Pretrial Supervision and Treatment-DC Public Safety Radio

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[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes:  From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety.  I’m your host, Leonard Sipes.  Ladies and gentlemen, today’s topic is pretrial and treatment in pretrial and one of the main points that I want to make from the very beginning is the fact that where we have two million people in the present system throughout this country, we have  many millions more who are involved in the pretrial process.  They are arrested, they go through the pretrial process and this whole concept of treatment within pretrial, actually from a sheer numerical point of view, takes on much greater importance than those—than the discussion of treatment within the correctional setting.  There are literally millions of people going through the arrest process, going through the pretrial process, all throughout the United States and my guess is that the vast majority of them do not receive treatment of any kind by their pretrial agency.  To talk about this issue, we have two principals.  One is Terrence Walton, he is the Director of Treatment; and two, is Michael McGinnis, he is the Deputy Director of Treatment.  Both represent the Pretrial Services Agency for the District of Columbia and they’re my sister agency for the court services and a federal supervision agency.  Pretrial Services is a federal agency like we are at CSOSA.  And to Terrence and to Michael, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Michael McGinnis:  Well, thank you, Len, good to be here.

Terrence Walton:  Thank you.

Len Sipes:  All right, gentlemen, first of all, Michael, let’s go and set some basics up.  The Pretrial Services Agency for the District of Columbia does what?

Terrence Walton:  Why don’t I take that one if I could?

Michael McGinnis:  Yeah, go ahead.

Terrence Walton:  I’ll take it, all right.  Listen, the agency does a lot and it’s hard to capture it but essentially we’re responsible for two big tasks. The biggest task is and the first task is to assist the court in making release decisions. So when a defendant is arrested and is being considered for release, Pretrial Services conducts an interview, reviews criminal history, talks with the defendant directly, talks sometimes with collaterals to get a sense of who we have, and then recommends to the court either release or detention.  And if they’re going to be released, the many of them we recommend they be released with certain conditions that they must comply with.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Terrence Walton:  That’s our first big task, helping the court make good release decisions.

Len Sipes:  And a good release decision is based principally upon two things:  A) risk to public safety and B) whether or not the defendant will return for trial, do I have that right?

Terrence Walton:  That’s exactly right, that’s exactly right.  There’s lots of ways to say it, but those are the two big things. We don’t want them to jump bail, we don’t want them to disappear and we also don’t want a subsequent arrest if we can help prevent that.

Len Sipes:  And you’re talking about conditions of supervision.  There are many conditions of supervision.  You could put the person under GPS surveillance; have the person constantly being tracked.  There’s a lot of reporting requirements for that person and the treatment component, the very reason why we’re doing the program today, could be a component of pretrial release, it could be a condition of pretrial release.

Terrence Walton:  That is exactly right and in fact, because a significant number of defendants who are arrested in DC are testing positive for drugs or report drug use—in fact it’s about 33% of the adult population test positive for some drug other than marijuana.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Terrence Walton:  We don’t test for marijuana at lockup, so if we did, it would be twice that number.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Terrence Walton:  But we’ve talked about cocaine, heroin, PCP, amphetamines.

Len Sipes:  The drugs with the largest correlation to serious crime.

Terrence Walton:  That’s right, 33% of our population will test positive for that coming in the door and that’s 60% of the juveniles will test positive for some drug, and in that case it’s almost always marijuana.  So the size of those populations and for many of those adults, we’re recommending release conditions that include requirements that they drug test and that’s done by our agency and processed in our own lab, as well as other release conditions.  And that’s really the second big task.  The first big task is recommending release conditions.  And the second big task is supervising those conditions and keeping the court aware of how the defendant’s doing.  But I think Michael will agree with this, that it’s not simply just us overseeing and reporting what happens.  Pretrial Services is involved in trying to help motivate defendants, help them do the right thing, figure out their obstacles that will keep them from being able to comply and help them solve those problems.  So we see—we respond to the court, we have a law enforcement responsibility but we’re very much centered on the needs of the defendant and how best we can meet those needs in a way that helps them to do the right thing.

Len Sipes:  Well, Michael, the question goes over to you now.  For many people involved in the criminal justice system, they have mental health issues.

Michael McGinnis:  Um-hm.

Len Sipes:  How do we expect that individual to do well under pretrial or do well under any sort of supervision, whether they come over to us after they’re found guilty—how are they going to do well unless they get the treatment they need to stabilize themselves and to deal with their mental health issues, correct?  I mean, it does come down to that level of basics.

Michael McGinnis:  It definitely does and one of the things that we have here at the Pretrial Services, our Specialized Supervision Unit, and this is a unit that after a defendant is assessed and would be found perhaps with a current issue and they would meet the requirements of this unit, this is a unit that would—specializes in working with that population.

Len Sipes:  Um-hm.

Michael McGinnis:   So they could either be—they would get them immediately connected into a mental health program and a substance abuse program if needed.  If they were going to move them on to a mental health community court, you know, for diversion, that would be part of their job.  But all the PSOs that work in there have a background in working with this population.

Len Sipes:  And PSOs are?

Michael McGinnis:  Pretrial Service Officers.

Len Sipes:  Okay, fine, thanks.

Michael McGinnis:  Right, have a background on this unit and a great interest in working with this current population.  Which has, since I’ve been in this field and it’s been over 20 years working in this field, is this population is probably our most increasing population.

Len Sipes:  Um-hm, yeah, no doubt about it.

Michael McGinnis:  We had, when I started with pretrial, we had one unit, an SSU unit, that’s a Special Supervision Unit, and now, because of need, we have two.  So we have almost 18 Pretrial Services offices serving over 661 people in the program.

Len Sipes:  That’s amazing.  Terrence, give me a sense as to all the other treatment programs that you guys put on the table for people.

Terrence Walton:  Yeah, Michael mentioned the mental health component.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Terrence Walton:  We also have a unit that does nothing but assesses. We have a social services assessment center that assesses men and women who are released and even those who are being considered for release, we conduct both addiction assessments as well as mental health assessments from that shop.  Once we identify individuals who need treatment, there are really three big options for them, drug treatment.  One is the drug court program, which is the Superior Court Drug Intervention Program, a pretrial program that has been around since 1993.

Len Sipes:  A successful program that’s been noted nationally.

Terrence Walton:  Absolutely and one of the first ever to show up on the scene.  That’s the program of choice.  It has a complete regimen of incentives and sanctions, a single calendar, lots of contact with the judge

Len Sipes:  Right.

Terrence Walton:  Lots of opportunities for people to get the help that they need.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Terrence Walton:  For those—for folks that don’t qualify for drug court because of criminal history or some other disqualifier, we have another program called New Directions, which they can get the same treatment as a drug court defendant. The court supervision isn’t as close because these defendants are on various different calendars and they are incentives and sanctions, but while in drug court, there are both judicial sanctions, sanctions that come from the bench, from the judge as well as administrative sanctions, the ones that come from the supervision officer.  In New Directions, all sanctions are administrative, all administered by the supervising officer.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Terrence Walton:  Those are the two main programs.  There’s one other option.  Sometimes individuals are not eligible for New Directions either because they’re about to go to sentencing perhaps or some other reason.  We have another track for those, where we’ll put them in treatment somewhere, temporarily, under a sanction contract, primarily to prepare for a transition to CSOSA probation, to probation here in the city.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Terrence Walton:  So those are the three big options and they are all based on treatment needs.

Len Sipes:  So in essence it is a combination of either substance abuse or mental health, and Michael, these are all, I’m assuming, cognitive-based programs where we help the decision-making process of the individuals involved in the criminal justice system.  I mean, a lot of people don’t quite understand cognitive treatment but we really can, and the research is pretty clear on this, we really can intervene in the lives of other human beings and help them rethink their decision-making process.

Michael McGinnis:  Right, that’s the key word.  I mean, helping someone rethink what they’re doing.  You know, a lot of people that come in when they’re in the throes of an addition or they’re in this mode of what I call concrete-type thinking, that they’re repeating something over and over and getting the same result.  You know, especially in our treatment program, which is our PSA STARS program, most all of our interventions are of the cognitive, behavioral kind.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Michael McGinnis:   But what’s also important, I just wanted to speak to a point that Terrence was talking about.  In two of our programs, in the New Directions programs and in the drug court programs, the Pretrial Service offices that involved in those programs, they’re not only Pretrial Service offices, they’re also licensed clinicians and licensed substance abuse counselors.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Michael McGinnis:   So they’re providing not only the supervision but they’re also providing the clinical services, and that’s very unique to that program because they have a key perspective in working with the offender.

Len Sipes:  Well, that’s one of the points that I wanted to make.  Gentlemen, let’s cut to the chase. We are not just talking about pretrial in the District of Columbia; we’re talking about pretrial throughout the United States.

Michael McGinnis:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  Well, for that matter, we’re talking about pretrial in the western industrialized world.  Same situations for Canada, same situations for England, same situations for Australia, New Zealand, France.  These are all the same issues that everybody is wrestling with throughout the country.  We, in the District of Columbia, because we’re a federal agency, we have resources that the overwhelming majority of pretrial agencies do not have.  To my knowledge, the overwhelming majority of pretrial agencies don’t have a dime for treatment.  They have to put this person into a waiting list someplace and that person could wait quite some time before they get involved in treatment and for the love of heavens, they could have their trial before every get involved in treatment.  So there is that difference, we have to admit that right up front, correct?

Terrence Walton:  That’s correct.

Len Sipes:  Okay, the second thing is that you can tell within the stats.  I mean, we have one of the best return to trial rates in the United States.  Our stats are quite good.  And probably one of the reasons why they’re good is that we do have people involved in treatment programs because the research is abundantly clear it can’t just be a matter of supervision.  As I said to Michael at the very beginning, if you have somebody with a mental health problem, they need treatment.

Terrence Walton:  That’s right.

Len Sipes:  So if you combine treatment with supervision, you get better results.

Terrence Walton:  I think that’s right.  And Len, I want to add one other I think difference between what we have here in DC and what exists elsewhere in the country that doesn’t cost any money and that is, we have a Bail Act.  We have a statute that really supports Pretrial Services.  Most folks don’t know this but there are very few bail bondsmen in the District of Columbia.

Len Sipes:  Are there any?

Terrence Walton:  Very few.  There may be one or two but there are very few.  Because Pretrial Services as an industry, as a field I should say, has a belief in pretrial justice, essentially saying that if an individual needs to be detained, if they’re dangerous, they should be detained regardless of ability to pay.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Terrence Walton:  And if they don’t need to be detained, if they’re not a danger to society, then it’s fundamentally unfair for them to be held merely because they can’t afford to post bond.  So instead, we have a Bail Act, which heavily encourages the court to consider release of those who are safe to release with conditions, that pretrial supervises, that helps to assure public safety and return to court.  And that doesn’t cost money, that takes political will and it takes advocacy and it takes being able to battle the interest groups that wouldn’t like that.

Len Sipes:  Well, it does take come money because I would imagine judges sitting on the Superior Court for the District of Columbia know that there are treatment options, know that there are GPS options for following that person 24 hours a day if necessary, know that our staffing levels are probably lower than most pretrial agencies throughout the country.  My guess would be that the judge within the Superior Court here in the District of Columbia, they would be more apt to release a person on pretrial because they know they’re going into a top-rated organization that generally speaking does an excellent job of returning that person to trial

Michael McGinnis:  And I agree with you 100% and they also know that when a substance abuse problem is identified or a mental health issue is identified and is treated, the failure to appear and the re-arrest rates go down with the population that we’re working with.

Len Sipes:  Right, so they have –

Michael McGinnis:  And that is very big.

Len Sipes:  Yeah, and if a judge in Milwaukee wants to put the person on pretrial, I would imagine he or she is going to say, well, you know, well, they were handling cases of 200 to 1, 200 defendants to 1 Pretrial Services officer, they have on room for treatment, gee, I’d better stick this person in jail.  So I would imagine that you save the system money as well as have a higher rate of success.

Terrence Walton:  Well that’s exactly right.  I mean, some of us are motivated by the fact that it seems fundamentally fairer to do it this way, but others, the reality is, is it saves money. That if we can allow a person to stay in their community and at the meantime address their pro-social needs, we save in jail costs.  That’s another important point.

Len Sipes:  Ladies and gentlemen, our guests today are Terrence Walton, he’s the Director of Treatment; and Michael McGinnis, the Deputy Director of Treatment for the Pretrial Services Agency for the District of Columbia, a federal agency.  The website is:  As I move throughout the country and as I talk to my counterparts throughout the country, they ask about Pretrial Services Agency for the District of Columbia.  It’s one of the best-known pretrial agencies in the country and having one of the best reputations.  Principally I think, because we have a level of funding that so many other agencies simply do not have and the level of training and a level—you’re just a good agency and I think people recognize that within the criminal justice system throughout the country.  Alright, where do we go to from here?  So the average person in the District of Columbia, the average person in Milwaukee—why am I bringing up Milwaukee so many times today?  The average person in Honolulu, the average person in Anchorage, Alaska says to themselves, the police finally got this idiot who’s been bothering the community and three hours later, he’s back on the street.  Where is the justice in that?  So you guys face that issue all the time.  I mean, we have to hit that square, that nail squarely on the head and what people don’t understand is that they are defendants, they are not offenders and within our system, you are not guilty until you’re proven guilty, correct?

Michael McGinnis:  That’s correct.

Terrence Walton:  No, that’s right, and you know, there’s a balance here, that there’s a constitutional presumption of innocence and that means that unlike convicted offenders, the individuals who have not yet actually been convicted of their offense, have certain rights, and that we go to great effort to be sure that we’re using the least restrictive means possible to assure community safety.  Now I want to put a caveat there because we respect the presumption of innocence, but recognize the possibility of guilt.  And so because of that second piece, that’s the reason why we also assess criminal history, we assess the seriousness of the charge so that in the event this person is guilty, how serious is this, and that is factored into our recommendations.

Len Sipes:  And you’re not talking about a short assessment, you’re talking about a rather lengthy, well thought-out assessment in terms of trying to get at that person’s risk to the community and that person’s treatment needs and that person’s past criminal history.  I mean, it’s a pretty complete overview that you do with that individual.  When you make those recommendations to the court, you probably know more about that person than his kid brother.

Terrence Walton:  Well, that may be true and it happens in a couple of stages.  There was the initial stage, pre-release, where we do a comprehensive interview and review the records that we have to make initial decisions.  But also other factors are considered there, that there are sometimes prosecutors who have positions and defense attorneys who have information, that’s all presented to the court as they’re making a release decision.  Once the defendant is released, if he or she is released to our supervision, then if we have any reason to think they need one, we do an additional assessment, a clinical needs assessment that’s designed to look at both treatment needs, at mental health needs as well as social service needs.

Len Sipes:  And many people caught up in the criminal justice system do have needs.  I mean, there was a piece of research out a little while ago and now—I remarked on Milwaukee or kept bringing Milwaukee up a little while ago, now I’m bringing mental health back up—that 55%, according to a Department of Justice document, 55% of people called up in the criminal justice system self-assess or assess themselves.  It was not a political designation but they did a self-assessment as having mental health issues.  So this issue of mental health is something that is really driving much of our service component within the criminal justice system, assuming we have the programs there to service them to begin with.

