, is important, and also more generally on de-escalation of incidents. But one of the things, Len, that’s very interesting is that there is not much research available, we learned, on what kind of training works best. We urge that the federal government’s National Institute of Justice or elsewhere, invest more money in research to learn what kind of training for police is most effective, whether it’s scenario-based training or otherwise.

We’ve also recommended that the federal government develop and support some kind of postgraduate Institute of Policing for senior executives to educate upcoming police leaders from across the country as we are heading into the 21st century. That’s perhaps is somewhat like what Great Britain has.

They have a National College of Policing for upcoming police leaders, and something like that could be very helpful in kind of training the next generation of leaders in this country.

Leonard: But as you said 18,000 separate law enforcement agencies, most of them small, it becomes an almost impossible task to try to set up some sort of comprehensive standards when you’ve got 18,000 separate law enforcement agencies, as you mentioned before, we hit the record button. We’re not a European country, we’re not a unified system. It’s just almost impossible to get the word down to these 18,000 separate law enforcement agencies.

We do have police in correctional training commissions in every state, and I would imagine it’s their responsibility. But this is almost unbelievably difficult task that we’re talking about.

Laurie: I think that one of the great allies in this will be the professional associations, looking to groups like the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the National Association of Sheriffs, potentially the police unions, and also the Major City Chiefs, the Major County Sheriffs, and Police Executive Research Forum, PERF and others. I know the International Association of Chiefs of Police has held a seminar, or a webinar rather, recently to talk to their members about the White House report.

PERF has sent a copy of this to all of its members, I believe. Major City Chiefs has as well. Groups like IACP and the others are very tied to their member organizations, their member association of membership. Having peers working with peers, I think to educate them about recommendations in the report to have them involved in training of their members is one key or route to helping change the curve.

Leonard: I am going to read a quick passage from the beginning of the report. This is an incomplete passage. It became very clear that it’s time for a comprehensive and multifaceted examination of all interrelated parts of the criminal justice system. Within your report, you’re just not talking necessarily about law enforcement. You’re talking about the entire criminal justice system, because if memory serves me correctly, within the Ferguson situation a lot of the complaints were not just about law enforcement, but they were about courts, they were about fines, they were talking about the criminal justice system, in general.

Laurie: One of the things that did become clear, Len, during the course of our hearings, was that while the police are the faith of the criminal justice system to most citizens, that obviously the police are not responsible for, let’s say, the drug laws, or the length of prison sentences, and yet many citizens blame the police for things that they’re unhappy about with regard to the criminal justice system.

Oftentimes, I think the police may get unfairly blamed for things that, of course, they are not responsible for.

Leonard: Go ahead, please.

Laurie: The first recommendation, the very first recommendation in our report is that the President appoint a broader task force to look at the entire criminal justice system and look at the whole set of issues involved with crime and criminal justice, not just the system itself, but kind of harms and crimes, and how these broader issues should and can be addressed in our country.

Leonard: Recommendation number one, National Crime and Criminal Justice Task Force making recommendations on comprehensive criminal justice reforms. You see your 90-day report and your hearings throughout the country on 21st century policing and the problems that we’ve been having within communities, you see this as the springboard for a much larger discussion on the entire criminal justice system.

Laurie: Right. There is right now, as you know, a great deal of interest in criminal justice reform, on both sides of the aisle, if you will, both conservatives and liberals in Congress is an example and in state legislatures right now interested on, again both Republicans and Democrats, in looking at issues like sentencing reform, looking at drug issues, looking at mandatory minimum sentences anew. It’s a prime time to re-examine, as a society, how we’re approaching these issues, and it’s not a one-sided interest. It’s from many different viewpoints.

We thought it’s not that our recommendations should be ignored until that’s done because that probably would take a year and a half or so. But it’s definitely something that needs attention.

Leonard: We’ve had two previously, during my lifetime, President’s task force on crime and justice back in the 1960s, which propelled me into the criminal justice system by the way, and then we had another one. We don’t have these large task forces that often. It seems that now is a time to look at fundamental change within the criminal justice system once again. I wanted to make that point that these task forces that you’re recommending really don’t come along all that often.

Every once in a while we need to rethink what we’re doing, have a national conversation and rethink what we’re doing and how we’re doing. That said, what you’re basically saying is now is the time for another conversation.

Laurie: That’s absolutely correct. The 1960s Lyndon Johnson Crime Commission, which by the way I teach to my students about that at George Mason University now, had remarkable impact on the field, on the criminal justice field, as you know. It helped to professionalize police; it helped to build a criminal justice education in the whole area of criminology. It instituted the 911 system, which did not exist before. It led to the creation of regional crime labs, many, many things in our area.

Leonard: I went to college, after I was a police office based upon those grants.

Laurie: Absolute, the LEEP grants. It led to the creation of the Law Enforcement Assistance administration, as you know, LEAA, and the successor agency, OJP, which I headed. It is time for another commission or task force of that kind, and so as I said that was our first recommendation in the report.

Leonard: We’re more than halfway through the program. Laurie Robinson is back at our microphone. She is a George Mason professor, University professor. She was named Co-Chair to the President’s Policing Task Force of the Task Force on 21st Century Policing with Charles Ramsey, the Philadelphia Chief of Police. I’m delighted to have Laurie back as one of the true representatives at the national level for the criminal justice system again.

She was the longest-serving head of the Office of Justice Programs in the U.S. Department of Justice in its history. Every time Laurie goes off to do something else like teach, we in Washington fall right back into the middle of a firestorm. Al right, let me get around [inaudible 00:17:11] conversations that I’ve been having with law enforcement officers.

There is a sense of confusion on the part of folks in law enforcement, who said for decades now we’ve been browbeaten with the New York City miracle, with the broken windows philosophy, with aggressive policing, because when I was a younger police officer, we were taught not to make all these arrests. We were taught only to bring in really good cases to courts, really good, either traffic stops, or really good criminal arrest, and be available for the calls as they came in, and to interact with the community.

Suddenly, over the point of decades, because crime plummeted in New York City through very aggressive policing and then that was exported to the rest of the country. I must’ve read hundreds of articles about aggressive policing, aggressive traffic stops, aggressive stops of people in the community as long as you have a legal right to stop that individual.

Now the cops are basically saying, hey, Leonard, we’re little confused. We’ve been schooled for decades about aggressive policing, and now maybe we’re supposed to draw back. Can you help them figure this out?

Laurie: Well, I think that what we’re seeing is that aggressive crime-fighting strategies need to be balanced with an understanding of what I said toward the beginning of the program about a guardian mindset. That is not all about being a warrior mindset, but a guardian mindset. By the way, one of the recommendations we have is that, any research that’s being done henceforth to evaluate crime-fighting strategies needs to not only look at the impact on reduction of crime, but needs to look at the collateral damage that has or can arise from those kind of aggressive crime-fighting strategies, collateral damage on community trust.

We’ve never looked at those kinds of things at least very rigorously. When we look at, oh, we’ve dropped crime in XYZ bill by X percent, but without looking at whether it’s eroded community trust. To those who are raising the question, do we need to reconsider, I’d say yes, we do need to reconsider. Because at the end of the day, when you’ve eroded community trust, you actually are eroding your ability to fight crime, because you need the community on board in order to reduce crime over time.

You and I talked before the show about difficulties in recruiting for police departments, and one thing we heard during our hearings was the difficulty some departments are encountering in recruiting among African-American populations in some cities, several of our witnesses said, well, you know it is hard to recruit among young men, young African-American men, in some of those neighborhoods, and what a surprise, she said, ironically, this one witness, when they are used to being treated not very kindly by lot of the police who are patrolling in those neighborhoods. It kind of goes hand in hand that you have to build respectful relationship and then you have people more on board, right.

Leonard: Absolutely, it’s crucial I think that we have to have the communities on board. The communities need to be partners with law enforcement, need to be partners with parole and probation, need to be partners with corrections. The community has to be on board or we’re never going to completely solve the crime problem that we have in the country.

The fact that we have a problem within our communities we need to examine that. I think it’s obvious from your report and I think we need to do a much better job of communicating and carrying out the will of the communities. The cops are, again, they are confused by all of this because they’re saying, Leonard, if you go to a community meeting, oftentimes you hear community members ask for aggressive policing in terms of a person who is bothering them, a person who’s keeping them up at night, kids hanging out in the street corner.

Again, they are saying, well, we do listen to the community, but when we do this, it becomes a problem. We have to have a way of figuring out. The communities got to communicate with the law enforcement. You in your report stressed that there are community responsibilities as well.

Laurie: Absolutely, yes. The community needs to, for example, work with law enforcement, serve on those community advisory boards of reach out and work with. We talk about the involvement of law enforcement in schools, but there also has to be community involvement in those schools, as an example.

Leonard: One person mentioned that there should be community leaders riding in police cars. There should be members of the clergy out there riding with police officers, community leaders riding with police officers, so they can see firsthand exactly what they have to experience. There’s a constant communication between the community and the individual law enforcement officers.

I think that in your report talking about the focus on community responsibility towards the problem, I think, is bringing a lot of people along, because on one side of the continuum there’s a lot of police officers who feel that they’re being unfairly maligned, and on the other side, they’re saying, but it’s just as much the community’s responsibility as it is our responsibility.

Laurie: Yes, absolutely, absolutely.

