Deprecated: str_replace(): Passing null to parameter #3 ($subject) of type array|string is deprecated in /home/csosamed/public_html/podcast/transcripts/wp-content/themes/genesis/lib/functions/image.php on line 116

Parole and probation officer stress.

DC Public Safety Radio

See the main site at

See the radio program at

Leonard Sipes: From the nation’s capitol, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. Ladies and gentlemen, by our microphones today, Lorenzo Hopkins. He’s supervisory community supervision officer known elsewhere as a supervisory-prone probation agent from my agency, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, Lorenzo, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Lorenzo Hopkins: Thank you for having me, Len.

Leonard Sipes: Today’s topic is parole and probation officer stress. As far as I’m concerned, this is one of the most ignored topics that you can possibly imagine. I see all the time. I witness all the effort to deal with police officer stress and that’s a mighty subject. We know what’s been happening throughout the country over the course of the last six months, and in terms of fully integrating law enforcement in the community and the controversy that that has entailed. Everybody’s looking at police officers. Nobody’s looking at the stress of parole and probation agents. Am I correct or incorrect?

Lorenzo Hopkins: You’re correct, Leonard. I’ve been in this business for over twenty years, and I’ve seen it change. What I mean by that is, probation and purple agents are asked to do more. The government is talking about reducing the prison population, which is going to mean more people coming back on community supervision. When you have that, you’re going to have those increased stressors. Again, some of the prison criminal probation population is getting more and more violent. They’re getting younger. I’ve seen the national trend. DC, again you can see the shootings went on the street, how young people are getting and our agents are going out into the community in those environments, dealing with people just released from prison, some of them just fresh off of probation. Really, there’s limited to no talk about the stress that they undergo each day.

Leonard Sipes: Now, I have to, just for the sake of grounding the people who are listening to this program, there are five million people caught up in the criminal justice system on any given day in the correctional system. Two million are involved in prisons and jails, which means the bulk are under community supervision with parole and probation agencies. When you talk about correction in America, when you talk about incarceration, when you talk about America’s response to crime, the vast majority of Americans’ response to crime are individuals assigned to parole and probation agents, correct?

Lorenzo Hopkins: That’s correct. We have a huge impact as relates to attempting to reduce [inaudible 00:02:46]. What that entails today was much different than it was when I entered the business over twenty years ago. Back when I first started, you simply received a court order and it told you, “Pay restitution, do community service and things.” We made sure they did that. We’ve since transitioned CBI, cognitive behavior intervention, motivational interviewing. Now you’re going to take those four thousand people, most agencies have trended that way, and instead of checking boxes saying they’re completed, no. You have to actually change behavior and change thinking patterns.

Leonard Sipes: When I was first involved in the correctional system and we’re talking about a quarter of a century ago, I was told by parole and probation for the agency that I represented, which was the Maryland Department of Public Safety, that our role in parole and probation is to enforce the will of the court and enforce the will of the parole commission. That was it. It wasn’t talking about changing individuals. It wasn’t talking about intervening in their lives. It wasn’t talking about providing them with the support they needed to deal with their substance abuse, deal with their mental health issues, deal with their reunification of their children. It was simply to enforce the will of the parole commission and enforce the will of the courts.

Now, as you’ve just said, it’s much more than that. What we have to do is to intervene, is to get into the lives of individuals under community supervision to find out what makes them tick, what makes them angry, what their issues are, what their hopes and dreams are and try to provide wrap-around programs to support that individual. The mission of being a parole and probation agent has changed dramatically just within the last ten years.

Lorenzo Hopkins: Certainly it has. What hasn’t changed is the fact that we’re still required to put public safety first. That’s primary, but I would say our biggest job now is being change agents, meeting a person where they are, CBI.

Leonard Sipes: Cognitive-

Lorenzo Hopkins: Cognitive behavior intervention. Right.

Leonard Sipes: Cognitive behavioral intervention.

Lorenzo Hopkins: Yes. What happens is, we used to just take people and say, “Okay, the court says you need to go substance abuse treatment.” Now, you have to say, “Is that person ready to go to substance abuse treatment?” If that person is not ready, you’re wasting money. That’s what research has shown. If you make a person just go to treatment for the sake of going to treatment, they will program, as we call it. They will go through a program, complete it just to satisfy it. They still have the same cognitive thinking, the negative thinking that they used to have and eventually they go back to using.

Leonard Sipes: Okay, well let’s talk a little bit about the people under supervision before we get onto parole and probation agent stress. The vast majority of people under supervision have histories of substance abuse, and in many cases, really raging histories of substance abuse. I’ve seen surveys where up to fifty percent of the offender population have histories of mental health problems, lack of job history, did not do well in school, many with anti-social attitudes. If you talk to women caught up in the criminal justice system as I have before these microphones, the great majority have had histories of sexual violence directed at them as children, as teenagers by people they know. The point is that they bring an awful lot of baggage to the table. Suddenly they come and they sit in front of Lorenzo Hopkins and Lorenzo Hopkins has got to somehow, some way, break through all those barriers, deal with all of the issues that that person brings to the table, and do it in such a way that does not make him crazy, correct?

Lorenzo Hopkins: That’s correct, because right now when we talk about dealing with the substance abuses you spoke about, and I’m glad you prefaced it by the other issues, the trauma and things of that nature, for years, when I say “we,” parole and probation, we’ve treated the symptom. The symptom was substance abuse. We never really got to that underlying trauma.

A brief story. I was briefly assigned to the mental health branch as a supervisor. I had this older lady, mid fifties, maybe. She was a heroin user for years. She and I had a conversation and she kept getting violated. That’s when the parole commission, if you violated substance abuse, you will get violated and go back and go back under supervision, correct. I sat her down one day in my office and said, “Tell me what’s going on.” She said, “You’re the first person who asked me about what’s going on instead of just saying, ‘You need to stop using heroin.'” Then she went to a story about being sexually molested as a child and all those things. I’m like, “Wow, if we don’t treat that trauma, we’re going to fail with substance abuse.

Leonard Sipes: You know, we’ve increased our rate of successful completions here at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency from about sixty-two to about sixty-nine percent. Our rearrest rates have been down, as of late. Obviously, we’re moving in the right direction, but we have a fifty to one case load. I know of parole and probation agents in various states that have a hundred to one, a hundred and fifty, two hundred to one, and more. When you’re carrying a case load of a hundred and fifty to two hundred individuals caught up in the criminal justice system, it doesn’t strike me as that person having a snowball’s chance in Hades of actually breaking through those barriers and to meaningly intervene in the lives of the human beings under supervision. If they’re talking about doing cognitive behavioral therapy, as you’ve said, getting into the heart and soul as to why people are doing certain things and training them as to how to deal with those problems, when you have a case load of two hundred to one that seems to me to be impossible.

Lorenzo Hopkins: It’s extremely difficult and that’s where a lot of stress come in. Even with case loads in DC being fifty to one, if you could imagine. Let me put you in a probation officer’s seat on a reporting day. On reporting day, let’s say it’s Thursday. You may have thirty of your people coming in on that day for drug testing, to speak to you. Could you imagine hearing thirty different trauma stories every day and the kind of stress you would take home with you every day?

Leonard Sipes: That’s just it! Half of our contacts need to be made in the community. You could be walking through the community and see your person under supervision. You could be going into their home. It could be a surprise visit. You could be taking along a police officer with you. All you’re hearing all day long is trauma, trauma, trauma, correct?

Lorenzo Hopkins: That’s absolutely correct.

Leonard Sipes: How do you escape that?

Lorenzo Hopkins: The thing is typically most people don’t. They don’t recognize it. That’s one thing I talk to my staff about right now, even being in diagnostics. People think that they are the report writers. They don’t have to hear. They don’t have to see the finish. Could you imagine interviewing someone at the local jail, even someone at the office, and they’re telling you about the trauma they’ve suffered, the sexual abuse they’ve suffered, standard sibling murder, their mother mother murdered, and you read that day in and day out? That’s secondary trauma and I don’t think people pay much attention to secondary trauma.

Leonard Sipes: If you’re going to get into the heart and soul of that person, if you’re going to use cognitive behavioral therapy and intervene in the life of that person, you’ve got to somehow, some way, take on the emotions that that person is talking about. It cannot be just, “I dismiss it at the end of the day. I’m going to go home and have a beer and walk the dog and play with the kids.” That trauma stays with you. It’s inevitable that that trauma is going to stay with you to some degree.

Lorenzo Hopkins: Well, to be human, it has to. The problem, Len, is a lot of people don’t know what the symptoms look like. They think going home and just having a beer or two is normal. That could be their way of coping. You’ve seen research about law enforcement professionals, correction officers. They end up with substance abuse problems, drugs, and alcohol to cope.

Leonard Sipes: There are higher rates, I’ve seen, of substance abuse amongst people in our profession than in terms of the larger society.

Lorenzo Hopkins: Absolutely, because that’s a coping mechanism. Some people can’t sleep at night. Look at the divorce rate among people in our profession also, because you take things home.

A quick story. Before I started working in probation and parole, I worked as administrator at a juvenile detention facility. I went home after hearing this stuff and seeing these kids every single day who weren’t doing well. You know what I did?

Leonard Sipes: What?

Lorenzo Hopkins: I was a young married guy and I said, “I don’t want any children.” Seriously. My wife said, “Honey, are you serious? These are just the children you see. All children aren’t like that.” I tell that story to say when you are starting to become jaded in this business, you start to become skeptical of everyone.

Leonard Sipes: It takes its toll on you. I’ve always said after forty-five years in the criminal justice system, I’ve become acidic. I see the world differently than the average person because I understand bands in humanity towards man. We had a woman at a conference one time dealing with women caught up in the criminal justice system who stood up in the conference and said, “The woman I live with pulled a knife on me last night and pulled a knife on me and my child and we had a huge argument. I had to get out of there. I now have no place to live. I now have a child and I now have to go back and get my private possessions out of this apartment from a woman who pulled a knife on me.” Then she took a look at everybody in the hall and said, “Now, what are you going to do for me to help me out of this situation?” That’s what our people deal with every single day, correct?

Lorenzo Hopkins: That’s correct. When you have young officers just into the business, or even some more seasoned ones, if you get that every day, you’re in, I call it crisis mode every day because you never know what’s going to happen.

Again, before I went to diagnostics and mental health, I had my day planned out most days but it never failed. Someone came in. They started to decompensate. One of my staff and I had to take them to the CPAP, for the condition they’re dealing with [inaudible 00:13:39] medicine to admit them. Your days are not yours. Then, you run into another stressor is, when you try to get help, as you talked about the young lady at the meeting you were at, take that and multiply that by decreasing city budgets and town budgets when there really is no housing out there.

Leonard Sipes: Right. Yeah, finding housing for people caught up in the criminal justice system is really difficult.

Lorenzo Hopkins: Absolutely, and then you try to put them in a shelter. The shelter could be full. Then you have women and children, which is another difficulty trying to place because there are limited resources.

Leonard Sipes: My phone number is the only phone number on the website and I get calls at night. I get calls on the weekends. “Why is my son on probation? Why did my son was taken to jail? What’s happening with my son? He was supposed to go to this rehab clinic and he’s not doing well. Now he’s out. Are you guys going to get a warrant for his arrest?” There’s a certain point. It’s like, “Folks! I can’t just do this every night. I can’t do it every weekend. I’ve got my own life to live,” but you can’t tell them, “No.” You cannot not listen to them. If I’m experiencing that and I’m the spokesperson for the agency, what are you all going through?

Lorenzo Hopkins: Well, that’s a huge stressor. When I first left mental health and went to diagnostics, my staff at my first meeting were saying, “Well, Mister Hopkins, we’re working on weekends and evenings trying to get these reports done.” I said, “That stops today.”

Leonard Sipes: Yes.

Lorenzo Hopkins: “That stops today, because I understand that you have to have healthy work-life balance. That’s extremely important in this business because what happens is, I found myself doing it late. I’m not telling you something I’m thinking of or guessing about. I found myself with my Blackberry on at my child’s karate meeting contest.

Leonard Sipes: Yes, yes, yes.

Lorenzo Hopkins: I found myself checking the newspaper to see if a defendant was ever arrested. What do I have to face tomorrow?”

Leonard Sipes: Every time somebody goes out and commits a homicide or commits a crime, you’re sitting there going, “Oh my God, I hope he’s not on my case load.”

Lorenzo Hopkins: Exactly! You take your eight hour day, just an average eight hour day, and you go home and you take it home with you. That’s twenty-four hours a day besides the time you’re sleeping that you’re dealing with something about seeing so-and-so or about this profession.