Michael McGinnis:   I think unfortunately, our prisons have been used as our mental health treatment centers in this country and as you’re saying, most people, when they—  To go back, I just want to go back to what you were talking about—

Len Sipes:  Please, please, Michael.

Michael McGinnis: -our funding here.  It’s not only that we have the funding to provide these services.  Our Director, Susan Shaffer, is also a real believer in the treatment of the offender that comes in and she puts a lot of her energies and times into this.  And it really is a big piece of our agency because before I came to pretrial, I’d been running programs for alternatives to incarcerations, therapeutic communities.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Michael McGinnis:  Taking programs behind the wall.  And people are just cycling in and out of these, of our prisons without having these issues identified.

Len Sipes:  But that’s the fundamental problem because I’ve talked to my peers throughout the country and they’re going to go, Leonard, I hear you on your daggone radio programs and you focus on public safety first, but you say that you have to have these treatment components because the research is clear that supervision doesn’t work unless you have a treatment component, and I got news for you, Leonard, I don’t have a dime for treatment.  You know, but I want that person to get mental health treatment, substance abuse treatment, if I want to find some assistance in terms of that person getting work or getting occupational training, I’ve go to put him in a long line, where that person basically waits for months, unless I get a court order to move that person to the head of the line.  There’s a lot of frustration out there, we all believe in treatment, we all believe in that component being necessary, but most of us don’t have the money for it.

Terrence Walton:  Well, there’s no easy answer to that.  What many communities have done is done the best they can to leverage the resources that exist.  There is professional treatment, there are faith-based organizations, there are peer support groups, which isn’t formal treatment, but it can sometimes do the same job.  There are lots of options in most communities, especially around alcohol and drug issues, for people who need help to get some of that.  You know, I also encourage—there continues to be federal monies and state monies and grants available for organizations who have a will to go after it.  It’s just worth doing it.

Michael McGinnis:   I think it’s—but it’s a great point, Terrence, because you and I were just kind of talking about this earlier this morning, is the whole field is moving more towards this recovery-orientated system of care, where we’re kind of looking at some—that treatment, that line for treatment is different for everyone and there are many options, like faith-based options, there are community options, I think a lot of these other pretrial service organizations that might not have the funding, you know, to have their own treatment centers or put people in treatment—they need to look to these community organizations, to start partnering with these community organizations in hopes of linking their offenders up to services.

Len Sipes:  Well, and everybody’s got to come together and make this a priority.  I mean, there is limited treatment monies available, but as you all have said, I mean, there’s the Salvation Army, there’s the faith-based community, there are private individuals, there are people who will do this on a pro bono basis.  You’ve got to have the will to go out there and make those connections and that becomes extraordinarily important.  But I do believe that again, one of the reasons why we do as well as we do is because look at the two of you—I mean, we have the Director and Assistant Director of Treatment for a pretrial agency.  I mean, there are people, organizations out there that would kill to have a Terrence Walton and a Michael McGinnis sitting before their microphones.

Terrence Walton:  Well, Len, you know, it starts with the will though.  I mean, it starts with the desire, recognition that it’s important, that it’s necessary. And I want to take a minute to share something with our listeners that I think is important, that helps to underscore why it’s so important that we address the underlying issues of men and women who come through our systems.  The American Society of Addiction Medicine is a really collection of physicians who practice addiction medicine and who sort of govern the field and give us guidance and space on research and medicine to help us understand addiction and addition recovery.  And they’ve recently come out with a new policy statement that we don’t have time to go over—I hope people will go to to see more details.  But they’ve given for the first time a policy statement defining addiction.  And let me give you the most interesting piece of that to me, that they have defined addition primarily as a brain disease, a disease that affects a couple of major systems in the brain.  One is the reward system, as well as the command center, the logic and reason system of the brain.  And here’s what important.  They have through PET scans and SPECT images and MRTs, they have been able to look at brain activity and identify deficits in those areas of active addicts. But here’s what’s interesting.  We’ve known that for a long time and we’ve assumed that it’s the drug use that has caused those problems.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Terrence Walton:  What ASAM and other researchers have discovered is that for many, probably most current addicts, those brain deficiencies existed before they ever picked up a drug.

Len Sipes:  That’s interesting.

Terrence Walton:  It might have been genetic or as a result of traumatic life experiences growing up that changed the –

Len Sipes:  A biological predisposition.

Terrence Walton:  Absolutely.

Len Sipes:  That biological predisposition, by the way, is clearly there established for alcoholism as well.

Terrence Walton:  Absolutely.

Len Sipes:  So why wouldn’t that biological predisposition be there for substance abuse.

Terrence Walton:  That’s right.  So there’s the biological piece as well as the environmental that they have done studies on monkeys and others that—and I wish I had time to tell you about one—but where they demonstrated that by changing the environmental situation, by depriving organisms of nurturing and affiliation, that they change their brains.

Len Sipes:  Give the public a sense of hope here because I’ve said that the research is abundantly clear.  They do better with a combination of supervision.  And we’re not leaving out the supervision component.  Whether that person’s in treatment or not, we still supervise that person to the best of our availability and that could include, again GPS supervision where we track them 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.  We’re not leaving out the supervision component.  And sometimes supervision is an integral part of treatment.  Sometimes that supervision officer, their first question is, are you taking your medication, are you going to treatment?  Well, we know whether they’re going to treatment regardless.  So sometimes that supervision component is an integral part of the treatment component but the bottom line is, to the public who, you know, say to themselves, you know, look, I’ve got schools underfunded, I’ve got the elderly to take care of, you’re talking about treatment for criminals for the love of heavens—defendants, I understand.  You know, we have to give them a sense of hope that what we do is successful and not only in the life of that individual, but we are protecting them by doing this and we’re doing that correct?

Michael McGinnis:  Well, of course we are.  I mean, I think as we all know here, there’s not enough jail cells across this country to put people in and treating people is a lot less expensive than putting people behind—

Len Sipes:  So it’s going to save them their taxpaying dollars.

Michael McGinnis:  There’s studies out for every dollar that’s invested in treatment.  There’s a savings of $4 on that individual.

Len Sipes:  And years ago, Rand said it was 7 to 1.

Michael McGinnis:  Yeah.

Len Sipes:  We’re also protecting public safety though.

Michael McGinnis:  Right.

Len Sipes:  I mean, that is a message that needs to be put on the table that their life is going to be safer if we provide substance abuse treatment or mental health treatment.

Terrence Walton:  If you don’t treat an addict, if you simply incarcerate an addict, when they come out eventually, and the vast majority of men and women who are incarcerated are eventually released.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Terrence Walton:  They will still be an addict.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Terrence Walton:  And so all of the problems that causes to our property and our lives and well-being will just continue.  It is a smart investment to see if we can address those issues and the justice system is helpful because it gives—holds people accountable and it gives them a little external motivation to stick with it, to go to the groups, to take the medicine until it kicks in naturally.  It’s an essential component.

Len Sipes:  But get back to the public safety point again because I do want to keep hammering this point home.  If the person doesn’t do well, the person doesn’t go to treatment, doesn’t take their medication, is not enthusi—well, not enthusiastically involved—is not meaningfully involved in the treatment process, we go back to the court and they could choose to incarcerate that person until trial.

Terrence Walton:  Well, that’s right, there’s some whose releases are revoked based on a decision that they are a danger to society if they aren’t treated successfully.  And there’s also in the drug court, there’s a number of other possible sanctions short of incarceration that’s designed to punish the behavior quickly and briefly and encourage them to get back on track.

Len Sipes:  And motivate them all at the same time.

Terrence Walton:  That’s right.

Len Sipes:  To get back on the track.  Okay, final minute of the program.  We save the public, the research states that we save the public a ton of money through the treatment and supervision process, number two that we enhance public safety, their odds of being victimized by this individual are greatly decreased, so we do that.  What am I missing, what is the final word on what the public needs to hear?

Terrence Walton:  Oh, I guess the final word would be that this matters to each and every one of us, that most of us have been affected by addiction and crime, one way or the other and this is a good, wise investment for anyone who cares about this.  And I encourage communities out there to do the best they can to make it happen.

Len Sipes:  Terrence, you’ve got the final word.  Ladies and gentlemen, our guests today, Terrence Walton, Director of Treatment and Michael McGinnis, the Deputy Director of Treatment of the Pretrial Services Agency for the District of Columbia.  It’s a federal agency,  The program that Terrence mentioned in terms of drug standards, substance abuse standards,  Ladies and gentlemen again, this is DC Public Safety.  We appreciate your calls, we appreciate your letters, we appreciate your emails and we appreciate your guidance and please have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]


Successful Offenders – “DC Public Safety”

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[Video Begins]

Len Sipes:  Hi, and welcome to D.C. Public Safety.  I’m your host, Leonard Sipes.  You know, every year, over 700,000 human beings are released from prison systems throughout the United States, and you’re well aware of the failures, the 50% within 3 years who are returned to the prison systems.  You read about them in your newspapers, you’re exposed to them through radio and television, but the question is, what about the other 50%?  The 50% who do not return back to the prison system?  To talk about the successes, if you will, we have four individuals under supervision with my agency, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency in Washington, D.C.  We’re a federal parole and probation agency.  We’re going to talk to four individuals currently under supervision for people who have turned the corner, who have crossed that bridge, who are now successes, who are no longer tax burdens, they are now taxpayers.  And on our first segment, I want to introduce India Frazier and Tracy Marlow, and to India and to Tracy, welcome to D.C. Public Safety.

Tracy Marlow:  Thank you, Len.

Len Sipes:  All right, we’ve had a wonderful conversation before the television show, before filming this show today, about what it is, the stereotypes, when people think of the term “criminal,” “convict,” and they have this image that immediately comes to their mind in terms of what ex-offenders are.  Now in the first segment, the two of you, then we’ll have a couple guys in the second segment, but that’s the issue, is it not, Tracy?  That stereotype that people have of you.  I was watching the other night a couple television shows, just flipping through the channel: National Geographic and A&E, and they had shows about people in prison, and the public comes away with that, saying, thinking that everybody who touches the prison system, they don’t want to hire them, they don’t want to fund programs for them, they don’t want to give them a second chance, they stereotype them.  Are you that person that they stereotype?

Tracy Marlow:  Yes I am.  I’m one of those people that they stereotype.  Society always publicizes what we have done, the bad things we have done, but nobody shows what the good things we are doing now.  What I was, and what I am today is two different people.  I have my own business now.

Len Sipes:  You’re going for your third ice cream truck.

Tracy Marlow:  My third ice cream truck.

Len Sipes:  Your third ice cream truck.  You’re your own business owner!  You have gone from prison to owning your own businesses!

Tracy Marlow:  Yes, yes.

Len Sipes:  That’s amazing!

Tracy Marlow:  With the help of CSOSA and some groups and other people backing me up in my life, it was not on my own that I done this.  It’s not because, I’ve been turned down on jobs so many times, but one person gave me a chance on a job.

India Frazier:  But when you go through your struggles in life, if anything’s ever given to you so quickly, so fast, and easy, you’re not going to appreciate it.  You’re not going to hold onto it, you’re not going to build to the next step.  You know what I’m saying?  So you have to go through your struggles.  You have to be patient.  And see, that’s what you were.

Tracy Marlow:  It comes in believing in yourself.  If you don’t believe in yourself, self-esteem is so important coming out of prison.  I didn’t believe in myself.  I thought what people, society say, you’re nothing, you’ve been in jail, you’re never going to be nothing.  I believed that for so many years until one day, I can’t tell you when I woke up, when I woke up and knew that I was somebody, and I worked on this, and I worked on this now, I’m my own business person.  I have people that work for me today, and I have to interview them now.  So now, the roles have changed, and I have people that’s been locked up, and you work with money with me, because I have ice cream trucks, and I don’t want to be like the public was with me.  So I have to interview these people, and I have to give them a chance, and you deal with a lot of money some days, and I say, wow, God, just give me the strength.  Now I haven’t been robbed.  And some ones have been good and bad, but somebody gave them a chance like they gave me.

Len Sipes:  And I think that’s the point, in terms of the fact that, okay, 50% do go back, 50% don’t, but nobody ever tells the story of the 50% that don’t, and that’s what we’re going to start doing today.  India, set up a little bit about your experience, if you will, please.

India Frazier:  Well, my experience is, my experience came when I was, first and foremost, I asked God to change my life.  Give me a direction that I needed to go into.  And I set goals in my life, and then when I came home and I looked into the eyes of my grandson, it was not an option for me to go back to the streets.  It was so easy, it’s so easy to fall back into that life, you know what I’m saying?  And like I was telling Tracy a minute ago, you have to go through trials and tribulations and struggles to get where you need to go or get where you need to be, so I went through my changes, you know, but unlike you, I’ve always believed in me.  I knew I was supposed to accomplish the things that I am accomplishing today.  As of right now, I’m driving, I work through the leaf season and snow season for DPW, the Department of Public Works.

Len Sipes:  DPW, the Department of Public Works.

India Frazier:  Yes, sir.

Len Sipes:  In the city of Washington D.C.

India Frazier:  In the city of Washington D.C, and I have a CDL Class A –

Len Sipes:  Okay, Commercial Driver’s License.

India Frazier:  Yes, sir.

Len Sipes:  Go ahead.

India Frazier:  Yes, sir.  And I know I can drive.  I love doing what I do.  You know what I’m saying?  And I love coming home to my family and seeing that my grandson and my daughter’s okay, and I love knowing that my grandmother’s fine.  These are the people that believed in me and pushed me to do and be all that I can be, and then I have, Dr. Butler and Miss Ishman, who is my direct parole officer, and she inspires me.  I mean, it’s not a point in time that I can’t pick up that phone and call Miss Ishman and say, Miss Ishman, so and so, and so and so, well, Miss Frazier, let’s look at it like this.  I might be upset, and then I’ll call her, and then she’ll just get it, she’ll just iron things out for me.

Tracy Marlow:  You built a network up.

India Frazier:  I built my network.

Tracy Marlow:  And that’s what we need to know in society is you can make it if you build a network up.

India Frazier:  – people believe in you and give you that chance.  See, this is it.  You can’t look at me based on a television program, or you can’t understand who I am until you get to know who I am, until you sit down and talk to me and find out who I am, and that despite something happening 10 years ago, it’s where I’m standing at today.

Len Sipes:  But society doesn’t give us that opportunity.  If society is going to say ex-con, criminal, I don’t like you, I’m not funding programs for you, I’m not going to give you a second chance, I don’t want you in this job, and I understand, all three of us understand the fears of the public.  How can you not watch evening television without understanding the fears of the public?  But what do you want to tell the public directly?  What are the key things that you need the public to understand, because you’re not one of the failures, you’re one of the successes, but yet, you’re still facing the same baggage.  So what do you want to tell the public?

Tracy Marlow:  I want to tell the public, don’t look at what I’ve done, look at what I’m doing.  My past is my past, and only we’re going to leave it behind if you give me a chance.  All I’m asking for is a chance.  I’m not saying that I’m going to be perfect.  I’m not going to sit here and tell this, oh, I’m going to be a perfect and never do this, but I’m going to live for today and try to do the best I can do in society under society laws.  It’s not breaking up anymore.

Len Sipes:  Right. India? And what do you tell society?