Leonard: Where do we go to from here in terms of bringing both parties together and making sure that law enforcement officers have the training, they have the equipment, they have the data, they have the level of sensitivity, they have alternatives to arrest that they are doing the proper job of communicating. This is going to involve a lot of money. It’s going to involve a lot of training, and it’s going to involve a lot of sensitivity.

We’re already taking the most difficult, and in some cases dangerous job in the United States and we’re making it even more complex. Police officers today need to go beyond the stereotypical enforcer to the ladies and gentlemen representing the community. That’s going to take almost a new philosophy and new training and a new kind of police officer.

Laurie: Well, one thing I want to emphasize is that a whole chapter in our report addresses officers safety and wellness. One of our key points was that procedural justice, that I talked about earlier, have to be applied internally within departments as well. There has to be procedural justice in disciplines proceedings for officers. There is a lot of stress for officers within their own departments and how they feel. Whether they feel they are being fairly treated.

Sometimes that stress can get taken outside the department in the way they might deal with citizens. They have to feel that they are being fairly treated. Generally, as we’ve been spoken about, these are very high stress jobs for them. Frequently, there are higher than normal levels of divorce, of alcohol use and sadly of suicide among officer ranks. So departments need to make officers’ safety and wellness a priority.

We recommend that the Justice Department continue to make officers’ safety and wellness a top priority for the Justice Department as well. By the way, sadly my Co-Chair Chuck Ramsey very recently lost an officer within his ranks as well. This is something that it can have a devastating impact on the departments. We recommended that every police officer in the United States have a bulletproof vest and that there be a mandatory wear policy for officers and also mandatory seatbelt wear policy.

Many of the deaths of police officers in this country come from auto accidents, not from a bullet. Because officers are so committed, they are racing to the scene of a crime and they don’t put on their seat belts. They have a lot of equipment on, you probably know this. It’s kind of cumbersome to put on the seat belt on.

Leonard: In the final analysis we all want the same thing. Community wants what police officers want, which is community safety. Everybody wants fair and respectful treatment, everybody wants everybody else to support them in a larger goal of a peaceful crime free community. In the final analysis, we all, whether we’re part of the criminal justice system, or part of the community, we all want this conversation.

I guess, there are a lot of police officers who are simply saying, folks make up your mind, what is it that you want us to do, what is it that you want us to be, and once we’ve agreed to that then let’s accomplish it.

Laurie: That’s exactly right. But I will tell you, one of the strong themes that I heard throughout these two months that we worked on this report, Americans are problem solvers. They are going to come together and work on this. I am an optimist and I think we are on the road to improvement in this area.

Leonard: Well, that’s the interesting thing because if we do, we take that first recommendation, the National Crime and Justice Task Force to make recommendations on Comprehensive Criminal Justice Reform, we could, indeed, enter a new era in terms of not just how we conduct law enforcement, but how we conduct ourselves in the criminal justice system to make sure that everybody sees a sense of fairness in terms of how the criminal justice system is applied, and how the laws are applied, and would examine laws themselves as to whether or not they should be on the books, whether or not they need to be enforced or enforce as rigorously as they are.

Laurie: That’s correct and that gives me hope too that we’re heading toward a fairer and more respectful criminal justice system overall.

Leonard: Again in 45 years of being in the criminal justice system, and we’ll have just 30 seconds to respond to this before we wrap up. 45 years in the criminal justice system, I think this is a wonderful opportunity for all of us to sit down and have a conversation that’s probably overdue, probably needed. I think the average police officer desperately wants to serve the community and the average police officer desperately wants the community to see them as a participant in their best interest and not an occupying force. I think you’d agree with that.

Laurie: I’m a huge fan of law enforcement and I believe that those are their goals, and that we can achieve that kind of justice together.

Leonard: Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve had at our microphones, back at her microphones Laurie Robinson. She is a George University, a George Mason University professor who was in-charge of the Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice, a longest-serving agency head in their 45-year history. She was appointed to the Task Force on 21st Century Policing by President Obama.

She served with again Charles Ramsey, Chief of Police in Philadelphia. Laurie, I commend both you and Charles Ramsey for a report that leads us into a much better direction ladies and gentlemen. This is DC Public Safety. We appreciate your comments. We even appreciate your criticisms and we want everybody to have themselves a very pleasant day.

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Offender Employment

DC Public Safety Radio

See the main site at http://media.csosa.gov

See the radio show at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2015/03/improving-offender-employment-through-employer-focused-programming-national-institute-of-corrections/

Leonard: From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. Ladies and gentlemen, a special show for you today on offender employment with two really knowledgeable individuals. John Rakis, he is consultant to the National Institute of Corrections, he is a workforce development specialist. Also at our microphones, back at our microphones, Francina Carter, she is a correctional program specialist for the National Institute of Corrections. She’s also the program manager of Offender Workforce Development.

To John and to Francina, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Francina: Thank you.

John: Thank you.

Leonard: John, let me start with you. What is workforce development? What is workforce development within the context of employing people within the criminal justice system?

John: It’s not charity work. Workforce development in the context of the criminal justice system is about serving the needs of both, to two customers really, of the person who’s involved in the criminal justice system, the offender, and the employer. Right now, we’re shifting our focus, I think, to look at what the employer needs. We need to be examining and understanding what the employer needs are and addressing what those needs are. We’ve been very unsuccessful in the past, I think, by just pushing people out into the system without doing that.

Leonard: The whole idea is to prepare people that come out of the prison system or are on probation to give them the best preparation possible to find a job because a job is indicative of success while under supervision, correct?

John: That’s a part of it. We want to prepare people but we want to prepare people to meet the needs of the employers. We need to be focusing on what their needs are and understanding what their needs are. All too often I think we push people out and either they’re not ready for employment but even if they are ready they’re not meeting the employer’s needs, what the employer wants. That’s where the new focus is right now.

Leonard: Okay. Francina, you put together through the National Institute of Corrections a wonderful set of documents that address the employer’s need, address the offender’s needs, address the needs of everybody involved in the process, correct?

Francina: Yes.

Leonard: Okay. Tell me about those. Those are very clear-cut, very easy-to-read documents about all of the different steps that people need to take, anywhere from getting the offender prepared to go out into the work world, working in partnership with other organizations. They’re very comprehensive. Tell me about these documents.

Francina: Okay, Leonard. We really looked at developing a model. It’s a very simple four-part model. At the base of that model is using labor market information. I think too often we are preparing offenders for jobs that aren’t available in their communities. We really have to take a look at what is the labor market information telling us? What are the forecasts? What are the emerging occupations? If we’re going to be spending dollars, much needed training dollars, we need to make sure that there are viable options for employment for people who take advantage of those training programs. Everything we do, we need that base of the labor market information.

John: There are too many training programs out there where there’s a saying, “We train and pray. We train them and then we pray that we can place them.” We need to change that. That’s where labor market information is really important. There are two ways that a practitioner in the field can obtain labor market information. Much of it is on the internet. The US Department of Labor has just a wealth of information by community, by zip code, by state, any way you want to look at it. They can tell you where the growth is going to be, not only for this year but for five years down the road. That’s one of the most valuable resources that practitioners have today.

It is also important to develop relationships with labor market information specialists. Virtually every state has a labor market information specialist. Most of the one-stops that exist in our communities have people who are experts in labor market information. We urge practitioners to go out there and get on the phone, look on the internet, but meet and talk to those people. Find out in your community where the growth is going to be. Very frequently, these labor market information specialists who are based locally, they know which companies are coming into town to start a new business. They’re the ones that have the heads-up on that information. Knowing these labor market information specialists not only will help you with the long-term forecasts but it helps practitioners know what’s happening today and what’s going to be happening in the next couple of months.

Leonard: You can find the tool kits that I mentioned on the website of the National Institute of Corrections, www.nicic.gov, www.nicic.gov. One is when an employer-driven model and tool kit suggestions for employment opportunities, strategies for developing employment opportunities. It just goes on and on with the various components of the criminal justice system, preparing job-seekers for employment. The whole idea is what’s the key, what’s the secret sauce in all of this to successfully employing people who are under criminal justice supervision.

Francina: Okay. Let’s go back to the model. We mentioned labor market information as being the undergirding of this model. In the middle is the target, employment. Three components of that model are: addressing the employer needs, preparing the job-seekers, and engaging partners. All three of those are equally important.

John has already mentioned that we really need to keep the employer’s needs in focus. We look at the labor market information. We see the emerging occupations. We see where the need for employees will be. We know we need to partner with these businesses to find out what their training needs are, to make sure that the training that we’re providing for the offenders is training that is industry-recognized, industry-standard training because we know that the employers are looking at their bottom line. They need people who are going to help them to deliver the services or the products that they are producing to make their businesses grow.

When we look at the job-seekers, we need to do some assessments. We need to see what their interests are, what their skills are, and put them into appropriate training programs where they will not only be able to get entry-level jobs but they will be able to pursue additional training, additional experience so that they can advance in those jobs and that promotes job retention. We know it’s really job retention that’s going to keep people out of the prison system. It’s the job retention that’s the protective factor against recidivism.

Leonard: I do want to remind everybody that on our own website here at Court Services of Offender Supervision Agency on the front page of that website, www.csosa.gov, www.csosa.gov, we do have a section called “Hiring Offenders”, hiring people under supervision where we have radio and television shows where we’ve interviewed both individuals caught up in the criminal justice system as well as employers and asked them about their experience in terms of the employment process when people are out under supervision.