Leonard Sipes: Well, we’re halfway through the program. I do want to reintroduce you, ladies and gentlemen. We’re talking to Lorenzo Hopkins, a supervisory community supervision officer with my agency, our agency, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, We’re talking about parole and probation officer stress.

Lorenzo, you went to the American Probation and Parole Association in Los Angeles and you gave a seminar on parole and probation officer stress. What are the key points of your address in Los Angeles dealing with a national audience on this topic?

Lorenzo Hopkins: Well, one thing we have to realize is that, and I actually said it like this, oftentimes in this business, we take far too much credit for peoples’ success and far too much blame for their failures. We’re always looking at something that, “Well, did I do this or did I do that?” We try to be but we are human and you can’t be everything to everyone. That’s one. Two, when you leave your work and you’re not on duty, the biggest mistake people make is leave that cell phone or Blackberry on. They check it religiously. I told them in LA that actually it’s an addiction. It’s an addiction because you find yourself in conversations with people. You’re checking your work phone. When that occurs, you’re actually cheating your family because your family deserves some you time.

Leonard Sipes: Some work-life balance.

Lorenzo Hopkins: Right. You also deserve some time away because you can’t continue at that pace. You can’t. You’ll be surprised how many people, Len, that work for me that I have to make take vacation. What you get to carry over in the government two hundred forty hours, or whatever the case may be?

Leonard Sipes: Yup!

Lorenzo Hopkins: I’m sitting down with them doing a life plan. “You need to take off some days.”

Leonard Sipes: I do want to emphasize this, is that our rate at successes here at Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency is going up, so we are succeeding in getting people to do the right thing. I understand that there’s no such thing as the perfect offender on supervision. I understand that they all bring a tremendous amount of issues with them, in particular, substance abuse. We have done a better job. We have been able to get into the lives of individuals. We’ve gotten into the lives of their families. We have helped them deal with all the different things they had to deal with to the point where our success rate is going up. What toll is that taking on what we call community supervision officers?

Lorenzo Hopkins: It’s taking a tremendous toll. We talked about earlier, we put a lot of effort into CBI, cognitive behavior intervention, motivational interviewing, things that change the thinking of the defender or defendant population. The problem is, as you alluded to earlier, there’s not a lot of research or anything about people who actually do the work. We have to really start to think, as managers, I’m a supervisor, take a look at your people and start speaking to them about how are things impacting them.

Leonard Sipes: Your employees, yes?

Lorenzo Hopkins: Yeah, my employees. You have to start talking to your employees the same way you want them to invest in the defender population, you must invest in them.

Leonard Sipes: You’ve got to do the same thing for them.

Lorenzo Hopkins: You have to, because guess what. A lot of these ladies and gentlemen are young.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Lorenzo Hopkins: They’re young. Half of that stuff they’re reading about or talking to the defenders about, they haven’t lived it.

Leonard Sipes: It’s interesting. They are college educated. Everybody comes to us with a bachelor’s degree. The great majority of our agency have master’s degrees. Some have above. That’s a very well-educated workforce that we have, but they’re still people. Regardless of their education, regardless of their understanding, regardless of their grounding, they’re still people subject to the same levels of stress as any police officer, as anybody in any profession.

Lorenzo Hopkins: That’s true, Len, because you alluded to the national epidemic what’s going on between law enforcement and many communities. In that whole conversation, you don’t hear people talking about probation and parole because guess what, we’re in the community also. We’re there daily. We’re engaging people in conversations, so a police officer’s law enforcement. We’re law enforcement also, so that same sense of heightened expectations and anxiety when we go into some of the worst neighborhoods in our cities is there. It’s natural. The hair stands up on the back of your neck.

Leonard Sipes: It rubs off on everybody, whether you’re a police officer or whether you’re a parole and probation agent. The trauma that you deal with, you could not simply separate that from your life. There’s just no clean break. You’ve got to acknowledge the fact that this exists.

Lorenzo Hopkins: Right, and that’s why it’s imperative on partners being partners. When you have a partnership with people you work with, if your supervisor doesn’t do it, look out for your colleague. Look out for your co-worker. You can see when they’re under undue stress. You can speak to them about it. Most of our friends, let’s be honest, in law enforcement, you’ve been in law enforcement a long time, they’re other law enforcement people. Guess what we talk about when we go out.

Leonard Sipes: Oh yeah!

Lorenzo Hopkins: The job.

Leonard Sipes: We sit there and we gripe about the criminal justice system. We gripe about those idiots at headquarters, and I always laugh because then I became an idiot at headquarters as a spokesperson for, again, Maryland Department of Public Safety. The point is is that we sat there and we griped and we drank too much.

Lorenzo Hopkins: There was no release.

Leonard Sipes: We drank too much.

Lorenzo Hopkins: Right.

Leonard Sipes: I’m not quite sure when I went home from one of these drinking-too-much, griping-too-much sessions, I’m not quite sure I felt a whole heck of a lot better.

Lorenzo Hopkins: No, because guess what. If you’re anything like I used to be when I entered the business is that I still thought about, well come the other night, thought about, “Did I do this? Did I do that? Maybe I should have done this differently.”

Leonard Sipes: Because we are talking about the lives of people in crisis and there’s no way of leaving that behind. You have to acknowledge that, deal with it, and come to grips with the tools that help you cope with it. Alcohol or drugs certainly is not part of that coping mechanism.

Lorenzo Hopkins: Right, and you have to have balance. When I talk about work-life balance, work-life balance isn’t splitting time between work and life. Work-life balance is what’s important to you. If you’re a person who loves playing golf, make some time. Take some time out of your week to play some golf.

Leonard Sipes: Yup, play that golf.

Lorenzo Hopkins: You deserve that, because you need a release. If you’re not going to release it doing something you enjoy, you’re going to release it doing something destructive, i.e. drinking too much.

Leonard Sipes: Okay, now what I was told years ago, I was told when I entered in the law enforcement, take meditation. Take classes on meditation. Learn how to meditate. I was taught to talk to your spouse. A lot of us, when we bring work home, when we come home we don’t want to talk about work. The last thing in the world we want to talk about is work. If you’re in a bad mood and if you’re affected by your experiences throughout the course of the day, you owe it to your spouse to tell your spouse what’s going on. There are tools for coping.

Lorenzo Hopkins: Absolutely, Len. We do the same thing in my household. I’ve been in this business a long time. My wife and I give each other fifteen minutes apiece to vent about work, to decompress.

Leonard Sipes: Oh, that’s a great idea.

Lorenzo Hopkins: After that … huh, it’s over. You have to have that because she understands that my job is stressful. She’s an accountant but she also has those stressors also and she needs to understand, “If my husband comes home in a not-so-good mood what’s going on out there.” Certainly, we don’t use names because that’s privacy, but we also are human because you can’t take it. We’d like to take your hat off when you get home and that’s all I’m thinking about, home. Our lives blur and they blend all the time.

Leonard Sipes: Sure. Well, it’s like the woman who I talked to one time about her history of sexual abuse and she just said, “You know, I was raped multiple times before the age of eighteen by family members and people who I know, who I knew.” Then she just looked at me in front of the same microphone you’re sitting in front of now and said, “Now, what is the system going to do for me in terms of my trauma?” It’s like, “One human being. Excuse me. I can’t undo the fact that you were raped multiple times before the age of eighteen.” That’s what our folks go through every single day.

Lorenzo Hopkins: Right, and the difference is though, we have to get to the point where we recognize when we’ve had too much. I’m not talking about retiring, I’m talking about taking leave. I’m talking about making sure you have your supervisor having your people schedule leave before the end of the year, because they need some time away and apart to spend with their family. I encourage it. When I speak to my staff at mid-year or whenever, I talk about work-life balance. What are you doing for you and you family? What are you doing to improve yourself outside of work? That way, I keep that in the forefront of their mind to let them know it’s not only about work, you know?

Leonard Sipes: Mm-hmm (affirmative), but you can tell in law enforcement because the person becomes too aggressive.

Lorenzo Hopkins: Yes.

Leonard Sipes: You can tell it when the person apprehends somebody and instead of just cuffing them, they’re slammed against the police car and that’s the point where you’ve got to walk over, and we did, whether people believe it or not, walk over to that person and say, “You know, Johnny, you’re taking this too far. You need to back off. Do you want me to finish this?” What do you see in terms of parole and probation agents?

Lorenzo Hopkins: Well, typically what happens when I see stress is they’re short-tempered. When I’m short-tempered, I don’t mean exploding but their conversation is about evil in the defendant or defender population, you can tell they’ve become certainly desensitized. “I’m going to start going through the motions like a robot,” you know? “I’m just going to do the job because I have to, but I’m not really caring.” People can feel when you don’t care. When it gets to the point where it starts to become not a good situation, I typically have the defendant wait, if I hear it from my staff, pull them aside, and say, “Hey, decompress. Take a deep breath and just relax a little bit,” because sometimes we have to recognize the symptoms. Not us, because if I don’t sometimes you don’t see yourself in this situation.

Leonard Sipes: Yes.

Lorenzo Hopkins: As colleagues, we have to make sure we’re paying more attention to what’s going on because you’re going to start saying, “Offenders, stop coming in.”

Leonard Sipes: That hurts the mission. That hurts the bottom line in the same way that the police officer being overly aggressive hurts the bottom line because he’s breaking confidence with the community. We, on the front lines, you all on the front lines whether you be parole and probation agents or whether you be police officers, people need to understand how unbelievably stressful these jobs are. People need to provide some space, work-life balance, and some tools in terms of whether it’s deep breathing exercises, whether it’s meditation, whether it’s talking to your wife, whether it’s playing that game of golf, everybody needs to come to grips when that stress is enormous. That stress exists in all folks caught up in the criminal justice system.

Lorenzo Hopkins: Right. I think what gets lost when you’re talking about probation and parole professionals, that’s what I like to call us, is that we wear so many hats, because you’ve got to realize we’re the person who, in most jurisdictions they can have arrest powers. This one, you do reports. Actually, it’s also your responsibility to be able to take someone’s freedom. They gave it to you, more or less. However, however, but what we have to really start to understand is that people who do that are humans and they don’t want to take peoples’ freedom. When you start dealing with non-compliance, it doesn’t make people happy so when you go that house the next time to do a visit, how are going to be received? You don’t know that. Because guess what, that person just got released from prison after you did a report that got him sent back for two or three years.

Leonard Sipes: Right, right, right, but that’s the part of the stress and part of the dilemma of being a parole and probation agent, again what we call community supervision officers here in the District of Columbia, is that cognitive intervention, you’ve got to get into the mind, get into the heart of that person. Build bond. Build trust, but at the same time, you have that responsibility to protect public safety and send them back to prison, if necessary.

Lorenzo Hopkins: Absolutely.

Leonard Sipes: No therapist on the face of the earth would work under those circumstances.

Lorenzo Hopkins: Could you imagine wearing all those hats?

Leonard Sipes: No.

Lorenzo Hopkins: Because you’re a social worker one day, no, not one day, one second. The next second, you’re saying, “Oh, you’re violated. This is unacceptable. I’ve got to put a VR, a violation report in.” Those are those fine balances that a lot of people don’t understand. The difference between us and police officers, again, great work. A police officer can arrest someone on the street. They throw them into the court and that’s it. That’s it.

Leonard Sipes: And walk away from that, entirely. You’ve got them for the next five years.

Lorenzo Hopkins: I have to deal with that. If they go in and out, in and out, I’m still the person who’s there.

Leonard Sipes: You’ve got to deal with them for the next five years, which is stressful unto itself. Lorenzo Hopkins, I’ll tell you. This has been a fascinating conversation. Lorenzo is a supervisory community supervision officer for my agency, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. We’ve talking today, ladies and gentlemen, about parole and probation agent stress. Lorenzo, I really want to thank you for a fascinating conversation. Ladies and gentlemen, our website,, This is DC Public Safety. We appreciate your comments and we even appreciate your criticisms, as stressful as they may be. We want everybody to have themselves a very pleasant day. Thank-


Deprecated: str_replace(): Passing null to parameter #3 ($subject) of type array|string is deprecated in /home/csosamed/public_html/podcast/transcripts/wp-content/themes/genesis/lib/functions/image.php on line 116

The Challenge of Parole and Probation from an Officer’s Perspective.

DC Public Safety Radio

See the main site at

Seed the radio show at

Leonard: From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety. I am your host, Leonard Sipes. Ladies and gentlemen, The Challenge of Parole and Probation from an Officer’s Perspective. At our microphones today, David Mauldin, he is a Community Supervision Officer, known elsewhere as a Parole and Probation Agent, and Keith Cromer, again, a Community Supervision Officer, again, known elsewhere throughout the country as a Parole and Probation Agent. Our agency, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, David and Keith, welcome to DC Public Safety.