India Frazier:  I have to tell society that you can’t base my life today on my past.  I’m a totally different person.  I’ve worked hard to get where I am today, and don’t look at me and make a judgment call on what’s on paper.  Look at me and make a judgment call on how I carry myself.

Len Sipes:  We only have a couple minutes left.  My heavens, this segment just flew by like wildfire!  What is instrumental in your lives?  Was it programs, you mentioned, Tracy, the group, or India, you mentioned the group process through Dr. Butler.  What is it, drug treatment programs, job programs, what is it that we need to help you and others like you cross that bridge?

Tracy Marlow:  Drug treatment first, program, and aftercare.  After we come out of treatment, you need some aftercare.  You need sessions, groups.  The  group that Dr. Butler runs is wonderful.  Somebody’s talking about everyday life.  We need to know about every, going on in your life, this life, productive other people in life.  We need groups and more programs.

Len Sipes:  If we had sufficient numbers of programs, how many additional people could we create, if you will, taxpayers instead of tax burdens?  How many additional people would cross that bridge over to the taxpaying side of the coin?

India Frazier:  You would probably have, maybe, at least 25% more instead of a 50% going back in, you might have 25% more.  I’m not going to say 50%, because, you know, like Tracy said, it’s not, everybody’s not perfect.  Everybody’s not ready to live that right life.  You know what I’m saying?  Everybody’s trying, some people try to find the easy way out.  But you would have at least 25% turnover.  I would say at least 60-75% wouldn’t go back.

Len Sipes:  If society was willing to look at you as individuals, especially in terms of jobs, and if the programs were available, would that make a significant difference in terms of how many people go back to prison and how many people commit additional crimes?

Tracy Marlow:  Of course.

India Frazier:  Definitely, yes!

Tracy Marlow:  Definitely!

India Frazier:  I mean, you have jobs in the District of Columbia that, for real, for real, could save a lot of people’s lives.  People gotta eat!  You’ve got to feed your family!  You know what I’m saying?  You’ve got to pay your rent!  You know, the rent lady don’t want to hear about, you can’t pay your rent because you couldn’t find a job.  You’ve got to pay your rent.  So what you going to do?  You’re going to go out there and do something stupid and go right back to where you were.  So if you have these openings within the District for these ex-offenders, or parole, probation, you know what I’m saying, that would gear them towards working harder toward accomplishing things they need to accomplish, the goals they need to accomplish.  It worked for me.

Len Sipes:  I think the point is, is that, again, we hear the failures.  We are never exposed to the successes.  I’ve spent 40 years in the criminal justice system, 30 years talking to people caught up in the criminal justice system.  I see a lot of success stories.  But those success stories are simply never told.  That’s one of the reasons we’re doing this program today, is to talk about the fact that there are successes.

Tracy Marlow:  Yes, it is.  It is.  And I’m definitely one of them, and the best is yet to come!  Because I’m not finished.  I have kids, I’m raising kids, and they are not going through the system!  They are not going to go through the system.  I am raising them to understand that, if you break the law, these are the options that happen.  We have to break the cycle.  The cycle has to be broken.

Len Sipes:  And the cycle is broken when mom comes out of the prison system, gets programs, gets treatment, gets a job, and the case, your case, your own three ice cream trucks, you didn’t let anybody stand in your way, Tracy!  And you’re saving, not just yourself, you’re saving your kids.  India, you’re doing the same thing.

India Frazier:  Yeah, I love my family.  I love my family, and my grandson, he’s the most inspirational power, power behind every move I make, because I want him, I don’t want him to go through what I went through, you know what I’m saying?  I can’t make the choices for him down the line, but I don’t want him to go through what I went through, and I’m going to give him and push him, I say, lead by example, and the rest will follow.

Len Sipes:  Right.  Now, again, so many people come out of the prison system, and they say, Mr. Sipes, or Leonard, I’m not going to go back.  I’m not going back, I’m not going back, I’m not going back.  6 months later, they’re back.  Now that’s a reality.  There are individuals who cannot make it, or they’re not ready to make it in society, and they go back to the prison system.  So we have to acknowledge that.  Again, part of the fears and the perceptions on the part of the public, but I’ve encountered, again, hundreds, thousands of people just like yourselves.  One out of every 45 individuals caught up in the criminal justice system are in, I’m sorry, one out of every 45 people in the community are caught up currently in the criminal justice system.  That’s like one out of 20 minimum, if you count people who have been caught up in the criminal justice system in the past.  That means that all of us are running into offenders and ex-offenders and people caught up in the criminal justice system every day!  By the scores!  We’re running into lots of people.  I mean, is the question, do we want them to get the mental health treatment, do we want them to have drug treatment, do we want them to be involved in programs, do we want them to be employed, or do we want to interact with these individuals without those programs, and without those skills?

India Frazier:  Well, if you don’t implement programs, if you don’t implement treatment, you don’t set aside a certain amount of money or set aside programs to help these people take their life and create a new person within, you know what I’m saying, or guide them, or steer them towards the goals they need to go towards, you’re going to keep on having a return rate of 50%, you know what I’m saying?  So yeah, we need mental health.  We need drug treatment.  We need voc rehab.  We need certain little groups that Dr. Butler be having.  You know, you need all of these things because they’re reconditioning your mind to go towards what you need to go towards to be a better person.

Len Sipes:  The final minute, Tracy, in terms of, we’ve heard Dr. Willa Butler several times throughout the program.  She runs a women’s group where people who have been in the prison system as women offenders, they come together, they talk about their issues, they talk about how to solve their issues, that’s tough.  You’ve got only a couple seconds.

Tracy Marlow:  Yes it is.  Yes, because that is very powerful, because women need women, and when you talk in them groups, you get real deep.  You talk about some personal things that’s going on, because one thing, to deal with a person that’s on mental health status, is really something, because first thing society, oh, they crazy!  People have complications, anxieties, pressures in the world, and they can’t cope with it and deal with it, all they need is somebody to talk to, and these groups are very important.

Len Sipes:  And that’s the point that I wanted to make.  Thank you, ladies, for being on the first segment.  Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for sticking with us as we explore this whole issue of offenders coming out of the prison system who make it, who become taxpayers, not tax burdens.  Look for us in the second segment as we continue to explore this topic with two additional guests.  Please stay with us.

[music playing]

Len Sipes:  Hi, welcome back to D.C. Public Safety.  I continue to be your host, Leonard Sipes.  Our guests today on the second segment are Cortez McDaniel and Donald Zimmerman, both individuals currently under the supervision of my agency, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency.  As I explained in the first segment, we are a federally funded, a parole and probation agency here in Washington, D.C.  The concept is people being released from prison.  50% go back after 3 years, they go back to the prison system, but 50% don’t.  The story of the 50% who don’t go back just doesn’t seem to be told.  Again, you’re exposed every day to the media about the stories of people caught up in the criminal justice system who do go back, you’re never exposed to the fact that there are lots of individuals who don’t.  To talk about that, Cortez and Donald, welcome to D.C. Public Safety, and Cortez, we’re going to start with you in terms of the second segment, and what is it that you think the public needs to understand about people coming back from the prison system?  I mean, they say the word convict, they say the word ex-con, they have another vision in their mind.  I’m not quite sure they have you in mind.  Correct or incorrect?

Cortez McDaniel:  That’s probably correct.  What I would have the public to think about is how they’d like to be associated with us as homecomers.  We like to refer to returning citizens as homecomers, and understand that these folks are coming home anyway, whether you like it or whether you don’t.  Now how the public is associated with them is kind of up to the society as to how they accept them back.  They need to understand the impact that we’re capable of having on society in a positive way, the value that we have, the talent that we have is a very, very large talent pool, and a large number of men who are very capable of being productive members of society.

Len Sipes:  Okay, and I think one of the reasons, in terms of doing this program, they come to my mind, is employment.  There’s literally thousands of individuals under our supervision at Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency who would make perfectly good employees out of the 16,000 on any given day.  They are years away from their crimes, they are years away from their last substance, positive substance abuse test.  But they can’t find work, and they’re having trouble finding work, and that makes it difficult for them, it makes it difficult for us.  To me, that stereotype of ex-con, ex-offender, is the barrier.  So what do you say to people in terms of, in terms of that?  They have this sense that, you’ve been in the prison system, I don’t want to hire you, that’s all there is to it.  I’ve got lots of people to choose from, you were there, you’re not getting this job.  What do you say to that person?

Cortez McDaniel:  Well, I would ask them to actually look at forgiveness and what that encompasses.  If a person has served their amount of time that they’ve been given to serve in prison, if they’ve done that, and they’ve successfully completed that, and they come out, and they do the things that they need to be doing in terms of supervision, then there’s absolutely no reason why this person doesn’t deserve to be able to experience some quality of life themselves.

Len Sipes:  Now Cortez, I’m completely at fault, I didn’t properly introduce you when you came onto the program.  You were with who?  What is your job today?

Cortez McDaniel:  Again, my name is Cortez McDaniel, I’m a transitional coordinator with the Father McKenna Center.

Len Sipes:  Okay, and what is the Father McKenna Center?

Cortez McDaniel:  The Father McKenna Center is a daytime service for homeless men, underprivileged men of Washington, D.C., predominantly African American men who come in for our services during the course of a day.  What we do is we assess men, and we act as a triage to link people up with whatever their needs might be, whether it be drug and alcohol rehabilitation, whether it be mental health services, housing issues, whatever the issues might be, we try to work with them and link them up with agencies that will help them in that direction.

Len Sipes:  Did you have a hard time getting that job?

Cortez McDaniel:  Actually, the way I got that job is I’m also core counsel person on the, with the Phelps Stokes National Homecomers’ Academy, and we were asked, as a result of a newspaper article, to send some people over to speak to that group of men, and once we were there, the people, the administration in place there were pretty impressed with what we had to offer, and so a relationship started with me there –

Len Sipes:  And that’s how you ended up getting the job.

Cortez McDaniel:  That’s exactly right.

Len Sipes:  Okay, Donald, you’re with the same operation, correct?

Donald Zimmerman:  Yes, sir.

Len Sipes:  And tell me a little bit about your story.  You came out of the prison system, and what happened?

Donald Zimmerman:  Well, I came out of the prison system, and initially when I came home, I was a general manager of a trucking company –

Len Sipes:  Before or after?

Donald Zimmerman:  This was after my incarceration.

Len Sipes:  Okay.  How did you get a job as a general manager of a trucking company?

Donald Zimmerman:  Some friends of the family, you know, they just –

Len Sipes:  Okay.  You had family connections.

Donald Zimmerman:  Yeah.  They just hired me on, and I learned the business, and I was doing that for a while until the economy folded, and then I went to school to be a chef, so now I’m currently working at a Hospital through a temporary agency called Food Team, and I do temporary cook positions there, but –

Len Sipes:  Can I get into the larger issue?  I started off with the larger issue before a proper introduction of both of you, of once again, the stereotype.  Now I’m not going to be upset with society about their stereotypes.  With the ladies on the first segment, I was watching television, I turned to the National Geographic channel of all channels, and then there was a story about guys in prison, and then I’m flipping through the channels, and there’s the Arts & Entertainment channel, there’s another story about guys in prison, and I sat back and said, you know, if that’s the public’s perception of people caught up in the criminal justice system, there’s no hope.  The story they’re telling was a perfectly accurate story.  They weren’t being dishonest, but it scares people.  The evening news scares people.  What happens when they read their newspapers scares people, and then we have the two of you, and you’re not scary.  So what does the public need to understand about this issue of people coming out of the prison system?  What does the public need to understand to get them to support programs or to get them to give you a chance at a job?

Donald Zimmerman:  The first thing that the public needs to realize is that we’re human, and that we have made mistakes like everyone in life, and we have learned to overcome our mistakes.  They have to learn to accept us and give us that second chance, as if, like a parent would do with their child.  They say, once you finish your prison sentence, that your debt is paid to society.  But is that truly happening?  We tend to have labels put on us like ex-cons and ex-felons, see, but the thing is, you have to take all them labels away and recognize that I am a man and I am a woman and I will stand for something, and I will push, by any means necessary, I will be accepted, and with that positive attitude, only good things will happen.

Cortez McDaniel:  I don’t want to take away from that, the homecomer’s obligation to change their whole approach to life, their whole thought process, and matter of fact, before I came home, about three years actually before I came home, I wrote a book called recidivism prevention workbook.  For people that don’t know, recidivism is commonly used to describe the tendency of a person who’s been convicted of a crime to relapse or return back to criminal behavior.

Len Sipes:  That’s a wonderful –

Cortez McDaniel:  So I thought about that through my own life, and I thought of how valuable it could be to a lot of men.  So in a sense, in my own life, I realize that my whole thought process had deteriorated into how my approach to life was a way of criminal thinking, and so I had to change my principal system, my moral judgment, everything about that had to be looked at, and I had to be man enough and willing to change that.  So I started, I don’t like to use program again, because it’s beginning and end to that, but I started this class that encompassed criminal thinking and criminal behavior, and it was very successful in prison, and I came out here in society with the same ideology that we are capable of being refocused, and that we have a responsibility to approach life differently.

Len Sipes:  How many people who come out of the prison system come out of the prison system with that understanding?  Lots of people who have told me, I’m getting out, and when I used to work inside the prison system, I’m getting out, and I’m not going back, came back.

Donald Zimmerman:  Well you have a lot of –

Len Sipes:  Came back pretty quickly.

Donald Zimmerman:  Well, you have a lot of men and women who come out with the intent that they’re not going to go back, but when they get out and they see the situation that they’re, no jobs, or they don’t want to accept a job, because I have the notion that there are jobs, people just don’t want to go work at McDonald’s, don’t want to go work at Wendy’s, whereas when you were in the federal prison system, you work for $5.25 a month.  So with that being said, they see their situations, and they don’t have that support system on the outside that will reeducate.  See, one, you have to reeducate yourself into, like, your morals and your values, saying, you know, positive things to you, like, you know, you can do better, you can find a job.  It’s not how much money you make, it’s what you do with the money you make.  You know, when you start to understand the simpler things in life and start, you know, understanding true happiness and just knowing that you have to, you know, first, that you’re on probation or parole, you have to first comply, take it one situation at a time, then you can move to the next step.  Once you start to comply, then you can start going to your meetings, then you can start building relationships, and then eventually, as time progress, you will start to reeducate yourself with better understanding and more.

Len Sipes:  Okay, so the point in all of this is that, if you are willing to go through that process, and if you’re willing to seek help, you can cross that bridge.  You can go from the tax burden to the taxpayer.  You can be employed, but it’s really upon you if you, and how much –

Cortez McDaniel:  Well, the support system is very, very necessary.

Len Sipes:  That’s the point I want –

Cortez McDaniel:  And that’s, with Phelps Stokes, that’s what we’re all about at Phelps Stokes, the Homecomers’ Academy.  That’s what we’re all about is providing a support system for a homecomer that lets them understand that, and helps to reinforce these ideologies in him and helps him understand that he has certain responsibilities that he needs to live up to, but also that he’s not alone, that he has some support and some assistance in getting to where he needs to get to.  A lot of times, people will come out of prison with, have purposed themselves never to go back, but they get out, and the support falls through.  A lot of times people have become estranged from their families for different reasons, and they don’t, they lack people who care or people who are willing to take a chance on them.

