Fundamental Change Within the Criminal Justice System

DC Public Safety Radio

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See the radio show at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2014/07/fundamental-change-justice-system-adam-gelb-pew/

Leonard: From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. Ladies and gentleman, back at our microphone is Adam Gelb. Adam is the director of the Public Safety Performance Project at the Pew Charitable Trust, www.pewtrusts, with an S, T-R-U-S-T-S, .org/publicsafety. Adam and Pew, certainly one of the best organizations, if not the best, in terms of fundamental change within the criminal justice system, and that’s today’s show title, . Adam Gelb, welcome back to DC Public Safety.

Adam: It’s great to be with you again, Len.

Leonard: Adam, this is such an interesting topic because it is bubbling all throughout the United States, fundamental change within the criminal justice system. Pew has done a yeoman’s job in terms of working with a wide variety of state, and counties, and cities to try to analyze their criminal justice system and to come up with ways to protect public safety but do things differently, correct?

Adam: That’s right. Len, there are really two pieces of knowledge that have driven a lot of this over time. There’s a political dynamic that’s been afoot in the country for a long time that said we should just be tough on crime and lock as many people up for as long as possible, but the extent to which there are two pieces of information are driven. One is that the notion that if you kept prisons growing, then you would keep crime shrinking. If we just kept building more and more prisons and locking up more and more people for longer, then crime would fall.
The second has been that on an individual level if we kept offenders behind bars longer, they would be less likely to reoffend when they got out. Those are the two relationships that have underlay a lot of the policy in this area. It turns out both of them are not true, and that research that we have done on a national level and many other organizations have as well, but also at the state level, has really shown that those are in fact myths, that you can reduce crime and incarceration at the same time and that keeping most offenders in for long periods of time actually doesn’t do anything to reduce recidivism. It increased costs and it certainly increased punishment, and many offenders may be deserving of that, but longer lengths of stay do not equate to lower levels of recidivism.

Leonard: Go ahead, Adam.

Adam: We start to see these numbers in the states, and it’s been over five years now, Len, that states have been reducing crime and incarceration rates, that this ironclad relationship that a lot of people thought existed between rising imprisonment and falling crime is no longer the case. With respect to studies in individual states, when you compare similar offenders who have different lengths of stay, and make other changes, we see no evidence there either. These two fundamental pieces that are starting to crumble is what’s fueling a lot of the fundamental change in the justice system that you talk about.

Leonard: You’re talking about improving public safety. You’re talking about making people see for focusing on people who are truly dangerous doing “something else” with all the others. We’re not just talking about lessening the rate of incarceration. We’re just not talking about fewer people going to prison. Your fundamental message is not that. Your fundamental message is, we can protect public safety and at the same time use our resources to their best possible advantage.

Adam: That’s exactly right.

Leonard: Okay, but why? What started all this? What started this discussion about, “We don’t have to send everybody to prison, we don’t have to send everybody to prison for the length of time that we’ve done in the past”? Where did this conversation start and why did it start?

Adam: We really trace it back, Len, to Texas. You and I have talked about this a number of times, that in 2007 the Texas legislature, and Rick Perry was governor, just said no to the Corrections Department’s request to build another 14,000 to 17,000 prison beds over the coming five years. Now this is the state, Texas, that in 1987 had 50,000 people in prison and 20 years later had 150,000 people in prison, and were being asked in that legislative session to keep on that same path and to keep building. There’s an assumption out there I think, Len, that a lot of what’s happening in the criminal justice arena today and over the past few years has been driven by a need to save money and by budget concerns. There’s no question about that. You’d be naïve to think that that doesn’t play into it at all, but if you think back to 2006 when the plans in Texas were beginning to hatch and then into 2007, the economy was humming at that point.
In fact, Lehman Brothers didn’t collapse till the fall 0f 2008, and the economic downturn started at that point. You had a situation in Texas where leadership just said, “No, we’re not going to keep continuing on this path. Let’s find some more cost effective things to do,” even though they weren’t under the budget gun at the time. As you can imagine, Texas is the very symbol of law and order in this country. Nobody believes that if Texas is going to do something on criminal justice, it’s going to be soft on crime or soft on criminals. The fact that Texas did what it did in 2007 has resonated very loudly in capitals around the country and more than any other single thing I think has helped motivate this wave of reform that we’re seeing.

Leonard: In my discussions with my counterparts throughout the country, I think it’s justifiable to say that every governor in the United States has had a conversation with every Public Safety Secretary, Director of Corrections in the United States. The fundamental question is how can we bring down our expenditures, because in many states, Corrections is the second largest expenditure in their states? I’ve seen in some states it’s close to being the first or the largest expenditure, that every governor has had a conversation with every Public Safety Secretary basically saying, “How can we protect public safety and control the amount of money going into Corrections?” Is that right or wrong?

Adam: I can’t speak for all 50 states, but certainly there have been over 30 states now that have enacted some type of comprehensive reforms. Those conversations in those states have happened, and it’s this Texas example where not only did they not build those prisons, but they put hundreds of millions of dollars into various alternatives, the proverbial “something else” you mentioned a few minutes ago, various treatment and diversion options on both the front and the back end of the system, and the results they’ve gotten, which include a dramatic reduction in parole revocations, include now cumulative about three billion dollars in savings that they count from not having to build over what is now the past seven years, and most importantly, the crime rate in Texas falling right in tandem with the national average. Those kind of results speak loudly to governors and Corrections directors across the country.

Leonard: The conversation is just not Pew. I did want to point that out. I mean I love Pew, but I think Pew is truly the leader in this, but it’s the Department of Justice, it’s lots of other agencies at the national level who are joining together, the National Council of State Governments, American Probation and Parole Association, and many others are all coming together and pretty much basically saying that there’s no way that the Criminal Justice System can continue as it’s been, we can’t afford it, or they’re fundamentally opposed to it philosophically, but for whatever reason, this conversation has been going on since the recession. Pew certainly has been at the forefront of it. Explain to me and explain to the audience what that means. You go in and work with the states to analyze their systems. Take it from there.

Adam: Sure. I appreciate your kind words in pointing out the partnership that Pew does have with the Justice Department, Attorney General Lynch, Assistant Attorney General Karol Mason, and in particular, the Director of the Bureau of Justice Assistance, Denise O’Donnell. It really is an extraordinary public/private partnership. It’s not just that in name but that we really couldn’t be doing this kind of work and supporting the states in this way without the relative strengths that we have in our organizations and this partnership. What we do is have conversations with leadership in these states and assess the extent to which they are ready, willing, and able to tackle a comprehensive analysis of their system and then act on the findings. There have been, as we said a few minutes ago, more than two dozen, it’s really coming up on three dozen, states now that have raised their hands and said, “We want to do this process,” which we call justice reinvestment. Once they do that, the participating states then go through at least three phases of work. The first is an analysis of their system to identify what’s been driving the prison growth and where the Corrections systems in those states are and are not in alignment with evidence based practices. Once those things are ascertained, then you move to the second phase, which is policy development, saying, “Okay, we know where the problems are, the solutions, and what does the research tell us about what would be effective, and what does the evidence from other states that have done reforms tell us about what works and what doesn’t?”
Then we help facilitate consensus on a bipartisan interbranch working group that includes prosecutors and defense counsel as well as legislators and Corrections officials on a comprehensive package of reform. The last phase of course is to make sure that this is not a great report with wonderful recommendations based on evidence, and data, and research that then sits on a shelf. We do provide support to these working groups and to state leadership to help make sure that the recommendations cross the finish line in the legislature and are implemented.

Leonard: You mentioned it before. I want to hammer it home. Within the majority of the states that you’ve worked with, rates of incarceration have come down concurrently with crime decreasing. Am I right or wrong?

Adam: That’s correct. More than 30 states now in the past five years are seeing reductions in both crime and incarceration rates.

Leonard: That’s phenomenal, don’t you think, because, again, we have spent decades, if not longer, philosophically believing that the more people you lock up, the safer people are going to be?
Adam: That’s absolutely right. That’s one of those two myths we talked about up front. More than half of the states now are dispelling it. It’s a hugely important piece of the puzzle here. I can’t overstate it.

Leonard: I just want to refocus again that people who are truly violent, dangerous, we’re not talking about them. We’re talking about “everybody else.” People who pose a clear and present danger to the public safety, we’re not talking about doing anything else with them besides incarceration, but that leaves literally just lots of other people caught up in the Criminal Justice System that we can do alternatives, we can employ alternatives, and do something else with them. Do I have that right?

Adam: You do have that right, though the conversation is changing. If you look at what Texas did and the first few states that engaged in this process in 2007, 8, and 9, you would see fewer reforms and reforms that were mostly focused on slowing the revolving door, and particularly responding differently to violations of probation and parole, and making sure that the violations and violators are held accountable for those violations through various means, whether it’s curfew or community service or short jail stays, but not through revocation back to a $29,000 a year taxpayer funded prison cell, that there were more effective, less expensive ways to deal with violators.
If you look the last three years, and the comprehensive reform packages that have been passed in Mississippi, and in Utah, and in South Dakota, and Georgia, and North Carolina, these are much more comprehensive packages that look at the front end of the system and particularly at property offenders and drug offenders, and in many cases change those laws directly up front to say certain offenders who we have been sending to prison shouldn’t be going to prison at all in the first place. One of the most common reforms has been to change the felony theft threshold, which determines whether something is a misdemeanor or a felony and eligible for state prison.
A number of states have raised those thresholds and also changed the thresholds of drug quantities and the amount of drugs that trigger a felony level and penalties and prison exposure. As this has happened, I think it’s opened up the conversation. Len, you’re probably aware that there’s a group out there now called Cut50, and actually several groups, which now have as their outright objective to cut the prison population in half over the next several years. I don’t think you would have seen that back in 2007. I don’t think anybody would have bothered trying to make that suggestion. It may be a big stretch at this point, but enough people think that the problem is big enough and that the solutions are now exposed that we know what to do, that it’s a goal that’s worth talking about.

Leonard: We’re halfway through the program. Our guest today is Adam Gelb, the Director of the Public Safety Performance Project at the Pew Charitable Trust, www.pewtrusts, with an S, .org/publicsafety, www.pewtrusts.org/publicsafety. Again, as I said at the beginning of the program, I’ll say it now, Pew has certainly been a leader and some will suggest the leader in terms of fundamental change within the Criminal Justice System, which is the title of today’s program. Full disclosure, Adam and I both work with each other in the state of Maryland, and I’ll tell this story very quickly, Adam. I was sitting with Public Safety Secretary, Bishop Robinson, years ago, and I came to him in his office, and I sat down, and he goes, “Sipes, do you know how many people are violators of parole and probation from our intake population here in the state of Maryland?”
I said, “Mr. Secretary, I have no idea. I think it was 70%.” Then he looked at me rather sternly and said, “Do you mean to tell me all 70% of our intakes, all of these people, each and every one of them really needed to come off the street, really were a clear and present danger to public safety?” I said, “Well, Mr. Secretary, that’s probably a very good question.” We’ve gone from that very good question to actually operationalizing that concept, who do we take back into the prison system, and why, and under what circumstances, correct?