David: Thank you very much.

Keith: Good afternoon.

David: [crosstalk 00:00:39] to be here.

Leonard: Gentlemen, what a tough job. We’re here to talk about the challenge of parole and probation agents, again, what we call community supervision officers in the nation’s capital. I cannot think of a more challenging job. I’ve been in the criminal justice system for 45 years. I’ve been a cop, I’ve been a spokesperson, I’ve ran group decades ago, within the prison system. I did Job Corps, where the judge said to the young individuals, “Go to jail and go to Job Corps.” I’ve done a lot of what it is that you guys do, but it’s a long time ago. I found that being a cop was simple, being a parole and probation agent was a thousand times harder than being a police officer. Am I right or wrong?

David: I would definitely agree with that. Our job is unique in a sense that we’ve got multiple roles in it. We have a client/offender/person under supervision come to our office, and we are given all of these resources to provide them. We’re encouraged to provide motivation and counseling, and we should, that should be part of our role, but at the same time, there’s another side to what we do, which is, if the supervision, if what is expected of the person is not occurring, if they’re not responding to the resources and directives we’re giving them, then there’s this side of our job, which we end up in court.

We write a violation report, and we can find ourselves in front of a judge recommending that the person’s freedom be taken away, the very same person sometimes where maybe even a few weeks earlier, you were sitting down and talking with them about really powerful reasons why they fell into a life of crime and you were trying to counsel them. Sometime, I know for myself, it can seem a sudden switch, and I’m sure for the clients as well, it can be like, “Wait a minute, you were just encouraging me and counseling me and now you just requested that my freedom be taken away.” It’s a hard balance.

Leonard: When I ran group, I was told not to tell anybody I was an ex-cop, ran group in the prison system and doing a cognitive-behavioral therapy group session. I did end up telling people that I was a former cop, and the people who were part of the group said, “I wish you hadn’t told us that, because now we don’t trust you.” Keith, most of the people caught up in the criminal justice system are not trusting human beings. How do you break through that barrier when you’re there to get into their heads, help them deal with their lives in a pro-social way, but at the same time, you hold the authority to send them back to prison if necessary?

Keith: It takes a lot of time. It takes effort to get to know the individual on a one-on-one basis. They’re not willing to come forth all the information that you might need in the first couple of meetings, so you got to keep pushing towards to know exactly what their needs are in order for them to trust you. You want to try to get to know their families, their kids, their needs for employment, their needs for education. At that point in time, they start trying to break down barriers and allowing them to know you, to allow them to know who you are.

Leonard: The whole idea is … Our successful case completions keep going up and up and up, so we’re doing something right. We’re well above the national average in terms of successful case completions, so we’re doing something right. We’re helping men and women overcome extraordinary barriers. When I say extraordinary barriers, we’re talking about massive substance abuse, we’re talking about mental health issues. The substance abuse, 80% of our population, the mental health can go, in terms of self-reported, mental health can go as high as 50% according to some surveys, so we have problems.

When individuals come to us, they come to us with not much of a work history, not much of an educational history. Women who come out of prison, they have higher rates of substance abuse, higher rates of mental health, their backgrounds typically involve being sexually abused by somebody they knew when they were children, and they have children themselves. There’s a certain point where the deck is so stacked against the individuals, not necessarily just in the District of Columbia, but throughout the country. I’ve had offenders sit there and tell me, “Leonard, what you’re asking me to do is impossible. I can’t deal with all of the ills of my past life.” That’s why so many individuals were revoked in years past, because they came to us with immense difficulties. David?

David: What was on my mind as you were saying all of that is, and maybe I’ll get in trouble for saying this, but I think because the clients can come and often do come to supervision with such an enormous array of issues, I don’t think we can solve all of their problems. Sometimes they come to supervision, they’ve got these special conditions, we’re supposed to help them do their anger management class, drug test, get treatment if they need it, but sometimes I just think that maybe what we need to be focusing on is, by the time that somebody gets done with supervision, have we assisted them ,in whatever way that looks like, but have we assisted them to have the confidence that they can, moving forward, have control over their lives.

I was talking to Cromer on the way here, I got a call from a gentleman just released from incarceration about a week ago crying on the phone because he’s telling me, “I don’t have family, I don’t have food, I don’t have housing, and I’m expected to meet all of these requirements [inaudible 00:06:17] probation and parole. I have no idea how I’m going to do it.” On one hand, I think our job is to look at him and say, “Come into the office, let’s get you connected to our resources,” but I think there’s fundamentally something else going on there that he’s saying, “I don’t feel like I have control.”

My goal is, man, if we can help the men and women who come to us feel that when they leave supervision that they can have an impact, a positive impact on their life, that they can affect positive things in it, I think that would be a positive thing, but meeting every single need they have, I think that’s where, if we don’t realize we can’t meet every need, that’s where burnout can come in. [inaudible 00:06:57].

Leonard: Keith, I’m going to throw this question to you. I’ve interviewed lots of people under supervision by these microphones, hundreds over the course of years, and when I ran public affairs for the Maryland Department of Public Safety, interviewing them there as well. Oftentimes they were telling me that their parole and probation agent, again, in this case, in Washington, D.C., community supervision officer, they would say that their officer was the key, in many senses, of them crossing that bridge from law-breaking behavior to law-abiding behavior, from drugs to no drugs. They would give the credit, in many cases, to the parole and probation agent/community supervision officer as being the person who helped them make that transformation. Is that true? Do community supervision officers here in the District of Columbia, can they make that degree of change in a person’s life?

Keith: Yeah, I believe they can. Actually, one of my offenders in the past has, he crossed over tremendously. He had a plan when he came out and I helped him work his plan together. He wrote his own books, we helped him get it published. He started his own security company. He’s doing really well. I think that we can help out, as long as we continue to help them with their plan. We have to find out exactly what their needs are. As soon as we find out their needs, we can just help them out with moving forward in their lives.

Leonard: You can break through the barriers that they bring to you. I always say, I use the example, the chip on their shoulder the size of Montana. They don’t trust anybody. People listening to this program need to understand that people caught up in the criminal justice system, they may trust their mother, they might trust their mother, they don’t trust you, they don’t trust anybody. They don’t trust the religious leaders, they don’t trust the Governor, they don’t trust the President. They don’t care who it is, they’re not trusting individuals, yet you’ve got to break through those barriers to help that person, right, David?

David: Yeah, we do. I’m thinking, I’m not 100% convinced that … I think the clients know how to trust. I think it’s difficult for them, I think they’re hesitant, but what I found is that whether it’s working here in probation and parole or in [inaudible 00:09:19] Covenant House, working with homeless young adults, I think there’s hesitancy, but as soon as the client sees that this person is willing to listen to where I’ve been, as soon as I see that this person is not assuming that they’ve figured me out, to me, I’ve seen that’s a huge one, don’t assume that we know them. Once they see that willingness to hear who they are, hear where they’ve been, and that we’re willing to listen to maybe where they want to go as we try to develop that plan with them, I’ve found that the trust does come.

Then in my mind it becomes the issue of, okay, so they learn to trust you, then, though, all of their issues are still there, and so how, once you have their trust, how do you keep it, because I think it can be lost very easily, because they’ve been disappointed before, whether by family, the system, themselves, how do you keep that trust, and again, as I was saying earlier, especially in a position where on one hand we can counsel and motivate them, but if things build up where their supervision isn’t going a good direction, we got to take them to court. I feel like I’ve actually lost the trust, and I’m sad to say this, but I think I’ve lost the trust of clients before when I had to take them to court, and my hands were tied, I had to.

Leonard: I do want to explain that, but first of all, a piece of context for people listening throughout the country, our ratios, supervision ratios, are the best in the United States. We have one community supervision officer for 50 people under supervision. I know of states where it’s one to 150. I know of counties where it’s one to 250. I have seen data from jurisdictions where it’s one to 300.

We’re a federal agency, and because we’re a federal agency, we have funding. We do provide substance abuse, very comprehensive substance abuse therapy to 25% of our population who needs it. We have a mental health team, we have learning labs. We have a ton of resources that the average parole and probation agency doesn’t have, but still, even though you’ve got the best circumstances within parole and probation probably within the United States, when I talk to community supervision officers, they remind me that it’s the hardest job that they’ve ever had. That true?

Keith: Yeah, that’s true. Even though we have all those resources, if the individual doesn’t want to take advantage of those resources, it’s not even needed. It’s just we’re sending them to waste their time and waste everybody else’s time, wasting money, because it’s on the individual to really want to move forward in his life and to change and get away from that substance. No matter how much resources that we have, it can go out the door in a heartbeat by just going outside the front door and seeing what’s going on in the community.

Leonard: It’s our job to break through those barriers. It’s our job to convince a person who doesn’t want to participate. It’s our job, with a person who is struggling to participate, to successfully enter his world, her world, and help that person out. How do you help a person out who doesn’t want to be helped out?

Keith: First and foremost, I think they have to establish trust. Once they start trusting who you are, actually think that you have the best need for them, then they’ll start realizing and saying, “Okay, I’m going to go ahead and give this a opportunity and get my substance abuse worked out, get my employment worked out.” Those are the factors that may be having a barrier in their lives. I think this basically boils down to trust.

David: I definitely, yeah, I was shaking my head yes as Keith Cromer was talking, that it’s once the trust is there, then I think someone else too can come into it, that you can help the person experience exposure is what I’m thinking. Oftentimes I think a lot of clients come to parole and probation, at least from my experience in D.C., they come to parole and probation, and their lives have been focused around a specific neighborhood for many, many years, the resources they’re looking to are within that specific neighborhood.

I think there’s some goodness to that, that they feel like they know where they’re from and they can access those resources, but there are so many things in Washington, D.C., and so many opportunities, that once they trust us, that we can encourage them to take advantage of, “Maybe don’t apply for the job right down on your block, why don’t you go downtown and apply for a job?” or, “Don’t go to that GED program down the street, but why don’t you go to the one Uptown?” For those that don’t live here, Uptown’s a different part of D.C. from where Cromer and I work. I think exposure is important, and it can take away some fear to try new things. I think exposure can maybe help clients not stay and keep repeating the same things over and over again.

Leonard: Keith, go ahead. You want to jump in?

Keith: Oh yeah, I was, just get them out of a box. I think a lot of times they’re boxed in and they think they have no way of getting out. I think the opportunities that are around them, a lot of these guys know where these resources are, but they don’t take the opportunity, because I think a lot of times it’s self-doubt, negative-

Leonard: They’re frightened by it.

Keith: Yeah, they’re frightened by it, by the chance.

Leonard: Somebody, a person under supervision, an offender, one time told me, scariest thing that he’s ever done in his life is go through substance abuse treatment, because he had to confront his entire life and the reason why he was so desperately in need of drugs every single day, and that was the scariest thing he’s ever done, because he had to relive everything that propelled him towards substance abuse. Is he right?

David: I would lean towards yes. I was thinking that a lot of the older guys that I have on my caseload, maybe guys in their 50s and 60s, what I’ve found is that they’re more, not all of them, but for the most part, they’re more willing and able to look back on where they’ve been and what they’ve been through, and to demonstrate insight on how it’s affected them. I’ve found that is extremely helpful in their ability to stay out of the system, whereas the younger guys, it’s like Cromer was saying, or like we’ve been saying, that it’s almost too frightening, because if they look at it and accept what’s happened to them, accept what they’ve done, accept what they’ve been through, it could almost paralyze them.

Leonard: We’re halfway through the program, I do want to reintroduce everybody. The Challenge of Parole and Probation from an Officer’s Perspective is a program that I’ve looked forward to doing for quite some time, because I do think the role of parole and probation agents is probably one of the most difficult jobs that you can possibly imagine. David Mauldin, he is a Community Supervision Officer, Keith Cromer, Community Supervision Officer, both with my agency, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency,

Gentlemen, I have two questions. Number one, you’re talking to a national audience, so first of all, what do you want somebody in Des Moines or somebody in Hawaii, 20% of our audience is international, somebody from Europe to know about what it is to be a parole and probation agent?hen the second question after that is, when do we have to revoke and send that person back to prison because of transgressions, problems, new crimes? First of all, in terms of, what do you want people throughout the country to know about being a parole and probation agent? Cromer? Easy question, just simple.