Len Sipes:  And that’s what the ladies said during the first segment.  If you’ve got that group of people who can support you emotionally and get you through this process, that really does increase the chances of you doing well.

Cortez McDaniel:  Absolutely.

Len Sipes:  Okay.  So the point is this.  The final minutes of the program is that what I said on the first segment is that there are thousands of you guys out there struggling, but they’re ready to make that move.  They’re sick and tired of being sick and tired.  They’re sick and tired of being caught up in the criminal justice system.  They would be good employees, they would be good citizens.  There’s a certain point where society does have to recognize who is at risk and who’s trying, who’s struggling and who’s trying to make it, correct?  I mean, that is incumbent upon employers and incumbent upon people, I mean, we have to fund a certain amount of programs to help people cross that bridge.  Am I right or wrong?

Cortez McDaniel:  Well, yeah.  I think we have to have entities.  Like I said, I don’t like to use the word program, because when I talk about a program, I’m talking about a beginning and an end.

Len Sipes:  And this is lifelong.

Cortez McDaniel:  But we believe in relationships, and we believe in those relationships being everlasting –

Donald Zimmerman:  Brotherhoods and sisterhoods.

Cortez McDaniel:  The dynamic may change as things evolve, but we believe those relationships are important –

Len Sipes:  And the same with the research on Delancey Street out in San Francisco 25 years ago.  That’s exactly what they said in terms of the former offenders coming together as a group to help each other out.  So that’s the bottom line.

Donald Zimmerman:  What we need is real people dealing with real problems trying to find real solutions.

Len Sipes:  Okay.  And you’ve got the final word.  Ladies and gentlemen, you’ve come in contact with Cortez McDaniel and Donald Zimmerman.  This is D.C. Public Safety.  We really appreciate the fact that you’ve been with us today to explore this very important topic of people who are successes who have come out of the prison system, and yet at the same time made successes of themselves.  We appreciate your attention, and please stick with us and watch for us next time as we explore another very important topic in the criminal justice system.  Have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Video Ends]


Violence Reduction Program-“DC Public Safety”

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[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes: From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. Today, we are here to talk about the violence reduction program here at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. CSOSA is a federally funded parole and probation agency with responsibility for parole and probation issues in the great city of Washington, D.C. To talk to us about this program we have three extraordinarily interesting people. We have Zoë, and that’s not her real name. She is an individual under supervision of Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency to talk about her participation in the violence reduction program. We have Tanesha Clardy, and she is a community supervision officer, and we have Michelle Hare-Diggs, she is a treatment specialist, and to Zoë, and to Tanesha, and to Michelle, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Tanesha Clardy: Thank you.

Michelle Hare-Diggs: Thank you.

Zoe: Thank you.

Len Sipes: All right. We’re going to start off with you, Michelle, and you’re going to explain what the violence reduction program is all about.

Michelle Hare-Diggs: The violence reduction program was put into place by CSOSA to, it’s to successfully help the offenders on probation to successfully complete parole and probation. There’s three phases to the group. Phase one kind of gets everybody comfortable with being in the group, comfortable with the group process, so we do a lot of, I guess I would say icebreaker exercises, which is treatment readiness exercises. That runs three weeks, and they come twice a week for three weeks, and then we move on to phase two, which is the meat of the program, and we do a whole slough of, we learn a whole slough of activities, and it’s not just violence. Most of the techniques can be used in everyday life: communication styles, different communication styles, relaxation techniques, so everything that we do in the group can also, it just doesn’t relate to just violence. And that phase runs 12 weeks, and they come twice a week. And then we move on to phase three, which is, the purpose of phase three is to help, we want the offenders to, in turn, want to be able to help someone else to successfully complete parole and probation, so we integrate them into community activities, and that phase runs six weeks, and they come once a week.

Len Sipes: So in essence, what we’re doing is helping people, the theory in criminology called cognitive behavioral therapy, where it’s sort of thinking through life’s event differently than what they’ve done in the past, and I would imagine that’s sort of what we’re talking about now, correct?

Michelle Hare-Diggs: Yes.

Len Sipes: So it is how to stay away from situations of violence, potential situations for violence, how to extract yourself, how to deal with all of that in such a way not to land you back in the criminal justice system.

Michelle Hare-Diggs: Exactly, and there’s situations where you can’t do that, how to make a better choice, what would be a better choice.

Len Sipes: A better choice. Okay. We were talking beforehand, my wife constantly tells me about better choices. I get angry at my daughters, and she’ll tell me to go cool off. I mean, this is sort of a lifelong learning situation for a lot of us, correct?

Michelle Hare-Diggs: Right. So it’s just situations where we try to, if you’re in a situation where you can’t just walk out, what would be the better thing to do, how to take a time out in your head. Some of the techniques sound corny, but they really work. Things that you would never think of, how to count to ten, and we hear it, but do we really do it? How to shout loudly, stop it, to yourself, so you’re able to not give yourself that continuous negative self-talk.

Len Sipes: And Tanesha, we’re going to go to you for the next question. You work with these women, the women offenders on a regular basis. Do you deal just with the women, or with the men, or both?

Tanesha Clardy: I deal with both.

Len Sipes: With both. Do you have any preferences over which group? Are women easier to deal with than men? Or do they, or they bring their own unique issues?

Tanesha Clardy: All of them bring unique characteristics to the program.

Len Sipes: Because the average person is going to –

Tanesha Clardy: What I’ve discovered is that women, they have different issues, totally different issues that come from, as far as growing up and being a female, you have molestation, you have rape, you have substance abuse, and you just have emotional, physical abuse. So those are different issues that women more deal with than men.

Len Sipes: And that’s pretty much clarified by the criminological literature, by all the studies basically, talking about the fact that women offenders, women caught up in the criminal justice system have much higher rates of substance abuse than men, have higher rates of mental health issues, and the rate of prior sexual abuse is astounding. It is one of the highest correlates or the things that are connected to crime, it is astounding as to how many women caught up in the criminal justice system come from that sort of a history, and the women offenders that I’ve talked to in the past, they’re, they’ve had a lot of explosive anger going on with them and throughout their lives, and a lot of it’s self destructive, which I would imagine a lot of the emotional issues and substance abuse issues come from that history.

Tanesha Clardy: True. It’s all about their defense mechanisms. It’s things that women internalize more, so when it gets to the point where you can’t take it anymore, it’s easier to just lash out, and so it’s probably easier for them to just, you know, commit an act of violence when they feel as though they have to defend themselves. They have to protect themselves, because here you are, you’re coming up against me. And so that’s what I’ve just, you know, just noticed on my women offenders.

Len Sipes: Either one of you can answer this question now. We’re talking about basically a four month program where we take individuals with a history of violence, and we sort of restructure who they are and what they are in terms of their day to day ability to cope with the stresses of life. Correct?

Michelle Hare-Diggs: Right.

Tanesha Clardy: Right.

MD: But I think the group is, because it is four months long, it gives you time to really think about behaviors and how it may have impacted your decisions in the past, so that’s the real purpose of the group. We want you to see how your past behaviors now, how have they impacted your decisions, and for whatever reason, have put you on parole and probation, and how can you rethink those past behaviors, and how can we use them differently in the future to help us make better decisions.

Len Sipes: Right. We don’t want the person engaging in additional acts of violence, so this protects the public. We don’t want the person engaging in additional acts of violence because it protects the taxpayer, because the person theoretically does better, and the research indicates that individuals do better with these programs, cognitive behavioral therapy programs, or violence reduction programs. So this is a win-win situation for everybody. What we’re doing is helping people understand that the stuff that they’ve done in the past, they cannot continue to do in the future, correct?

Michelle Hare-Diggs: Right. And in turn, we also, not just for themselves, but because some, like with the women offenders, some of them are mothers or sisters, the skills that you learn, even again, they sound corny, but as you’re at home, I’m sure, they joke about it later on. Like, we did this skill. But if you really practice it, and this is something that you try to practice with your siblings at home or your children, or your significant other, it’s not something that they themselves are just learning, they’re also teaching others.

Len Sipes: And that’s important. I mean, what you teach individuals, they teach their sons, they teach their daughters, they teach their peers, a lot of people who have been caught up in the criminal justice system who are now doing well, people sort of wonder, well, why are you doing so well? And one of the reasons why they’re doing so well is they’ve learned a new way of thinking about who they are and their lives. Most people don’t want to return to the criminal justice system. I get a sense that a lot of people who are caught up in the criminal justice system don’t quite understand how they got there to begin with. All they were doing were hanging out with friends, drinking a beer, doing whatever, and somebody said the wrong thing, and they lashed out. It’s not like they sat down and said, gee, I want to assault somebody violently with a beer bottle tonight. Stuff happens.

Michelle Hare-Diggs: And stuff happens quickly.

Len Sipes: Stuff happens quickly. It happens rapidly. And sometimes you’re not even quite sure why you did what you did, correct?

Tanesha Clardy: Very true, very true. But I’m, I guess, that’s the benefit of the program, because instead of just reacting the way you normally would act, you sit back and you think about, okay, what is my next move? Like, you have to make a choice, and hopefully the choice is a positive one.

Len Sipes: All right. Now we’re going to go over to Zoë. Zoë is, what we said before the program, was the truly authentic person sitting in this room. The rest of us are paid by the federal government to do what we do on a day to day basis. Zoë, you’re here, because I’m quite sure you volunteered to be on the radio show, and just absolutely adored the idea of sharing your feelings with the public.

Zoe: Absolutely!

Len Sipes: Okay, cool!

Zoe: The public needs to be informed.

Len Sipes: Cool. Why does the public need to be informed?

Zoe: Well, because everyone that commits a crime or commits an act of violence isn’t a bad person. It’s just a way, you have to rethink the way that you’re going about things, think about how you’re going to approach this situation, and think about who you’re in the situation with. You can’t react the same to everyone, so that’s what I take most out of the group, that even though we’re not talking about something that directly applies to me, I can take the message out of that and apply it to my life, and it’s helpful.

Len Sipes: Well, what we’ve said before throughout the entire program is the sense that too many people are being caught up in too many acts of violence. They need, what we call in the field, cognitive behavioral therapy, what the other person, the average person listening to this program would be, come to you-know-what meeting, or come to reality meeting, or whatever, you know, our parents read us the riot act in the past, we got punished, we were instructed by uncles, aunts, others, people in the community that what we were doing was inappropriate. We had no business doing it. Are we suggesting that people didn’t grow up with those guidelines?

Zoe: Well, some people didn’t. Everyone didn’t have that uncle or aunt or cousins or family members around to give that positive reinforcement, or even still, just the things that you were doing wrong, no one told you they were wrong. No one really reprimanded you for it. So that catches up with you in the end, and pretty much here, we’re just reversing, kind of, the bad learned behavior.

Len Sipes: Well, there are two questions. Is it too easy to get involved in acts of violence?

Zoe: Yeah –

Len Sipes: And, you know, again, most of the people that I’ve talked to have been caught up in the criminal justice system, didn’t say, you know, I set out that evening to beat my brother over the head with a beer bottle because he insulted my wife. I mean, that’s not how it went down.

Zoe: No, it went down, in the flash of an eye, before you knew it, someone was hemmed up because of whatever internal anger that, well, that I had, this is my personal experience. Yeah, so before I knew it, I was already at a 9, and just that one little small incident just took me to 27 somewhere, and I ended up in the system.

Len Sipes: It was an explosion.

Zoe: It was an explosion.

Len Sipes: Okay. So you’ve been through the criminal justice system, and you have been through the violence reduction program –

Zoe: Currently in the program.

Len Sipes: You’re currently in the program, and what does that mean to you now?

Zoe: Well, for one, when we first started the program, I was kind of sketchy about, I just really didn’t understand why I was in the group, but now, I look forward to coming to the group. These are just people, these are my friends, now, actually, and we talk about different experiences that we have throughout the week, and it’s helpful. It’s really helpful. Whether I’m actually joking around, or we come in there and play around, but at the end of the day, all right, we actually got something out of this, and it’s valuable to put forth in your everyday life.

Len Sipes: That’s amazing to me, because that is something the average person doesn’t hear. The average person listening to this program is saying, wait a minute, people who are violent belong in prison. They don’t understand that the overwhelming majority of people caught up in the correctional system or in the street, they’re under parole and probation supervision. Parole meaning, they’ve come out of the prison system, probation means the judge decided to sentence them to a period of community supervision, and not necessarily prison, but prison’s always hanging over their heads. So the overwhelming majority of people caught up in acts of violence aren’t in prison, they’re in the community.

Zoe: Yeah. Your next door neighbor.

Len Sipes: Their next door neighbor, the person you interact with at the gas station, the person who serves you at your local restaurant, the person who hands you your dry cleaning, it’s one out of every 45 people in the community are under active community supervision. Now most criminologists have said, well, if it’s one out of every 45 under active, current community supervision with correctional systems, it’s at minimum one out of every 20. So you’re encountering people every day by the scores who were either once caught up in the criminal justice system or currently caught up in the criminal justice system. So these programs, this particular program, what does it mean to you, and what does it mean to public safety?

Zoe: Well, as far as public safety and, the program really just has people to, I don’t really –

Len Sipes: It’s a hard question. I’m sorry, it is a ridiculously hard question to answer. But I mean, the bottom line is, if more people were involved in programs like this, would there be less violence?

Zoe: Yes, there definitely would be less violence.

Len Sipes: Okay, and why is that?

Zoe: Because it changes your way of thinking about it. Change the way of thinking about the situations that you’re in, and things that may seem like a threat to take you from 10 to 27, they’re not, they don’t bother you as much anymore.

Michelle Hare-Diggs: I also think the peer interaction they’re getting from the group, the peer feedback that they’re getting, things that they would, there are situations where we’ll come out, somebody in the group will come up with a scenario that may have happened over the weekend where they didn’t think that there was any other way to handle it, and the peer interaction or peer feedback that they’re getting inside the group like, okay, maybe you could have tried this, you could have tried that, and then it seems more realistic. Like, okay, maybe I could have done that, where some people, sometimes you think, the only thing I could have done was hit this person or lashed out or cussed the person out, or have, however you may have acted before, the interaction that the peers give, the interaction in the group from the peers is just, it’s amazing. The feedback, well, next time, maybe you could try this, walk out, come back in, things that you would never think that you yourself could do, you know, they test themselves, and I really like that.

Len Sipes: We’re halfway through the program, and I’m going to reintroduce everybody here at the microphones today. Zoë, not her real name, but an individual kind enough to participate. She is currently in the violence reduction program here at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. Community Supervision Officer Tanesha Clardy, and what most people call parole and probation agents, we call community supervision officer, and a treatment specialist, Michelle Hare-Diggs, all three are before our microphones talking about the violence reduction program here at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. Now ladies, I’m going to go back to my experience when I ran groups in the Maryland prison system, and one of the things that I discovered is how folks react in a treatment setting, and how they act in the community can be two different things.

Michelle Hare-Diggs: Well, I think what makes this group unique, because I’m a treatment specialist and I’m not a CSO, they kind of see it as separate, so I think the group tends to be a lot more real. It’s not as, I think what most people would consider as fake, and Zoë, you can correct me if I’m wrong.