This is a multi-stage process. That’s the most important thing in all of this. John, it’s just not a matter, as you said, to train them and pray but it’s a matter of systematically gaining information about the labor market systematically, preparing individuals for employment systematically, working with partnerships and working with potential employers. It’s a multi-stage process to do this correctly, correct?

John: Exactly. Assessment is so important. It’s not just a quick assessment. All too often I think people are in a hurry to get things done and they don’t do a thorough assessment. One has to look at risks and needs. What are the strengths that a person has? What are the barriers that they face? As Francina mentioned, what are their interests? What are their values? You don’t want to place a person in a job where they have no interest in doing the work for the long-term. You want to give them a career ladder so you want to match them to a job that meets their interests and their values. You want to determine how well they can work as a team. How flexible are they? How adaptable are they? Do they have the ability to accept criticism? These are all things that need to go into an assessment before you even think about sending somebody out to meet with an employer.

Do the assessment, deal with every barrier that exists. I frequently tell people that it’s the barrier that you don’t address, the one that you miss, the one that you just “We’ll deal with it later”, that’s the one that’s going to cause someone to either not get a job or to lose a job in a few months. It’s so important to identify all of those barriers, address the barriers, get that person ready, identify what their interests are, and then begin to make the match.

Leonard: I’m sorry, go ahead.

John: I think the same thing holds true when one meets with employers. I’ll let you ask your question. I know you want to follow up.

Leonard: I was talking to our employment people before the radio program. They were telling me that we have comprehensive services here at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency in terms of both education and in terms of employment. It’s a multi-stage, very comprehensive process. Our shtick, if you will, our main approach to communicating this message is that we have people who are job-ready now. We don’t have risks to public safety. We have people who are job-ready now who need to find work. We’re encouraging employers to work with us.

They also said in many cases you have to stabilize them first before they get involved in these services. If there are mental health or substance abuse issues or other issues, anger management, you have to go through the process of fixing those issues first before getting them involved in the job preparation part of it or the education part of it. Are they right or wrong?

John: No, they’re 100% right. People have to be ready for work although the first message that I would give employers is not that we have people that are ready to work for you. The first thing that you want to actually do is listen to the employer. Find out what their needs are. All too often I think what happens is that we get people ready for work and they are ready for work, they are job-ready. Then we run out and we tell employers we have job-ready people for you. That’s not the right approach.

The right approach is listen to what the employer has to say. I’ll give you an analogy. Imagine if you walked into a car dealership and you were going to buy a sedan. A car salesman ran up to you and said, “Do I have a van for you. It’s a great van. It’s the best-selling van that we have. You’ve got to buy it.” You’d walk right out of the store because you’re not there to buy a van. You’re there to buy a sedan. He didn’t ask you what you wanted.

It’s the same thing with employers. One has to asses what their needs are, know the business really well before you make that referral. That’s where I think this tool kit … There’s a lot of emphasis in the tool kit on that, listening to what the employer has to say, understanding that employer when you go out and meet with an employer for the first time. You only have one chance to make a good first impression. You have to listen first, not sell. What are your needs? What are your hiring challenges at this point? Find out what those are and then you can start making matches.

Leonard: The question that I [crosstalk 00:11:50]. The question, either one of you, is because of the comprehensive nature of the documents that I have made reference to from the National Institute of Corrections, the multi-stage process, are probation agencies throughout the country prepared for that systematic approach to finding employment for people on supervision? Do they have the resources? We have them here at Court Services but we’re a federally funded agency. We have more resources than most. Is this level of complexity … Do most probation agencies, do they have the resources and the personnel to give this level of complexity justice?

Francina: You know Len, the most important thing is people need to look at partnerships. None of us can do all of this work by ourselves. I think most agencies look within themselves to see what their capacity is and how they can do this work. That’s certainly a good place to start but then they need to look at other agencies within their community, not just government agencies but also community-based agencies, your nonprofits and your faith-based organizations. There should be an engagement of partners in this work. Partner with the workforce investment board in your area. Partner with the Chamber of Commerce. Partner with nonprofits that do much of this work. Partner with other criminal justice agencies, even educational institutions. Look at who’s offering apprenticeships and if they have apprenticeships, who offers the education component of those apprenticeships. Each agency does not have to do all of this alone. As a matter of fact, some of the best programs are those that have these multi-agency partnerships as well as a public/private partnership, so public agencies as well as private and nonprofit agencies.

Leonard: John, I’m assuming that you would agree that this is not just a job for parole and probation, it’s just not a job for community corrections, it’s a job for the entire community and it has to be approached through a partnership basis.

John: It is. One of the things that I always recommend that agencies do is map their stakeholders. Who would be interested in this? That would include employers. It would include the Chamber of Commerce. It would include the workforce investment board. Map out your stakeholders, everyone that would be concerned or interested in this work, and then reach out to them. Then develop partnerships along those lines.

Leonard: We’re just about halfway through the program. I want to reintroduce our guests. John Rakis, he is a consultant with the National Institute of Corrections. He is a workforce development specialist. We also have in our studios Francina Carter. She is a correctional program specialist and a program manager. She is program manager for the Offender Workforce Development Program of the National Institute of Corrections, www.nicic.gov., www.nicic.gov, for these amazingly good documents in terms of laying out this whole process.

Going back to either one of you, the real skill here from what I’m hearing from both of you, the real skill in all of this is having somebody in parole and probation who has those organizational skills, who has those public outreach skills, the public relations skills to pull together a rather large coalition and bring them all together and say, “We have a common problem. I can’t do this. We can’t do this on our own. Catholic charities and the local construction company and the workforce development people and everybody else involved in the process, you need to help me. We need to sit down and figure out together how we’re going to do the very best job possible to get people under supervision employed.” That’s a real skill on the part of somebody in parole and probation, is it not?

Francina: It is. It can often start as a steering committee, putting together a steering committee. John talked about mapping stakeholders, inviting those people to the table. It may just start with something pretty informal like a breakfast or a luncheon, kind of a brown-bag luncheon to talk about what the issues are, how they need to be addressed, and who needs to be at the table. A lot of jurisdictions have such steering committees and they meet on a regular basis.

Another way to start is with training. Have an opportunity for a half-day training where you bring people into the room. Oftentimes they have these same needs and they are struggling with some of these same issues. Having a training program where you really look at what are the skills needed, the competencies needed by the service providers to be able to do this work. NIC offers training programs such as re-entry employment specialists and bringing folks together in the room to share some of these common issues but also some of the common solutions to the issues. There are some ways to get some folks up to speed on how to do this in a community.

Leonard: One of the things that we’ve done here at Court Services is to get the employers themselves to sit here before these very microphones and to go into television studios and to explain the process, why they’ve hired people under supervision and the fact that it’s worked for them, to hear it directly from them. That testimony needs to come from the employers as well as the people in community corrections, right?

Francina: Absolutely.

John: One of the things that we recommend is that any program that serves the employment needs of justice-involved individuals should have an employer advisory committee. That committee should meet on a regular basis and then it should be taken … Get employers involved in that way. Many will contribute. They will let you know if you’re doing the right thing or if you’re doing something that doesn’t work for them.

Once you’ve engaged them in that activity, over time engage them as champions for your work. Get them to join you on radio shows like we’re doing today and to speak to the public about their involvement with the program and what they’re doing to make it work and how well it’s worked for them. Videotape them, if you can, and put them on your agency’s webpage, talking about their involvement with the program. Employers like to see other employers talk about how things work.

Have a page. I believe every probation agency should have a page. Every program that works with justice-involved individuals in terms of meeting their employment needs, should have a webpage dedicated to employers which sells the benefits to employers that your program has to offer. That’s where a testimonial would work really well. Use a brief video. It’s not difficult to do. Upload it to YouTube and link it to the website, the employer talking about his experience with the program.

Leonard: Having a really strong social media component to this campaign would really help.

John: Not only will it help, I think it’s mandatory at this point in time. As more and more companies get involved with social media, more and more people are getting involved with social media, it’s the way to go. It’s inexpensive. You can reach a number of different people really very, very quickly.

Most recruiters nowadays, 90% of all recruiters are using LinkedIn to identify candidates for jobs. If you’re working to get somebody a long-term career opportunity, they need to have a LinkedIn profile, perhaps not for an entry-level job but for the future, for the jobs that really pay well, pay a sustainable wage, a client must have a LinkedIn profile if he or she is going to be found by a recruiter.

A page that’s dedicated to employers, we want to get the message to employers that we have a service to provide. We have benefits to provide. Here are the candidates that we have. One of the ways you advertise that, one of the ways you market that is through the web and having a page that employers can find. I’m urging programs, if you have literature, brochures describing the services that you have to offer to employers, use QR codes. You know what QR codes are, those little square boxes that you hold your smartphone to and then it automatically connects you to the webpage. I think every brochure that’s out there marketing programs like this to employers needs to have a QR code. The QR code should take them immediately to the webpage which describes the benefits that companies, probation, parole agencies have to offer. This way, they can quickly find out what services are available, what benefits are available, and how they can connect.

Leonard: Go ahead, please.

John: We basically just have to … Time is money for employers. We really need to, if we’re going to reach out to them, we have to be efficient in the way that we do it. If we’re going to give them information, they have to obtain it as quickly as possible.