Keith: To be a probation officer, a parole officer, you have to wear multiple hats. You have to b a counselor, a mentor, sometimes their father, their mother, their brother. You have to be a lot of things for them at certain times in their life, and you also have to be law enforcement as well. You have to be able to look them in the eye and tell them exactly what’s going on, and the right time, be on them, be hard on them, and then learn at the same time, break, fall back and say, “Tell me what’s going on. Allow me to cry for you, I’ll cry with you,” and then all at the same time, tell them how to, lift them up and show them how the ways to go to the next level in their lives.

Leonard: If you were dealing with an individual without problems, without substance abuse, without mental health, without educational deficiencies, who had a good job history, who doesn’t have an anger manage problem, who wasn’t abused as a child, if you’re doing that with the best possible person under the best possible circumstances, it would still be an extraordinarily difficult job.

Keith: That is correct. I have found that a lot of those guys have no other outlet, because a lot of people that are around them are negative as well, so they come to my office and speak to me friendlier than anyone, anybody else, so they dump a lot on us, what’s going on in their lives. We have to take that and process it and try and help them stay on a right, narrow path, because even though they’re doing everything correctly in their lives, a lot of times, that negative influence is still around them that they may want to go back to it.

Leonard: Both of you are out in the community, seeing them in the community, seeing them in their homes, going into their homes, talking to their parents, talking to their wives, talking to their children, talking to their grandmothers, right?

Keith: Correct.

Leonard: You’re out in the community, both at that person’s job, in their home, seeing this person in the community on an announced and unannounced basis, correct?

Keith: That’s correct.

Leonard: You roll up on a guy and the guy is standing on the street corner. The guy was fine and everything’s compliant and he’s doing fairly well and he’s getting his GED and he’s getting his plumbing certificate and he’s going to Narcotics Anonymous, and you roll up and he’s smoking a joint sitting on his front porch step with his friends. Now we get around to this issue of revocations. Look, a parole and probation agent from the state of Maryland told me that if you revoked everybody under supervision for smoking a joint on his front porch, there would be no sense in parole and probation, you would just automatically send them back to prison after a day.

David: Yeah. The clients on our caseloads, they’re on drug testing regiments, so we get notifications daily on the results of their drug test.

Leonard: Intensive drug tests.

David: Intensive drug tests. Many of them are on twice a week. If we had to respond with strong, immediate sanctions, taking them back to court every positive drug test, the jails, the prisons, would have even more people in them than they do now.

Leonard: We’d have to build four to five times the amount of prisons-

David: We would.

Leonard: … than we currently have now.

David: Absolutely. The thing is, the way I think about it is, is something becoming a pattern. I had a guy when I first started, he tested positive for cocaine. He had been clean as a whistle prior to that for several months, and then boom, positive for cocaine. Of course, we call him into the office and I sit down with him and I show him the positive and we have a conversation about, first of all, the surprise of it, “You’ve been doing well. Are there any triggers that have come up recently that hadn’t been there for a while?” We try to provide support. He no longer tested positive after that, but if that had become a pattern where it’s cocaine, cocaine, cocaine, cocaine, then we go to treatment. If that didn’t work, then we …

After treatment doesn’t work, I think that’s when you come back and take a look and say, “Okay, what else can we do?” If all options have been exhausted, I think then, yes, you can go to court and request revocation. I would just want to make sure that before I requested somebody’s freedom be taken away, that I have truly tried every single thing and given that person every opportunity to turn things around.

Leonard: I do want to emphasize, anywhere from the Department of Justice to [PU 00:21:31] to the National Council of State Governments to the American Probation and Parole Association, and I could go down the list and name 15 more, they want us to remediate, to the best of our ability, I’m saying “we,” I’m talking about parole and probation throughout the country, to try intermediate sanctions, to try to hold the person accountable, provide those sanctions, and provide those resources to help that person. Every organization out there is telling us to do exactly that, so now becomes the key issue, when do you maintain, when do you try to remediate, when do you try to provide these intermediate sanctions, and when do you revoke? Is there a magic formula?

Keith: I think it’s on a individual basis. There’s no such thing as a magic formula. I think every individual comes in front of you is different and you have to treat them differently. To revoke somebody for using cocaine one time would not be a great decision for that individual, because everybody makes mistakes.

Leonard: It’s not going to be one time. Let’s be honest.

Keith: That’s true.

Leonard: Our folks screw up on a regular basis.

Keith: A regular basis, right.

Leonard: Yet at the same time, 69% successfully complete supervision, so obviously, the community supervision officers are working with that individual, with their parents, with their families, with their treatment providers, to try to provide some sense of stability so that person can safely complete supervision, but nobody does it without screw-ups.

David: Very true.

Keith: That’s correct, that’s correct. Then the more they screw up, the more they dig a hole for themselves, and eventually, no matter how much you try to do as far as intervention for them, revocation is on the way. You either tell them that you are doing this for them, you’re trying to help them out, trying to find a cause of what’s going on behind it, treatment, modality, inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment, it doesn’t matter, at one point in time, revocation is inevitable. You can talk to them as much as you can, but some people, no matter what you do, they’re still going to want to, they’re not going to follow the rules and regulations of supervision, so they’re going to go back.

David: I want to throw this out there too, to consider too. Sometimes when we think about revocation, it is a hard thing to think about, taking somebody’s freedom, but I had a few clients actually that have said to me before, after they’ve been released, that they feel, and it’s a touchy subject, it’s something for debate, but they said that they feel like their time in jail saved them.

Keith: That’s true.

David: Now you can look back in their histories and see PCP, cocaine, heroin, constant use, homelessness, no employment, so those are strong risk factors for possible recidivation, but sometimes I think our society as a whole looks at prison and jail and says, “It’s the worst thing ever. It’s the worst thing ever. It needs to change.” There are things that need to be adjusted, most definitely, but when I hear clients who have said that’s what saved their life, it really gives me pause to say, “You know what? There is a time when we have to go to the judge and say, ‘Take their freedom.'” I was going to throw that out there. I think one thing, can I go back for a second?

Leonard: Yeah, please do.

David: You asked the question about what would we recommend to people across the country listening and about our role as probation officers, and I think one thing too is that, remember that we are on the front line of behavior change, of trying to instill behavior change in a very, very, very difficult population, the people that you read about who have committed the armed robberies, the people that you have read about that are running through the streets high on cocaine and heroin. Those are the people we meet with. Those are the people who we get to know their grandmothers, their children, their spouses, and it is difficult. I think people need to remember that if a client messes up, even several times on supervision, it’s not just a cut and dry process. If it took 20 years for somebody to get involved with the criminal justice system and they’ve got a year on probation, we need to keep in mind what sort of issues. It takes a while.

Leonard: I go back to my experience in Maryland where the person said that if you’re going to revoke them for one, two, three, four, five drug positives, then just revoke them now, just revoke everybody. They come out of prison on a Tuesday and they’re back on a Wednesday, because what’s the sense? They’re not going to go to treatment or they’re going to be disruptive in treatment, they’re not going to get a job or they’re going to take too long to get a job, and they’re going to pay their fines in restitution, but not pay all of it.

There’s always problems with people under supervision. Your job is to break through the barriers, understand that person, understand their family, understand their circumstances, use cognitive-behavioral therapy, establish a relationship with that person, and at the same time, magically induce these individuals to participate in programs, encourage their successful participation in programs, and hold them accountable when they screw up.

David: Yeah, correct.

Leonard: That’s a huge, huge, huge task. People need to understand, people listening throughout the country, people need to understand that out of the correctional population, which is 7,000,000 individuals on any given day, 5,000,000 belong to us in parole and probation. The vast majority of people involved in the criminal justice system are not behind bars. The vast majority of the people in the criminal justice system are beholden or responsible or reporting to parole and probation agents.

Keith: That’s correct.

Leonard: Can I throw out a question to Cromer real quick?

David: Yeah, please.

Leonard: Keith, I have a question for you. We had talked about this earlier, but you said before you had had clients that on supervision were doing stellar, they were meeting all their special conditions, coming to the office visits, drug testing clean, working, but then something happened where everything just falls apart. You mentioned earlier the importance of helping the clients build a plan. Was it just that they didn’t have a plan that they fell apart or was there something … How does something go from this really positive trajectory and then it just evaporates?

Keith: Yes, either one, they have a plan or …

Leonard: Back in the mic. There we go.

Keith: One, they didn’t have a plan, or two, something in their lives that destroyed them. A lot of times they don’t know how to cope with issues that come up in their lives, so the first thing they do is go to drug use. The friends, the family, things happen, or death in the family, everybody goes out with everybody, but a lot of people [inaudible 00:28:07]] surroundings tend to cope with using drugs, marijuana, cocaine, whatever the case may be, or celebrating, the same direction. That’s the reason what you have to figure out is how to let them know that that’s not okay to celebrate or to go into mourning regarding using drugs regarding an issue. Then also a lot of times, they’re going well and then they sabotage themselves because they don’t know, “I’m doing so well, I don’t know how to-“

Leonard: “I don’t know what to do from here,” maybe.

Keith: “… [crosstalk 00:28:39] do from here,” so they do, the fear comes in, and so they use cocaine or whatever drug.

David: Because in my head I was thinking, that’s one of the most difficult parts for me as a supervision officer is when somebody’s doing fantastic, and so in your head you’re like, “Wow, this person, they’re going to have a great life. 20 years from now, they’re going to be great,” and then everything falls apart.

Leonard: I think that struggle is with every person out there. You’re going to have good days and bad days and some points where they’re doing well and some points where they’re not doing well, and somehow, some way, you’ve got to work your magic regardless of the circumstances. We got about 15 seconds left. Comments? Comments?

David: I was going to say, just remember that we’re on the front lines of behavior change with folks involved in the criminal justice system, not easy.

Leonard: Look, we have better results in the last couple years here at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, higher case closure rates, fewer arrests. Congratulations to you and everybody out there that chooses to be a community supervision officer, and a parole and probation agent, outside of the District of Columbia. Ladies and gentlemen, we have been talking to David Mauldin, CSO, Keith Cromer, CSO, with my agency, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. This is D.C. Public Safety. We appreciate your comments, we even appreciate your criticisms, and we want everybody to have themselves a pleasant day.


Deprecated: str_replace(): Passing null to parameter #3 ($subject) of type array|string is deprecated in /home/csosamed/public_html/podcast/transcripts/wp-content/themes/genesis/lib/functions/image.php on line 116

Parole and Probation Officers and their Contributions to Public Safety

DC Public Safety Radio

See the main site at

See the radio show at

Leonard Sipes: From the nation’s capital this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host Leonard Sykes. Today, ladies and gentlemen, parole and probation officers and their contributions to public safety. We’re celebrating, in conjunction with the American Probation and Parole Association and their motto, “A Force for Positive Change”. These individuals come from my agency, the court services and offenders supervision agency. By our microphones today we have: Kaitlin Forshay, a supervisory community supervision officer; we have Jamie Thompson, a community supervision officer; and we have Jasmine St. John, again, a community supervision officer. And to Kaitlin, and to Jamie, and to Jasmine welcome to DC Public Safety.

Jasmine: Thank you.

Kaitlin: Thank you for having us.

Leonard Sykes: In a world where there is just a ton of media and television shows about police officers, and I used to be one, there is only one that I’m aware of, and that’s, I think, A&E’s “Pitbulls and Parolees”, so there is really not a lot of publicity about parole and probation agents. We call you community supervision officers; that’s DC’s term for parole and probation agents. But parole and probation agents throughout the country, community supervision officers, you guys are on the front line. Out of the seven million people under correctional supervision, five are the responsibility of yourselves, people like you and your counterparts throughout the United States. So when you talk about corrections in this country, the vast majority of people are under the supervision of parole and probation agents. How does that make you feel? That’s an awesome responsibility, is it not?

Kaitlin: It is an awesome responsibility but its also an awesome opportunity.

Leonard Sykes: Okay.

Kaitlin: We have a lot of resources here in DC, we have a lot of great people working to make a difference in people’s lives. They come to us for whatever reason it happens to be, with their risks, and with their needs, and we have the opportunity to help them, to make them more productive members of society, which not only makes them better, but makes them available for their families more, makes them contribute to society in a more positive light. So it is a huge responsibility, but its also a great opportunity.

Leonard Sykes: We have people, a large and significant percentage of our case loads have mental health problems, have substance abuse problems. A lot of them have not had a long job history. We have individuals with real challenges. And those challenges are tough to deal with, correct?

Kaitlin: That’s correct.

Leonard Sykes: And tell me about that.

Kaitlin: Well it’s great. I just recently started working with C-SOSA. I started in October.