Zoe: No, I agree with you. I like, okay, at first, I wasn’t sure about it, but I like the fact that it’s, the time period, the length of it, because if we were meeting once a week for a month, I wouldn’t know these people, and I wouldn’t tell them anything. It wouldn’t be a conversation, it’d just be Ms. Hare-Diggs talking to us. She’d just be talking at us pretty much, vs. us interacting.

Len Sipes: A lot of people go through these programs because they’re stuck with going through these programs. How authentic is this? Any one of you can answer. How real is this? How deeply do we get into the lives of the individuals, and is there real change? That’s what the public wants to know?

Michelle Hare-Diggs: Well, it is a real change, because one, you don’t have to be there. You can just be at home, and next thing you know, you’ll get someone at your door taking you back to jail. You don’t have to be there. But you come, and then you choose to participate. So you can come and not say anything, and you can come and share your experiences, so just by that, and just us learning to trust each other, we can talk about these things and throw ideas off the wall and give each other constructive criticism or just say pretty much whatever we’re thinking without it becoming an issue. So the fact that we have that freedom, that ability to just let it all hang out and put it out there. We get a lot of things accomplished. We talk about a lot of different issues, and we hear each other out. We’re more receptive to our peers, because they’re not someone talking down at us, they’re someone that’s going through the same thing I am.

Len Sipes: How scary of a place is that? I’ve talked to a lot of people who have been through drug treatment describing it as one of the scariest events of their lives, because they had to confront all the garbage that has gone on in their lives that calls them to be caught up in the criminal justice system. Sometimes treatment is not pretty. Sometimes it’s dragging a person through everything that happened beforehand and coming to an understanding that it doesn’t matter what happened to you beforehand, what happens is now and how to control yourself now.

Zoe: It definitely gets ugly at times where, you know, the group forces an individual to look at their own behaviors and stop putting the blame on everybody else, from the PO to their mother to, sometimes, it’s really difficult to look at your own behavior sometimes, so it gets ugly when the group forces that person to address and take some ownership in their behaviors.

Len Sipes: When I did group, it was like going to Mars in many instances because, no, you went to a different planet. You got involved in an extraordinarily intensive examination of people’s lives. In my life, the lives of the participants in the program, it was scary at times, because, not because of what they said, not because of threats or anything along those lines, but you dig deep into the individual’s life, and suddenly, they are dealing with issues of their past for the first time. They’ve never really dealt with them before. Am I right or wrong?

Tanesha Clardy: You’re definitely right, because I’ve definitely seen a change in, especially the females who weren’t very interested in being in the program at all. Like for Zoë, she definitely came a long way. She didn’t want to do the program, she didn’t understand why she had to do the program, she understood the charge, but to her, I’m not an angry person, I’m not a violent person, the situation happened, it is what it is, I just want to do this and get on with my life. But she comes to group, she actively participates, she’s very open, she accepts responsibility for her actions, and I’ve just definitely seen a positive change in her.

Len Sipes: And I think that’s the most meaningful part of all of this. When you go through interacting with a whole bunch of people, and they come to understand what’s happened to them in the past, and they come to understand that they can control it, there are a lot of people caught up in the criminal justice system who have been, I don’t know, I mean, ships on the ocean without sails. I mean, the wind’s just pushing them all over the place, and suddenly, they learn how to put up sails and move in the direction that they want to move in. Boy, that’s a great analogy, isn’t it? I just thought of that! And then there are people who are listening to this who are going, you know, Mr. Sipes, you’re so full of hooey, don’t you understand that they’re just jiving you, they’re just doing what they have to do to get through the program, and –

Zoe: Well, they show. When you show back up, and you’re locked up, it’ll show whether you got something out of the program or not, and it’s all about what you put into it. You can’t expect to, okay, well my life has changed, when you don’t even talk in group. You don’t even participate. It’s not going to happen. And they’ll see you again. So if you’re trying to put your best foot forward, just go ahead and actively participate, pay attention, try to get something out of it, and you won’t, hopefully you won’t have to be in the system again.

Len Sipes: My guess is that an awful lot of people involved in the criminal justice system could use this type of, who could use this kind of program, that this kind of program would be valuable to them. It’s just not people who are ostensibly “violent offenders.” There’s a lot of people with nonviolent charges who have a history of violence. And you, we can judge that through our own instruments. We’ve pretty much come to a good understanding here at Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency through our instruments as to who that person really is, correct?

Michelle Hare-Diggs: Correct. I think anyone can benefit from the program. You could probably benefit from the program yourself because it’s all about conflict resolution, different communication styles, and coping skills, because it’s nothing but a table that separates me from Zoë. I could have been in that same restaurant, and someone pushed me, and I turned around and slapped them, and here I am, I’m on supervision.

Zoe: That’s what happened. No, that’s what happened.

Len Sipes: Yeah, but that could happen to any of us. But I mean –

Michelle Hare-Diggs: It’s all about how you react and the choice that you make.

Len Sipes: And according to the research, most individuals who are caught up in the criminal justice system at the time of the arrest were under the influence of something. And most were young. So if you have a younger individual full of pee and vinegar who doesn’t feel that good about themselves, who –

Tanesha Clardy: Pee and vinegar?

Len Sipes: As Tanesha tries to recover from that statement, and, no, no, no, I mean, this is the reality of what we’re dealing with, is it not? I mean, tell me if I’m wrong. It’s, they’re young, they’re very emotional, they’re caught up in the moment, somebody has insulted them, or there’s a perceived insult, may be real, may not be real, and that person just explodes, and that person, they don’t have to be young?

Tanesha Clardy: No, they don’t have to be young. I mean, we don’t have many old people in our group, but there’s a few. Yeah. And they, they get just as much out of the group as I would, or as the next person. So you don’t have to be young, you don’t have to be a male or a female to get caught up in the moment, and next thing you know…

Len Sipes: But you do have to be willing to understand how you became involved in the criminal justice system, how you came to be arrested that evening, and that arrest is oftentimes just the tip of an iceberg. I mean, people caught up in the criminal justice system, they’re here for a burglary, but you know, they’ve been down the road before. They’ve been involved in the criminal justice system. We just don’t know about it. Most crimes aren’t reported, most reported crimes do not end up in arrest. I’m talking about national statistics, and most reported, even when they’re prosecuted, most felonies in this country don’t get prison time. So I mean, to be involved in the criminal justice system, you’ve really had to do something, or you did a series of things before they send you to prison. So, I mean, the point is, is that people are actively engaged in lots of different things that could get them involved with our agency or put them behind prison bars. I mean, it’s just not one instance in many cases, and in many cases, there’s a history of violence, there’s a history of crime, there’s a history of acting out.

Michelle Hare-Diggs: Right, the group also focuses on trying to get the individuals to understand what they did and how it has led, again –

Tanesha Clardy: Ownership.

Michelle Hare-Diggs: Ownership, taking ownership to their behaviors, because a lot of things are learned behaviors, and they don’t see anything wrong with it, so we have to really focus on what you did and how it’s affected your life.

Len Sipes: And it’s not just, I guess the point that I’m trying to make, Zoë, is that it’s, in many cases, it’s not just one altercation. We’re talking about a history of inappropriate behaviors.

Michelle Hare-Diggs: So we try to focus on learned behaviors and unlearning behaviors, and it can be done.

Len Sipes: That’s the interesting thing where the audience does need to hear that. I mean, you can be 27-years-old, according to Zoë, you can be 47 years old, and you can have this whole life of not making the best of decisions, and you can come out of these sort of encounters making much better decisions. It does work, is the question the average person listening to this program is saying, ladies, does it work?

Michelle Hare-Diggs: It does. I mean, it’s hard for an individual, if you’re 47, 27, whatever, if you’ve been reacting the same way your whole life to whatever situation, if you’re used to lashing out, holding off hitting somebody, smacking somebody, spitting, whatever, and then you’re in a group with other people who have the same issues, some of the similar, some of the same, similar incidents have happened, and you can hear how somebody else is able to react to a situation, it makes you think at some point, okay, maybe I can try that, you might, you might not want to try it the first time, maybe not even the second time, but the third time, be like, okay, I can try that, and then if it works, it works, if not, we use so many different skills, you can try a different one, a different type of coping skill –

Len Sipes: Like retreating.

Michelle Hare-Diggs: Retreating, right. Or counting to 10, removing yourself, some people are like, I’m never going to walk out. I would never do this, and you just try something different. So every skill doesn’t work for everybody, but we, thinking errors, you think about, what have I been doing all these years, I’m sorry, what have I been doing all these years, and you have to think, how has it gotten me to this place? And I think that’s the biggest thing that we learn in group, so many, we do the same things over and over and over again, and if it doesn’t work, what can we do differently?

Len Sipes: I talked to a guy who went through this program who was telling me about being involved in a confrontation on the street, and for the first time in his life, he retreated. He removed himself from that situation. It was a tool that he learned in group, and he was able to use that tool and extract himself, and he simply said, my going back to prison is not worth an altercation with this idiot. And that was a huge revelation for this individual. It prevented a violent crime from going down. It prevented him from being further caught up in the criminal justice system. It saved the taxpayer tens of thousands of incarcerative dollars. That was effective. I mean, just simply saying to himself, I’m going to extract myself from this situation. I’m getting out. I’m not going back to prison.

Michelle Hare-Diggs: And I guess another thing, when you have that peer interaction in the group, the peers tell you, it’s okay to walk away. It’s not such a bad thing. Whereas before, you might have said, I’m not walking away. If this is a way of living, you’re not used to walking away, you’re used to handling things in a violent manner, or in a physical manner, and you’re hearing everyone say it’s okay to walk away, you keep telling yourself that, and if my freedom is on the line, sometimes you need that, the cost, the interaction from your peers telling you, what’s the better thing to do in this situation?

Len Sipes: We just have a couple minutes left. Ladies, I mean, to me, this has been an extraordinary half hour. To me, it really has been. The two of you who are paid to be doing this, and Zoë who got sucked into it, but I mean, the explanation, the explanation is, I think, powerful, that people can change through the right kind of programs, and if we had more of these programs, more people could change. Is that overly simplistic? If you had programs in place for more people, we could, we could have a greater impact on public safety.

Michelle Hare-Diggs: Yeah, sure.

Zoe: Definitely. Definitely.

Tanesha Clardy: This is something that could be put into the community. It doesn’t have to be called a violence reduction program. It could just be at a community center, just have people come in from the community, sit down, just learn these different skills, like, be the bigger person. You don’t always have to, of course, defend yourself, but you don’t have to do anything drastic to where you’re going to actually hurt the other person, but just turn away, walk away, I have something to live for, I have a life, I love my freedom, so okay, I’m going to let you get away with this one, and I’m going to just keep moving, because I don’t want to go to my PO and be like, yeah, I got arrested.

Len Sipes: I’m going to let you get away with this one because you are of no consequence to me. I am of consequence to me, and I’m going to protect my kids. I’m going to protect myself, and I’m going to protect my family by getting out of it –

Tanesha Clardy: Exactly.

Len Sipes: Because, my man –

Tanesha Clardy: It’s not worth it.

Len Sipes: – you’re nothing to me.

Tanesha Clardy: I have way too much to live for.

Len Sipes: I have way too much to live for. So he’s not getting away, his opponent is not getting away with anything. He’s getting away with a much better life.

Tanesha Clardy: Right.

Zoe: Right.

Len Sipes: And that’s the whole idea behind this program, right?

Tanesha Clardy: Yes.

Zoe: Yes.

Len Sipes: All right. Any final words? Before we close?

Zoe: Well…

Len Sipes: Okay, Zoë. You’ve got the final word. What is it? Is it meaningful?

Zoe: Well, the program is meaningful. I do appreciate now, I can say this now, once again. I do appreciate being chosen to be a part of it, just, just so I can see, okay, this behavior is not right. Something has to change. And now that I have some of the tools in place and some of the methods in place, I’m able to do that and not just take it to the extreme every single time.

Len Sipes: Well, for me, it’s been a wonderful half hour, ladies. I’ve really enjoyed this, and I think it’s been very meaningful, and I think a lot of people and the public are going to learn from it. Our guest today, ladies and gentlemen, Zoë, who, it’s not a real name, but she’s a person under supervision with our agency, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency in the violence reduction program. We have community supervision officer Tanesha Clardy, and we have treatment specialist Michelle Hare-Diggs. Ladies, again, thank you for being on the program. Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety, radio programs from the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. Please have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]


Relapse Prevention and Drug Treatment-DC Public Safety

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– Audio begins –

Len Sipes From our microphones in downtown Washington, D.C. This is D.C. Public Safety. I’m your host Leonard Sipes. Today, we have, I think, an extraordinary interesting program. We’re going to be talking about relapse prevention for women. Actually, relapse prevention for people who are struggling with substance abuse across the board. To talk about all of this, we have Chris Kiel. She is in charge of our faith-based effort here at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. We have Tasha Chambers, she is with the City-Wide Outreach Coordinator, one of three working again for the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. She is a facilitator and she runs groups, and we have Jennifer Gaskins. She was one time appeared on WTOP Radio, which is one of the more famous radio stations in the country. She, at one time, was under supervision, and she comes back and mentors to women involved in the relapse prevention program. But, before going on with the show, I want to remind everybody that we do appreciate very much the fact that you contact us. You follow us on Twitter. You contact us by phone. You contact us by email. You can reach me via email, Leonard L-E-O-N-A-R-D.sipes S-I-P not T but P E-S @C-S-O-S-A, or you can reach me at Twitter,, and for those of you who contact about us about a lack of programs in September, quite frankly, in terms of vacation and in terms of attending conferences, social media conferences and in terms of sickness, I have not been able to produce a lot of programs. So, if you’re wondering where we’ve been, I’ve been out, and it has been that simple. So, once again, we appreciate the fact that you are interested in the programs here at DC Public Safety Radio, Television, Blog and Transcripts. So, we start off with Chris Kiel. Chris, again, is in charge of the faith-based initiative for the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency program. Chris, give me a sense when you’re talking about relapse prevention for women, or first of all, give me a sense of what we need by the faith-based initiative.

Chris Kiel: Sure, Len, thank you for inviting us. And, this is National Re-entry Relapse Prevention month.

Len Sipes Ah!

Chris Kiel: So, it’s a good thing that we’re having this show now.

Len Sipes Okay.

Chris Kiel: Since this is relapse prevention month.

Len Sipes It’s timely.

Chris Kiel: Well, the faith-based initiative is a program, as you know, that was put in place under a former president, President George Bush, and is now being supported by our current president, and the faith-based initiative focuses on helping persons out in the community through a combination of the federal government along with faith-based institutions. So, here at CSOSA, we have partnered with our faith institutions, and that means any faith institution can be a part of this program, and we work with those faith institutions in providing services for our offenders, which at that point they become called mentees. We remove the label of offender, and we call them mentees.

Len Sipes Uh-huh.

Chris Kiel: And, the mentors who come from the local churches and synagogues and temples work with them in helping them to be able to resolve some of the barriers to reentry. And, so, we also work with service providers here in the city, which are non-profit organizations who provide services as well. So, it’s a wonderful program. We have over 400 persons matched at this current point, meaning . . .

Len Sipes Wait a minute, 400 persons meaning 400 people who were caught up in the criminal justice system?

Chris Kiel: That’s right, matched with a mentor.

Len Sipes Okay, that’s amazing.

Chris Kiel: Yes, we’re very proud of the program.