Leonard: I’ve always been under the impression or the belief that what we should also do is to put up videos of the individual offenders themselves. I think they would be in the best position to describe their own skills and their own attributes. I’ve done a lot of interviews, again both on television and radio. We have stigmas. We have stereotypes of people who are under criminal justice supervision. Those stereotypes seem to melt and seem to disappear when somebody sees the individual in a coat and tie talking about the fact that he does have a good work history and talking about his skills, talking about who he is and what he is. I think that’s something that we in the criminal justice system should be doing, not only employers but the individual people under supervision themselves.

Francina: Absolutely. I think we need to show our success stories. We need to see people who have been the product, the beneficiaries of some of these training programs who have successfully entered the world of work, who are retaining employment, who are advancing on their jobs. Seeing those success stories, I think it speaks volumes. I think, like you said, it dispels some of the myths, some of the stereotypes about people who have a criminal record. They can serve as role models for other individuals who are just starting their path and just starting to get into the world of work. It’s almost, “If I see you … If you can do it, I can do it.” I think it’s very important to highlight our participants who have been successful.

Leonard: I’ve also talked, once again, to the people who are job developers here at Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. They tell me that the bias against people caught up in the criminal justice system is strong. The fact that they’ve had very employable individuals, people who there’s no reason, absolutely no reason for that person not to be employed. The person hasn’t had a drug-positive in a long time. The person hasn’t had any problems under supervision. The person has real skills from the past. We’ve even had people with college degrees under our supervision and yet the barrier to employment in terms of the stereotype of people who are caught up in the criminal justice system, they say it’s one of the most difficult things that they have to deal with. Either one of you want to comment on that?

John: It’s a challenge. It always will be a challenge. It has been a challenge. It’s improving, I think. What’s important is developing those relationships with employers. It takes time, understanding what their needs are, meeting their needs. Over time, you will build trust. That’s what it takes to work in this field. Nothing happens overnight. As I said, you approach the employer, you make a good impression the first time by listening to what they have to say, hearing what their needs are, meeting those needs. Over time, then people trust you. When people trust you, they’ll accept referrals. It’s all about trust but trust takes time to build. There’s no shortcuts to this.

Leonard: Go ahead, John.

John: You can prepare people well, obviously identifying all the barriers, doing the proper assessment, making sure that they’re ready for employment. One of the things that I always like to recommend, encourage the person coming out of prison to do some volunteer work, put that on their resume. Even if it’s only for a few hours a week, it’s something that shows the employer that they’re keeping busy while they’re searching for employment and that they’re contributing back to society. They’re doing something that’s positive. It always reflects well. It doesn’t matter who that person is. That goes for people that even aren’t ex-offenders that are looking for work above the age of fifty-five. Put something on your resume that shows that you’ve been active and that you’re contributing to your community. That will reflect well and that increases the odds that you will be called in for an interview.

Leonard: In terms of developing the relationship with the employers, again, I talked to our six workforce development people, our job developers, within Washington DC it’s almost impossible to reach out to every employer in Washington DC. In some cases, you may find “X” company is receptive in terms of that company’s executive but the branch offices may not be. Forming that bond, forming that relationship with all employers when you’ve got six people is almost impossible. Are we not talking about something larger in terms of engaging them, John? We were talking a little while ago about social media, talking about doing this systematically, it’s really hard to one-by-one-by-one to every employer within the metropolitan area to reach out to them personally.

Francina: I think a couple-

John: You could do things like, for example in St. Louis, the federal probation office developed a public service announcement video that was aired on TV. It actually featured the mayor of St. Louis and four probationers, federal probationers, who spoke to the camera about their success. That was Mayor Francis Slay. I believe the video is still out there on the internet, a simple thing that had ramifications city-wide.

Leonard: That’s a great idea. Francina?

Francina: A couple of things come to mind. One is the Ban the Box Initiative that is really taking hold in a lot of jurisdictions. What Ban the Box means is that a lot of cities and some jurisdictions are taking off that question about have you ever been convicted of a felony from the application. It doesn’t mean that the question can’t be asked later. All offenders should be rehearsed and prepared to be able to respond very directly to that question. At the same time, it moves it further along in the process, in the hiring process, so they get their foot in the door. They get to show who they are. They get to talk about their skills and their abilities and what they bring to the table.

The other important thing, I think, is a good job match, to make sure that the kinds of employment opportunities that are out there fit not just the individual’s interests and skills but also the criminal record so that there’s nothing that would prohibit them through any kind of statutory requirements or licensure requirements that would prohibit them from seeking that kind of employment, making sure that there’s a good job match in the kind of work that the candidates are going for.

Leonard: Final minutes of the program. Go ahead.

Francina: Those are just a couple of things that help a little bit to reduce that barrier. We talked about the success stories, even employers and their testimonials, breakfast, an awards breakfast for employers who have been successful in hiring and retaining individuals who have criminal record and telling their stories. All of these are ways that we start to mitigate that big barrier of having a criminal record.

Leonard: Okay. We also have tax credits and the bonding program, correct?

Francina: Absolutely.

Leonard: There are direct incentives for employers. Okay, final minute of the program. Bottom line behind all of this is that this is not an academic discussion, this is a public safety issue. This is a matter of putting people who are caught up in the criminal justice system into jobs, becoming taxpayers, not tax burdens, supporting their kids. Much rests upon this, correct?

Francina: Absolutely. We know that employment actually stabilizes people. If a person is in the community and he has employment or she has employment, they’re able to take care of their families. They’re able to pay their fines. They’re able to pay their taxes. They’re able to find housing. For any of us, employment really is a stabilizing factor in our lives so we are talking about public safety when we’re talking about employment.

Leonard: Our research shows that they do much better under supervision if they are employed. John, do you have any final wrap-up words, thirty seconds worth?

John: It’s not only the offenders that are being assisted but it’s their families. Many, as you know, a high percentage of the people coming out of prison that are on probation and parole have family members. If we can help them get back to work, their families will do better as well.

Leonard: It’s a fascinating conversation. Ladies and gentlemen, by our microphones today, via Skype, John Rakis. He is a consultant through the National Institute of Corrections. He’s a workforce development expert. Also, we had Francina Carter, correctional program specialist, program manager of the Offender Workforce Development. The documents that we mentioned today are available at www.nicic.gov, www.nicic.gov. Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. We appreciate your comments. We even appreciate your criticisms. We want everybody to have yourselves a very pleasant day.

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What do victims of crime experience

DC Public Safety Radio

See the main page at http://media.csosa.gov

See the radio program at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2015/02/what-do-victims-of-crime-experience-nova/

Leonard Sipes: From the nation’s capital this is DC public safety. I’ve your host Leonard Sipes, ladies and gentlemen back at our microphones. Will Marling he is the executive director of the national organization for victim assistance www.trynova.org. The show title today ladies and gentlemen is what do victims of crime experience? Will, we were talking before we hit the record button one of the things that people do not understand, those of us in the criminal justice system we don’t have a clear understanding as to the victim experience.

Unless we’ve been through it ourselves we don’t have a clear understanding as to what victims of crime whether it be property crime or a violent crime what they experience correct or incorrect?

Will Marling: That is a common observation when and thanks for having me.

Leonard Sipes: Sure.

Will Marling: The realities that victims experience sometimes are fairly profound but what many times people don’t understand, they don’t comprehend is that they’re fairly organic and by that I mean when we are victimized which is a word to the can mean a lot of things to a lot of different people, when we’re victimized or when we’re harmed by another human being specifically there are actually biological reactions that happen within our brains in our bodies that just happen. We are not even cognizant of those. It would be like I was sitting on the deck with my wife last summer. We were  having coffee and these two birds that were flying chasing each other flew within inches of my head as they were flying.

I could not do anything but react very organically very naturally. It was all instinctive and so many times victims are responding and what we try to quantify in that is the understanding of trauma and the loss that causes trauma. That’s really where we try to look at this and say okay victimization is really about loss and loss results in trauma.

Leonard Sipes: Well we again before hitting the record button we were talking about change fundamental change that is occurring within the criminal justice system throughout the country the massive discussion that is now taking place on both sides of the political aisle where we and they are discussing who should go to prison, whether or not that person should be imprisoned, whether or not that person should be on community supervision, now all the discussion through the MacArthur foundation is switching over towards jails, do we use jails to their best possible potential?

Do we need to put as many people in jail as humanly possible? We have this discussion and it’s happening from a philosophical point of view and it’s happening from a limitation of government and best use of taxpayer dollars point of view.

I’m not hearing the victim brought up in all of this and so it strikes me that if I been burglarized or if I’ve been robbed or if I’ve gone through another sort of crime that discussion becomes academic. I simply want to be safe. I simply want the criminal justice system to act responsibly I understand that but I simply want to be safe. That drawls out some interesting juxtapositions on the part of victims of crime does it not?

Will Marling: It does the struggle many times is that folks who experience something like the harm that somebody brings on them whether that’s the loss of a valuable piece of property or the loss of physical function because you’re assaulted or the horrible things that occur like the child-abuse, sexual assault, homicide those have naturally occurring responses and are just as thinking as a human being, wait a minute. This isn’t right. This person should be held accountable. Many times there’s just an instinctive restitution dimension that we bring into that and I don’t mean that in the in some kind of official formal sense. I just mean justice or sense of rightness, says no wait a minute. A person should be held accountable. In many situations we would we would want them to repay and that’s the difficulty because the system itself is trying to address those and yet many victims would say if they’re not part of this process they would say the system really doesn’t necessarily serve my interest for doesn’t hear me and that’s why in the movement I’ve been in and and honored to be part of there’s been attempts over the past 30 years specifically and intentionally to get victims more involved in the process or to allow them should I should say to have a stronger voice like with victim impact statements in sentencing or victim notification of processes and procedures.