Leonard Sykes: Welcome.

Kaitlin: And I came from another agency. So being here, not only have I been afforded with this opportunity but I am able to make referrals to the population that I deal with for employment services, school. If they have a substance abuse problem we have our own in-house treatment that would handle that, anger management, mental health, sex offender treatment. Pretty much you name it, we have the resources at our hands to provide them with this opportunity to really help them.

Leonard Sykes: I can’t let you go too far without asking, I came from another state agency too, the court services and offenders supervision agency. Our ratio was 125:1. Here at the Court Services and Offenders Supervision Agency, its routinely less than 50:1. Here you have an opportunity to do something with the people under our supervision, to do something meaningful. All of the probation agents throughout the country who are listening to this program are going to stare at us through their radios in disbelief because they’re saying, “What? You only have 50:1?” I mean, most states don’t have that opportunity so I’m not going to ask you what state you came from, but is it a big difference from wherever you came from here to the Court Services and Offenders Supervision Agency?

Kaitlin: Yes it is.  And I know this sounds cliched, but I really feel like being here I can kind of live up to that idea of being an agent of change because I do have more time to meet with individuals, reach out to their families, and really get to know what’s going on to be able to help make a difference in their life.

Leonard Sykes: Jasmine, what is your experience? How long have you been with the agency?

Jasmine: I’ve been with the agency since 2011. And currently I’m a minimum supervision level officer. And actually, my case load is a little higher than the 50.

Leonard Sykes: Right. Because you have the lower level people?

Jasmine: Yes. But we do have, like you spoke about, a lot of co-occurrent offenders who have the mental health and substance abuse co-occurrent issues. And so we do, specifically with that population, deal a lot with referring them out to the services they need within the community as well.

Leonard Sykes: Jasmine, I’m going to continue with you. What we do as parole and probation agents, community supervision officers, we have to sit and get into the heart and minds of that individual in many cases who is distrustful of you. He’s been caught up, or she’s been caught up in the criminal justice system. They’re not particularly seeing you as their friend because you have the ability to send them back into the criminal justice system or send them back into prison. The person does have substance abuse issues, does have mental health issues, does have anger management issues. How do you break through those barriers?

Jasmine: Honestly, with a conversation that kind of opens the door to them trusting us with information that may have led to substance abuse issues. Showing that we actually care, showing up and being consistent with the information and the resources. Because a lot of my clients will say, “I’ve never had anybody say this like that before to me” in regards to “I just want to see you do well”, “I want to see you here for your family”, just kind of pulling out those things that motivate them to change within their own lives. Because when supervision is over we want to leave the person whole. And so we break down a lot of the barriers just with conversations with our clients one-on-one. And just trying to figure our exactly how we can help, show that we can help. And then have them own the plan by letting us know: what is it that you want to change in your life; what is the plan, the steps that you’re going to take to take care of that issue. And then we guide them along the way, as their officer.

Leonard Sykes: Okay, but I’m going to keep hammering away at this. Because you all are giving me very correct answers and I appreciate that. But I can’t think of anything more difficult to deal with than a person with a 15 year history of heroin abuse. I mean, breaking through that 15 year history, that’s almost impossible. I’ve had, especially women under supervision, before these microphones, telling me “Wait a minute, Mr. Sykes, you want me to get through my history of sexual abuse, my substance abuse problem, my mental health issues. You want me to go and get a job even though I don’t have any occupational background and you want me to reunite with my kids. That’s impossible. What you’re asking me to do is way too much. I cannot do all of that.” So, to the individual under supervision who tells me that they cannot do all of that, how do you respond to that?

Jamie: I think it’s important when that’s presented to kind of identify with the client, what are their short term goals and start small. Not try to tackle everything at once. Work on stabilization issues. Like I said, the short term goals. To kind of help them see that there is an end in sight when you take baby steps. Rome wasn’t built in a day. When you have a 15 year history, for example that you used, of substance abuse, you’re not going to tackle that in your first meeting.

Leonard Sykes: Right, but can you tackle it in the third or fourth or fifteenth and twenty-third? Kaitlin go ahead.

Kaitlin: Yes, it’s extremely important that we build rapport. And doing so is, as Jasmine said, being consistent and being fair. But we have with the smaller caseloads, we have a lot of opportunities to use motivational interviewing techniques, to use cognitive behavioral intervention …

Leonard Sykes: What are, for the uninitiated, what is cognitive behavioral therapy, what are motivational interviewing techniques?

Kaitlin: Okay, so motivational interviewing. A lot of the times what we’re doing when we’re trying to get to the root of the problems is to ask open-ended questions. And then to help develop rapport we’re going to use reflections and summarize to make sure that the client we’re dealing with understands that we understand what they’re going – maybe not what they’re going through – but we understand what their needs are. And how they feel about a certain subject. So, demonstrating that we’re listening, those active listening skills. I’m trying to get them to open up a little bit about themselves.

Now the cognitive behavioral interventions come in. Specifically, a lot of the reasons that they’re here relate to perhaps a cognitive distortion. Their behaviors are not necessarily the events that they’ve been through but the perceptions of the events that they’ve been through. So we have to try to figure out and understand why they respond a certain way. Why they behave a certain way. And using that information to try to change the way they think about their experiences. And then we have the opportunity with these small caseloads to use these evidence-based practices, the time that we need to really invest in these people.

Like you said, we can’t do everything all at once. So the goal is to address one or two action items at a time. And we determine which ones we’re going to start at first. We know that we need to address stabilization factors primarily but whatever we can get the offender to buy into. They may not be ready to see their kids yet. They may not be ready to go down that path, but they are ready to address substance abuse. So we’re going to go that way with them. We kind of let them them take ownership of their plan and build it around what their needs are.

Leonard Sykes: Do the three of you fully understand that we have a national discussion now about change within the criminal justice system? I can’t tell you how many articles I come across every day from national publications talking about senate bills, talking about house bills, talking about initiative on the part of the Department of Justice, initiatives on the part of individual organizations. And every time they’re talking about the fundamental change within the criminal justice system, the heart and soul of that fundamental change is you. The heart and soul of that … never in my forty years within the criminal justice system have I seen such an emphasis on parole and probation officers.

So what they’re saying is that if we’re not going to be sending that many people to prison or if we’re going to let people out of prison earlier. What they’re counting on is quality supervision on the part of parole and probation agencies throughout the country. I’ve spoken with parole and probation folks throughout the United States and they’re tell me “Leonard, I’m not quite sure with 100:1 or 50:1 to one ratios if we’re ready for that type of responsibility.”  In DC are we ready for that?

Jamie: I believe that we are.

Kaitlin: In coming from another agency, I can say that I think that we are ready here. And just from our successful case closures, that speaks for itself.

Leonard Sykes: Yeah, because the great majority of our cases, around two-thirds, are closed out successfully. And that has to be due to the efforts on the part of people like yourselves. Jasmine?

Jasmine: Absolutely. I think this agency does a really good job at providing the training that we need in order to better suit our clients. When we went to the cognitive behavioral intervention and motivational interviewing, adding that more into how we actually manage our caseloads. We were provided with adequate training that really helped us get what it actually is that we need to do with our offenders within the community versus just sanctioning and sending them back and letting that only be our option. It really helped us engage with the offender, get to the core of the issues and the risks that they might have. And the needs. And kind of given us, I would say, like a briefcase of all this information and resources. And told us how exactly to do this. And we’ve seen results, especially with the caseloads that we have at minimum. We’ve seen results of how we’ve had clients not only be successfully be terminated at the end of supervision but also early terminated because they’ve done so well in the community.

Leonard Sykes: We’re one of the very few probation agencies in the United States that control our own resources. I mean, we have half-way back programs. We have our own structure, our own building, this huge … where we process hundreds upon hundreds of individuals every year that are struggling on community supervision. Instead of sending them back to prison we send them back for intensive treatment. So, it’s weird that we, because we’re federally funded, with a local mission. The Court Services and Offenders Supervision Agency, we are in a better position than many, if not every parole and probation agency in the country, to do the job that people want us to do. To both serve the individual under supervision at the same time protect public safety.

Kaitlin: I just came back from American Association, I’m sorry, the American Probation and Parole Association’s National Training Institute. And networking with other individuals from around the country who do exactly what we do, it’s amazing to me what a wide range of difference that we have between our agency and the way other people are doing things.

Certain things, like motivational interviewing and cognitive behavioral interventions seem to be standard across the board at this point. But to speak, at C-SOSA we have specialized units. We have a women’s unit, we have a sex offender unit, we have domestic violence, we have many different units so that we can target specific needs in specific populations. And a lot of other agencies don’t have that opportunity.  They may have sex offender come in at eight o’clock and then a domestic violence offender come in at nine. And then a general supervision, young adult …

Leonard Sykes: Right

Kaitlin: So the resources we have and the opportunities we have are much greater than some of our counterparts in other jurisdictions.

Leonard Sykes: Yeah, the individual teams – domestic violence, young offenders, women under supervision, I mean it goes on and on – mental health is a big one. Drug court, about forty-five percent of our populations at the highest levels of supervision. So we have an immense amount of contact. In the state that I came from, intensive supervision was two face-to-face contacts a month. At the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency they could have eight contacts a month just with you and that’s leaving out the treatment people and that’s leaving out coming in to be drug tested. So we have an immense amount of contact with the people under supervision.

Jamie: And we’re given that opportunity because of our different focuses with our teams and having that smaller case load.

Leonard Sykes: I find this to be a fascinating conversation. I do want to come back and talk about the stresses and the successes and how you personally feel about what it is that you do.

But ladies and gentlemen, we’re doing a radio show today on parole and probation officers and their contributions to public safety. We are celebrating pre-trial probation and paroles supervision week in conjunction with the American Probation and Parole Association. Their motto “A Force for Positive Change” is something that we embrace.

The three individuals are from my agency, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. It’s Kaitlin Forshay, she is a supervisory community supervision officer; Jamie Thompson, a community supervision office; and Jasmine St. John, again a community supervision officer; what we call parole and probation agents in the District of Columbia, Court Services and Offenders Supervision Agency. We are a federal agency, federal independent branch, executive branch agency here in the nation’s capitol.

You know, ladies, this has got to be one of the most challenging things that you have ever done. I mean, I can’t think of anything, including my law enforcement days. Here’s my law enforcement day: I get a call, I go in, I resolve it or arrest the person or deal with it with through non-arrest and I leave. You have got to deal with this individual and their family and their kids for years in some cases. I mean, for me it’s a ten minutes intervention; for you it’s the next two or three years. That’s got to be immensely stressful.

Jasmine: Absolutely. However, weeks like this that we are given the opportunity to kind of relieve some of that stress while at work and then the initiatives of the health and wellness committee to kind of have some opportunity throughout the year to also get out and relieve some stress does help. (Laughs)

Jamie: Helps with the burnout. (Laughter)

Leonard Sykes: Yeah, I mean do you go home and kick the dog and throw the glass up against the wall. You know, it’s a stressful job …

Jasmine: It is.

Leonard Sykes: I mean, you’re dealing with people with drug addictions and mental health issues and you know. We had the women’s conference a couple of years ago where a woman stood up in the middle of the hall, in the middle of our gathering and said “I, and a woman that I live with, last night had a fight and she threatened me and my child. And I had to pull a knife to keep her away from my child and me. And now I’m homeless. I don’t have a place to live and I’ve got these problems. What are you all going to do for me?” And dead silence filled the room for the next ten seconds. I mean, that’s the reality of who it is that you deal with.

Kaitlin: When I first started at C-SOSA, I was on the sex offender unit and I had accidentally left my cell phone on overnight. I got a call at two-thirty in the morning with an offender who was calling from a pay phone saying he was going to jump off a bridge. Two-thirty in the morning, woken up from a sound sleep. The amount of stress that puts on you, knowing that you are responsible. This man was considering ending his life and the person he chose to call was me?

Leonard Sykes: There you go.

Kaitlin: And I had no, hardly any experience, as a probation or parole agent. So it was alarming to me that somebody that I had affected, he at least trusted me with that information. That he didn’t end up … we were able to engage in that conversation, he didn’t end up hurting himself at all. But to know that I was on his mind when he was thinking about making such a serious decision. You know, it is stressful. There’s secondary trauma that comes with it. Every day the decisions that we make affect people’s lives, for good or for bad. I mean that’s a tremendous responsibility that we have.