Len Sipes That is amazing. Four hundred matched . . .

Chris Kiel: Yes.

Len Sipes With a mentor?

Chris Kiel: Yes, with a mentor.

Len Sipes That’s incredible.

Chris Kiel: Yep.

Len Sipes Over what period of time?

Chris Kiel: Over the past year. Our fiscal year . . .

Len Sipes Over the last year?

Chris Kiel: October 2008 . . .

Len Sipes Four hundred? That’s incredible.

Chris Kiel: Since September 30. Yes, we’re very proud of the numbers.

Len Sipes People have been working hard.

Chris Kiel: Yes, yes.

Len Sipes That’s probably more than all of the years combined previous to that.

Chris Kiel: Yes. I’m very proud of that. I’m very proud of my agency.

Len Sipes Congratulations, Chris. That’s great, that’s great. You know, because one of the things; this is not the first program that will have a faith-based theme to it, but one of the things that I found, in the past, is that not only is the faith community very dedicated to this concept, it seems to me that people when they come out of the prison system really need other people to surround them, guide them, help them in terms of income taxes, help them in terms of finding clothes for a job interview, help them in terms of how to conduct a job interview, help them in terms of the fact that I want to go back to heroin. I’m sorry I’m getting sick and tired of not being employed. I’m struggling with employed I want to go back to drugs. I mean, to have not only that individual but to have it in the structure of the church or the synagogue or the mosque that becomes what another very famous person involved in the faith-based effort said, sometime ago, “It’s a gang for good.” You know, how offenders get caught up in gangs, well this is the gang for good. This is a gang of individuals who are pro-social.

Chris Kiel: That’s correct.

Len Sipes Who are trying to do the right thing.

Chris Kiel: That’s correct. As you know, Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous as well as criminal justice systems, we support and encourage offenders to find new people, places and things. Well, if you go in the yellow pages, you’re not going to see a category that says new people, places and things. And, so . . .

Len Sipes For people out of prison.

Chris Kiel: That’s right or for anyone, for that matter. And, so, what we do with the faith-based initiative is we go out and we pursue those relationships on behalf of reentrance and help to build those relationships. Helping them find new people who are, in fact, role models, new places where they can go for pro-social activities and new things that help them to be able to use their creative skills.

Len Sipes Tasha Chambers you’re one of three city-wide outreach coordinators. You are a facilitator and you run groups. Give me a sense as to what your take is on faith-based.

Tasha Chambers: My take on faith-based, I think it’s a one-of-a-kind program, to be honest with you. We work specifically with the faith institutions, and what you’ll find is a lot of times offenders that are inside of the jails or the prisons are looking to a higher power . . .

Len Sipes Uh-huh.

Tasha Chambers: To get them along the way. But, once they come back into society, they lose that. You know, they get caught up . . .

Len Sipes Why is that? Why do you embrace God in prison and come back out and suddenly God disappears?

Tasha Chambers: It’s kind of, you know, he’s there when I need him. You know, a lot of times preachers even preach about that in church.

Len Sipes Uh-huh.

Tasha Chambers: You know, you’ll come to God when things are going bad.

Len Sipes Uh-huh.

Tasha Chambers: But you also want to praise God and thank him when things are going good.

Len Sipes Uh-huh.

Tasha Chambers: And, so, that’s what we try and, you know, reintegrate with the client . . .

Len Sipes Yeah.

Tasha Chambers: Is that, you know, this is something good to have on the outside too, because it is going to keep you from going back to prison.

Len Sipes You know, so many people caught up in the criminal justice system have told me that the key ingredient; the key ingredient was their faith. Now, again, when we’re talking about faith, we’re a federal government organization, we’re not talking about the Christian faith, we’re not talking about Catholicism, we’re not talking about Buddhism, we’re not talking about Shintoism, we’re not talking about the Muslim religion, the Jewish religion because we don’t care. What we want people to do is to participate.

Tasha Chambers: Uh-huh.

Len Sipes So, we’re not trying to push a particular religion . . .

Tasha Chambers: No.

Len Sipes On anybody, and that’s one of the things that I want to make very clear from the beginning because sometimes I’ll get emails basically saying you’re advocating Christianity, but for those individuals who have made that break with drugs, made that break with the lifestyle, as we call it, hanging out on the street, doing; up to no good, not being employed, it was the faith community or their individual dedication to God . . .

Tasha Chambers: Uh-huh.

Len Sipes That pulled them out of that morass.

Tasha Chambers: Uh-huh. And, that’s what we do with the; it’s called the Order My Steps Women’s Group is the group that I facilitate, and it is a faith-based group. We open with prayer. We end with prayer. It’s a universal prayer because understand that, you know.

Len Sipes Uh-huh.

Tasha Chambers: We can’t, you know, pray to anyone particular religion, but yes, we have to; we believe in integrating that piece of faith of God; of belief in a higher power to get you through those tough times.

Len Sipes Uh-huh, which is absolutely necessary, as far as I am concerned, in terms of the hundreds of people that I talk to. Jennifer Gaskins star of radio previously on WTOP Radio here in Washington, D.C. One of the big radio stations in the nation’s capitol and throughout the country, for that matter. You used to be caught up in the lifestyle. You were at one time on supervision. You’re now a mentor. You go back and talk to these young women, older women, in the relapse prevention group. What do you say to them?

Jennifer Gaskins: Well I let them know that faith plays a big part; has played a big part for me. Not just through the rough times but I understand that through the good times too how my higher power is what sustains me.

Len Sipes Uh-huh.

Jennifer Gaskins: I let them know that it’s possible to get out of that situation, to get out of that lifestyle. It’s not an easy thing, as we’ve said earlier. It’s a day to day thing.

Len Sipes Uh-huh.

Jennifer Gaskins: But if you stand fast, and you hold on to your faith and you be kind to yourself and take it one day at a time realizing that any situation can come about that can make you relapse or make you have a desire to relapse. But, you hold on to that faith. You hold on to that conscious decision that this is what I want.

Len Sipes Uh-huh.

Jennifer Gaskins: This is my life. This is how I choose now to live my life because I know that I can live my life this way without being caught up in that so called lifestyle.

Len Sipes I want to go back now to a general conversation of relapse prevention. Now in terms of the CSOSA model, Chris, what we try to do ordinarily is to assess the individual, put the person into drug treatment that deals with that particular person’s issues for being involved in drug abuse, being involved in criminal behavior and then we put them in a relapse prevention group, and so that’s what we’re talking about today. But, you go back to this whole issue from the very beginning of talking to hundreds and hundreds of individuals who are drug addicts, who have been drug addicts who have been alcoholics, and they tell me that every single day of their lives it is a struggle. That once you’ve spent two years with a needle in your arm; two decades; with a needle in your arm, that high, that lifestyle, everything that’s attached to it. Not just the high but the whole; everything that’s attached to it to hanging out, the friends. Everything attached to it becomes so tempting that they’ve got to struggle with it on a day to day basis, and that’s why we do relapse prevention. Correct?

Chris Kiel: That’s correct, and you have to keep in mind that persons who are struggling with an addiction lose a lot of contacts and relationships and support systems. And not only for women, in particular, do they lose all of those variables in their lives, but there are also other barriers for them. They may have lost their children in the process, and so, they have to reunify with their children or reintegrate with their children. And, also, there may be an issue with clothing and food and somewhere to stay and transportation money. There a lot of other variables. And, so, in this women’s relapse prevention group called Order My Steps, one of the things that we do is develop a covenant relationship so that we can support each other. Ms. Chambers is very helpful in terms of being able to provide service providers here in the city who can help to meet some of those needs. In our economy today, it is very hard even for the working person to be able to deal with some of the struggles that we have. But, if you have a history of addiction and not the coping skills to be able to deal with trauma in one’s life, then there is more of a temptation to deal with toxic relationships, to deal with things that you shouldn’t have dealt with in the past.

Len Sipes Most of the women have kids.

Chris Kiel: That’s correct.

Len Sipes Okay. You know, Tasha, it is; I just can’t imagine this. For a male coming out of the prison system, it’s hard enough.

Tasha Chambers: Uh-huh.

Len Sipes For a woman to come out, grab her kids from her mother . . .

Tasha Chambers: Uh-huh.

Len Sipes Or from her grandmother, reintegrate with the children and figuring out how am I going to support these two children and myself and stay away from the bad influences and find work while that nagging of heroin or cocaine addiction; that nagging, nagging, nagging is with me every day. That’s almost impossible to overcome all of those barriers to getting back on the straight and narrow.

Tasha Chambers: Right, and that’s why we are; what we do in our groups is we match out women with mentors, and these are women from the churches that we partner with, and these are women that come with those same situations. You know, we are all trying to keep our family together. We’re all trying to keep food on the table, and, you know, make sure that the kids have clothes and shoes and book bags and all of these things. And, so, those situations, we try to explain to the women are going to come one way or another. The thing is we have to learn how to cope with them, and so, the women; the clients that come to the program they just deal with the addiction piece as well. So, it is a give and take between the mentor and the client because the mentor can show them this is how I’m coping with the things going on in my household, and let me show you the way, and at the same time, let’s also show you how to stay away from those drugs because in the end, like I said, the situations are going to come.

Len Sipes We have a; we did a conference on women offenders at one point, and Chris, I don’t know if you were there at this one, but one woman got up in the crowd and basically said, “You know, I had an altercation. I had a fight with a woman I live with. This happened last night, and she threatened me and my child and I had to pull a knife, and I had to get out of there as quickly as I possibly could. So, now I’m homeless, and oh, by the way, I’m still dealing with my drug addiction. Oh, and by the way, I don’t have a job. Now what are you going to do for me?” So if people sometimes wonder in terms of parole and probation agencies and in terms of trying to assist women offenders in particular coming out of the prison system, that’s the reality of what it is that we have to deal with.

Chris Kiel: That’s right. It’s almost like peeling back an onion. You have to peel back one layer at a time, and in that particular situation, the first layer would be housing. It’s to get that person stabilized and off the street so that they’re not tempted to go out and meet with their friends who will then encourage them back into a drug situation. The second step would be to get them into a treatment program and give them some support and some wrap around services around them and their children, and then to suggest some alternative ways of dealing with conflict that maybe the person could have called the police. They could have walked outside. They could have called a neighbor, other alternatives in pulling out that weapon to resolve the conflict.

Len Sipes Want to reintroduce everybody. Chris Kiel is in charge of our faith-based initiative here at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency in Washington, D.C. where a federal agency providing parole and probation services. Tasha Chambers is one of three city-wide outreach coordinators and facilitator, and she runs groups as part of the faith-based initiative, and Jennifer Gaskins. Jennifer has appeared in other radio shows, and she; well, used to be under supervision of my agency, and she is now mentoring the young women. Jennifer, I’m going to go straight to the heart and soul of a very, very, very difficult question. I’ve sat throughout my 40 years in the criminal justice system; I’ve talked with a lot of women offenders. The stories they tell are tragic including sexual abuse at a fairly young age. I was astounded when I saw national research that said that this was not an unusual occurrence. In fact, that 67%, if I remember correctly, of women claim a history of sexual abuse and neglect. Not just; I’m not saying 67% were sexually abused, but between that and neglect, they’re coming from some really tough backgrounds. Now, is that correct or incorrect?

Jennifer Gaskins: Well, along the journey I’ve run into women that have come from that particular type of background. But, astonishing not all females have encountered that type of situation. Some of us, for example, have grown up in a stable home.

Len Sipes Uh-huh.

Jennifer Gaskins: Where there was love and tenderness and guidance and direction, but once we got a certain age, of course, we chose to go to the left as opposed to the right. So, you encounter females that have, in fact, gone through that. But, like I said, astonishingly, not all females that are caught up in the system, that are caught up in drug usage come from that type of background.

Len Sipes Okay, but is that an issue? Because, what I’m saying is this; is that when you’re dealing with addiction, when you’re dealing with addiction of women caught up in the criminal justice system when we’re trying to get to the heart and soul of their addiction oftentimes that seems to be other women have reported to me that that is the heart and soul of their addiction.

Jennifer Gaskins: Yes, and it is, and there’s a loneliness and there’s an emptiness and there’s a need. There’s a desire to be loved, to be cared for, so, you go to the streets. You go to the drugs for the comfort.

Len Sipes You go to the wrong man.

Jennifer Gaskins: Yeah, exactly, exactly. Looking for love in all the wrong places, but you’re looking and you’re seeking and you need this. You know, just to feel normal, just to feel comfortable within yourself because of that particular background and those things that have happened to you, and there you are; you’re there, and you’re stuck and you don’t know how to get out and it winds up being a case of incarceration.

Len Sipes Chris and I came from the Maryland system and this was not based upon a particular study, Jennifer, but we just estimated there was a certain point where the women that we incarcerated not having community supervision but were under incarceration, and somebody said we could probably safely release a third of them, probably many more than that who were involved with a male. The male said, “Run these drugs to New York or I’m going to hurt you and your kid.” And, she’s strung out on drugs to begin with, and she feels she absolutely has no choice because of the laws the way that they’re written and because she’s transporting such a large amount of drugs, she received a good stretch in the Maryland prison system. She was not a danger to society. She was; I mean in the terms of a rapist or a robber or a person going out and committing aggravated assault or murder. She was caught up in a system, and I’m not quite sure a lot of people considered her a danger. We said that if she was let out and received substance abuse and received help, substance abuse therapy and received help with her children and received help with housing and put on a GPS, we could probably safely take a third of the women that we incarcerated and put them out with no negative effect on public safety.

Jennifer Gaskins: I believe that. There are several women well, as you say, a large number of women that aren’t a danger per se a murderer, a robber or whatever to society but have gotten caught up in a relationship. If not the transportation of the drugs, they’ve gotten involved with someone where they’ve acquired an addiction.

Len Sipes Uh-huh.

Jennifer Gaskins: And having no job, you rely on that person to supply that drug for you.

Len Sipes Or they’re holding his gun or . . .

Jennifer Gaskins: Yes.

Len Sipes Or they’re driving him different places . . .

Jennifer Gaskins: Right.

Len Sipes And you know, being behind the wheel driving him to an armed robbery and somebody dies in that armed robbery that’s felony murder.

Jennifer Gaskins: Yes.

Len Sipes Then that woman is now up for a murder charge.

Jennifer Gaskins: But they get caught up because that particular person or that situation is a means to an end.

Len Sipes So, in knowing all of this, this is the thing that astounds me. I don’t understand, quite frankly, how anybody who comes out of prison without money. Who has two kids. Who has a history of substance abuse. Who has some emotional issues in terms of everything that she’s been through. How does she have a chance in Hades of getting out of that situation and then I think of the faith-based initiative.

Jennifer Gaskins: Yes.

Len Sipes We in government, you know, we’re very limited in terms of what it is we can do, but somebody has got to reach that woman’s soul.

Tasha Chambers: Uh-huh.

Len Sipes And, we in government aren’t designed nor equipped or supposed to be reaching for anybody’s soul. We’re; but that’s the heart and soul of this issue isn’t it Chris?