Adam: That’s absolutely right. This has been the biggest area of reform. As I mentioned, states have been at it for quite long. I wish we had national data on this. If we did, I suspect it would show that across the country the percent of prison admissions that are offenders from probation and parole being returned for technical violations has dropped, and I’d hope that it has dropped fairly substantially. This is the area of perhaps the strongest consensus around the country.

Leonard: The interesting part is that, you’re talking about justice reinvestment, and you’re talking about the idea of taking whatever savings states have and reinvest them back into either drug treatment or parole and probation so they can do a better job. All of this comes with agreement on people on both sides of the political spectrum, so now this is not just an issue that is driven by, if you will, the left. The people who are staunch conservatives are also behind this. They want to see a more efficient Criminal Justice System do a better job, and they feel that if they do a better job, and if they use research and best practices, it’s going to cost that state less. What they’re looking for is efficiency and a greater impact. You have all sides of the political spectrum supporting justice reinvestment or a fundamental change within the Criminal Justice System, correct?

Adam: That’s exactly right. I think this is where the influence of Texas is once again felt, and that is that the Texas Public Policy Foundation, which participated in the efforts back in 2005, 2007, that we’ve spoken of, has taken what happened in Texas on the road, if you will, and as a state based conservative think tank made connections with other leading conservatives who were starting to say supportive things about justice reform, being concerned about mandatory minimums, and the separation of powers, and some constitutional concerns there, as well as the overall size of Correction system, which as you know our report from Pew in early 2008 called 1 in 100 where we counted and documented that for the first time the nation’s total incarcerated population had reached 1 out of every 100 adults in this country being behind bars, that conservatives felt like that was not something that was consistent with principles of limited government and to the separate concept obviously from fiscal discipline.
You have now this organization called Right on Crime that that pulls together people like New Gingrich, and Grover Norquist, and Richard Viguerie, and Ken Cuccinelli, and others who for a variety of reasons and conservative principles that also include family preservation and of course at its core public safety are saying there are more effective, less expensive ways for the government to secure the public safety.

Leonard: One of the things I want you to do at this time, Adam, is to paint a picture as to where we could be, where we should be within the next five or ten years, but I do want to throw some caveats up here. I mean you’ve got over 30 states involved in this. It’s a national discussion. It seems to be picking up steam. We’re moving in the right direction. Let me throw a couple of roadblocks in the conversation. The numbers, sheer numbers, and the rates of incarceration, they’ve decreased but they haven’t decreased that much. There still seems I know in some states, there’s been a significant decrease, New York comes to mind, but the aggregate, the national numbers, if they’re coming down, they’re coming down very slowly, so people still seem to be vested in this concept of incarceration.
There still seems to be a sense of, “Okay, we need to change it, but let’s move very slowly. Let’s move very cautiously.” Am I right or wrong, and is that a roadblock? Is it going to take a long period of time to do this? Once we get beyond that, what happens five years, ten years down the road?

Adam: I think you’re right. This is tough to characterize because a few years ago, I think everybody thought that the prison population was going to defy the law of physics, everything that goes up must come down. Yet for 38 years in a row, the prison population went up. I don’t know of anybody you would have asked in 2005, 6, 7, “Are we going to see an actual decrease in the prison population or the incarceration rate,” I don’t think you would have many takers on that. The fact that we did go steadily up for nearly four decades, since the early 70s, and then actually level off and start to bend down is a see change in and of itself.
The 1 in 100 from 2007 actually became 1 in 110 at the end of 2013, and I think when the Justice Department releases the full census from the end of 2014, I think we’ll actually see it down another couple of notches, so a full 10% reduction in the nation’s total incarceration rate. That’s nothing to sneeze at. The question you’re asking about how long can we go is obviously a crystal ball kind of question I couldn’t answer, but I think the research supports that it could go a good bit lower without endangering public safety.

Leonard: Veterans courts, I just did a program on veterans courts with the National Institute of Corrections, and I don’t want to have a discussion about veterans courts, but that’s one example of diverting people out of the Criminal Justice System, drug courts, family courts, parole courts. The idea of not everybody needs to go back. There are other mechanisms to use instead of putting people in prison or putting people back in prison, reducing the sentences for individuals. We now have a case through the Federal Sentencing Commission that 8,000 individuals came out of the federal prison system, approximately 10% of their sentence early.
I think it averaged out to about two years. They’re leaving federal prisons, and I forget the total number, but I think it approaches 40,000. You have these efforts throughout the country to shorten sentences, to provide alternatives, not to send people automatically back to prison, and yet to hold individuals accountable with a Project Hope of Hawaii that’s now being replicated in two states through the Bureau of Justice Assistance, providing arrest and every time the person does something wrong, and for very short jail stays, one day, two days, three days, depending upon the circumstances. That seems to cut down on recidivism considerably and technical violations. Again, there’s all sorts of different ways of approaching this that I think is building towards a critical mass. I want you to define what that critical mass could be.

Adam: I wish I could, but you’re putting your finger on something that’s very important here, and it goes to that second myth I mentioned up front, which is the lack of relationship between length of stay and recidivism. Hawaii Hope, which was started by a former federal prosecutor, became a judge in state court in Hawaii, is maybe the ultimate example of that. People who were doing long stints are now recidivating less with just looking at a couple of days in jail. That kind of evidence is really starting to be produced and to make its way into policy makers’ hands.
Politically speaking then, that doesn’t automatically produce change, and there still are plenty of people who think that the best way to reduce crime is to lock up people and to keep them there as long as possible. I think a couple of things that are happening across the country right now do suggest that additional reform or deeper reform are going to become more difficult. One is the increase in the heroin problem. Second is the reported increase in murders in some cities across the country.

Leonard: Violent crime beyond murder, so we’re dealing with that issue as well.

Adam: Yes, no doubt. Now I think many of the commentators on this and mostly the people who have been asked to weigh in on why is this happening, why might we be seeing an increase in violent crime and murders in some cities across the country, most of them have pointed to factors that have nothing to do with the Corrections and sentencing systems or reforms. They’ve talked, in fact, about the increase in opioid addiction and heroin markets that have sprung up around that. They’ve talked about many other factors. Those who have talked about repeat offenders being responsible for this, and of course repeat offenders are contributor to crime, that’s why we have high revocation rates, but at the same time, it’s really important to note that the number of prison releases last year, 2014, were down 15% from their peak in 2008. It’s not as if the numbers support at all the notion that some kind of big increase in offender releases has any connection whatsoever to do with a rise in the actual crime rate.

Leonard: What we have to do, we within the Criminal Justice System, we have to struggle through all of these issues, whether they be policy, whether they be philosophical, whether they be crime related issues, but this is not something that’s going to go away. Fundamental change within the Criminal Justice System seems to be here, and I’m guessing that it will grow because, again, I’ll go back to veterans courts. I know I’m cherry picking, but you have a lot of people from the military, ex-military, and they end up in the Criminal Justice System. Some end up in prison, and yet within the military community, within the veterans community, they flood that person in terms of mentorship.
It’s just not the Criminal Justice System. I’ve never seen so many mentors come out of the woodwork to help an individual brother or sister in arms when they’ve made a mistake or committed a crime and they’re caught up in the Criminal Justice System. These sort of things seem to be inevitable. I’m not quite sure they’re going to stop. It’s just a matter of providing best practices and guiding them in a way that all people can agree upon.

Adam: I think that’s spot on, Len. Forty years ago, more than forty years ago now, when we started down this prison building path as a nation, we quite frankly didn’t know very much about what works to stop the revolving door. We didn’t have an evidence base of effective practices that would change offender behavior. Now we do. We know that if we use risk/needs assessments, we can figure out what levels to supervise people at and what programs to put them in and match them to appropriate treatments that will tackle their criminal risk factors. We know that if we use swift and certain sanctions, like in the Hawaii Hope program, that we can change their behavior through that kind of strategy as well.
We know that offering rewards for positive progress, not just sanctions when you mess up, can be a powerful motivator change, and many other building blocks of an effective Corrections system. The research base is there. No magic bullets, but when you do the things that the research says work, you can have a significant impact on recidivism, and policy makers are becoming more and more aware of that. That’s why I think you’re right that over time, there may be some political cycles and things that occur that feel like in the short term will be a drag on reform momentum, that this evidence base will continue to build, and as long as there are organizations and effective mechanisms for making sure the policy makers have access to that information, I think we’re going to see this issue continue to move in a smarter and more cost effective ways.

Leonard: We’ve been talking to Adam Gelb, always a fascinating conversation, Director of the Public Safety Performance Project at the Pew Charitable Trust, www.pewtrusts.org/publicsafety. 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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Successful Reentry Through Employment-Transcript

DC Public Safety Television

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

See the television show at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/video/2016/03/successful-reentry-through-employment/

Hi and welcome to D.C. Public Safety. I’m your host, Nancy Ware. Today’s show focuses on successful reentry through employment. Criminologists recognize that employment is crucial to successful reentry.

CSOSA understands that we have to do everything in our power to prompt employers to hire those we supervise. If you have questions or suggestions about CSOSA as a source for hiring, please call 202-220-5721 to talk to our employment specialists. We will post this number throughout the program.

To discuss this important issue, joining us today is the director of the D.C. Department of Employment Services, Deborah Carroll.

Director Carroll, welcome to Public Safety.

Thank you for having me.

First, I want to talk a little bit about your vision for the Department of Employment Services and the implications it has for those that we supervise, folks who are coming back from prison or who are under community supervision.

So my vision actually is to really build a system. Right now, the programs within the District of Columbia work within our silos and we do that fairly well, but in order for us to really an effective work force system we have to work closer together. That means reducing some of the duplication that happens across some of the agencies, making certain that businesses are aware of the services and the talent that we have in the District and communicating that better to the public. Then third, of course, making sure that folks have access to our services and systems. So what the means for CSOSA and the clients that you serve as well other returning citizens in the District is that being more accessible is going to be key to any success and ensuring that we have quality programs and services that can serve that.

One of the programs that we really found to be extremely helpful for our folks under supervision is Project Empowerment, but I know you have several other programs that you’re about to put in place that you’d like to share with our audience. I’d certainly like to hear more about them and the implications for the opportunities for those that we serve.

I’ll start with Project Empowerment. Project Empowerment is a program that’s been in place since 2002. The District has served more than 10,000 returning citizens and other hard-to-hire residents in the District. Typically these are individuals that have historically cycled on and off jobs and had difficulty retaining their jobs or because of their characteristics have had difficulty accessing employment.