But then we also have stories. One of my officers recently, I was doing an observation and he was talking to a young adult who was just about ready to graduate from high school. And at one point it didn’t look as if he was going to be able to graduate from high school. Now he has great family support in terms of his grandmother, but one of the things he was struggling with was trying to figure out who was going to get his tickets for his high school graduation. And his father, who hadn’t been in his life at all, all of a sudden wanted to, was recently coming back in his life and wanted a ticket to graduation. And he decided not to give his father a ticket to graduation because he had saved that last ticket for his community supervision officer …

Leonard Sykes: Wow

Kaitlin: … who he felt was more of an asset in his life and more of a motivation in his life to complete his high school education than his own father was.

Leonard Sykes: I spoke to a community supervision officer and the person under his supervision one time jointly. And he told me, the person under supervision said “You know what? This individual is the only person in my life that I can turn to, to talk to and have a decent conversation. This is the only person in my life who cares. And because of that I take my meds. And because of that I don’t screw up. And because of that I do the right things. Because I do not want to violate the trust that I’ve built up with your community supervision officer who was my community supervision officer.” That’s profound.

Jasmine: That is. And it’s again, a huge responsibility. But on the flip side that’s very rewarding to know that in our position we were able to make an impact on a person’s life. Because often times we are the only positive role model that they have. And so it’s very important for us to always make sure that we practice that anti-criminal modelling for them. Since we are a role model.

Leonard Sykes: And in terms of talking. I mean, Jasmine, the whole idea is to give that individual an opportunity to talk to somebody who truly does care. And the thing that impresses me about probation agents, community supervision officers, is that, by and large, we do care. By and large, this aren’t throw away human beings. Now I understand that they’re frustrating, and I understand that it’s difficult, and I understand that it drives you crazy at times. Most, if not eighty-five percent, of the people that I have encountered that work for probation agencies genuinely do care about whether that person does well or not.

Jasmine: Absolutely. When you give your offender, your client, the opportunity just to talk. And just ask “how are you doing today” or “what’s going on in your life” or “what’s changed” so many things can come as a response that you never know where that conversation is going to lead. [Background conversation and noise [00:21:47]] And you never know if perhaps just within that conversation. One day they can say that they’re absolutely fine but then you have this deep long conversation about something that might have happened recently and it will open the door for so many things that they were pushing back for years. And that would open the door for that trust to be built. To talk about that.

Because, I feel, at least a lot of my population really don’t have people who just pause to say “How is your day going?”

Leonard Sykes: Right, right.

Jasmine: They’re either back in the community and no one wants to be bothered with them because of one issue or the other or lack of employment or funds. Or they’re being pulled in so many directions they just don’t have time to really pause and get some stuff off of their chests until they get to our office. It’s a huge responsibility to hear that information. The things that we hear, the stories that we hear about the trauma that happens in their day-to-day life, I cannot imagine some of the things that they have gone through. Just getting up, it’s almost one of those things I am surprised that all you are is on supervision because of the things that have happened in their day-to-day life.

Leonard Sykes: Right, we deal with individuals that carry a lot of life trauma.

Jasmine: Absolutely.

Leonard Sykes: I did, years ago, in terms of volunteer counseling, and a person who was going to take their life. And ended up very intimately involved with that person’s life on a professional basis and conversations. And there are certain times the person’s telling me stuff where I am saying to myself “I am not quite sure I want to hear this. I am, this is way too deep. I did not know that we were going there (laughs). And then it becomes more, and then it becomes more.

And there’s a certain point where you as a professional, you have this opportunity to break all of this and help that person. But at the same time it, even though we have low caseloads, it’s still fifty people telling you these stories. And fifty people communicating with you like this. And sometimes, when you go home, I am assuming you feel like the world is riding on your shoulders.

Jamie: That’s why it’s very important to find balance in your life.

Jasmine: I was going to say I can’t even watch the news because half the time …

Leonard Sykes: (Laughs)

Jasmine: … I am so inundated at work with stories that if I watched the news or Law and Order, anything for recreation I am thinking about work. Because it’s like, oh that reminds me of so-and-so or …

Leonard Sykes: Yes.

Jasmine: I saw …

Leonard Sykes: Yes.

Jasmine: … them come through my email today …

Leonard Sykes: Yes.

Jasmine: … or something reminds you of work.

Leonard Sykes: Yes

Kaitlin: If I have to watch one more episode of Intervention …

Jamie: And then on the flip side …

Kaitlin: … No, thank you.

Jamie: But then on the flip side, you’re watching and you’re like “Please don’t be one that belongs to me. Please don’t be one that belongs to me.” (Laughter)

Leonard Sykes: But in sitting before these microphones in terms of talking to women in supervision, and I’ve done that probably six or seven times. And I’ve been to a couple of group interventions. And I have three women tell me similar stories about being sexually abused before they were thirteen years old. And talk about who did it, and how it affected them for the rest of their lives. And how it created a spiral that got them involved in drugs and mental health.

And I’m sitting there and I’m saying “This is the most intense conversation I’ve ever had in my life.”  That’s the sort of conversation you go through every single day.

Jasmine: Absolutely. And one client comes to mind, who is a female and who also has a mental health issue and a substance abuse issue that started from sexual abuse. And when you start to factor in okay, well, you’re still using. And these are things that we have to address as far as public safety. At the end of the day, though, you have to ask those questions “what is going on that you’re currently using” and things of that nature. And out comes this story of “I’m taking care of my grandkids, and I shouldn’t and it’s overbearing” and things of that nature. And it all leading, then you start to wrestle with now if I take you off the street, who’s going to watch the grandkids?

Leonard Sykes: Yes.

Jasmine: And if I take you off the street what are your daughters going to do because they’re depending on the little bit of money that you get for disability or whatever else they may be getting money for.

So, a lot of their life stories factors into pretty much how we supervise their case. Because those are the things you have to consider all the time at the same time before or, in addition to, writing a violation report.

Leonard Sykes: What is the most important ingredient in terms of being a good parole and probation agent, a good community supervision officer? What must you have?

Jamie: Patience.

Jasmine: That’s exactly what I was going to say first.

Leonard Sykes: Patience?

Kaitlin: Because it is difficult. In addition to hearing all of these stories and having to find that work/life balance, there are some times that phone rings and I look over and I see who’s calling. I don’t want to answer it. I don’t. There are so many, some of these clients where they call non-stop or they call. And every time, or they only call when they really need something. But when they really need something, it’s a lot of time out of your day. And one of the things I love about this field, is that no two days are alike. It’s also what I hate about this field. (Laughter)[crosstalk 00:26:49]

You can’t plan a day. Things come up. And you’re constantly, it’s crisis management every single day. So even if so-and-so is now skating, you know, and they’re moving on their way, you have another offender where you’re just at the start.

Leonard Sykes: You have to be on every single day, is that correct?

Kaitlin: Absolutely

Leonard Sykes: I mean there’s no such thing as having that bad day, we all have them. I have them, you have them. But you get to the office, and I want to remind the public, that these individuals are out in the community. They’re just not just sitting, riding a desk. They’re out constantly doing home visits, interviewing this individual on a surprise basis. Sometimes going to their place of employment. So you guys are always out in the community, so you’re always interacting with people. Are you ever afraid by the way? Good question, do you think?

Jasmine: Good question, and not so much.

Leonard Sykes: Okay

Jasmine: Because of the rapport we build with our offenders, at least the ones that I have, I’ve never been in a situation where I was afraid of my client. Just to be honest.

Jamie: I am in agreement with Jasmine.

Leonard Sykes: All right. You’ve got to travel some pretty rough neighborhoods by yourself.

Jasmine: Or with a partner. But you have the support of MPD here …

Leonard Sykes: The Metropolitan Police Department, yes

Jasmine: Absolutely. So we know the officers who also patrol the area. And at the same time because you are so much in their lives and see them so much, if it comes to a situation where we’re about to walk into a dangerous situation you’ll have offenders who call you and say “Not today, because it’s not safe over here” and things of that nature.

Kaitlin: Or they’ll walk you to your car.  [crosstalk 00:28:20]

Jasmine: I actually had one walk me to my car one day. [crosstalk 00:28:22]

Leonard Sykes: All right, so everybody is working with each other, everybody is exchanging information, everybody is cooperating. They’re looking out for you, you’re looking out for them.

Jasmine: I would say for the most part. [crosstalk 00:28:29]

Jamie: For the most part

Kaitlin: There are some that don’t want you to come to their house, period. They don’t care to see you there. They don’t want to have a conversation with you. You say goodbye and they hope they never have to see you again. But for the most part being able to develop a rapport really aids in that feeling of safety.

Leonard Sykes: I think this has been a fascinating conversation. I think that the people of Washington, DC, and throughout the United States, owe a debt of respect to parole and probation agents, community supervision officers. You guys really are on the front lines. You really are the people who we depend upon to protect our safety. And who, at the same time, do the fair administration of justice in terms of the people that we supervise.

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s been an honor for me today. Kaitlin Forshay, she is the supervisory community supervision officer. Jamie Thompson, community supervision officer and Jasmine St. John, again, community supervision officer. The program today was focusing on parole and probation agents and their contributions to public safety. We’re celebrating pretrial probation and parole supervision week here in the District of Columbia in conjunction with the American Probation and Parole Association and their motto “A Force for Positive Change”.

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

How did Danelle do?

If you rate this transcript 3 or below, Danelle L will not work on your future orders


Deprecated: str_replace(): Passing null to parameter #3 ($subject) of type array|string is deprecated in /home/csosamed/public_html/podcast/transcripts/wp-content/themes/genesis/lib/functions/image.php on line 116

Parole and Probation Supervision Week

DC Public Safety Radio

See the main site at

See the radio show at

Leonard : From the nation’s capital, this is D.C. Public Safety. I’m your host Leonard Sipes. We are here, ladies and gentlemen of recognized free trial probation and parole supervision week by interviewing three people from the District of Columbia’s Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency and Pretrial Services. As to the contributions of pretrial and parole and probation agents link in the nation’s capital and other contributions towards our public safety, to do that we have three guests at our microphones: Tom Williams, Associate Director of Community Supervision Services, again Court Services at Offender Supervision Agency, Yolanda Buffet, a associate director, again Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, and Katherine Terry Coufer, she’s the Associate Director of Operations of the Pretrial Services Agency. At the District of Columbia or in the District of Columbia enter Tom, and to Yolanda, and to Katherine. Welcome to D.C. Public Safety.

Tom: Pleasure to be here Len.

Leonard : All right, we’re here to recognize the contributions of our employees, recognizing the Pretrial and Probation and Parole Supervision week sponsored by the American Probation and Parole Association. It’s celebrated during the month of July. There are over five million adults on community supervision. Most of these individuals are monitored by pretrial probation and parole officers. Community corrections professionals must be creative in finding solutions to making sure that the supervised and have the support to find jobs, housing, and treatment by collaborating with community leaders and volunteers.

They make a huge difference in the lives of the individuals they have currently under supervision; but the bottom line in all that, that’s reading from the American Probation and Parole Association’s new press release. The bottom line behind all of this is that, our people that we call not parole and probation agents but community supervision officers, the bottom line is that our people, when people involved in a community supervision throughout the District of Columbia and throughout the country make a meaningful contribution to public safety. Correct Tom Williams?

Tom: Exactly right Len, and certainly one of the things we wanted to highlight were regards to this important week, is the great work that our staff does on a day to day basis. A lot of people just don’t realize in the District of Columbia, we are a federal agency, and we’re responsible for supervising those partisans that the subpoena court for the District of Columbia would rant probation on those partisans who enter the correctional system, as most of you have guessed, will not be aware of that the district does not have a local prison system. Anyone that’s sentenced to a term of incarceration in the District of Columbia is sent to the bureau prisons, and that could be anywhere within the continental United States. There is an effort with regards to re-entry for those persons coming back, and when they do come back to the District of Columbia then our staff is the one that are responsible for supervising them; these cases, which is different from U.S. district court.

Leonard : Katherine what you do on the pretrial side is unique, because I’ve taken a look at your stats over the course of years. You got an extraordinary return rate of people who actually show up for their court dates without committing new crimes between the arrest and their court date. Pretrial has been phenomenally successful.

Katherine: Yes Len, we are very proud of the national reputation we have and the rate of return we have for defendants who are released to pretrial services. Similar to CSOSA, so many individuals do not know the services that we provide here in the District of Columbia, for both D.C. Superier Court as well as U.S. District Court, where we’re responsible for gathering information on newly arrested defendants and preparing recommendations for the court’s consideration to make decisions in terms of their release options. PSA is known nationally for making recommendations for the least restrictive conditions to promote public safety and the return to court. As a result of our work, virtually no defendant is currently in the District of Columbia, are unreleased on a surety bond.