When you’re talking about some of these important discussions and I want to affirm that these important discussions about jail and incarceration overcrowding, I’ve been fortunate to be asked to participate in some of these conversations and in so doing I would still affirm that many people aren’t considering the victim’s perspective necessarily. They’re concerned about a lot of issues but not necessarily how the victims might contribute to solutions that we’re trying to address.

Leonard Sipes: Any member of the Gen. assembly at the state level, any member of the United States Congress is going to sit there and say to themselves, okay we’re talking about individuals that we ordinarily would put in jail and ordinarily we would put in prison and we’re talking about not doing that any longer and I think it’s inevitable because of the victim’s movement for the last 30-40 years, it’s inevitable for that member of the legislature whether it be state or federal to sit there and go well how does that impact the individual who’s been victimized? What does it do to them? Do they see this as justice? Do they see we within the criminal justice system taking their point of view into consideration or quite frankly are we making their circumstances as victims even more dangerous? All of that comes into it does it not?

Will Marling: All of that comes into it and that’s a conversation that we really do need to have. Sometimes the struggles of course with these conversations is that folks are very aligned with a perspective that they are tenaciously holding onto. I would suggest that there is more in agreement in many ways than in that we have a different permit. I sometimes try to describe this is let’s talk about what’s more at the center for all of us than what’s at the edges in this discussion. If we can have that kind of conversation and engagement, first of all legislators would find more sense and common sense and support from people who have been harmed than they realize. Many times when they engage folks they are catching a person at that worst possible moment when the emotional reactions are quite profound and intense but that typically doesn’t define that person fully.

It defines that moment of trauma and those things can come out in justice proceedings because that’s the focal point of the pressure. I’m looking for  “justice” in the justice system and it’s understandable that the expressions and reactions to that process are going to come out in court proceedings for instance or around a declaration at the end of the trial with sentencing.

What I say is the people I’ve met who’ve experienced harm  most of them are quite sensible people. If they were sensible before that experienced they’re still sensible but they’re just far more informed and that’s why it really can help for people within the system to understand how victimization in other words how trauma that is a result of loss is actually working itself out in the life of a person because if we can understand that better we can be more supportive of the individual. We can engage them in more effective ways and we can involve them in a process that at the core it centers on them or it should center on the. The system is really the state versus the perpetrator typically but we’ve become we become more sensitive to the fact that wait a minute that might be legally this case but we’re learning that the victim voice should be included in that.

Leonard Sipes: There are multiple stages the stages of grief that an individual victim of a crime goes through in the same way that any individual any human being goes through multiple stages of I’m not quite sure that word grief applies in every set of circumstances but they have to process it and in many ways it can become a profoundly meaningful experience and a profoundly negative experience in their lives especially if they feel that nobody is listening to them. The story that I’ve brought up multiple times in the past is a television producer moving into the city of Baltimore wants to be part of the Baltimore experience and bikes were stolen from that person’s garage and it happened a third time and boom they moved. Here was Baltimore city’s loss.  Here was a loss to a metropolitan area, a loss to that person in terms of engaging all the wonderful things that can happen as you will live in the city of Baltimore. Everybody was lost of that because of a property crime.

Now nobody’s suggesting a person go to prison for a property crime but at the same time that experience that those individuals went through, they told me it was a grief related process. It was fear, it was grief. They didn’t like the way the criminal justice system responded to them. They didn’t like the way that the police officer responded to them and they withdrew.

Will Marling: That’s right.

Leonard Sipes: That was a property crime.

Will Marling: Right, oh what a great example. You’ve got a lot of experience from your law enforcement days in interacting with people who suffer loss. We commonly talk about the loss of innocence. That is a very common theme among people who are victimized and experienced harm at the hands of others whether that be a property crime or something around physical violence and the like.

We we want to believe that the system is working or we want to believe the working in a society that cares or that law enforcement is supportive and then we discover it isn’t quite the way we thought. You weren’t far off in terms of grief because there’s a theme in our victim’s world that perpetration is about control power and control and what we’ve come to recognizes that we can’t always say that about every perpetrator. The guy who steals your car I mean who knows what his motives are. I really don’t know. There’s some crimes we say yeah it’s about power and control.

We typically see that in domestic violence for instance. The one thing we can say I think very consistently very confidently and that is every victimization victims experienced the loss of power and the loss of control and I suspect if we would interview the individual that the producer he is describing that, that sensation of I feel like I’m out of control here. I don’t have control in the situation. I’m going to take control translated, I’m moving. I’m moving to an area where I feel like I’m more in control or there are more resources available to me, more of a greater commitment to safety.

Leonard Sipes: It just strikes me again we talk about this in terms of a particular family but it is the community’s loss. It is a city’s loss. It is a loss of tax paid dollars. It is the loss of the joy of of living in a major metropolitan area and all the good things that go along with that so there are multiple losses to multiple people at multiple levels. It’s still for a “just a property crime.”

Will Marling: Yeah and it’s great that you’re really helping unpack some of the struggles that people have  and the tension that’s created when maybe law-enforcement and others respond and say well it was just a property crime. We’ll get your paint over the graffiti or whatever. Another thing you’re pointing out as you use the word grief is fair because a common reaction to loss is grief. Now people don’t necessarily think about it that way, apart from maybe homicide or some other things. a

A very intimate relationship that is broken divorce we grieve the loss of that relationship but in reality that is many times what people are going through and they don’t even realize it and of course society or others are telling  them well why are you grieving over the fact that had vandalism or stolen bikes? Well there’s a lot that could be behind that just like you’re describing.

Specific to that loss of that innocence that life people my society was one way and I’ve learned now that it is different.

Leonard Sipes: The bottom line in all of this Will is that do we really understand what happens to victims of crime? Does of the member of that legislator legislative body when he or she is trying to decide who goes to prison who goes to jail what compromises are we going to make because we do clearly understand that not everybody to go to jail. Not everybody to go to prison. There are limits and there are better ways on the part of some to operate the criminal justice system in a way that is fair, in a way that protects public safety, in a way that reduces the burden on taxpayers so all of those things are in play but when we are saying all of this and when we’re interacting with victims of crime as judges as police officers as parole and probation agents the bottom line question to me is do we really understand what happens to victims of crime? Do we really understand those dynamics?

Will Marling: That’s right and that’s a really great insight because we should not fear trying to understand what they’ve experienced. That doesn’t mean that we have to throw out the justice system or throw out rule of law or throw out due process. Quite frankly we’ve experienced the opposite and this kind comes back to the victims rights issue but you and I talked about the constitutional amendment issue the that we have been working to promote a new United States constitutional amendment for a number of years. Why? Because victims under the law should have standing. The accused has standing under the United States Constitution and all that is important particularly under  the Bill of Rights. The victims of the same crime for which that individual’s accused should have standing under the law to be able to have a place to speak to engage to act and those rights should be protected.

First they need to be inculcated first because you’re engaged on this issue that 33 of the 50 states have victims rights in their state constitutions. It’s a recognized value of among the states but still the consistency for that and then of course 17 states not having victims rights makes it very difficult not only in those states but if you’re in one state and you go across the border to a non-victims rights state, that complicates your life as well. We’ve just been affirming that. Understanding victims their needs their rights gives us a greater awareness of how we can respond in a fair and just and compassionate way to the needs of people who’ve been harmed by others.

Leonard Sipes: We’re more than halfway through the program. We’re talking today to Will Marling. He’s been by these microphones many times in the past. He is the executive director of the national organization for victim assistance www.trynova.org.

Going back to the constitutional amendment Will again the question is for the victims movement and for victims of crime the question was do we understand we in the criminal justice system society do we really understand what happens to victims of crime? What victims are essentially saying is that if I don’t have constitutional protections they’re coming to the conclusion that that they the states that do not have constitutional amendments or they members of Congress don’t understand what it is that we’re going through because we need a national constitutional an amendment to the United States Constitution to protect the victims of crime at the federal level.

We need it at the same time at the state level and I guess sometimes they’re simply saying we don’t have it because they don’t understand our experience and it’s part of that continuing discussion of do we really understand what happens to victims of crime?

Will Marling: That’s right you know that the Constitution and a rule of law society the issue becomes is it written down? Is it inculcated somewhere? We can say this is the right thing to do but until we say this is the right thing to do and put it in writing so to speak then it can’t be argued legally. It can be argued morally, ethically and so on but that the courts don’t argue from that standpoint. Specifically they open the law books.

They opened open up the precedential imperatives and say okay where does this particular thing stand? That’s why we contend that raising the profile of crime victims in this country through a constitutional amendment is a profound opportunity to emphasize justice and really to deal with even some of these other issues that the focus on over incarceration over criminalization actually could be helped in my view by a discussion about victimization because then the victims could talk about really where those issues lie with them rather than just passing laws that everybody says well that that’s a violation you get arrested you get charged you get sent to jail.