What’s really important about this program is there’s a three week intensive that happens prior to putting anyone on a worksite. That three week intensive really focuses in on what those barriers are to the person being successful in employment. It helps them to deal with workplace related stress and how to handle that better. It focuses in on career pathways and understanding what their career goals are and really helps them to establish a roadmap to success.

It’s then followed by up to six months of work-related subsidized employment. We have a number of businesses that support returning citizens and others in the workplace. During that time period, that resident has an opportunity to demonstrate their skills while earning a wage at the same time.

What we have found historically is that programs like subsidized employment or programs that provide some kind of stipend tend to have better results in terms of longevity and completion rates in the program. I think what’s really critically important is that for residents that have trouble retaining jobs having a period of steady work experience that they can put on their resume is critically important and at the same time learning a skill in the work place.

So we’ve taken the successes of Project Empowerment and then tried to replicate certain other programs maybe from other populations or maybe even the same population but different variations of the same theme. My history is, of course, working with families and in analyzing the successes and the challenges around individuals that have children in particular is the problem with having steady work histories. When a business is trying to make a decision about a candidate, if they see someone with sporadic employment then a person that has good employment, obviously they’re going to pick the person that has a steady employment.

So during the time that I was working in that space, we really realized that  work experience is really critical. Also earning and learning at the same time is also critical because we found through our data analysis that residents sometimes will stop a program, whether it be educational program or other type of training program, because they need to support their families or they need to support their household.

We don’t want residents to have to be put in a decision of making a choice between getting their GED or a credential that can propel them to the middle class to having to find employment. So Project Empowerment and programs like that are the direction that we’re heading in.

One of the new programs that we’re working on is the Career Connections program. That program, in particular, is critically important because it’s part of our Safer Stronger D.C. initiative with the mayor. We’re doing that in particular. We’re targeting justice-involved youth aged 20 to 24 and specifically in the priority police service areas in the District. That’s going to be our priority group that we’re going to be focused on.

Through this investment, about $4.5 million was invested by the city, we are going to be working very closely with CSOSA as well as other organizations that serve justice-involved youth to really both identify youth and provide them with a suite of professional development services including programs similar to what Project Empowerment offers along with a period of work experience. Within that program, we will be providing incentives for those residents to also pursue their education. So we’re combining, again, some of the good things we know coming out of the Project Empowerment program and then marrying it up with a younger population that oftentimes needs education to help support them through their career path.

That population is, as you know, one of the areas that we really want to focus much more attention on in the District of Columbia because we have a number of programs. Some are youth employment, but they really need steady income so I think that those are real innovations that will help our city substantially, in particularly with this population.

I’m really excited about it because there are also other initiatives that we’re going to fold in to both Project Empowerment and the Career Connections program. That’s, of course, the Tech-Hire Initiative.

The Tech-Hire Initiative is an initiative through partnership, again, with CSOSA and other organizations we’ll be working with youth and teaching them the skills that will help them to build a pathway in the IT industry. Many youth now are very tech savvy. They oftentimes have cell phones. They use the internet. Those are skills that they already have. We want to be able to introduce the concepts of A+ certification and network administration along with maybe cyber security and ethical hacking. All of those programs have certifications where a person can complete them, demonstrate their work experience, and have the potential to earn a living wage and definitely move into a pathway of the middle class.

That’s great because I know that the whole field of IT and technology is an open field. If we can get some of our folks involved in that and learning at a young age and building on the skills that they already have and the knowledge that they already have, that would be substantial.

Yeah, I think that the work force development industry is changing. It’s changing in a good way, in the sense that it’s now understanding better what businesses need. It’s also projecting what we need for the future and of course, IT is one area that the United States as a whole needs better expertise in and there’s no reason why our friends coming out of CSOSA’s program or any of our other programs shouldn’t be a part of that.

The other thing is that people usually learn better when they’re doing. There’s been this myth, I think, that long-term unemployed residents don’t have the skills to be successful in the work place. I can tell you now just from my short experience with DOES and some of the youth that I’ve seen coming through the programs and the people that I’ve encountered that’s the furthest thing from the truth. It’s our job to make sure that we profile them to the public and to businesses in a way that shows that they can actually be successful and build better relationships with business and have different support mechanisms in place that allow for businesses to thrive while they’re working with residents and helping them to be successful in the work place.

Again, these earn-and-learn opportunities I think is one way to do that. The other is expanding our on the job training resources, being able to provide support to businesses that hire residents, making sure that they’re aware of the work opportunity tax credits and other incentive programs that the IRS have provided to businesses that hire the harder to employ citizens in this country.

Are you finding that a lot of the businesses are taking advantage of those incentives?

There is a growing interest, I think, in the subsidized employment space. Borrowing what we’ve learned from summer youth employment this year and the success we’ve had in getting residents that are in that 22 to 24 year old range placed in jobs. We’re finding really a growing interest in that. In particular because that’s an age group where you have a certain level of maturity that allows them to be open to learning. What we’re finding is that they’re not squandering those opportunities. They’re coming to work on time. They’re doing the things that are necessary for them to be successful in the work place.

I think it’s exciting that you’re dispelling some of those myths about our young people and their interest in employment and their willingness to do what they need to do to maintain those jobs. A lot of times they do need a lot of help and coaching and those kinds of things. Are there any plans within DOES in terms of working with young people to make sure that they stay in those jobs?

So we’re making sure that we provide the supportive services in the program. I think what’s going to be unique about Career Connections and what we’re also changing in our Project Empowerment program is that follow-up after they’ve been employed. Our goal is to have them retain those jobs at least for a year because if they do that then typically they’re on their way to being able to really be successful in that job. So we’ve heard definitely from businesses that sometimes those first few months are the most difficult.

Then also looking at any gaps that are available in the system that we can add support. A good example is transportation. There are some areas of the city where transportation is more difficult depending on where you have to go to go to work or what time you have to be at work. A good example is construction and they start at five in the morning. If you have children, there’s no child care available or not as many child care slots available in places that open at five a.m. so what do you do in order to make sure that your children are taken care of. That’s just one example.

Those are important aspects of maintaining a job. Certainly our partnership with the Department of Employment Services offers another resource through CSOSA to support some of the work that you’re doing. We’re very excited to have you here in the city. Are there any other initiatives for older individuals in the District that you want to discuss?

One area that we are focusing on is looking at ways that we can expand the subsidized employment to older residents and really building the similar model that we have in both the Project Empowerment program as well as the youth program for our seniors and those 35 and up range. Those are things that we’re looking to leverage right now.

We have the LEAP Academy which again is focused on younger people but in our work that we see in the District we have a lot of talented residents that want to either get back into the work force or are looking to increase their employment. They may be underemployed. So we’re really being mindful of that as one of our areas of focus.

The other is our professionals that are looking for employment and having a different suite of services available for them. Most times they don’t stay unemployed for very long. We do have some though that have been maybe caring for family members that have been sick and have been out of the work force for a while and need to get back into the work force. Others that are looking for different career paths as they transition out of unemployment. We’re trying to develop a whole suite of services connected to them.

We’re excited about all of those opportunities. Surprisingly, we have every single one of those types of individuals so we’ll be taking advantage of everything that you have to offer. We look forward to working with you and letting us know how we can support the work that you’re doing here in the District of Columbia.

On that note, I’m going to wrap up our first segment. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s been my pleasure to talk to Deborah Carroll, the director of the D.C. Department of Employment Services. Stay with us for the next segment as we continue our discussion on employment and successful reentry with two new guests.

Thank you so much Director.

Hi and welcome back to D.C. Public Safety. I’m your host Nancy Ware. We’re continuing our conversation on successful reentry through employment in the second segment with two employers who have hired people under the supervision the Court Services and Offenders Supervision Agency.

My guests for this segment are Marianne Ali, director of training D.C. Central Kitchen, and Omar McIntosh, CEO of Perennial Construction.

Marianne and Omar, welcome to D.C. Public Safety.

Thank you.

Thank you.

I’d like to start this segment off just asking you to tell us a little bit about what you do and then we’ll talk a little bit about the work that you do with our clients. So why don’t I start off with you Marianne?

Sure, Nancy. Thank you. My name’s Marianne Ali, and I’m the Director of Culinary Job Training for D.C. Central Kitchen. We run four culinary job training programs at the Kitchen, three at another location working with a local partner. We work with a lot of returning citizens, and we have a longstanding relationship with CSOSA that I’m really excited to talk about.

I can’t wait because you all have done an outstanding job in working with some of our clients.

Mr. McIntosh?

Thank you. Perennial Construction is a Washington D.C.-based commercial general contractor. We also have self-performed capabilities in structure repair and restoration and commercial demolition. We have had a great relationship with CSOSA and hired up to about 50 individuals over the last year and a half in our self-performed crews.

Excellent. I think it’s really important to talk a little bit about how long you’ve been hiring men and women under supervision and what your experiences have been. I’d like to hear a little bit about some of the challenges that you’ve faced and some of the success stories. I’ll start of this time with you Leo.

Certainly. I think that we started in early ’14, we had a labor need on a project. I went to my community resources and I met Mr. Tony Lewis with Project Empowerment. Through Tony we had a table of about 12 eager individuals, and I think that we hired every one of them for a specific project. Of that crew, I think four are still with us to this day. One has risen to the ranks for foreman. He’s a crew leader right now on a project in Washington D.C. So we’ve had great success. Our crew is led by three individuals who we all found through CSOSA and Project Empowerment. We also have a great network now to go back to CSOSA and vet and train new employees.

Excellent. And Marianne?

D.C. Central Kitchens has been in existence for 25 years. Since its inception, we have always worked with returning citizens. I think that our relationship with CSOSA has been at least 15 years of my tenure that we’ve worked closely with you all.

The organization itself has about 140 employees and 42% of those employees are graduates of our culinary job training program. About 50% of those folks are directly from CSOSA so we are excited about that.

Great. We are excited too obviously.

Some of the challenges that you’ve faced, if any, that you can share with our audience?

You know Nancy, when you think about culinary job training or culinary you think about food but our approach is we can teach folks how to cook but we really understand the challenges that our folks come in to us with. So we address each and every, well the majority of those challenges. We start off every morning with a self-empowerment group that has absolutely nothing to do with cooking at all but everything to do with changing your thinking and your behavior. That group is really, really helpful. At our graduations, folks are always talking about cooking was fine but this is what really helped me.

We also offer a transition group that’s specifically for folks that have just come home in the last year and a half and have those challenges, having to balance their time, reunifying with their family, child support, to really sort of help them navigate through those challenges successfully. Because those are the kind of things that people get tripped up on and we want to make sure that we help them manage that in a way that they don’t go back, that they don’t recidivate.