Chris Kiel: Yes. What the faith institutions can do is hug and cry when we can’t hug and cry. As law enforcement personnel, we’re expected to have a certain demeanor, and so, we can’t always be in the position of hugging and crying and being there to assist. But, the faith community can give that. They can help to build self-esteem. They can be there to empower, and they can be there to listen and hear some of the things that, perhaps, we would consider another crime, but yet, the faith community can listen to it and know that that’s part of that person’s history. It’s part of the abuse that they’ve been involved in. And, so, what happens is that the woman begins to trust. They begin to understand. They begin to research solutions to their problems. They become empowered to make a change in their lives.

Len Sipes That concept of empowerment, I mean, it seems, Tasha, almost impossible. As I said to Jennifer, it seems almost impossible for any human being to bounce back from all of those negatives. How does any human being bounce back, yet, I’ve seen the faith community surround that individual when they’re at their lowest and help that person maintain a sense of dignity and help that person see a future. I’m not quite sure how that woman even sees a future, and yet, there are three or four people in the faith community who said, “I will show you how to create that future for yourself.”

Tasha Chambers: Nothing is impossible with God, and that’s what we tell the ladies. There is nothing impossible with God, and so, just like as we latched to these men that, you know, sometimes drive us into these situations and get us locked up and get us into all of this trouble. We have to latch on to God the same way. We have to look to him like he’s our boyfriend or he’s our husband, and we can move that way. So, we start there first with God.

Len Sipes Uh-huh.

Tasha Chambers: If you have a belief in a higher power and faith the size of a mustard seed, you can move mountains.

Len Sipes Uh-huh.

Tasha Chambers: And, so, from then on, we do the works, as well. We get them into; we, you know, invite them to attend the churches or the mosques or the synagogues. We . . .

Len Sipes But that’s not necessary, right?

Tasha Chambers: It’s not necessary, no.

Len Sipes I just wanted to be sure.

Tasha Chambers: Oh, okay. Not necessary. Invite, invite . . .

Len Sipes No, no. I’m serious about this because people will write and say you’re promoting religion. No, we’re the federal government, and we’re not promoting religion. I’m serious.

Tasha Chambers: Right.

Len Sipes I’m seriously asking you that question we don’t promote?

Tasha Chambers: No we don’t.

Len Sipes So, when we invite the church that is an optional invite?

Tasha Chambers: That is completely optional for the client, and if they’re not comfortable attending a church or they’re not ready for that yet, we have a whole list of service providers.

Len Sipes Right.

Tasha Chambers: Whether they’re at a community-based agency or they’re at the church. So, we can plug them into a lot of different programs a lot of different services. They have a mentor that they working with one on one. A lot of times CSOs they have 50 to 60 case loads. So a lot of . . .

Len Sipes And those CSOs are the parole and; what most people call the parole and probation agents that what we call them here in the city of Washington, Community Supervision Officers. Go ahead, I’m sorry.

Tasha Chambers: Correct, correct. And, so, they; some clients need that more one on one, you know, to get them through those times. So, they have mentors, they have myself as an Outreach Coordinator, they have Ms. Kiel, they have Jennifer, they have all of these individuals to help them along the way, and at the same time, hopefully, they have faith in God to get them through.

Len Sipes Uh-huh. And if they want to join the Catholic Church, if they want to go to a service at that Mosque, that’s up to them.

Tasha Chambers: It’s completely up to them.

Len Sipes But at the same time, I want to shift back and say it is also equally true that again, I have seen three and four people from the faith community work with that individual, talk to that individual with the course of a half and hour an hour, and it is intense.

Tasha Chambers: Uh-huh.

Len Sipes It is extraordinarily intense. It is, if we could record it, people would have a sense to a human being who is alone. Who is responsible for, generally speaking, a couple of other human beings, i.e. children. Basically saying I can’t do this. I cannot shake my addiction. I can’t get a job. I can’t live on my own. I can’t do this, and six months later, she is doing it.

Tasha Chambers: We just had a group, a matter of fact, on Tuesday night, and we talked about changing our way of thinking. Things that we see are not always how they are, but because we’re so used to thinking things and seeing things a certain way, it’s hard for us to get into another gear. And, so, we did talk about that. The I can’t, I can’t, I can’t; why can’t you do this? What’s stopping you? What are those barriers that you’re seeing that we’re not seeing because, honestly, we see that you can get through this, and the matter is if you want to get through this. You have a want and a need to get through this, then you can, but it really is the freewill of the client. We can be there as a shoulder to lean on, as a resource, etc., but it’s really up to the client if they want to change.

Len Sipes It really is, I mean, one of the things, Jennifer, that I’ve heard from people caught up in the criminal justice system so many times is that it is a very personal decision, and until you make that very personal decision, we in the criminal justice system cannot drag you into conformity. That your willingness to go to drug treatment, your willingness to find work, your willingness to support your kids, your willingness not to commit crime, your willingness not to do drugs is; we can’t force that upon anybody. First, it must be that personal decision.

Jennifer Gaskins: It must be a conscious decision that you make within yourself that this is what I want, and I’m doing it for self. I’m not doing it for my mother. I’m not doing it for my children. I’m not doing it for my father. I’m not doing it for my pastor. I am doing this for myself because it is, in fact, your life that you’re talking about, and once you get to that point where I want this, this is what I really want.

Len Sipes We only have about another minute and a half left in the program, how does a person get to that point. How many times have people told me they were sick and tired of being sick and tired? They were sick of going to jail, sick and tired of substance abuse, sick and tired of being strung out, sick and tired of the family not trusting them, but does it have to be that dire, does it have to be after, you know, you’ve been caught up in this system for years and years. I mean, can that happen when you’re 20? Can that happen when you’re 17? Can that happen when you’re 25?

Jennifer Gaskins: There is no age limit. I think everybody has to reach what is their bottom, and everybody’s bottom is different. Be it the loss of your children, a job, your home; everybody’s bottom is different. But, I think once you get there and we pray that it doesn’t have to be something so devastating to get you caught up in the system before you . . .

Len Sipes But it often is.

Jennifer Gaskins: And it often is, and the reality is that’s when we come into play. That’s when the mentors, the faith based. That’s when we let them know we believe in you, but we want you to also believe in yourself.

Len Sipes Right.

Jennifer Gaskins: And once a person sees that, hey, I’m worth believing in then they start grasping that concept I am worth believing in. I am worth being cared about, and it just takes hold.

Len Sipes You know, it is sort of like the angels of mercy what are in Catholicism, I think, the sisters of mercy. So, you guys end up being the angels of mercy. We have got to close out the program, and first of all, I want to invite the three of you back whenever you want or to bring the people who you are dealing with and let them come back and tell their stories because this is just an amazing transformation. I am so enthused about what I see in regarding the faith-based community. That’s because after 40 years in the criminal justice system, I’ve gotten rather cynical, and I see; I see optimism with the faith-based community rather than the cynicism I see from my fellow members of the criminal justice system who have been around for a while. At our mike friends today is Chris KIEL, in charge of the faith-based program for the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. Four hundred people this year Chris, that’s a wonderful, wonderful accomplishment. Four hundred people who have been mentored to in terms of the faith-based community. Go ahead.

Chris Kiel: My goal June of 2010 is to have 200 faith institutions signed on to this program. So, if you’re listening in the D.C. metropolitan area, please give us a call at; or email me, and we would love to have you become a part of our program.

Len Sipes What’s the number, Chris?

Chris Kiel: You can reach me at 202-345-4494.

Len Sipes And what I’ll do, I’ll put up the telephone number on the show notes, and also, put in Chris’ email address. That’s 202-345-4495, 202-345-4495. Tasha Chambers what a . . .

Chris Kiel: 94.

Len Sipes Oh, I’m sorry, 449 . . .

Chris Kiel: Four.

Len Sipes Eek; now I have to say that over again, 4494. 202-345-4494, 202-345-4494, and we’ll put that telephone number up in the show notes. Tasha Chambers, one of three city-wide coordinators and the person who runs and facilitates groups, thank you very much for being with us. Jennifer Gaskins, star of WTOP Radio, and thank you very much for coming back and volunteering . . .

Jennifer Gaskins: Thank you for having me.

Len Sipes To have at these young women who are struggling with their lives. Ladies and gentlemen, this is D.C. Public Safety. Again, we really appreciate the fact that you’re contacting us. Let us know how you feel about the show, suggestions, or criticisms, for that matter. You can reach me at Please have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

-Audio ends –

Meta terms: crime, criminals, criminal justice, parole, probation, prison, drug treatment, reentry, sex offenders, domestic violence, anger management, corrections, high-risk offenders, GPS, women, offenders


Assisting Women Offenders-Harriet’s House-NCJA-DC Public Safety

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-Audio begins –

Len Sipes: From our microphones in downtown Washington, D.C, this is D.C. Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. We have, starting brand new again, we did it last year and I’m really happy to have them back, the National Criminal Justice Association. They bring some of the best shows. They’re exemplary programs. These are individuals and programs who have received awards from the National Criminal Justice Association at their conference for doing wonderful things within the criminal justice system. We have a program today called, Harriet’s House. That is a pre-release program for women. Actually, it’s a reentry program for women. Their recidivism rate is 15 percent and so this is a dynamite concept of a successful program. Before getting into the particulars and introducing the participants for today’s radio show, I want to remind everybody that we are extraordinarily grateful for all of your emails and for your contacts and your suggestions. Feel free to get in touch with me directly, Leonard L-E-O-N-A-R-D.sipes S-I-P not to but; that’s my direct email address. Or you can comment on the shows at D.C. Public Safety or you can follow me via Twitter and that is S-I-P-E-S. And I’m going to introduce everybody. There are four participants in today’s show. They are Jeanne Tedrow and she is one of the founders of Harriet’s House and Passage Home. Lisa Crosslin is the program director from Harriet’s House. Cheryl Bryant is the grants management specialist. She is with the North Carolina Governor’s Crime Commission. And we have Michelle Bridges. She’s a graduate of the program and, interestingly enough, she is a board member, which I think is a wickedly smart move. We’re going to start off with Jeanne Tedrow. Jeanne, can you give me a sense of Harriet’s House and what it does, please?

Jeanne Tedrow: Thanks, Len. Harriet’s House is a program of Passage Home and as such it is a specialized transitional housing program developed to help women make a successful reentry into the community, regain custody of their children, if they have children, gain and maintain full-time employment, and obtain permanent affordable housing. It’s primary goal is to reduce recidivism, re-incarceration, among women and among women with children who are leaving our state correctional facilities.

Len Sipes: So, the bottom line is people coming out of prison. They are coming to Harriet’s House and are getting the help they need; that’s the bottom line behind all this, correct?

Jeanne Tedrow: That’s the bottom line. They are coming out and they are not going back at the rates as other women who are not coming through the program.

Len Sipes: I do want to remind everybody that the recidivism rate in this country has been extraordinarily high. There’s a benchmark report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice, that is quite old now, but it’s still sort of the benchmark where we talk about two-thirds being rearrested and 50 percent being re-incarcerated; that’s men and women offenders across the board. That’s pretty much what we compare everything to and the fact is that you have a 15 percent return rate to the criminal justice system?

Jeanne Tedrow: That’s correct.

Len Sipes: That’s phenomenal. How can you do such a great job? What’s the secret, Jeanne?

Jeanne Tedrow: I think the primary success is related to the wrap around case management services, the comprehensive approach that we use. We address the very critical issues of every person coming out of prison; housing, employment, and services. And, in the case of parents, we address the issue of re-unification, helping women in particular regain custody of their children and, in that process, we help the caregivers who have taken care of the children while the woman’s in prison; we help them release care back to the mother who basically has failed in her parenting because she has gone to prison. And when she gets back out, she had to regain the trust of her care giving circle in order, not just get legal custody back of her children, but also to make sure that that support network is going to support her back in that role as a mother and we’re very successful in that re-unification process, which for women makes all the difference in terms of coming out of prison.

Len Sipes: Lisa Crosslin, we’re going to go to you. One of the things that amazes me is the fact that according to national research, I don’t know what it’s like down there in North Carolina and I never did, by the way, state where Harriet’s House is in North Carolina. What city please?

Lisa Crosslin: Raleigh, North Carolina.

Len Sipes: Okay. So, you’re in Raleigh, North Carolina. So, Lisa, the whole concept of women offenders, national research states that about 80 percent are parents. We’re talking about a couple kids in the process, so we’re not just talking about the idea of one human being; we’re talking about multiple human beings. We’re talking about a larger family here. So, what happens to that individual woman as she comes out of the prison systems? It’s magnified by the fact that ordinarily she’s got people dependent upon her.

Lisa Crosslin: What makes our program unique as each woman comes out, on our staff, we also have a children’s case manager because you’re certainly right. As each woman comes out, not only does the woman have to be case managed and counseled, her children as well because, as you can imagine, there are some serious bonding issues and serious re-unification issues that the children will have with their parents. So, we believe in holistic counseling for the mother and the child, sending them both to counseling together and as well as separately and our children’s case manager will work specifically with the children, one on one, to help them make that transition back with their mothers an easier one. So, helping the mothers

Len Sipes: So,

Lisa Crosslin: I’m sorry. Go ahead.

Len Sipes: No, no. You go ahead, please.

Lisa Crosslin: In addition, one of the biggest things you run into mothers who are trying to reunite with their children and learning is a matter of giving to the children of themselves as opposed to thinking that they have to come out and buy and satisfy the gratification of their children by material things as opposed to the children just needing the love and reestablishing the connection with the mother. There’s a deep mental health component of our program that takes up a good 80 percent of their time while they’re in the program.

Len Sipes: Okay. But, I’m sorry. Lisa, the connection wasn’t real good. Give me that stat again, that statistic.

Lisa Crosslin: I said that a good 80 percent of their time while they’re in the program comprised of mental health and family counseling to help with that connection.

Len Sipes: Okay. One of the problems, again, there are correlations of crime and, in this case, there are cross-correlations with most women offenders. Most women offenders, this is national research; now, again, I have no idea what it’s like in Raleigh. I have no idea what it’s like in North Carolina, but national research is that most women are claiming mental health issues. Most offenders across the board are claiming mental health issues and, astoundingly, the rate of abuse and neglect in terms of male offenders; it’s about 15 to 20 percent. The rate of abuse and neglect and also sexual violence directed at them, especially as kids for women offenders, is about 60 percent. So, there’s a huge difference between male and female offenders, just in terms of mental health issues, in terms of prior sex issues, in terms of substance abuse issues, and then this individual comes out of the prison system and there are kids waiting for her. That is a huge, huge challenge. Anybody want to direct that?

Jeanne Tedrow: I think that’s right, Leonard. This is Jeanne Tedrow chiming in here.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Jeanne Tedrow: I think that we have to look first and recognize that women who are in the correctional system, the vast majority of them, were victims before they were perpetrators and they continue to be treated as perpetrators rather than understanding what the issues are as victims. And so this whole policy area around placing women in prison and women going to prison is accelerating at a faster rate than men going to prison. And the vast majority of them are dealing with mental health, substance abuse, health issues that they cannot get while they’re outside of the prison system.

Len Sipes: Now, every time I do a program like this and we talk about the correlates of crime and every time I do a program like this and we release a transcript because some people read a transcript of the radio show, some people listen to the radio show directly, I get emails basically saying, Leonard, you’re making excuses for criminals. And my response always seems to be that I’m not making excuses for criminals; it is 25 minutes before noon on the day we’re recording this and I’m not expressing an opinion when I say it’s 25 of noon, I’m just simply giving a factual response. Nobody’s going to argue that people who commit crimes should go to prison, serious crimes should go to prison, but at the same time, nobody should argue that, especially women offenders bring a wide array of issues in terms of what got them there to begin with. And if they’ve been raped two or three times, if they have schizophrenia, if they have two kids, and if they have a serious drug problem, that individual unless they’re treated and unless these issues are dealt with, she’s just going to come back out and re-offend over and over and over again. Correct?