Leonard : You know, I am very proud of our agency, Yolanda. Court services and offender supervision agency and our partnership with pretrial services here in the nation’s capital. We are recognized, I believe fairly, as one of the best if not in my opinion, the best parole and probation agency in the United States. Probably the best pretrial services agency in the United States, much of which is due to the person sitting to your left, Tom Williams, but that’s my opinion. Is it yours?

Yolanda: Absolutely, I am very proud to work for the court services and offender supervision agency, and the thing for the Pretrial Parole and Probation week is a world wide force for change. And since my time of being here with CSOSA I can definitely say we are an agency committed to change and to helping offenders become productive citizens. I’m very proud to a part of the organization.

Leonard : You know our people. Let’s get down to what our people do on a day to day basis. It is phenomenally difficult. All of us have been involved in the criminal justice system through years, throughout the decades. Working with people caught up in the criminal justice system is extraordinarily difficult. The great majority, history of substance abuse if you count self-assessments, fifty percent have histories of mental health problems. Women caught up in the criminal justice system often have history of sexual violence. We deal with individuals either in probation or come out of the prison system, and they are challenging human beings. It’s just not a matter of will. You have to be creative. You have to be really innovative in terms of breaking down barriers to try to help that individual become a productive member of society.

Tom: Len, you are exactly right. You described a population that many of the public or your listeners are probably not aware of. We have basically the whole gander from low level cases that come to us through the subpoena court of the District of Columbia, to what we consider to be high level cases with regards to their criminal offences. For those persons who are coming out of the institution, at least ten percent have housing issues. That is a real challenge for us with regards to what we can actually do with them, because they need a place to stay for stability sake.

The other thing that you’re probably not aware of is the number of reports that we do to the court, just to help the judge with regards to the sentencing structure in terms of what they’re going to imply, with regards to those persons that come before them. We produce over three thousand pre-sentence investigations a year and on the back-end of the system, as folks are coming back in for re-entry, our tips officers will also develop plans with regards to an investigation that will really help the supervision.

The staff with regarding to the developing our plans for supervision, so it really ranges the whole gander from low level cases to more severe cases for which our staff are engaged in. Yolanda will talk a little bit about what she sees in terms of our recruitment, because its very important in regards to the type of persons that we are trying to bring in to the organization to help us to manage this population.

Leonard : Yolanda, how easy is it to recruit for what we call community supervision-al officers, what the rest of the country refers to as parole and probation agents?

Yolanda: So this agency is very progressive when it comes to evidence based practices. Our recruitment efforts are very competitive. We typically could have anywhere from seven to eight hundred applicants and fill about twenty to twenty-five vacancies at a time.

Leonard : They’re all people with bachelors’ degrees at a minimum, right?

Yolanda: Yes sir. They’re all people with bachelors’ degrees at a minimum, and we’re also looking for strong skills in motivational interviewing, cogni-behavioral interventions, and also being able to match or identify needs or match services towards those needs. These are skills that are quite progressive. Many members throughout the country will not have these skills, so it makes employment with CSOSA very competitive.

Tom: I’d like to chime in. A lot of people think that all I have to do is sit down with somebody, read and write. They’ll go straight, and we’ll never have to hear from them again. As Yolanda just explained, this is a highly trained profession, and I just want to reinforce that the skills we are imparting or have trained to the staff are really looking at the thinking patterns that individuals have that may not be in their best interest. Also, a lot of the persons we have at the high end of the assessment process are really involved with folks who are not really in their best interest with regards to their peers.

So how do we now get a person who is thinking distortely about life and have that pattern change and, or, also have a tendency to associate with people that eventually get them in trouble. To work that thought, pretrial does on the front end, certain can help us on the back-end if the judge is so inclined to grant the improvisation. Kathy.

Katherine: Absolutely, Tom speaks to that because it’s also as critical at pretrial Len, to ensure that we recruit and retain highly skilled staff who support our strategic goal of maximizing pre-proud justice by keeping the maximum number of defendants in the community. We offer a variety of supervision services for a population, who coming in at the front of the system are often not stable particularly when looking at our mental health population. The skills those staff need to ensure that in a short period of time were able to quickly assess and look at the needs and the risks to ensure safety rates remain high for our agency, and make the best recommendations to the judge to consider for releasing those defendants. We provide one of the, what I think, best pretrial service drug court programs in the country that are focused on dealing with the high risk defendants who come through with high needs for substance abuse treatment.

Tom: With a national reputation, I might add.

Katherine: Absolutely, with a national reputation. We are leading in that area, and we also partner very closely with D.C. Superior Court for the mental health community courts to work with them and identifying the appropriate services on the front end for those defendants with the hope of those who transition to probation and those who go into institution to serve a period of time, have some information that can be utilized by the case managers to continue to provide services, and are connected if they remain here in the community to services here in the city that can be utilized for the supervision purposes or the transition over to CSOSA. Its critical that we get high-skilled staff and recruit and retain those at pretrial as well.

Leonard : One of the things that amazes me is that we supervise parole and probation pretrial in this country. We’ve got five million people under our supervision on any given day. Only two million are behind bars, so when you talk about the correctional population in the United States, the great majority of individuals caught up in the criminal justice system are under the supervision of parole and probation agencies. Yet, law enforcement gets ten times the attention. Corrections, main stream corrections prisons gets ten times of attention. Why is it that parole and probation agencies get so little attention and recognition throughout the United States, considering the fact that on any given day five out of every seven people caught up in the criminal justice system are under our auspices.

Tom: Well, as you started off the program talking about the purpose of this program which is pre-trial probation and parole offices. That’s exactly why the American Probation and Parole Association, APPA, had its twenty-first anniversary. One of the recognized work that’s done in both pretrial parole and probation services, the folks that are getting the most recognition as you indicated, were law enforcement, anyone that carries weapons, the correctional officers who actually do a great job. We’re not diminishing the work that’s done by our law enforcement partners; however, when we look at the work that’s being done by the staff and the community, where the bulk of the population is, where the bulk of the work is done, and I might add where the success that we’re having is really instrumental in folks not returning to prison. For example this agency has seventy percent rate of satisfactory completion. When you look at some of the high-end folks that we have under supervision, whether or not we be sex-offenders, folks with behavioral health, issues that people are bringing to us because of lack of housing. In a sense, given that the institutions that are in society that are really there to help folks to stay on the right track, those systems have failed, education system has failed in some respect of faith.

Leonard : Families have failed; communities have failed.

Tom: It’s left to us in community supervision just to try to put some under paintings under those persons that come to us. Just so that we can give a different direction and then give a different avenue for these individuals to be a little more successful.

Leonard : But the people that come to us, the people that work for us, they got to be top notch. They got to be on top of their game every day. You know, we’re lucky. I mean court services and offenders supervision agency we average fifty to one ratios. Other parole and probation agencies throughout the country, my heavens, they’re two hundred to one. I’ve seen two-fifty-three hundred to one parole and probation agent. We have an extraordinary opportunity, our people our personnel, have an extraordinary opportunity to have a meaningful impact on the lives of people under supervision. Yolanda?

Yolanda: Yes, Len I can attest to that. I was supervision officer outside of the district in another state and I can definitely tell you I’ve had over two hundred cases to just poor little me, having to make contact to thirty days. Usually agencies with the numbers that carry those numbers are mainly doing surveillance. What’s really required if you’re going to impact offender change will have to be accountability on the surveillance side as well as the interventions in programming in cogni-behavioral restructuring.

Leonard : Right.

Yolanda: Without those resources, it’s very difficult or the evidence has shown. The rate of residerism will be higher without those services.

Leonard : Right, but we’re lucky to the point where we even control some of our services, but the bottom line, I’m just going to make this final point. Our employees whether they be pretrial or whether they be community supervision officers, known parole and probation officers, again, we don’t have any problems recruiting people from my understanding. We get lots of people coming in. Law enforcement’s struggling to find people. Corrections is really struggling to find people. We don’t struggle to find people; people want to come to work for this agency because: A. we’re a federal agency, B. we pay fairly well, C. we train fairly well. People feel they can do something different within this agency that they can’t do elsewhere. That’s my guess.

Tom: [crosstalk 00:15:24] I want to say that we don’t necessarily have trouble finding people, its finding the right person. As Yolanda alluded to, the work of the parole and probation officer traditionally has really changed. There’s no more, we’re just passed those days where I can come in with a BA degree with something in behavioral sciences and pretty much work your magic. You really have to understand the literature with regards to cognitive restructuring, cognitive behavioral intervention, motivational interviewing. Those skills that a lot of folks who come to the door really don’t have, so we’re not bringing in individuals just because, quote on quote  they have the degree. You have to demonstrate your skill level either in an academic setting or prior employment setting before we actually bring you in.

Leonard : You’ve got to be good is the bottom line. I’m going to take a break and reintroduce all three of my guests, and then we will pick back up on that question: Tom Williams, Associate Director of Community Supervision Services, court services, and offender supervision agencies; Yolanda Buffet, again, she is Deputy Associate Director again working with Tom; and we have Katherine Terry Coufer, she is the Associate Director of Operations of the Pretrial Services Agency of the District of Columbia.

We are doing this in celebration of the American Probation and Parole Association’s celebration of Pretrial Probation and Parole Supervision week, ordinarily doing the month of July. The theme the American Parole and Probation Association is, “A force for positive change,” and that’s how we see ourselves. Katherine do you want to pick up on that, that we are a force for positive change in the lives of the people that we deal with?

Katherine: Absolutely, and I’d like to echo Tom’s sentiments in terms of while we do face challenges sometimes recruiting because we want the best staff, and those who do have strong clinical skills as well as case management skills to come in and impact, change, and make a difference in individual lives. Its no longer the day: sit at the desk, checking at the door, leave, but to actually to meaningful work with the defendants at pretrial services. We invest a great deal into our staff and I think that’s why we have a history of retaining strong staff because we push and encourage staff to engage in training. We bring a lot of the training in to ensure that they maintain the skills so that we can implement the best practices and community supervision consistent to those of CSOSA. It is different in community corrections now. It’s a different game, as the city has changed and the demographics those coming in. Our strategic direction has changed to work with them and to look at that. Recently, as I am sure you are all aware that we are dealing now with a new issue. Relatively the spike and use of synthetic drugs are the new challenges. So both agencies when they’re gearing up to look at how we best develop strategies to intervene in those and continue to integrate the best practices in that. And we’re very proud of that activity.

Leonard : But could you imagine the policy implication of the five million people that are under community supervision throughout the United States? What it means, if they fail, because they go out and commit additional crimes, they go out and do somebody else an immense amount of harm. The financial considerations are also immense. I mean if they all go back to prison, we could shut down the prison systems in the United States tomorrow. If we revoked everybody back to the prison system. So the states they’re saying, “My heavens, parole and probation save us. Save us from this huge correctional population. Save us from creating more prisons. Protect us; protect our public safety, and by the way at the same time the person who has the history of substance abuse, mental health problems, not a good job history. With a female often times, they’re the ones who are principally responsible for kids. By the way take care of all those social problems that accompany the individuals that we have.” That’s almost impossible to do, but we do it in terms of community supervision in this country every day.

Katherine: And we do it well in the nation’s capital Len.

Leonard : I think we do it better than anywhere else, but that’s my own bias.

Katherine: Absolutely, we do but I think wise supporting that we must work to make sure that we identity the levels of risk in those factors with the work we do. While for us here at pretrial, performance of legal precitives, around the least restrictive recommendations to continue to keep poking the community, but to safe guard public safety which is one our primary responsibilities and showing individuals get back to court.

Leonard : Pretrial has a higher return rate than the vast majority of pretrial service agencies in the Untied States without committing new crimes. The great majority of the people under our supervision do complete it successfully at Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. We put together some data that indicates we’re moving in the right direction by moving in a evidence based direction by looking at the research, by being honest as to what the research has to say, and embracing that new direction. Yolanda?

Yolanda: You’re absolutely correct, and one of the factors that helps us be successful for our graduated sanctions as well. We want to have offenders to remain in the community supporting their families as much as possible. Now, with that said, we still want to hold them accountable for their behavior. So we do practice here, swift and certain sanctions. We do also recognize positive behavior as well, and we have award ceremonies and recognition ceremonies for those that have completed particular programs, educational programs, obtained employment, and so, we really do pour a lot into the defenders that we supervise. All of it, with the programming, the risk assessments that we do, as well as the recognition, help us to be successful with our population.