We also have a women’s group, gender specific that talks about challenges with being under supervision, sometimes it’s getting your children back and those kind of things. So we look for every area that there may be a need for that support and we just infuse it into what we do on a normal everyday.

That’s so important too because you know how hard it is a lot of times for the folks that come under supervision, particularly if they’ve been incarcerated for a period of time, to reintegrate successfully and to navigate, quite frankly, the community again.

Leo, can you talk a little bit about challenges that you might have seen? The folks that you’ve worked with?

Sure. I think in construction a lot of our success is based on our ability to react. When a client calls or has a need, we have to respond in a timely manner, we have to perform in a timely manner. So when it comes to our CSOSA hires it’s been about getting to work. That’s the first challenge. So employees who haven’t been working gainfully for years or weeks at a time, the cost. There’s a Metro card that has to be purchased and it has to take about two weeks before they get their first paycheck.

We have gone above and beyond our requirements by providing Metro cards. I keep smartcards. I keep them reloaded at all times in my office. We hand them out to new employees and they give them back to me on their first payday. I shake their hand and we exchange the paycheck for the card. It sounds simple but it’s necessary. We’ve had instances where individuals couldn’t get to work and you can imagine if you’ve been away from society for ten years, the concept of the metro, the taxi cab, or the bus is a little far out of reach. We’ve stepped in where there weren’t answers to provide those solutions. Yes it causes us to have a little higher margin on our work but hopefully our clients respect our work and will pay for those services.

Absolutely. I think it’s incredible that both of you all have taken the time to consider those issues and to try to address them like you have. Are there any incentives to hiring men and women who’ve been under supervision or who are coming back to society from incarceration?

Absolutely. We’re aware of many federal and local programs, even the tax abatement programs are available to us, but more importantly there’s a labor need in the city. There’s lots and lots of work in construction, infrastructure, industrial side, and we’re focusing very sharply on those areas. Where there’s a need, we’re trying to fill it. We’re trying to get our folks to work as soon as possible. There are programs. There are benefits. But more importantly there’s a need and a need to develop these individuals, all individuals with a positive attitude that want to work hard.

Excellent. Marianne?

Sure. Our approach is to work with our employers on the tax incentives. We have a huge employer base that we try to get involved into working with our students, our graduates.

One of the things that really is a consideration I suppose when you’re working with folks under our supervision are their criminal history and how difficult it is for them actually to get opportunities. What advice could you give to someone who’s reentering Washington D.C. or who is under supervision but has a criminal history in terms of seeking employment?

We advise our graduates to be honest but we also advise them to talk about what they are doing now, what they have done since they’ve come home, that they’re honest, that they’re eager to work, they have a great attitude. Nancy, we’ve had chefs come into the kitchen on a regular basis and the number one question and answer that we ask those chefs, “What do you look for?” And they’re looking for somebody, they’re not looking for somebody with a bunch of skills, they’re looking for somebody who is eager and has a great attitude.

That’s the critical piece right there.

I can’t emphasize this enough. I’ve hired pretty much every individual on our crew directly. I’ve spoken to them at length about what our expectations are, expectations of our clients, and expectations of their peers. I’ll tell you that we’ve had tremendous success because they respect their peers and they work together. Now that we’ve had two years working together as a field performance crew, there is a natural pecking order, and it’s seeming to work out for us at this point. So the attitude is a tremendous part of the hiring requirement. Not so much in your past but where you’re headed and how hard you’re willing to work getting there.

So critical. One of the things that we’d like to encourage more employers to do is consider this population. As an employer looking for someone, how would you encourage other employers like yourselves to consider this population? What kinds of things would you ask them to make consideration of for this hiring process as an employer?

I would say expectations need to change. I say that because a lot of employers expect you to walk in learning how to use the full suite of Microsoft tools and you’ve got a cell phone and you’ve got money in the pocket to get to work and get home. Those are not real expectations. I think that there’s a very, very large capable workforce that is serving time or under supervision right now. I would tell you that if your expectation is you’re going to help people be gainfully employed, build careers not just jobs, and have a long term sustainable career whether it’s with me or someone else that is what the expectation needs to be. From there, the rest is pretty easy.

That’s fabulous.

The way we do it at the Kitchen, Nancy, it’s a 14-week program. Our students are with for seven weeks and then they go on four weeks into an internship, then they come back to us for the last three weeks. We engage our potential employers to come to the Kitchen and be a part of the actual process, the training process. We hand pick our internship sites. We want to know that those chefs have been to the Kitchen, who understand our population, who want to give back, and want to work to help develop our students into great employees.

Both of you are extremely successful. I’ve been to your graduation Marianne and it’s so exciting to see the chefs come in, all the people that support the D.C. Central Kitchen. To just expose our folks who are under supervision to that is just incredible for their self esteem.

For you Leo, you’ve just got a number of projects in this city that you’re already involved in that you can tell our audience a little bit about if you’d like.

Out of respect for my clients, we don’t disclose most of our project sites but we do have several commercial sites under demolition and construction. Some in the Dupont Circle area and the downtown central business district as well. Our crews have traveled as far as Rock Hills, South Carolina working for public utility clients and as far north as Baltimore, Maryland on infrastructure projects. So we are very busy. We look to stay very busy and hopefully look to find a home for people in the communities we work in.

Excellent. Marianne, for you you’re working with many of the chefs, very important chefs, all around the city and the country quite frankly. You want to talk a little bit about some of those networks?

Of course there’s Jose Andres who’s a very good friend of the Kitchen, who also supports us on multiple levels. The students are exposed, for example, we just had our annual fundraiser and there were chefs there who are battling chefs competing and the students get to meet those chefs and work with, for example, Tyson’s came in. They came down to the kitchen, and the chef worked with the students. So they’re exposed on a regular basis. It’s really to get them comfortable in talking and understanding that those folks give their time because they want for you to end up working alongside them.

It has to be very encouraging and really an opportunity for you to feel that you’re giving back to the city when you’re hiring these men and women and also to watch their self esteem grow. Do you want to comment a little bit on some of the things that you’ve seen with the folks that you’ve worked with?

At the end of the program, we have a brunch that graduation morning. It’s a more intimate setting with the graduates and the staff. I’ve heard some incredible things. I’ve heard people say that they never have finished anything but a prison and now, “I’m graduating and I have a job. I’ll be able to give back to my community and come back to D.C. Central Kitchen and give back to D.C. Central Kitchen.” Women who have been able to get their children back doing the training program. It’s just incredible stories when you see folks the first day that come in and they’re sort of slouched over like this, and at the end of the program, their head is high, their eyes are open, and their shoulders are back. I can’t tell you the feeling that we get.

I’ve watched them. Omar, you’re going to end us.

I’ll tell you these stories are a labor of love but watching the progress and the levels of progress from earning your first paycheck to training a work crew to learning how to use tools and skills has been excellent.

I appreciate both of you joining us and sharing your experience and most importantly, being willing to open your heart and your businesses to this population who are very much in need of it.

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s been my pleasure to talk to Marianne Ali and Omar McIntosh. Again, if you have questions or suggestions about using CSOSA as a source for hiring please call 202-220-5721 to talk to our employment specialists. Thank you for watching today’s show. Please watch us next time. We explore another important topic in today’s criminal justice system. Have a great day.

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Domestic Violence in Washington, DC, Superior Court

Domestic Violence in Washington, DC, Superior Court

DC Public Safety Radio

http://media.csosa.gov

Radio show at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2014/09/domestic-violence-washington-dc-superior-court/

LEONARD SIPES: From the Nation’s capital this is DC Public Safety. I am your host Leonard Sips. Ladies and gentleman today’s show is on Domestic Violence it’s a hot topic in the news. We wanted to explore what is happening here in the nation’s capital. We have three principals sitting before our microphones today. Jose Lopez is a Judge he is the Judge, the presiding Judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, the Superior Courts Domestic Violence Unit a position that he has for several years now. We have William Agosto he is the Director of the Superior Courts Domestic Violence Unit which means he supervises all staff within the unit and we have Natalia Otero, she is with DC Safe and Advocacy group, one of the partners in the two Domestic Violence Intake Centers and we want to thank you all for being here. Judge Lopez, William Agosto, Natalia Otero welcome to DC Public Safety.

JOSE LOPEZ: Pleased to be here.

WILLIAM AGOSTO: I’m pleased to be here.

LEONARD SIPES: Alright, I’m really happy for you gentlemen and Natalia for you to be here today because you know domestic violence is a hot topic in the news, it is something that is of extreme concern but before we get into the gist of the show Judge Lopez just give me a sense of the Domestic Violence Court within the Superior Court here in the District of Columbia.

JOSE LOPEZ: Well it’s a specialized unit with four judge’s handling cases. The civil, restraining orders and the criminal cases and we have fantastic staff, well organized and we do about five thousand criminal civil restraining order cases a year and about three thousand criminal cases a year.

LEONARD SIPES: Five thousand restraining orders and three thousand criminal cases that is eight thousand cases in one city for domestic violence and those are just the cases that are reported to law enforcement.

JOSE LOPEZ: That is correct. I mean the DC police department gets about 90 calls a day for domestic violence.

LEONARD SIPES: 90 calls a day that is an amazing amount of calls.

JOSE LOPEZ: It’s tremendous.

LEONARD SIPES: So domestic violence is an issue here for us within the District of Columbia.

JOSE LOPEZ: It is a big issue.

LEONARD SIPES: Alright and you have been presiding over this court for how long Judge Lopez?

JOSE LOPEZ: It’s been about seven years.

LEONARD SIPES: That’s a long time and that has got to take its toll on you after hearing at this point thousands of cases.

JOSE LOPEZ: Well it doesn’t take a toll in a negative sense I guess it shows me the challenge that we are presented and the difficulty that we have with domestic violence and the need for further education of the community.

LEONARD SIPES: And this is one of the reasons why we are doing the program. William Agosto the director of the Superior Courts Domestic Violence Unit. Give me a sense William as to what it is that you do in terms of the Superior Court as as it pertains to domestic violence.

WILLIAM AGOSTO: In the DV Unit we process the cases. We create the calendars for the Judges. We schedule people to be able to get before the court and that happens when somebody comes in with an emergency request to see a Judge that same day and a couple of weeks later when they return to get an order that would last for an extended period of time.

LEONARD SIPES: So in terms of the protective orders your, it is up to you to handle the administrative structure to quickly get that protective order and that is a huge responsibility.

JOSE LOPEZ: Correct. It is one that we take very seriously.

LEONARD SIPES: So if that request for a protective order comes in at 4’o clock in the afternoon you guys have got to scramble to make sure that it happens.

WILLIAM AGOSTO: Yes sir.

LEONARD SIPES: Alright and that is an amazing responsibility.