Michelle Bridgets: Len, this is Michelle and I want to say you’re exactly correct on that point. I was in prison three times. The third time that I finally went into prison I was actually able to take some courses about drugs. Learn new ways to not become dependent on drugs; other than that, it was just going into the system, doing my time, coming back out, and repeating the same thing all over again.

Jeanne Tedrow: Len, I was jus saying that once Michelle received services and appropriate level of services she was able to make a change in her lifestyle.

Leonard: Michelle, they put you on the board for Harriet’s House. That, to me, is a smart move because, regardless of where we as to professionals within the criminal justice system and regardless of how degreed we are and how much we think we understand crime and criminality, there’s nobody who knows it better than those who have lived it.

Michelle Bridgets: Correct.

Len Sipes: Tell me about that.

Michelle Bridgets: I think that I can do the board a lot of good because of the fact that I have been through the program. The last time that I came out of prison it was either to return to the way that I was living and find a way to make a change. I put in an application to Harriet’s House and I was accepted and through that program, with a mentor, with the mentoring, with dealing with my health issues, dealing with my drug issues, they had a wrap around service for me that every issue I had there was somebody there to help me get through another step to go through these phases. And, with a program like that, with wrap around services that’s something covering your kids, something covering issue of abuse, something covering the issue of me not being able to get a job. It wasn’t like they were giving me a hand-out; they were giving me a hand-up. They never let me give up.

Len Sipes: Cheryl Bryant, grants management specialist with the North Carolina Governor’s Crime Commission. You know, Cheryl, the research is abundantly clear. The overwhelming majority of people in the criminal justice system, either in the prison system or when they’re released, do not, I repeat do not, I repeat do not for a third time, get the services that they need, whether it’s mental health, whether it’s substance abuse. We’re only talking about somewhere between 10 and 20 percent of all individuals receiving services. What was it about the North Carolina Governor’s Crime Commission and what was it about Harriet’s House that caused you guys to become involved?

Cheryl Bryant: I think we were excited about the opportunity to fund Harriet’s House for a number of reasons. (1) They provided a very structured program that focused on providing a comprehensive range of services for female offenders, including the housing, substance abuse services, parenting services, employment services, so that’s one thing. Second, they had a very structured framework. The program operates in phases. Third, they were getting support from a variety of forces. They receive financial assistance from the North Carolina Department of Correction. They receive federal funds from our agency. They also received a lot of community support from faith-based organizations. So, the fact they had tremendous support from a variety of entities, the fact they had a very structured program, and they provided a wide range of comprehensive services. We thought all those factors would aid their ability to successfully help these make a successful transition.

Len Sipes: Okay. So, they’re not out there by themselves. They’ve got plenty of partners and they’ve got the faith community involved as well.

Cheryl Bryant: Yes, that’s true.

Len Sipes: That is, I think, probably one of the major underpinnings of any successful program, Cheryl. The fact that you do have, you’re well integrated within the community and the larger community supports your goals and missions instead of you being out there on your own you’re supported by a wide variety of partners. Would you agree with me that that’s an underpinning of what makes for a successful program?

Cheryl Bryant: I agree wholeheartedly. And Harriet’s House has done a fantastic job of creating some long-term sustainable collaborative partnerships and that’s one of the reasons they’ve been so successful.

Len Sipes: And so I understand why the North Carolina Governor’s Crime Commission would support such a program. I just want to editorialize for us here in Washington, D.C. You operate principally with money that comes from the U.S. Department of Justice funded through the various entities throughout the state. That’s one of the reasons why the National Criminal Justice Association is there, NCJA represents state criminal justice agencies and governor’s offices and so the bulk of the money, I’m assuming, Cheryl, does continue to come from the federal government to fund exemplary programs in your state. Correct?

Cheryl Bryant: Yeah, that’s true. The federal government provides us with the money and our organization, the Governor’s Crime Commission, acts as a pass through for organizations like Harriet’s House.

Len Sipes: Okay. Cool. We’re halfway through the program. I want to reintroduce everybody. We have Jeanne Tedrow. She is one of the founders of Harriet’s House and Passage Home. We have Lisa Crosslin. She’s the program director of Harriet’s House. We have Cheryl Bryant, who we were just speaking to, the grants management specialist from the North Carolina Governor’s Crime Commission. And we have Michelle Bridges, who was a graduate of the program and a board member of Harriet’s House. Harriet’s House has a 15 percent recidivism rate in a world of much larger recidivism rates. I find that to be extraordinary. The web site is aspx. But, Jeanne, I don’t think they need a home.aspx. It’s Correct?

Jeanne Tedrow: That’s correct. And you can find all of our programs on that web site.

Len Sipes: Lovely, lovely, lovely. And we’ll keep that simple. And the web site for the National Criminal Justice Association is and are the ones who bring these exemplary programs to the public through our radio show at D.C. Public Safety. All right. So, we’ve pretty much set up this whole concept of dealing with women offenders, ladies, in the first 15 minutes of the program. So, you four are going to get to solve the larger issue regarding women offenders. We’ve already stated the level of difficulties that women offenders bring and the fact that they are dramatically different, not just a bit different, but dramatically different from male offenders, I think, if you feel free to disagree with me. What needs to be done in terms of a larger issue, Jeanne?

Jeanne Tedrow: I think we have to look broadly at why women are going to prison and,

Len Sipes: Why are they?

Jeanne Tedrow: Well, if the rate of violent crimes among women who are going to prison is going down and the rate of drug related crimes among women going to prison is going up and we’re facing these high rates of recidivism, it really begs the question: What are we doing when women are either in prison or as they’re leaving prison to receive the types of services and why are we putting people in prison who have mental health, health related, substance abuse problems who are not committing violent crimes? So, as you and I talked earlier, if we really want to do something about the correctional system, let’s look at the low-hanging fruit and the opportunities to be successful for women who could come out of the correctional system, not cause problems for the community; they are really causing problems for themselves. And, if they were to receive appropriate levels of services, they wouldn’t cause a problem to themselves or to the community and we’d free up a lot of very expensive prison beds.

Len Sipes: Yeah. One of the things that we talked about before the program was the fact that there are states, the majority of states and I think the vast majority of states, that are struggling fiscally and they’re cutting back on their correctional programs and this would be the low-hanging fruit. When I was with the state of Maryland for 14 years as a director of public affairs for Maryland Department of Public Safety, we sort of figured that maybe up to one-third of women offenders within the state of Maryland could be safely released if they had services; substance abuse, mental health, dealing with their kids, dealing with family related issues, putting them on GPS, that these individuals would save the state of Maryland literally tens of millions of dollars easily by taking that bottom third and putting them out on community supervision with services. But the larger sense on the part of the public is that nobody forced them into carrying those drugs. We see non-violent crimes. There’s a lot of women who are incarcerated in prison for violent crimes. There’s a lot of women who are incarcerated for armed robberies, for homicides, for aggravated assaults, but give me a sense of the kind of woman, Jeanne, that we’re talking about, kind of woman offender.

Jeanne Tedrow: Well, I think that the women that we are looking at are typically, I would say, 70 percent of the women who come in and out of our program or 76 percent rather have a history of substance abuse. 89 percent of them have actually completed high school and the average number of children in each family is about two, but I think the key factor is that really the vast majority of the mothers and the women who are in our program have received, have experienced significant physical and emotional sexual abuse.

Len Sipes: They were raped as children.

Jeanne Tedrow: And have been abused first. Excuse me?

Len Sipes: They have been raped as children in many cases and sexually assaulted as children.

Jeanne Tedrow: To put it very frankly, yes.

Len Sipes: Yeah. I think we have to put it very frankly because that’s exactly what it is we’re dealing with and that’s almost an inevitable gateway to drugs and mental health issues.

Jeanne Tedrow: Absolutely. And I think we need to recognize that women in this conversation are self-medicating because they don’t have the access that they need to health services, mental health services, and good health services. So, the cost is being redirected to the correctional system when it could have been potentially more effectively and efficiently spent in these other appropriate service sectors.

Len Sipes: Now, whenever I say this, it prompts emails. I believe it to be true. Anyone of you can come in and say it’s not true. The majority of women offenders who I’ve had direct contact with throughout my career the reason why they got involved is, most of these cases they’re carrying significant amount of drugs and they’re caught by law enforcement. Ordinarily, there is a male involved who basically said, if you don’t do this, you will be harmed or your children will be harmed. Am I right or wrong?

Michelle Bridgets: Well, in some cases, you’re right and in some cases, you’re wrong. A lot of these women, when you’re carrying drugs, it’s for a substantial pay-off. Sometimes it is threatening, but sometimes it’s that if I do this, I can actually get to a point where I’m trying to get to because I can get this sum of money.

Len Sipes: Okay. So, it’s profitable and that’s why they do it.

Michelle Bridgets: Yeah, profitable and in some cases, as you said, there being that I’m threatened.

Len Sipes: See, I always struggle with this whole concept of women offenders because on one side I’m trying to portray what I hear from people in the criminal justice system all the time is that we can, as Jeanne put it, we can take this low-hanging fruit and put them out in the community, save states literally tens of millions of dollars or hundreds of millions of dollars, and not risk public safety. And, on the flip side, a lot of these individuals did things that, pretty serious crimes, that did it simply for a profit motive and I’m making them out to be fallen angels and they’re really not. So, how do you put that into perspective, Jeanne?

Jeanne Tedrow: I don’t think that we should say that they haven’t done anything wrong. I think we have to accept and recognize that crimes have been committed, that they haven’t taken responsibility in a positive way toward themselves or their families. We recognize that. They’ve gone to prison, they’ve paid their time. They have not actually received the services in many cases before going to prison and perhaps during their time of incarceration, but when they get back out and they’ve paid their dues, it would be more cost-effective to make sure they don’t go back to prison and I think that there are very comprehensive, practical ways in which to deliver those services that address the housing, employment, mental health, and services needs for both the mother and the children. And I think reentry for women is a major prevention program.

Len Sipes: Well, just in terms of holding down the burden to the taxpayer, just in terms, I mean, the vast majority of states, I forget what the figure is, but out of the 50 states, I would say it’s 35 to 40 out of the 50 states are suffering significant fiscal issues and they are closing prisons. They are cutting reentry programs. They are cutting parole and probation offices and, in some cases in the state of California, what they’re saying is that non-violent offenders will not return to prison for technical violations. I mean, the criminal justice system is changing dramatically in this country. I’m not quite sure people fully understand how dramatically it’s changing because of fiscal realities and here’s a way to do it in terms of Harriet’s House and, using your model, 15 percent recidivism based upon the national rate of two-thirds being rearrested and 50 percent going back to prison. If you can pull off numbers like that, then you are literally saving the taxpayers of the state of North Carolina, again, tens of millions of dollars that they do not have to spend because of your success.

Michelle Bridgets: I would say that, I mean, with them doing the cuts like they are, if it weren’t for programs such as Harriet’s House with the great reentry program that they have, the recidivism rate would be probably ten times as worse. This is a structured program and, when I say structured, I mean in every sense of the word. I mean, without that program, I never knew anything about budget. I had to come back and learn how to raise my kids. I didn’t know anything about putting out resumes. I knew none of this stuff. I mean, everything in my life that I needed to have assistance with for me to become a person to go back into the community and be able to function, Harriet’s House had that for me. Now, I’m actually manager at a store. Never thought I would be. Without the assistance and without all the programs that Harriet’s House has in place, I would probably be back in prison or either dead.

Len Sipes: Well, Michelle, in stark terms, you’re a taxpayer, not a tax burden.

Michelle Bridgets: That’s right.

Len Sipes: You pay taxes. We no longer pay for you.

Michelle Bridgets: Exactly.

Jeanne Tedrow: And Michelle is a board member, but she also is a person who helps other women who are coming through the system. So, she helped found with Passage Home and the Harriet’s House program an ex-offender program called, WOO, Women Overcoming Obstacles. And so they have been helped, many of the women have come through the Harriet’s House program have been helped and now they’re not only not a tax burden, they are also now reaching back and helping other women who are coming through the system and providing themselves as mentors and support people to people who are now coming behind them in the Harriet’s House program.

Len Sipes: And there’s a lot of mistrust, I’ve been told, and in my direct experience, a lot of mistrust regarding women offenders coming out of prison and they go into one of these programs and they’ve gone through a pretty tough life; in fact, they’ve gone through a hellish life, many of these individuals, and they really don’t trust you when they get out. It’s, like, why are you all doing this for me? Nobody’s ever done anything like this for me. And so there’s a good deal of mistrust that you have to deal with.

Michelle Bridgets: That was true. That was what I was under when I came out, but then the way that it was presented to me is we want to help you get on your feet. We don’t want to see you go back to the way that you were living. The staff at Passage Home, it’s not just a job for them. They put their whole heart into it. So, when you’re thinking when you come out, what do these people want from me? What are they benefiting from me? They’re really not benefiting at all. We’re reaping the benefits because I’m not returning to prison. I’m able to go back into public and I’m actually able to be a regular citizen. Without that help, who knows where I would have been.

Len Sipes: I hear you. I hear you loud and clear, Michelle. Jeanne Tedrow, you are going to have to sum up everything for everybody because I’m going to need some time to close the program and to give the web sites so everybody can appropriately get in touch with you and I’m quite sure somewhere throughout this great country of ours and throughout the world, being 21 percent of our operation is foreign, there’s some extraordinarily rich individual who would love to give to Harriet’s House and provide some additional funding. But, Jeanne Tedrow, go ahead and sum up the bottom line behind all of this before I close the program.

Jeanne Tedrow: I appreciate you saying that, Len. I think that as taxpayers and people who are feeling the pain of our fiscal crisis, we need to be able to look at programs that have a high rate of return on their investment and Passage Home in it’s homeless programs, in its reentry programs, and it’s family self-sufficiency programs will state that with a track record of success, that we’re 85 percent successful in working with the individuals and families that come through our programs. I think an 85 percent success rate is a very excellent return on our investment, both public dollars and private dollars. And, if there are private investors out there, venture capitalists and social entrepreneurs who really want to help a program that breathes success, is second to none is Passage Home.

Len Sipes: Good., one word, would be the way of learning more about Passage Home and about Harriet’s House. I want to thank everybody; Jeanne Tedrow, founder of Harriet’s House and Passage Home, Lisa Crosslin, the program director; Cheryl Bryant and the governor’s office there at North Carolina, and Michelle Bridges, who is a graduate of the program, a great inspiration. I really appreciated you being on the program. Again, reminding everybody this is a program of the National Criminal Justice Association, They’ve provided a lot of great programs for us in the past and I hope that they will continue to provide great programs for us in the future. National Criminal Justice Association represents state governor’s office and state justice agencies and their employees. Ladies and gentlemen, this is D.C. Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes, and we really appreciate once again the fact that you are listening and that you are participating. Get in touch with me directly at or follow me via Twitter at Please have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

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