That’s really not effective and historically we’ve seen where those kinds of approaches and attitudes really aren’t necessary productive. There’s been this migration from tough on crime to right on crime to straight on crime and this stuff of stuff and all of those are our meaningful attempts in some ways I think. To focus on justice as I want to presume people have good intentions but at the heart of the question is who really suffers the most when it comes to crime? How do we address it? How do we promote safety and security in a fiscally responsible way in our society and really look at the core issues not caricatures not emotional reactions but really at the heart of it or what rights people should have who’ve suffered at the hands of another person.

Leonard Sipes: The issue with compassion and I think that that’s how victims see it but it goes all the way from the individual police officer, who first contacts them all the way up to Congress, all the way up to the highest levels of the federal government. I think that’s the way they see it. When I was a young police officer and I was out there I would have times where I would be running from call to call to call you but. That doesn’t give you an awful lot of time to meet human needs.

If it’s a property crime or if it’s a violent crime I need to get as much information as I possibly can to try to solve that crime, to pass it on to detectives and to process a crime scene. I really don’t have a lot of time to hold your hand ma’am and I think that is a realistic point of view an unfortunate point of view all at the same time. The police officer he or she can only do so much, yet that person has just going through something that will remain with them for the rest of their lives.

It is compassion. Do we build in compassion? Do we build an understanding all the way from the police officer to the prosecutor to the courts to the public defender to the entire criminal justice system? Understanding the victim experience becomes do we have sufficient compassion for that victims] experience and at the same time do we have built in the processes to be compassionate to that individual?

Now that’s a very complicated question. I hope it made sense.

Will Marling: It did and what I would want to say is actually there’s tremendous hope for engaging other people in ways that demonstrate compassion because you can be empathetic and that’s an ability to understand and feel what people are experiencing in some ways. Compassion work as it’s commonly called many times are people who actually get that intuitively instinctively. They look  at a person. They hear their story and they recognize okay I understand maybe what may be going on in a deep way. Compassionate self is an opportunity to demonstrate to another person that I’m hearing you and I’m supporting you and those things can be done on the front end very simply.

How many times a week have I taken a victim assistance call here at our office and we have a toll-free victim assistance number 800 TRYNOVA. I’ve probably taken 3500 to 4000 victim assistance calls myself in my tenure as executive director and the person says I called police. They wouldn’t take a report. That’s all they wanted. They didn’t want to hug from the officer. They didn’t want handholding. Most people understand that officers have a difficult job to do. What do they want out of that officer? They want them to listen to them and respond in a meaningful and professional way.

As I like to say law enforcement demonstrates a commitment to serious response when they do one of three things typically: they take out the pen to take report, they take out their handcuffs to make an arrest, or they took out their firearm to put down a very bad situation. At the very least when an officer pulls out his or her pen to take a police report they might not realize that that act right there is the beginning of demonstrating that I’m listening and I’m caring because I’m taking official action.

I’ve been on the street with officers, worked with law enforcement and it’s a real temptation to talk people out of doing paper because it’s work. Yeah it’s work but you don’t know why they want that and you don’t know why they need that. The fact is that that issue right there might be so powerful to being heard that it helps move them forward. Go ahead.

Leonard Sipes: It’s also the fact that we have built in certain mechanisms into the criminal justice system getting us back to the constitutional amendment but I want to be a lot more basic than that. We have victims advocates now. We have victim’s advocates here at the court services and offender supervision agency. We have victims’ advocates within the court systems. We have victim advocates’ in law enforcement. We have independent victims’ advocates. We have victims’ advocates for domestic violence. We have domestic victims’ advocates for rape and other sexual assaults. We have victims’ advocates for child related crimes so we now have people who are either paid or volunteer to provide that handholding all the way through the criminal justice system. Yes we do want the police officer to take the report. We do want the police officer to show some degree of compassion but we now have specialists who are in place to help that person through the system and solve their immediate needs.

Will Marling: Yeah I agree. Those victim advocates are really part of our family. We consider like ourselves a very tiny tip of a incredibly rich and deep iceberg of victim advocacy. The challenge we face though Len is that first of all we’re a land of jurisdictions and even how the advocates are placed where they serve can be quite varied from place to place.

Some advocates are placed in place departments and actually they might be nearly a first responder. Others are placed out of a prosecutor’s office so their engagement with a victim might be well down the path. That’s what we emphasize the fact that law-enforcement’s commitment to training and understanding how to engage somebody who’s been harmed is really paramount because they’re commonly the very first engagement with the justice system one way or another.

The people that I know that who are advocates are pound for pound the most incredible dedicated people there are and they do amazing work but within the justice system there are many opportunities to help victims be heard and move forward. I’d like to say that the best demonstration of this kind of thing is a three-legged stool where you have compassion, you have competence, and you have commitment.

The compassion really is the first thing that people see but if you only have compassion you don’t really have an opportunity to follow through with the skills necessary as an officer for instance to do an investigation or do the paperwork or an advocate to engage because there’s a  lot of skills associated with this. That compassion resource kind of wears thin to people. They’re like well he’s a nice guy, she’s a nice woman, but they didn’t really help me in this investigation and then of course you need the commitment to bring it all together.

I’ve seen some incredible officers law-enforcement individuals who really demonstrate those three things and it’s very common to see advocates that way but that’s really what we’re trying to promote here is that compassion is the very first thing people see. If you don’t give that communication to them that you’re wanting to hear, you’re wanting to understand even when you’re saying you’re going from call to call, it’s hard for them to get to the next step and say well I’m going to trust this individual to take my report in sometimes.

Leonard Sipes: It’s hard in terms of the fact that we depend upon victims of crime to cooperate with us within the criminal justice system in terms of the prosecutorial process and in terms of the remediation process. If they blow that relationships in the very beginning it makes all the rest of it that much more difficult to accomplish.

Will Marling: No question, like anything.

Leonard Sipes: Final minutes of the program, I do want to get on the training because of what we’re doing what the national organization for victim assistance has been doing for decades and what you’re currently doing for the Department of Defense is training individuals to deal with these issues at all levels not just at the individual level of dealing with that individual person who was has suffered through the criminal victimization but all the way up to the advocacy level. It’s a matter of structure to deal with these issues and training and that’s the heart and soul of what you guys have been doing over the course of the last couple decades correct?

Will Marling: Yeah at our core we’re all about training because again you’ve got compassion to have competence you have to competencies and those revolve around skills and training and refined experience and continuing education that enhance our ability to service people. Now just to clarify you’ve been a very supportive person for us at Nova.

Our engagement with the department offense specifically is a certification program because the department of defense has its own prescribed training as you can imagine, each of the services. We recognize that the value that the military is trying to bring to training in this area of advocacy is growing and we appreciate that. I obviously can’t speak for them but I can I cannot affirm that I appreciate the efforts that are being made there and so what we’re trying to continue to do is to speak and all kinds of training context.

We have a NOVA victim assistance Academy that we have developed because there are academies in many states and there’s also national victim assistance Academy through the office victims of crime but we’re really trying to fill voids that don’t exist in areas of training as well.

Leonard Sipes: We’re going to have wrap up. Will as always it’s been an enlightening experience. Every time I talk to you I learn something addition, something new in terms of all victims rights and what we within the criminal justice system need to understand about victims rights.

Ladies and gentlemen our guest today has been Will Marling. He is the executive director of the national organization for victim assistance www.try.trynova.org. Ladies and gentlemen this is DC public safety. We appreciate your comments. We even appreciate your criticisms and we want everybody to have themselves a very pleasant day.

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Pretrial in America

DC Public Safety Radio

See the main site at http://media.csosa.gov

See the radio program at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2015/12/pretrial-in-america/

Leonard: -From the Nation’s capital this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host Leonard Sipes. Pretrial in America ladies and gentlemen is our topic for today. Cliff Keenan the director of the pretrial services agency for the District of Columbia is a back at our microphones www.psa.gov. Cliff Keenan welcome back to DC Public Safety.

Cliff: Leonard, thank you for having me back.

Leonard: One of the reasons that we invited Cliff here today is to talk about pretrial in America. Though I think American United States there is an on-going discussion about reform in the criminal justice system. For those of you who follow the show last week we did a show with Pew about fundamental change in the criminal justice system. pretrial is a component of this on-going discussion in terms of fundamental change in criminal justice policy throughout the country.
We have a discussion at the pretrial level because a lot of people don’t quite understand why a person who was out there on a Tuesday night, and let’s say he is arrested for aggravated assault. He is released from jail either on personal recognizance or bail within a three-hour time period. Citizens are sitting back and going, “Wait a minute, I thought he was arrested. I thought he went to jail. Why is he back out on the street?” Cliff Keenan why is he back out in the street?

Cliff: Well, Leonard you bring up several different issues there, but let’s talk first about why is the person back out on the street. It is a fundamental principle of the American Criminal Justice System that everybody who is arrested is presumed innocent. That person’s liberty interest should not be denied simply because of the arrest.

Leonard: He wasn’t presumed innocent he was seen by a bunch of people beating up his brother in law with a beer bottle. It’s aggravated assault. He’s not presumed innocent. He was witnessed by lots of people possibly witnessed by the cops. Why is he presumed innocent?

Cliff: Well, presumed innocent is the term we use in the eyes of the law. I’m not saying the person didn’t do it, but I’m saying is that even though the officers may have had more than enough probable cause which is the basis for the arrests to be made, that person is still presumed innocent because until a judge or a jury makes a finding of guilt that person is entitled to all of the protections that go along with the presumption of innocence. That begins with setting appropriate conditions of release again. Appropriate conditions of release pending the person’s future court appearances. That determinations needs to be made not by the police officer, not by the prosecutor but by the judge who is going to be making an independent determination as to whether or not this person should be released, and if so under what conditions should that person be released.