LEONARD SIPES: Natalia Otero your DC Safe give me a sense as to what DC Safe does and your part in this partnership.

NATALIA OTERO: Yes of course DC Safe is the 24 hour crisis intervention agency here in the District of Columbia and we are charged with being available to domestic violence that person and to any first responder and to the court. We have a program that is called The Legality Assessment Program that allows us to try to find the percent of the population that is more at risk for homicide or re-assault and once we identify this percentage of the population we attempt to partner with government and non government agencies to provide expedited services so we go ride-alongs with the Metropolitan Police Department. We have a response line for people to call in. We are able to provide emergency assistance with the Courts with filing either emergency orders or civil protections orders. We attend Court every single day with clients. We are also able to actually house people within an hour of a violent incident and crisis shelter which is another important aspect of safety along with the court and the criminal justice piece of it.

LEONARD SIPES: You know it is so common throughout the United States to have domestic violence cases fall through the cracks and I am not being patronizing because you are sitting in front of me and because I am part of the DC Criminal Justice System but in the District of Columbia ordinarily and especially as it applies to the Superior Court again I am not simply being complementary, I want people out there to know that ordinarily the Superior Court does it well. It doesn’t matter what topic it is, whether its drug court other specialty courts, the domestic violence court it sounds as if between yourself, Judge Lopez and William and Natalia you have got it pretty much figured out in terms of how to process a massive number of domestic violence cases that come to the courts attention.

JOSE LOPEZ: We put significant emphasis on client’s service and we are constantly struggling to make sure that every case that comes in that door for an emergency order will be seen by a judge that very same day for safety reasons.

LEONARD SIPES: And that is important and that doesn’t happen throughout the rest of the country. So what we do in the District of Columbia we take for granted but I think we do set a bit of a standard for what is happening throughout the country in terms of Domestic Violence am I right or wrong William.

WILLIAM AGOSTO: You are correct particularly the development of partnerships that we have created with different stake holders in the community and other agencies making sure that we all work together to have a coordinated response to domestic violence.

LEONARD SIPES: Now I want to get into our personal perceptions on this just for a second. You know a lifetime ago when I was with the Maryland State Police I went to, well it was my first exposure to a domestic violence case, went to a domestic violence case and the woman opened the door and her head was twice its size. There was blood running down her. A neighbor had called and the victim insisted that we not take her husband, not remove her husband from that house and it was obvious battery and as far as I was concerned it was an aggravated assault with is a felony. I was so affected by that. I never saw my parents fight, let alone hit each other and I remembered that from hence forth every domestic violence case that I would ever go on and one of them involved a shooting, an attempted shooting. These are terrible tragic events in the lives of human beings. We say the words domestic violence and I am not quite sure it really carries the true impact as to how destructive this act is. So I just wanted, for three people who have been involved with the issue of domestic violence for years, and years, and years, give me Judge Lopez I am going to start off with you, how does it affect you after all these years on the bench.

JOSE LOPEZ: Well I have learned a lot about what domestic violence is and you know what those cases with the bloody head, those are minimal compared to those that you don’t see any blood and there is a lot of human suffering, there are a lot of destroyed families, there are a lot of depressed children and depressed family members and go out onto the street every day and just don’t have a solution to their problem. And like that lady who would not her husband arrested, we have the complexity that there is a certain attachment and its difficult for them to just get him out of the house or to have his arrested because they are interdependent with each other so that creates a greater complexity in those cases.

LEONARD SIPES: This is something that has an enormous impact not just on the victim but the victim’s family, the larger community. It is not unusual at all to have kids involved. William let me ask you the same question. You have been working this beat for quite some time do you every just get frustrated at the larger issue of why people batter other people.

WILLIAM AGOSTO: Of course it can be frustrating but we have to keep in mind domestic violence cases are crimes committed against a vulnerable individual. A crime is a crime. We need to make sure that we do not forget domestic violence is not a different action but we have to make sure that we look at them as crimes. That people don’t forget that. These individuals are related the act that is committed needs to be treated and handled as a crime.

LEONARD SIPES: Natalia okay you’re with DC Safe you specialize in domestic violence cases certainly you have an opinion on all of this.

NATALIA OTERO: Yes I think what is important really and I think something that Judge Lopez said kind of when you speak about this and that is in addition to the complexities to the relationship there is also a complexities and how many systems a victim may have to access in order to make herself safe and we have to be sure that we are keeping our word and like William said this is a crime ultimately and the important thing is to make sure that we have the appropriate multidisciplinary response to it because what happens when a victim reaches out and she finally is ready but the abuser might be knocking on her door the next day because he was released or it has to be dealt with on multiple levels not only through the courts but through the Criminal Justice System and to all organizations that provide supportive services and housing for these victims and the children.

LEONARD SIPES: But this is a process oftentimes and I am going to be stereotypical here but I believe it to be true, mostly male perpetrators against female victims although I do know that women can and do batter men, that this is something that’s ordinarily taken place over a course of months or years. This is something that she ordinarily has had to suffer through for a long time until the point where somebody actually calls the police whether it be a neighbor, whether it be a friend or whether it be herself. This is something that is filled with emotion a long term event and something that again, once again is really devastating not only to generally speaking the female victim but the kids involved and it is not unusual for kids to be involved. Natalia I am going to let you continue with that answer.

NATALIA OTERO: Yes I definitely think that that is something that feeds into the response that a victim has about their own abuse but also their own perception of risk and that is really important because we are not in the relationship and I think it is also kind of crucial to understand that there are factors there that are creating a situation where the victim is thinking that they need to, that they are mitigating the situation and a lot of times that has to do with not involving the police. We are acquiescing to certain things with you know keeping, maybe like walking on egg shells so to speak but they are mitigating their risk with their responses and sometimes the way that the mitigate the risk does not make sense to an outside person.

LEONARD SIPES: This is a very overwhelming event in the life of that victim. I mean this is something that is almost paralyzing people always ask me why doesn’t she leave. This is a very paralyzing event. There are kids involved, there are economics involved, th her own safety involved and so I want to take some of the pressure off a victims a tad to say that often at times again its paralyzing and generally speaking the female victim just doesn’t know what to do. Your honor did you want to take a crack at that?

JOSE LOPEZ: well that is just the most significant point of it all. The victim, especially the female victim usually is not so much that she doesn’t know what to do it is that she is juggling all these things and trying to balance the safety of herself, the economics of her situation, the safety of her children and she is making the best decision she can under those heavy duty emotional circumstances and it takes a very long time to finally get a clear head to say I must leave this relationship.

LEONARD SIPES: The bottom line and the question goes out to all three of you. The bottom line is that we want anybody who has any information about domestic violence to get involved in reporting it to law enforcement so then the Superior Court and any court throughout the United States can take appropriate action right. We desperately want people to report acts of domestic violence.

JOSE LOPEZ: Appropriate action is correct.

LEONARD SIPES: Okay I hear you, hear you loud and clear. Alright within the District of Columbia I complemented you all before. You have two Domestic Violence Intake Centers how do they work, what happens William?

WILLIAM AGOSTO: We have one at the Superior Court it is a conglomerate of agencies, Community Agencies and Government Agencies that provide services to the individual when they come to Court. Particularly those in intimate partner relationships and they get assistance with preparing their paper work, talking to the police, talking to the prosecutor, requesting support, they get services from the advocacy group that Ms. Otero belongs or they will conduct a lethality assessment try to determine how lightly this person is to eventually be harmed further by the respondent. We will also talk to them about safety planning, give them referrals for different agencies that provide either counseling, legal assistance, housing and lately some new partners have joined in who will help with doing a forensic medical examination getting some photographs and preparing the evidence for future hearing and another agencies working with victims that have problems of mental health when they come to visit us.

LEONARD SIPES: So you have specialists in all different areas whether it be forensic, mental health, assistance with child related issues, you have those specialists there to immediately provide assistance to the victim when he or she comes into the Domestic Violence Court.

JOSE LOPEZ: Yes.

LEONARD SIPES: That’s amazing; I mean, again most jurisdictions throughout the United States don’t have those resources and the process in the Court room do all cases go before a Judge or do all cases go to trial.

JOSE LOPEZ: No, not all cases go to trial. We have what is called attorney negotiators so when the parties come to court for the first time we attempt to negotiate a civil protection order by agreement and in many cases we will go into an agreement for a civil protection for 12 months. Some few cases will need to go to trial and the judges are prepared to take them to trial.

LEONARD SIPES: Okay, now the civil protection order says what to the perpetrator?

JOSE LOPEZ: Well the civil Protection Order which is in effect a restraining order it tells the perpetrator that you may not assault, threaten or harass or stalk the petitioner and you shall stay about from the petitioner at least 100 feet away from her home, work place and also if he needs drug treatment or any mental health treatment that also is in there. If in fact a shared residence we also say to him that he must vacate the residence for safety reasons.

LEONARD SIPES: Okay so there is mental health treatment involved, substance abuse treatment involved, we very specifically say what you can do and what you can’t do and those orders I think are supported by my agency Court Service and Offenders Supervision Agency as well as the Court itself.

JOSE LOPEZ: Yes your agency is extremely helpful in this respect because they monitor the compliance with a civil protection order which is one of the few jurisdictions that has that luxury and so they even have vocational training for some of the people that need it and if they don’t go to the mental health or the drug treatment CSOSA the Court Services Agency will inform us about it so we can bring the case to court to try to correct the issue.

LEONARD SIPES: And if necessary we can put that person on GPS monitoring and monitor that persons whereabouts 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and figure out whether or not he is violating that order.

JOSE LOPEZ: Correct.

LEONARD SIPES: And if he violates that order we immediately bring that case to the attention of the Court.

NATALIA OTERO: Right I think, oh sorry. There is another step that CSOSA is actually working on directly with DC Safe it is part of the lethality assessment project. Let’s say that a victim calls the police or somebody calls the police. The police comes out realizes that it’s a domestic case; they call us immediately we send somebody out to meet with the client and provide immediate services and lethality assessment. We then are providing information with the clients request to CSOSA and saying this is a high lethality case. They can then turn around and say o well that particular person is already under supervision and we have certain that then they can respond to so we are talking care of working with the client and providing those expedited services and they are on the other end dealing with the person that is supervising in terms of not only holding them accountable but also in some cases making them aware that they know and creating kind of an intervention plan for the perpetrator in the hope that that will create a broader safety net for the victim.

LEONARD SIPES: We are more than half way through the program Ladies and Gentleman. We are doing a program today on Domestic Violence here in the nation’s capital in Washington DC. We have three people before our microphones Judge Jose Lopez he is the presiding Judge at the Superior Courts Domestic Violence Unit. He has been there for seven years. William Agosto he is the Director of the Superior Courts Domestic Violence Unit which means he makes sure that all things happen at all times and we have Natalia Otero and she is with DC Safe and Advocacy Group that is one of the partners in the domestic violence program. If you are interested in the work of the Superior Court in the District of Columbia probably one of the better court systems in the United States and after 45 years in the criminal justice system I can think I can say that with authority www.dccourts.gov. We want to thank the Superior Court for setting up this program specifically Leah Gurowitz. Okay ladies and gentlemen where do we need to take this discussion now the civil protection order has been issued? We are talking about all the different agencies that are involved. We are talking about my agency Court Services and Offender Supervision Agencies, lots of other agencies. In essence what we are trying to do is provide a comprehensive resource for again I am being stereotypical here; men are victimized by domestic violence but generally speaking, its female victims. What we are trying to do is provide a comprehensive array of programs for the victim and for the perpetrator at the same time correct.

JOSE LOPEZ: Correct because one of the things that we need to do is to get that education to the perpetrator to avoid recidivism from the Domestic Violence Intervention Program, family training, parenting classes and so forth.

LEONARD SIPES: You know we have individuals within our community and in any community throughout the United States so it is not just an issue for Washington DC who feels that they have a perfect right to strike their victim, to strike either their child or their wife or their husband. That this is something, for whatever reason, I’m not going to say with cultural, I’m not going to say anything. I simply know that there are men who feel that they have the right to strike a woman and sometimes this is maybe the first time in their lives where they are facing authority figures who are saying you can’t do that and a lot of times there are drugs involved and a lot of times there is alcohol involved.

JOSE LOPEZ: Oh yes and it’s a generational thing, it is an educational thing. You know one generation after another generation educating each other that violence is correct, the violence upon the children and violence upon the women is correct and so it is extremely difficult to get that out of their head. That is destroying the family, not only the victim but also the perpetrator.

LEONARD SIPES: There is a lot of people suggesting that domestic violence or getting into child abuse and neglect is the heart and soul of many of the problems that we have within the criminal justice system if that nine-year-old is raised and sees him mother being beaten that almost leaves an indelible mark upon his psyche for the rest of his life.

JOSE LOPEZ: That becomes normal for that child.

LEONARD SIPES: Yes William did you want to.

WILLIAM AGOSTO: And it seems to all be rooted in the sense that this is different, that if you hit your partner it is different than you hit somebody on the street and culturally we must make sure that people understand an assault to one of your loved ones is as problematic and is as wrong as an assault to a stranger.

LEONARD SIPES: Absolutely, alright we have crime victim’s compensation program. We have the Court Supervised Visitation Center; these are all components of the Superior Court in terms of Domestic Violence. Tell me what those mean.

JOSE LOPEZ: The supervised Visitation Center is using those cases where parties share children and the victim would not feel safe having the respondent, the abuser come into their presence, either pick up the children at their home or a mutually agreed location. So the court provides a neutral location where the victim can drop off the children. The respondent can come by and see the children in the presence of a social worker for a few hours a week so that relationship between the child and the other parent continues or in cases where maybe it is not necessary to keep that parent from keeping the child with them. They can take the child but they can use that location for pick up and drop off of those children.

LEONARD SIPES: Alright and what is the other program the Crime Victims Compensation Program. There is the possibility that because they are a victim of a violent crime they can be compensated for some of the expenses they had going into that victimization correct?

JOSE LOPEZ: Often you have a victim of domestic violence by leaving a relationship they are going to leave behind their positions and their resources and other times there is also concern that the respondent is going to come back to the location where they know where they can be found. The Crime Victims Compensation program can provide temporary housing at locations that are confidential. The can provide assistance with medical expenses. They can provide assistance with counseling for the victim. They can also help with getting yourself set up in a new place eventually after you have gone through this process and for those that want to remain at their own home they may be able to help you, for example the door was broken down by the respondent. They may be able to replace that door; to make sure that you place is secure.

LEONARD SIPES: I realize that I may have over played my hand in terms of my praise of the Superior Courts Program because there are going to be people listening to this program throughout the United States and beyond the United States. These services in one way shape or form are available throughout the United States generally speaking, so I do the message to domestic violence victims in Utah, in Montana, in California is to still find out what is available to you by contacting your prosecutors office, contacting law enforcement or contacting your local domestic violence center. Natalia saying all that what is the biggest hurdle for getting victims to come forward and seek help.

NATALIA OTERO: Wow, I think obviously every case is different and I think both the Judge Lopez and William can vouch for the fact that they can be radically different because things might be going on. I think the biggest hurdle really is information and I really think coordination of services. We find that when the victim is provided immediate tangible assistance within the first 24 hours they are more likely to move forward with criminal cases. They are more likely to move forward with the protection order hearing because at least within those first 24 hours those tangible needs about shelter and safety are being met.

LEONARD SIPES: By, I’m sorry go ahead please.

NATALIA OTERO: I think the next big hurdle is then kind of thinking about how do I get myself in a stable situation in the aftermath of this. What does that mean for me? Am I now being connected to other agencies in the City like the Department of Housing or am I having, you know there is a lot of things that go into becoming stable and there is so many different government entities that are sometimes involved in this.

LEONARD SIPES: But the bottom line is a lot of people out there take a look at those of us in government and they don’t have the highest opinion of us. I have taken a look at some of the surveys and I think the point is, is that I think especially when it comes to victim services, especially when it comes to victim services, especially when it comes to domestic violence but in all other cases I would say but especially in these two cases we do care. There are people within DCC. There are people at the highest level within the Superior Courts. There are people at the highest level throughout this country who want women and those men who are victims but particularly women especially with children to come forward and they are going to receive a caring response, not a bureaucratic response, not a harsh response but they are going to be embraced by the Criminal Justice System. Judge Lopez.

JOSE LOPEZ: Oh yes and one of the things that we try very hard is training our judges, training our staff to understand it. To understand when an angry person comes to you don’t let it be contagious because they are not angry at you they are angry at their situation and we are prepared to deal with it and work with them and show them that we care.

LEONARD SIPES: Natalia we have got only about a minute left in the program. Again I would imagine the people there at DC Safe are not there to get rich, they are there because they are passionate about serving victims of domestic violence and victims of crime.

NATALIA OTERO: Yes that is correct. We are a non-profit agency and we have over 25 employees that are very committed to the work all from different fields, from law to criminal justice, to women studies and I think the most important thing that we are trying to accomplish really is to be able to create kind of an all encompassing safety net for victims and creating a situation where when a victim does reach out that they get the assistance that they need the first time around and that it is something that is coordinated and responsive to not only the needs of herself and the children but also the friend or accountability on the other piece and it takes an entire system of people and an entire continuum to be able to provide these services.

LEONARD SIPES: Okay Natalia you have got the final word. I think the bottom line between everybody in this room and you via Skype Natalia is that there is hope for that person who is being abused and the criminal justice system is really geared up to help that individual. So I want to thank everybody who has been on our microphones today, Judge Jose Lopez, William Agosto and Natalia Otero. Thank you all for being here ladies and gentlemen thank you for listening to us. This is DC Public Safety we want everybody to have themselves a very pleasant day.

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The Challenges of Justice Reinvestment-William Burrell

The Challenges of Justice Reinvestment-William Burrell

DC Public Safety Radio

http://media.csosa.gov

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LEONARD SIPES: Our guest –

BILL BURRELL: So this…. Go ahead.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LEONARD SIPES: Sure.

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

LEONARD SIPES: Right.

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

LEONARD SIPES: Right.

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

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

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

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

BILL BURRELL: Prison cost –

LEONARD SIPES: Yeah.

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

LEONARD SIPES: Yes.

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

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

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

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

 

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Fundamental Change in the Justice System-Adam Gelb-Pew

Fundamental Change in the Justice System-Adam Gelb-Pew

DC Public Safety Radio

Http://media.csosa.gov

Radio program at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2014/07/fundamental-change-justice-system-adam-gelb-pew/

LEONARD SIPES: From the nation’s capital this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host Leonard Sipes. Ladies and gentlemen, we got a treat for you today. Adam Gelb, the Director of the Pew Public Safety Performance Project. We’re going to be talking about fundamental change within the criminal justice system. I want to read briefly from Adam’s bio. Adam Gelb directs Pew’s Public Safety Performance Project, which helps states advance policies and practices in adult and juvenile sentencing and corrections that protect public safety, hold offenders accountable, and control correctional costs. As project lead, Adam oversees Pew’s assistance to states to seek a greater public safety return on their corrections spending. He also supervises a vigorous research portfolio that highlights strategies for reducing recidivism while cutting costs. Adam frequently speaks to the media about national trends and state innovations, that’s why we have Adam by our microphones.

And before we start the program, I think that Adam and Pew are probably the principle spokespeople for fundamental change within the criminal justice system in this country right now. There are a lot of groups out there that are doing wonderful things, Council of State Governments, Urban Institute, the US Department of Justice. Lots of organizations are really promoting a fundamental change within the criminal justice system. But it’s Adam and Pew that seems to get the press and Adam and Pew that seem to get the notice, thus making Adam probably in my opinion the principle spokesperson for fundamental change within the criminal justice system. Adam Gelb, welcome to DC Public Safety.

ADAM GELB: Thank you very much, Len. It’s great to be with you.

LEONARD SIPES: Do you disagree with me when I say that? Pew is on the forefront, Pew because it is Pew. It’s not government so you don’t have to be overly careful. Pew is out there leading fundamental change within the criminal justice system. Do you agree or disagree?

ADAM GELB: You are very kind and generous. We are not doing any of the things that we’re doing without the partnerships with the organizations that you mentioned.

LEONARD SIPES: Of course.

ADAM GELB: And it’s terrific to be part of what really now is a movement –

LEONARD SIPES: Right.

ADAM GELB: To fundamentally change the criminal justice system and I think we’re seeing that happen.

LEONARD SIPES: Len, we are almost upon the 20th anniversary of the Crime Bill signing, right, back in 1994?

ADAM GELB: Uh huh.

LEONARD SIPES: There was an historic landmark piece of legislation passed of more police – you remember the 100,000 police –?

ADAM GELB: Sure.

LEONARD SIPES: And Midnight basketball prevention?

ADAM GELB: But also 7.9 billion dollars that the federal government put out for states to increase their prison populations. And here we are 20 years later, a lot of prisons have built, right, we got to a point in 2008 where 1 out every 100 adults in this country was behind bars –

LEONARD SIPES: Right.

ADAM GELB: And 1 out of every 31 was on some form of correctional, under some form of correctional control. No doubt increased incarceration helped reduce the crime rate over this period and nobody –

LEONARD SIPES: And there’s been an almost continuous 20 year reduction in crime.