Leonard: We really do adhere to the United States Constitution which provides a presumption of innocence until proven guilt. As far as the criminal justice system is concerned legally that person has not been convicted of anything he is being charged with something.

Cliff: Absolutely. Let me go back to the first thing that you referenced which was there seems to be changes taking place today in America. One of the changes is the whole notion of pretrial processes. That seems to be a current phenomenon in the eyes of many around the country, but actually this is something that goes back more than 50 years ago. In fact, Attorney General Bobby Kennedy back in May of 1964. I’m always astounded by this because this was within six months of his brother’s assassination. He convened here in Washington DC the first national conference on bail in criminal justice.
Let me read to you just two quotes. The first was on the opening ceremony of that conference here in DC. What Attorney General Bobby Kennedy said, “There is a special responsibility on all of us here. A special responsibility to represent those who cannot be here, those who are poor those who are unfortunate. The 1.5 million persons in the United States who are accused of a crime who haven’t been yet found guilty, who are yet unable to make bail and serve a time in prison prior to the time that their guilt has even been established. For these people, for those who cannot protect themselves, for those who are unfortunate we hear over the period of the next three days have a special responsibility.” He recognized back then how important the whole bail process was.
On the last day of the conference on May 29th of 1964. Attorney General Kennedy said the following, “What has been made clear today in the last two days is that our present attitudes toward bail are not only cruel, but really completely illogical. What has been demonstrated here is that usually only one factor determines whether a defendant stays in jail before he comes to trial. That factor is not guilty or innocence, it is not the nature of the crime, it is not the character of the defendant. That factor is simply money. How much money does that defendant have?”

Leonard: The interesting thing and I do want to get further along in the program and talk about the difference in the way that we conduct pretrial services here in the District of Columbia because your stats are astoundingly good. You have a whole organization devoted to the pretrial process. Before getting there and talking about what we do in DC and what we do throughout the rest of the country, it is a fact that the vast majority of people however since the attorney general made that announcement are released upon bail. Today, in 2015 we still have that status today. A person generally speaking is released upon their own personal recognizance, if I could ever say that word correctly or they’re released on bail. Today we still a system where how much you can afford to put up is dependent upon whether or not you were released.

Cliff: Well, let me tell you why it works that way today around the country, here in Washington DC and not in the federal system. That 1964 conference on bail convened by Attorney General Kennedy resulted in the passage of what was called the Bail Reform Act of 1966. Within two years of that conference congress was able to pass legislation that started to move the federal system as well as the local court system here in Washington DC because we are the Nation’s capital. At the time we were under congressional authority. Those laws began the change back in 1966. My agency the Pretrial Services Agency had a precursor agency called the DC Bail Agency which was created by an act of Congress in 1967.
We’ve been around for many, many years and over the years our system has changed and has moved dramatically away from the use of money bail or bond, commercial surety bond as a condition of release. Whereas, other states and other jurisdictions around the country have not kept up. That I believe is the marked difference between our jurisdiction and other jurisdictions.

Leonard: Am I correct in the stating that the vast majority of agencies throughout the United States right now still rely upon bail and still rely upon personal release? If you can prove that you are established in the community, that you own a home, that you have a family, that your flight risk is minimal, that’s the … That’s the basis for release today. Correct?
Cliff: In many jurisdictions but not in all jurisdictions. In many jurisdictions it’s still the case that if a person is arrested for a particular crime, say commercial burglary. There’s a bond schedule in that jurisdiction. Commercial burglary in this particular jurisdiction may carry a bond of $10,000 which means if the officer arrested the person for commercial burglary, that person has put up $10,000 otherwise that person stays in jail …

Leonard: Or they go to a bail bondsman who puts up approximately 10% of that.

Cliff: Correct.

Leonard: Or he puts up 10% and the bail agency puts up the other 90%.

Cliff: Well, no. The other 90% is not actually put up at all. That’s one of the problems with commercial surety, with bondsman. Many jurisdictions in fact, don’t require the bondsman to actually put up anything. It’s basically a promise or a guarantee that the person will come back and it’s up to the court if the person fails to show to then take action against the commercial …

Leonard: Whether or not it’s enforced. That’s a pretty sweet deal.

Cliff: Yes. Some jurisdictions have found themselves to be on the short end of receiving some of the receipts that they should have from the commercial bond industry because they are again are just not following up on those acts.

Leonard: Okay, but personal release and release by bail is not the least bit unusual in the United States today.

Cliff: Correct, but the reality is if you look at jail populations around the country estimates are between 60% and 70% of the jail populations are pretrial defendants who are unable to make the amount of bail which has been set as condition of release.

Leonard: No, that gets us back to criminal justice reform because what folks or on the conservative side are basically saying that you folks in the criminal justice system all of us need to be far more efficient, and it means to cost taxpayers less money. You’re spending way too much money and you’re not providing the right efficiencies. If 70% of that jail population is there, they are there on a pretrial basis. If there are lower level offenders, we all have heard the stories of people possession of marijuana, lower level crimes in jail for months until the trial comes along. Because they can’t afford to put up a small bail amount say $1,000 or $500. They languish in that jail and yet taxpayers are picking up the tab for keeping them every single day for the months that it takes. That seems to be wildly inefficient.

Cliff: Leonard you’re absolutely right. That’s why many jurisdictions around the country are starting to examine their pretrial justice systems. Because they realize not only is it inefficient, not only is it costly, but it’s also fundamentally unfair. Typically the persons who are not able to post their bond are people who are less affluent than the middle class. Typically they’re persons of color and this desperate impact that these setting of bail are having on some of those populations it’s just fundamentally unfair. That’s why I think many, many jurisdictions are starting to take renewed interest in trying to make some appropriate changes.
Let me also say this here in Washington DC our jail on any given day in this has been consistent for the last several years is operating at about 50% capacity. We don’t have people sitting in jail because of a money bond that they cannot make. Our system is one which is predicated upon people who are dangerous. A finding haven’t been made by a judge that a person is dangerous or a flight risk stays in jail because of that potential risk.

Leonard: I do want to examine that a little bit more. It’s just not DC but throughout the country. Those people where that judge feels that individual who has been charged with a crime is a dangerous individual is a clear and present danger to society, does pose a flight risk based upon what’s happened in the past. They still can keep that person regardless of the system.

Cliff: That’s absolutely correct. In fact, many jurisdictions do not allow the judicial officer to consider safety as a factor in setting conditions. New York for instance, in New York the only conditions that a judge can impose are in order to assure return to court. If a person is an extremely dangerous individual, what the judge will do is set a very high money bond $500,000 or $1 million in the hopes that the person doesn’t have the resources to in fact make that bond, and subsequently get out. Once again there you’re playing with potential risks to community safety because if a person has means and can actually post the bond amount, then there’s no guarantee of safety to the community or return to court guarantees.

Leonard: All right. Well, that’s surprising because I thought in every jurisdiction you could based upon dangerousness. In many jurisdictions throughout the country it is solely based upon the probability of that person returning for trial.

Cliff: Yes that’s absolutely correct.

Leonard: Okay. The bottom line assessment on the part of the Attorney General in 1966 Robert Kennedy, his assessment was those who have money get out and those who don’t have money stay in regardless as to your criminal justice status or guilt or innocence or anything else. It’s still principally predicated on whether or not you have the money to get out.
Cliff: Correct. That’s the way it continues to be to this day in the United States which is why I applaud the efforts that many jurisdictions in fact are undertaking. For instance, New Jersey. They had to pass a constitutional amendment to their state constitution in order to rectify their pretrial justice system. In New Jersey everybody was considered to be bailable. You need a robust preventive detention statute. Some mechanism which is going to protect the due process rights of the accused but also balancing that against the interest of society, the community, and that decision needing to be made by the judge. New Jersey, Pennsylvania, other states around the county. In fact, are looking at making constitutional changes to their state constitution in order to have a stronger statutory foundation in which to operate.

Leonard: We’re about halfway through the program I want to re-introduce our guests Cliff Keenan the director of the pretrial services agency for the District of Columbia. Www.psa.gov. Cliff is considered one of the top experts in the United States in pretrial services. There are a lot of organizations looking to reform a pretrial. Cliff throughout the United States. There’s a National Association of pretrial services or …

Cliff: That’s correct. There’s also an organization here in Washington DC called The pretrial Justice Institute. Anybody who is interested in either looking at historical material or the current state of affairs nationally could go to their website which is just www.pretrial.org. There is a wealth of information. One of the most I think compelling arguments recently is there is a fair amount of research which has been generated both through PJI as well as through the Arnold Foundation which finds that some of the negative collateral consequences associated with even brief periods of incarceration. As little as one two or three days can have on a person.
Think about it. If you’ve been arrested even though you’re presumed innocent but a judge has put a $1,000 bond on you and you can’t make it because you don’t have a $1,000 you know bondsman is going to underwrite a $1,000 bond because it’s not in their interest to do so. You may sit in jail for one two three days perhaps a week if you’re self-employed. You’re not generating any income, if you’re working in the service industry and you’re not showing up for work, you’re not going to be generating any income. If you’re a single parent responsible for watching your kids, housing issues, there are so many collateral consequences associated with even brief periods of detention that I don’t think America is really taking its responsibility to be fair, and to make sure that people who have been assessed as being a risk to the community, or a risk of returning to court are the ones who stay in jail.