ADAM GELB: That’s right. And nobody really challenges the notion that increased incarceration helped achieve some of that crime reduction. But the best research on the question shows that about 30%, maybe a third of the crime drop, can be attributable to increased incarceration, the rest has come from other things, and also significant consensus now that we’re past the tipping point, where more and more incarceration is not the best way to reduce crime.

LEONARD SIPES: There’s bipartisan support now across the board in terms of both sides of the aisle, so the issue was not a Republican issue, it’s not a Democratic issue. There is really significant support from both sides. Every governor in this country has had a conversation with their state corrections administrator in terms of you got to control correctional cost. Criminological associations, organizations have basically said, we think that there’s a better fairer, more just, more productive, smarter way of conducting the criminal justice system, of doing business within the criminal justice system. And that in essence is the heart and soul of what Pew has tried to do, in bring a smarter, better databased approach to fundamental change.

ADAM GELB: That’s absolutely right. There is now consensus, broad political consensus on issues that used to be among the most divisive in American politics.

LEONARD SIPES: That’s right.

ADAM GELB: And just quickly think about this. Back in 1994 when the Crime Bill was being debated – I just want to us an example here of how things have changed – there was a young congressman named John Kasich from Ohio, who was one of the chief negotiators on the Crime Bill at the time, and there was a big debate in terms of the prison section of that bill about what the money would be used for, and the debate came down to two words. The two words were “and programs”. And the question was. Was all this money, the 7.9 billion dollars, going to be for facilities, bricks and mortar, or for facilities and programs? And the final bill ended up being all about bricks and mortar. Then Representative John Kasich and the Republican leadership had their way on that issue and the money turned out to be all for brick-and-mortar. Now flash-forward 20 years, John Kasich is the now the governor of Ohio, and, along with the Council of State Governments and the Justice Department and help from our project and the Justice reinvestment Initiative, that state has undertaken a very comprehensive set of reforms to try to make sure that prisons are for career and violent criminals and that lower level, nonviolent offenders are steered into more effective alternatives. Ohio has a long way to go, but the state has made some significant changes under the leadership of Governor Kasich, and he’s very proud of making that move. And so to see the contrast, were we were 20 years ago during the Crime Bill debate and where we are today is rather dramatic.

LEONARD SIPES: How many states are we talking about the Pew and allied organizations have worked with?

ADAM GELB: I’d say about 30 states.

LEONARD SIPES: It’s about 30 states. So it’s most of the states in the United States.

ADAM GELB: That’s how that –

LEONARD SIPES: Needless to say. Yes.

ADAM GELB: That’s how that works.

LEONARD SIPES: That’s how that works. And so but think about that, that’s significant. I mean when you started this whole thing it was really a lot of uncertainty. Now you have 30 states behind your belt. And these states are doing a data analysis, looking at every aspect of the criminal justice system, trying to figure out if there’s a way of doing it smarter through data, keeping the people who are at obvious risk to public safety, but doing quote, unquote “something else with everybody else”.

ADAM GELB: I think you’re putting finger on one of the keys to why we’re seeing as many states make as dramatic changes as they are, and that is because the justice reinvestment approach is based on data and research. There is not an imperative here through this initiative to get rid of mandatory minimums or to divert all first and second time drug offenders, which you may or may not have an opinion on, but that’s not the approach. The approach is on a state by state basis roll up your sleeves, dig into the data, see what it shows about what the specific drivers are of the prison population in that state. And as you can imagine over 30 states there’ve been all kinds of different particular policies, statutes that are driving the prison population. In one state, which happens to be state where you go to state prison for any offence that carries 90 days or more, one of the leading drivers of state prison beds was driving with a suspended license. And so when you take an approach that is based on data and research, and not on emotion and ideology, you can find some common ground and consensus.

LEONARD SIPES: Okay. One of the things we want to talk about  today are people coming out of the prison system unsupervised. Now, there’s been an increase per your research and per research from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, from the US Department of Justice, there is data that basically says that more people are coming out of the prison system unsupervised. My sense is, is that some people would say, “Well, so what?” What is the answer to “so what”?

ADAM GELB: Well, I’ll just say, overall the trend is in the right direction, right, as we’ve just been talking about, lots of states doing data analysis and identifying smarter ways to do sentencing corrections policy. This trend you just mentioned is a little bit of a counterweight to that, it’s a little bit of a wind blowing in the opposite direction, and that is that a large and increasing number of offenders are serving out their prison sentences to the very last day and then being released to the streets without supervision. Back in 1990 it was about 1 in 7, about 14% of offenders were coming out that way, maxing out without supervision, and we found, unfortunately, that up through 2012 that had now increased to about 1 in 5.

LEONARD SIPES: Right.

ADAM GELB: Actually 22% of offenders now being released without supervision.

LEONARD SIPES: Why the increase?

ADAM GELB: Yeah. So product of a number obviously of different states, of different policies in specific, but really at the end of the day a prevailing attitude or philosophy that the best way to reduce crime would be to lock up as many people and hold them for as long as possible. And so it’s decisions by legislatures, in terms of restricting discretion of parole boards and other releasing authorities on the back end, and then decisions by parole boards, that rather than put our names behind the release of a particular inmate, it’s safer for everybody to hold that inmate till the very end of his or her sentence. And so a combination of factors led to it. What we’re seeing now, and this is very encouraging, is several states realizing this does not make sense for public safety. It does not make sense to hold somebody to the very last day of their sentence and then release them to the streets with no supervision. This is somebody who, right, who would’ve been institutionalized in some cases for a number of years, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

LEONARD SIPES: Right.

ADAM GELB: And then expect to succeed –

LEONARD SIPES: Right.

ADAM GELB: When they get back home without any instruction, supervision –

LEONARD SIPES: One day they’re in prison, one day they’re on the street and –

ADAM GELB: Support –

LEONARD SIPES: Right.

ADAM GELB: Accountability or anything of the kind. And that if you’re serious about public safety the better thing to do is to make sure that there’s a period of supervision that’s carved out of that prison term. And we have about eight states in just the last couple years that have passed mandatory reentry supervision policies that essentially require inmates to be released before their sentence is expired to ensure there’s a period of transition and supervision.

LEONARD SIPES: Now, parole, historically parole has done a lot better than those people who are mandatorily released. They’ve done a lot better. There’s been up to a 20% difference. In most years it’s a 15% to 20% difference between those paroled. The discretionary release based upon a person doing well within the prison system, obeying the rules, engaging in program and coming up versus those people who are, that none of that happens, the person just maxes out, whether they’re supervised or unsupervised. Now, parole and supervision seems to have a positive effect based upon that data and that data alone.

ADAM GELB: Yeah. That’s right. And this is a tricky issue, because people who max out may be maxing out because they are misbehaving –

LEONARD SIPES: Right.

ADAM GELB: Behind the walls –

LEONARD SIPES: Right.

ADAM GELB: And they’re not completing programs or they’re assaulting guards, and in those cases, right, I think everybody sort of agrees, you want those people to spend more time behind bars –

LEONARD SIPES: Right.

ADAM GELB: Still. And this is the case in particular even for inmates who are in solitary confinement. We see corrections professionals and policymakers saying even those people you don’t want them to be released to the streets without supervision. What sense does that make either? And so most of the states are carving out a period of supervision to make sure that it’s there; a couple of states have said we want to tack on this supervision period at the end, of course that’s difficult because of the funding. And really I think, Len, at this point policymakers are starting to realize and the public certainly realizes, and our polling shows this, that it doesn’t really matter whether somebody gets out in June or July. People at this point understand we’re not going to build our way to public safety and that the most important thing is that the system does a better job reducing crime, right? We have 87%, 90% of voters will respond favorably when asked the question, “Does it matter to you more whether somebody spends a longer time behind bars or that whenever it is that they do get out that they’re supervised adequately so they don’t commit another crime.

LEONARD SIPES: But the bottom line is you want them supervised. So the research, your polling, criminologically speaking they’re better supervised. It’s better then – instead of one day in solitary, the next day on M Street. How do we expect that person to successfully reintegrate in society without any help, without any assistance, without any place to go to?

ADAM GELB: That’s right. And we presented some research in this report, our max out report that you mentioned, from both Kentucky and New Jersey that shows that outperform max-outs, they’re less likely to return to prison for new crimes. Unfortunately the cost savings isn’t as great as it might be because some of them are returned to prison for technical violations.

LEONARD SIPES: Right.

ADAM GELB: Breaking the rules of their supervision. But their rates of crime commission are lower. And in the New Jersey, in particular, we were able to control for risk. So the issues we mentioned a minute ago, which is that somebody who’s maxing out might be higher risk, say, than a parolee, well, this research actually controlled for that and compared similar risk offenders who maxed out to similar risk offenders who were put under supervision, and those offenders who were under supervision by New Jersey parole returned to prison 36% less frequently for new crimes than the max-outs do.

LEONARD SIPES: Okay. But California, the California Realignment is such an odd duck compared to what’s happening in the other 49 states, I realize that. And realignment in California, ladies and gentlemen, if you don’t know, is the idea of sentencing individuals to local jails for crimes that ordinarily would’ve gone to state prisons and also releasing massive numbers of offenders. Every time I look the number seems to change, but somewhere in the ballpark of 30 to 40,000 people coming out of the prison system and being supervised locally instead of the state parole. So the bottom line there is that they did release a bunch of people with a no-cut contract, that unless you committed a new crime, they were unsupervised, and they wanted that to happen. They sort of felt that if they were supervised more people would end upcoming back, better than not being supervised at all and better than only coming back if they had committed a new crime. So there’s an example where people are releasing people unsupervised and they think it’s a good thing.

ADAM GELB: Right. Our report calls for universal post-prison supervision. The point you make and what was recognized in California some time ago is that there are some people who, for some combination of reasons, come out the back door of the prison gate and they’re fairly low-risk. And you on your show have highlighted many times the research that says you don’t want to over-supervise low-risk people, right?

LEONARD SIPES: Right.

ADAM GELB: You’re going to make them worse. You’re going to put conditions on them that are just too difficult for them to meet. You’re going to have them in programs with other offenders who they shouldn’t be consorting with and building relationships with people they shouldn’t be hanging out with and so on. So while there’s a call for universal post-prison supervision, like with everything, there needs to be some flexibility and a safety valve here to make sure that the state would have flexibility to determine that some inmates in fact should not be really actively supervised but could be on an administrative case load or some other way to make sure they don’t reoffend.

LEONARD SIPES: Our guest is Adam Gelb. Halfway through the program, and these programs with Adam fly by very quickly. Adam Gelb, Director of the Pew Public Safety Performance Project, talking about fundamental change within the criminal justice system, in this particular program talking about unsupervised offenders. Now, they’re coming out unsupervised in states because of, and I still have been struggling with this reason, we know that they do better upon supervision, but even that’s been a controversial issue within criminological circles. There are a lot of people who say that there’s very little difference between supervision and no supervision in parole and probation. And what they’re saying is it’s the programs that make the difference, not the supervision. So are we talking about coming out of prison not just unsupervised but without assistance? Is that the principle concern?

ADAM GELB: Yeah. There was nothing in our broad national research that identified, right, the components of effective supervision, but, as you’re well aware, lots of research has and there are many different aspects of, right, what makes an effective supervision scheme. We don’t want to do a lecture on this now, but I would highlight a couple things. It goes back to the beginning of our conversation. And what we see out in the states working with corrections and parole officials, working with state legislators and other policymakers are the following. There have been tremendous advances in how we do risk assessment. It wasn’t anywhere near the kind of science 20, 30 years ago that it is today, right?

LEONARD SIPES: Correct.

ADAM GELB: So we know so much better about how to identify and sort offenders by risk level, high, medium, or low, and also what, right, what the criminogenic risk factors are, and then how to target the interventions to individuals offenders’ criminal risk factors. We also –

LEONARD SIPES: Being smarter about making the decisions of what we do with people on community supervision.

ADAM GELB: Absolutely.

LEONARD SIPES: Yeah.

ADAM GELB: And then we know what programs are more likely to work with the offender population and in particular a cognitive behavioral therapy, right?

LEONARD SIPES: Sure.

ADAM GELB: This is a move away from sitting around in a group and talking about your problems, which has some value. But the research is really pretty clear that a cognitive behavioral approach and really breaking down what are the triggers that in people’s lives provoke them to use drugs or do other things they shouldn’t be doing and try to come up with strategies, just very practical strategies for avoiding the people, the places, and the things –

LEONARD SIPES: Sure.

ADAM GELB: That get them into trouble.

LEONARD SIPES: Drug treatment –

ADAM GELB: You know more about –

LEONARD SIPES: Mental health, job assistance –

ADAM GELB: And how to specifically do those things effectively, because, right, we don’t want to talk about – all those things aren’t effective. You can’t just say we’re going to do job assistance and that is going to work, or drug treatment, right?

LEONARD SIPES: Right.

ADAM GELB: There’s a lot more knowledge about how to make those broad buckets of programs effective. And then finally, and this is something that, Len, you have pioneered in your career, is the electronic monitoring piece did not exist back in the day, but whether it’s GPS or rapid result drug tests or ATM like kiosks that low level offenders can report to rather than taking up the time of a supervision officer, these are technologies that are not only efficient, but they’re giving policymakers and judges and prosecutors I think more confidence that there’s a credible alternative to prison for appropriate offenders.

LEONARD SIPES: And if you put it all together these programs do have a way of reducing recidivism, do have a way of reducing the return to the prison system, so it’s a win-win situation for everybody. There’s fewer crimes, less money that states have to spend on their corrections budgets, and they can take some of that money and redirect it in other directions, whether it was restorative justice with the idea of saying, “Hey, fine. You’ve saved me 15 million dollars. We’re going to invest 7 million of that 15 million in terms of programs for people under supervision.” or building bridges and taking care of older people or building schools or that sort of thing. So it seems to be a win-win situation for everybody. So, again, I go back to the question. If it’s a win-win situation for everybody, if we now have these tools, we now have this understanding, we’re in 30 states and 30 states are using data to make good decisions, how come the rate of unsupervised offenders is going up?

ADAM GELB: There, as you know, there are so many facets of the criminal justice system, there’re sentencing laws, there’re release laws and policies, there’re practices throughout the system, and this is one piece that has lagged behind the others. I think our report has shed some light on it and we’ll hopefully accelerate attention to it and try to make sure that more and more states are looking at their own situations. There’s tremendous variance, by the way, here in the state max-out rates, right? We talked about the overall national rate being 22%. But Florida has the highest max-out rate with 64% –

LEONARD SIPES: Yeah.

ADAM GELB: Of inmates, right?

LEONARD SIPES: Right.

ADAM GELB: Almost two out of three inmates in Florida maxing out their prison terms, down to the opposite end of the scale, which is Oregon, which has almost no one –

LEONARD SIPES: Right.

ADAM GELB: Maxing out. So this is on a state by state basis something that needs to be part of what officials who are serious about public safety and serious about containing the cost of corrections in overall government spending need to look at.

LEONARD SIPES: But to be powerful, to really have the results that we’re looking for in terms of people under supervision, you have to have the programs, you have to have the caseloads, you have to have the tools, you’ve got to have the mechanisms in place to really do both supervision and programming, and a lot of states don’t. Bill Burrell, an independent parole and probation consultant is coming before these microphones in a couple weeks to talk about his concern that states are being underfunded, and this whole revolution that’s occurring within the criminal justice system, in many ways thanks to Pew and thanks to your leadership, may be at risk because states aren’t providing enough funding for programs and for supervision and not providing the tools necessary to do a good job, to supervise people, to reduce crime, to lessen the rate of return back to the prison system. That seems to be his concern and the concern of many others.

ADAM GELB: It’s a very valid concern and everybody involved in this work has the exact same concern. Some states have been very aggressive about reinvesting prison savings into supervision, others less so. But as a general matter, hundreds of millions of dollars have been plowed back into supervision coming out of the sentencing and release law and policy changes. And I think there’s a growing awareness that the parole and probation systems are the backbone of this system and that they need to be adequately funded.

LEONARD SIPES: And that’s a fundamental sea change. When you and I were in the state of Maryland I remember asking the people within Parole and Probation, I said, “What is the role of parole and probation?” and their response was to enforce the dictates of the court and enforce the dictates of the Parole Commission. There was nothing there about reducing recidivism, there was nothing there about gaining a bigger bang for the tax paid dollar. It was simply to follow the rules. And at one point when we were with the state of Maryland, 70% of the intakes in one particular year were parole and probation violations. So there’s no way a state prison system can operate efficiently if 70% of your parole probation, if 70% of the intakes are parole and probation failures. There’s got to be a better way of doing it. That’s why there’s a bit of a dichotomy. There’s a bit of a struggle, there’s a bit of frustration. We had this consensus, we have Pew, we have all these organizations that are pushing for fundamental change, fundamental change is happening, yet parole and probation still seems to be short-funded or shortchanged.

ADAM GELB: I think almost any agency of government is always going to claim that it is underfunded. That said there are lots of new dollar flowing in the direction of these agencies and a rising awareness of their role as part of the crime fighting machinery in the states. We see in state after state, really changing the culture of the conversation around here and it’s sort of based on two things. One is the growing awareness of the research that shows that supervision can work if it’s done well.

LEONARD SIPES: Right.

ADAM GELB: And there really is a growing awareness among policymakers of that research. And the National –

LEONARD SIPES: It’s a sea change.

ADAM GELB: The National Governor’s Association, the National Conference of State Legislatures, the National Center for State Courts, as well as the partners that you’ve mentioned, the Justice Department, Council of State Governments, Justice Center, the Bureau Institute on Justice, there are a lot organizations providing information to policymakers about this and it’s starting to sink in. So on that side there is growing recognition of credible alternatives. The flip-side of that is that more and more people seem to think that prisons are essentially schools for crime, and particularly on the conservative side here a lot of the conservative voices are saying, “This makes no sense and how can we expect large government bureaucracies that put a bunch of criminals together to turn out people who are corrected?” And so there’s growing, at the same time as there’s growing confidence in alternatives, there’s growing skepticism that prison will actually accomplish that recidivism reduction that some folks once thought they would.

LEONARD SIPES: Final four minutes of the program. There has been a sea change in terms of both of our careers, where we are in terms of people coming out of the prison system, what happens to them, how they’re supervised, how they’re assisted. The conversation has changed completely. What does the future hold? Where are we going within the next five years in terms of a fundamental change within the criminal justice system?

ADAM GELB: Great question. And I don’t have a crystal ball here, but I’ll give you –

LEONARD SIPES: But you’re leading the charge so guess.

ADAM GELB: I’ll give you some thoughts. It is a mystery to many people why the prison population has leveled off and started to fall in the context of a sour economy. And it’s nice to see the economy picking back up again at the extent to which you want to think there’s a relationship between the crime rate and the economic situation. That’s a myth that has been challenged, drastically, right? It’s been –

LEONARD SIPES: Sure.

ADAM GELB: It’s been almost a full six years since the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the start of the Great Recession, and we have seen a sort of plateauing of the crime drop. It’s, it continues down slightly, not at the same rate it had been.

LEONARD SIPES: But from a longitudinal point of view it has plummeted –

ADAM GELB: It is way down.

LEONARD SIPES: And for the last four years there’s been a decrease in admissions to prisons.

ADAM GELB: That’s right. So from that perspective it looks like the population will continue to head down. A lot of these reforms that the states that we’ve been talking about have done really are just starting to kick in. I mean the last, really the last two or three years the states have gotten even more aggressive about some of the reforms that they’re embarking on, changing property crime statutes, changing the penalties for drug offences, diverting more offenders, reducing length of stay, incentivizing offenders to comply with supervision so that they can earn their way off sooner, which is another way of creating resources –

LEONARD SIPES: Sure.

ADAM GELB: For supervision. Not more dollars, but it’s reducing caseloads by getting these low-risk offenders off of those caseloads, etc. So for those reasons I think we’re going to start to see the population go down. There’s something else afoot here, Len, that we don’t have good measures for yet that we need to start tracking, and that is not just the quantity of offenders behind bars, but, if you will, the quality.

LEONARD SIPES: Right.

ADAM GELB: And what a lot of these reforms are designed to do is not necessarily explicitly reduce the prison population itself, but to make sure that the prison beds are occupied by truly dangerous offenders, by the violent career criminals.

LEONARD SIPES: The people posing the highest risk to public safety.

ADAM GELB: That’s right. And this is what governors and legislative leadership want to talk about, they want to talk about making sure the taxpayer dollars funding these expensive prison cells are being used for serious chronic and violent offenders. And we need to start having some more measures that look at whether that’s true, whether that’s actually happening. And I think it is. When you look at the changes in the sentencing and release laws and policies for nonviolent offenders and changes in policies we’re dealing with, technical violators on supervision, I think we’re starting to see a lot of states change the complexion, the composition of their prison populations, and we will see over time a significant increase in the –

LEONARD SIPES: We both agree that there has been a huge change and a very positive change in terms of the conversation about what we do with the criminal justice system.

ADAM GELB: There really has. It’s a very exciting time in this field.

LEONARD SIPES: And a very exciting time because of the work of Pew and the partners. Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve been talking to Adam Gelb, Director of the Pew Public Safety Performance Project, talking about fundamental change within the criminal justice system. And, ladies and gentlemen, we really do appreciate your comments, we really do appreciate your criticisms, and we want everybody have themselves a very, very pleasant day.

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