Leonard: Well, let’s talk about those return rates. The District of Columbia does it differently from … I’m still going to say most of the organizations in the country. You’re a federal agency in the same way that court services and a federal supervision agency my agency is a federal agency. We have federal funding to do it properly. You have pretrial services agents who do take all individuals because in the District of Columbia the presumption is release. Unless there is a reason to hold the person beyond that, the presumption is release. The presumption is that if you’re charged with a crime, in the District of Columbia beyond dangerousness, or beyond flight risk, that means the great majority of people charged with crimes are going to be under your supervision. You have special units, you have GPS, you do immense about drug testing. You have the money and the structure and the wherewithal to supervise these individuals properly until they go to trial. Correct?

Cliff: That is correct.

Leonard: Most organizations don’t have the resources that you have is that also correct?

Cliff: That is correct, but I would defy any organization or agency or jurisdiction to point a finger at us here in Washington in the pretrial service agency saying we can’t do what you do because you’re a federal agency because you have so many resources. We actually looked at the basic services that a pretrial agency such as ours would actually cause the jurisdiction. There’s looking at the recommendation process in terms of making a recommendation to the judge at the initial hearing in order to help the judge decide whether or not the person is of re-appearing or not, or re-offending or not. We found that that along with the basic supervision to include GPS and some of the other supervision strategies, costs approximately $18 per day per defendant.
Now the current rate for housing a prisoner at the DC jail is about $205 per day. Once again you identified earlier we’re paying a lot of money in keeping people locked up. People who probably don’t need to be locked up to assure community safety or return to court. We’re spending that money without any regard to the negative collateral consequences that the person in his or her family may be subjected to. The flip side is for such a small fraction of that we could be doing what we’re doing here in DC. That’s the message that we’re hoping to get out nationally that there are ways of doing things in a smarter, more effective, more efficient way which are not going to be unfair or prejudicial or biased against one portion of our population as opposed to another.

Leonard: The statistics prove your point of view because the overwhelming majority of the individuals or in your case load do come to trial. The overwhelming majority of the individuals or in your case load are not involved in new criminal activity before that trial date. I’ve taken a look at your stats in the past. I have compared those statistics to National Statistics and your rate of return, and your rate of people who commit crimes before trial. Your data shows you to be phenominally successful.

Cliff: Well, again I agree with that …

Leonard: Is that a stretch or …

Cliff: No, no, no. I said I agree with that. The question is how does one define successful?

Leonard: Well, let’s talk about how we define successful.

Cliff: Let me give you some statistics. We have been tracking how many of our arrested population get released before a case disposition. For the last five years the average has been about 90% of the people who have been arrested by various law enforcement agencies here in DC end up being released at some point after their arrest prior to case disposition which is huge.

Leonard: That is huge 90% are released.

Cliff: Of those persons who are released and this is not just preach trials supervision but those who are also released on personal recognizance. We think is a good percentage of the population. Of all of those who have been released, about 89% on average for the last several years come back for all of their court appearances.

Leonard: All of them?

Cliff: Correct.

Leonard: 89%?

Cliff: Right.

Leonard: Multiple, multiple, multiple times return for trial?

Cliff: Correct. Now once again you have to look at definitions because we consider the first failure to appear even if it subsequently excused by the judge, is still a failure to appear. We’re looking to scrub that number to see how many people end up actually being responsible for willfully failing to appear. I think that number will be even smaller than it is that we’re currently looking at. The other statistic that we look at is how many persons remain arrest free while they’re on pretrial release. That number has been averaging about 88%. For the last several years roughly 88% of our released population do not get re-arrested for any offense. The reality is those persons who are re-arrested it’s typically for minor things. Somebody may have a possession of cocaine case pending, they pick up another possession of cocaine case. The persons who are re-arrested we find that less than 1% are rearrested for a violent crime. Which we think reflects the fact that …

Leonard: Less than 1% are re-arrested for a violent crime while under the supervision a pretrial services agency?

Cliff: Correct. Once again I think you know no pretrial function can guarantee success. We’re dealing with human beings and people are going to do what people will do.

Leonard: There are no guarantees in community supervision.

Cliff: Correct. We do the very best we can and I think that our statistics reflect as you said very successful results. I think that the stakeholders here in the DC Criminal Justice System including the judges in the courts as well as our law-enforcement partners as well as the prosecutors, the defense and even the community recognize our bail system, our pretrial system of doing justice as being a model that others around the country can learn from.

Leonard: That is true that’s no stretch to the imagination they consider people in re-trial look to your system the system that you run here in the District of Columbia as being a model agency. It’s not the public affairs person just blowing smoke. It really is … You are considered to be one of the best in the United States if not the best in the United States. People constantly refer back to what it is that you’re doing as something that other agencies should emulate throughout the country. Not necessarily on constitutional or philosophical grounds although how can you ignore that? How can you ignore the Constitution? How can you ignore the law? Based upon principally, your stats.

Cliff: Correct. Actually Leonard if I could urge your viewers who may not be familiar with the American bail system, if they get the opportunity, an individual John Oliver has a program on HBO which we call The Week in Review. About two months ago he did an entire segment on Bail in America. While it’s humorous It’s also sad because many, many people do not realize the implications that our reliance upon commercial bail, surety bail, if you will has on the average individual who ends up getting arrested. I think even though it’s humorous I think he puts a very appropriate perspective on how illogical as Attorney General Kennedy said, “Our system is if it comes to rely upon money.”
There are two countries that rely upon commercial surety bail to the same extent around the world. Two out of the entire world. The United States in the Philippines. No other countries utilize commercial bail the way we do here. It’s something which I think continues to need to be modified in order to make for a more fair system.

Leonard: But we touched upon this at the beginning of the program. Why this sense of allegiance to monetary bail? There is something philosophically … Something of this philosophically driven I think that where people are saying to themselves, “I know that he’s innocent before being proven guilty.” I understand that but in all probability he is guilty, and at least with the bail system or sometime in jail at least there’s some punishment for the crime that he’s committed. There’s got to be a reason as to why decade after decade, after decade we’re still principally reliant upon monetary bail, or personal release.

Cliff: Well you hit upon an interesting point because there is no way that a person or an individual who gets caught up in the criminal justice system in America should be punished prior to finding of guilt. In fact, in a Supreme Court case back in 1951 the court’s finding was that one of the purposes of bail is to ensure that again presumed innocent persons in fact, are not punished prior to that finding of guilt. Yeah that’s the reality. I think the use of commercial bail and bond schedules is a very easy way for systems a) Some of them rely upon that money to help support court costs. They use it as a revenue generator. Some jurisdictions consider to be An easy way to deal with many, many cases because the judge doesn’t need to make an individualized decision about this person’s flight risk or potential harm to the community.
Again, commercial burglary equals $10,000. Very quick, very simple. To be frank I think many judges abdicate their responsibility to uphold the constitution of the United States as well as their own state by imposing money bail because they can say should something happen if the person were to be released and did something wrong, they could say, “Hey I did what the statute or what our court rules require which was to impose this bond.” Again that shouldn’t be the function of the judge in setting these conditions of release. We shouldn’t do it the easy way, the most expedient way, the quickest way, we should do it in a way that preserves true American justice.

Leonard: It preserves the United States Constitution and at the same time it’s pragmatic because it costs taxpayers a lot less to keep a person on pretrial than in jail. That’s the efficiencies that many people throughout the country are calling for in a criminal justice system. You’ve been able to prove those efficiencies. The case seems to be made.

Cliff: I agree. I think that we are in a very good place here in Washington DC both because of our statutory framework as well as because of the resources that we the pretrial service agency are able to bring to the table. Most importantly I think it’s also because all of the actors especially the judges … they understand what their responsibility is in terms of administering pretrial justice and the way it’s supposed to be administered.

Leonard: Final minute of the program before we have to close Cliff. Is there something we’ve left out of this discussion? Again, so many people come to this program and there are newbies of some congress person, or mayor, or state senator as their aides to discover what the issues are in pretrial. That’s one of the reasons why we do these programs. Is there anything we left out of this discussion?

Cliff: No. I would just urge other jurisdictions to look at all of the reforms that are taking place either within their own jurisdiction or nearby jurisdictions. This is something which … and I chalk a lot of it up to former Attorney General Eric Holder who convened the second Bail Reform Conference just four years ago. I think as a result of that and the work of many of our leaders in the pretrial field, we’re seeing progress around the country and we would like to see it continue.

Leonard: Are we going to be moving towards more of a pretrial services agency in the District of Columbia style of bail and less of a reliance upon monetary bail?

Cliff: In other jurisdictions absolutely. New Jersey is kicking off their pretrial Service Agency program in 2017. We’ve been asked to speak to Pennsylvania, New Mexico, California, New York, any number of jurisdictions are starting to do exactly what we’ve been doing for the last 50 years.

Leonard: At our microphones today Cliff Keenan, the Director of the Pretrial Services Agency for the District of Columbia. Www.psa.gov. Ladies and gentlemen this is DC Public Safety. We appreciate your comments, we even appreciate your criticisms and we want everybody to have themselves a very pleasant day.

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