Leonard : We did a show a while ago on correctional officers stress with the national institute of corrections, and my question to the National Institute of Corrections is where is the course on parole and probation agent stress. The law enforcement is huge in the news. Law enforcement stress is also huge in the news, and I see that’s just it in the program on correctional officer stress. Again, we who handle the great bulk of the people caught up in the criminal justice system we seem to be ignored. This is a very stressful, tough job, where that individual community supervision officer that parole and probation agent really needs to be on his or her game every single day. They can’t let up. They can’t be bamboozled. They can’t be fooled. At the same time, they have to break through the barriers, that that offender poses to help that individual and to work with the family, work with the community. By heavens that’s an awful lot that we ask our people to do.

Yolanda: Absolutely, which brings us back to the whole recognition of pretrial parole and probation officers week anyway. The whole purpose of the week is to recognize the work that we do. We have a week’s worth of activities to increase moral to just engage our colleagues, and some competitive competition to have just a little bit of fun. It all helps. We also have additional training that we have; we just had a training a week ago on trauma informed care. Another topic in another area of training that we do is secondary trauma, for we know our staff, reading the PSI’s and hearing the stories, and working with the offenders, that it also has an impact on us as well. Which is why we take the opportunity to have as much recognition for the staff as possible.

Leonard : But how to we get the public to understand us Katherine? How do we get the public to understand what it is that we do. I don’t see ten tons of parole and probation agent shows on television, but I could spend the rest of the day talking about the titles of the shows focusing on police officers. How do we get the public to understand what it is that we do in the real contributions that we make?

Katherine: Well you know that is a challenge Len; particularly for agencies small as ours here as pretrial services as well as CSOSA. One of the strategies, well a few of them I should say is that, we are starting to work closer with our partners in the community and increase our presence in engaging with our community. Whether its attending community group meetings and those going out informs to share with them, information as well as at the schools, the universities, to try to increase our presence in the public, as well as working with the national organizations like the National Socio-pretrial services agencies, APPA you’ve heard Tom. To get out there, many of our staff at both agencies go to these conferences and provide workshops on the great work that we do that’s targeted on showing how we’re implementing best practices successfully. We continue to partner in the community and work with our partners in law enforcement as well as community based agencies to increase our presence to share with them the outstanding work that we do.

Yolanda also hit on something that is extremely important that I think our agencies do well in. That’s doing the work-life balance and all, because that’s important because the work is very stressful for them. Some of them that are in pretrial services, we shut down for a day or two when the courts are doing their training to provide full days of training to kind of focus on a target. Those things as well as partners at agency to do things like walk or run activities and stuff to ensure that the agents see staff on both sides have an opportunity to get out, interact together, and work through some of the things that stress so they can come back and put their energies into impacting the lives of the defendants, offenders, and their families.

Leonard : I’m still confused. If the public depends upon us for as much as they do, five million people in a given day. We are the front line of public safety in their lives. Whether or not they’re victimized, whether or not their children are victimized, whether or not their house is broken in to, whether or not the person goes back to prison and we have to spend the thirty or forty thousand dollars a year to maintain that person, the billions to build new prisons, I mean that all depends upon us. Yet, the average person, Tom Williams. The average person out there doesn’t fully understand what it is we do to protect them, and to save their tax paid dollars.

Tom: Well one of the ways we can educate the public is certainly from award winning shows like yours Len. [crosstalk 00:25:48] Certainly with the electronics that we have available to us right now, we have the internet. Certainly this program is on the internet. This program certainly is a podcast, certainly is out there for the public to understand. Also, your award winning T.V. show [crosstalk 00:26:06] is another one.

Leonard : Seriously now, [crosstalk 00:26:09] do we not have a perception problem in parole and probation? Not in the district of Columbia, but throughout the country? Again, the American Probation and Parole Association, they put out a campaign,”A force for positive change.” They do this every year, and we celebrate the work of parole and probation agents. It drives me crazy considering the work that I see our people do on a day to day basis, and what they do to protect the society that they don’t get more recognition for that.

Tom: Well, that’s true. One of the reasons is certainly we don’t have a real marketing campaign like profit industry or the non-profit industry does. That’s one of the areas for which we actually could do a better job. When you really look at government servers and that’s basically what we’re involved in. We’re involved in government servers, and providing the service to the citizens of a particular jurisdiction. That’s something that local jurisdictions don’t necessarily publicize, because who gets the headlines; whether its in education where most of the dollars go, or whether its in policing where a large percentage of the dollar goes. But when it comes to issues like whose on the street and what not the person that committed an offense, should be on the street.

I think the public attitude is shifting a little bit from, “lock them up and throw away the key.” Look at what California did several years ago when they did the, “three strikes and you’re out.” Now look what’s happened with California; they’re in a position right now would have to let out convicted felons. We don’t want to have to be down that road.  I think we’ve learned from the nineteen-eighties, the late nineties of determinate sentencing. That structure that was put in place that won’t allow an individual to have early release based on either programmatic issues in the prison or based on a good candidate for release. I think that is all changing right now. I think that as the, we see greatest statistics federal bureau Justice of Assistance. With regards to whose being successful and the slow rate of return.

Yolanda mentioned in terms of graduated responses, don’t [inaudible 00:28:12] back in the late eighties, early nineties, did her study on it, intensive supervision programs. Everybody thought that was going to be the panacea. The issue with Jones, what she found in her studying, was because I’m going to watch them or I’m going to send them back more. So all that’s being changed and we can certainly owe it to our friends the Canadians who actually really was in the forefront of evidence based practices. We’ve taken a lot of the principles from those studies, those meg-analysis they showed that you can have greater success with supervising and providing some level of programming and treatment versus just supervising alone. That’s the good news about community corrections

Leonard : Tom, you’re going have to have a final word, but I do want to emphasize with what’s going on throughout the country, more than ever parole and probation agencies are being asked to save the criminal justice system, to provide the innovation that’s necessary and I think that all three of you were able to agree with me.

Ladies and gentlemen the three people that have been at our microphones today: Thomas Williams, Associate Director, Yolanda Buffet, Deputy Associate Director, and Katherine Coufer, Associate Director of Pretrial Services here in in the District of Columbia. We’ve been focusing on our employees as well as American Parole and Probation Association’s pretrial parole and probation week in July, “A force for positive change.” Ladies and gentlemen this is D.C. Public Safety. We appreciate your comments. We even appreciate your criticisms. We want everybody to have yourselves a very pleasant day.

How did Nuly do?

If you rate this transcript 3 or below, Nuly K will not work on your future orders


Deprecated: str_replace(): Passing null to parameter #3 ($subject) of type array|string is deprecated in /home/csosamed/public_html/podcast/transcripts/wp-content/themes/genesis/lib/functions/image.php on line 116

Pretrial, Parole and Probation Supervision Week-American Probation and Parole Association

Pretrial, Parole and Probation Supervision Week-American Probation and Parole Association

DC Public Safety Radio


See radio show at

LEONARD SIPES: From the nation’s capital this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host Leonard Sipes. The show today, ladies and gentlemen, Pretrial Probation and Parole Supervision Week, July 13 to 19, this year. It’s part of an annual event put on by the American Probation and Parole Association to honor parole and probation and pretrial supervision people throughout the country. By our microphones is Diane Kincaid. She is Deputy Director of the American Probation and Parole Association, Diane, welcome to DC Public Safety.

DIANE KINCAID: Hello. It’s great to be here.

LEONARD SIPES: This is wonderful and I love the idea of this week, because I think that parole and probation agents, what we call community supervision officers here in the nation’s capital, I don’t think they get the recognition that they so desperately deserve. I really do think that they’re sold a bit short in terms of recognition of public safety personnel throughout the country. Am I right or wrong?

DIANE KINCAID: You are absolutely correct, Len. Their job is some of the most difficult that you can have in corrections and law enforcement, and so often their work goes unnoticed, and people really don’t understand how difficult their work really is.

LEONARD SIPES: There are seven million people under correctional supervision in this country on any given day. Two million are behind bars. That means that five million are out under the responsibility of parole and probation agents, again, community supervision officers as we call them in DC, or on a pretrial status. So that means the great bulk of what we call offenders are our responsibility, the responsibility of community supervision agencies. So we have a huge, huge, or make a huge contribution to public safety, do we not?

DIANE KINCAID: Absolutely. That’s correct as well. With that many people under supervision and to be expected to know what these people are doing 24/7, making sure that they are leading law abiding lives, that they’re not breaking the conditions of their supervision, is a tremendous amount of stress and work for these professionals.

LEONARD SIPES: And it’s just amazing as to what they do in terms of both supervising people under supervision and at the same time helping them. So that’s a very, I guess, tough role to combine. When I was a police officer all I had to do was go out and make arrests and, boom, I was done with this person. Parole and probation agents, pretrial supervision people are included in this category, but not to the degree of parole and probation agents, they could have relationships with these individuals of up to five years, providing a certain level of supervision and providing a certain level of assistance.

DIANE KINCAID: That’s true. And we can’t forget about the juveniles who are also on supervision, who are helped tremendously by these professionals as well. And their role is to help these kids grow up into perhaps a better environment and to let them know how their lives can turn around and be better for themselves. So we can’t forget about the kids.

LEONARD SIPES: Right. And I didn’t even think about that particular category, but you’re absolutely right. Okay. Pretrial Probation and Parole Supervision Week, July 13th, 19th is the event for this year. So but what we try to do is not only make sure that everybody else in the country understands the role of people who do community supervision but the fact that they celebrate this time of year and they acknowledge the fact that people on, who are parole and probation agents, again, community supervision officers, pretrial people, juvenile officers, they are on the front lines of public safety. And you, through the American Probation and Parole Association, coordinate that average effort on a yearly basis. So we want everybody to get involved in this, right?

DIANE KINCAID: That’s right. We’ve been doing this week, as we call it, since 2001. It’s an annual event. It’s something that really for me to work on is a pleasure, every year I look forward to it, because it’s really celebrating the work that’s done on the community by these individuals and just really giving them a pat on the back.

LEONARD SIPES: And what APPA calls A Force for Positive Change, I mean that’s been the catchall from, regarding APPA’s efforts throughout the year is making sure that everybody understands that these individuals are just that, A Force for Positive Change.

DIANE KINCAID: That’s right. And the theme that we have for this year is Be the Change in your Community. So it’s all about probation, parole, and pretrial officers and community supervision officers being change agents for the people that they’re supervising and throughout the community, really.

LEONARD SIPES: Now, you have a list of resources on your website, again,, they can find that list of resources that help them celebrate Pretrial Probation and Parole Supervision Week.    

DIANE KINCAID: That’s right. We have an entire website that’s developed every year with a different theme, a different look. We have a designer, a very talented gentleman named [John Higgins, who designs the look for the week every year. We have a poster that can be printed in your office. We have actually an agency that’s going to be – I didn’t turn my cell phone off – we have an office that is going to be printing large banners to hang from their office area. That’s really going to be a lot of fun. It’s going to be – I can’t wait to get the pictures for that. That’s going to be really neat.

LEONARD SIPES: Now, how far in advance can they ask for material from your agency?

DIANE KINCAID: We try to have the website up right around the first week of April. We work on the theme; we work on the design starting around the first of the year. The week is always in July. We try to have that right around the third week, depending on how that week falls. But it’s, you know, we’re always right in the middle of July. We start working on it again the first of year trying to get together and have the website up in April.

LEONARD SIPES: Now, the theme again for this year is what again?

DIANE KINCAID: Be the Change in your Community.

LEONARD SIPES: Be the Change in your Community. Do people understand the role of parole and probation agents, is it, or pretrial people or juvenile service officers? Do they understand exactly what it is they do? Because I get the sense that there are thousands of police shows and resources devoted to what law enforcement does, television shows, the movies. You get this constant barrage of information as to what police officers do. Now, as a former police officer, I would suspect that an awful lot of what they see and hear is unrealistic. But you hear and see little to nothing as to what parole and probation people do.

DIANE KINCAID: Well, that’s true, and it’s the issue of an identity. Police officers have that uniform, they have, often have a car that identifies them as law enforcement, but for the most part probation and parole officers and pretrial officers don’t have that. There’s not a look that they have. They look like just anybody on the street. They look like you and I.


DIANE KINCAID: So knowing who they are and what they’re doing, you know, you see somebody talking to somebody at work and you don’t know that that’s a probation officer checking up to make sure somebody’s going to their job. So knowing what they do is really difficult, even for me, having worked here for almost 15 years. I learn something new about what they do every day.

LEONARD SIPES: It’s a combination, law enforcement, again, a social service agency. You find some parole and probation agents are out there all the time, some are in raid jackets, some carry firearms, some have arrest power. We don’t have arrest power nor do we carry firearms here in the nation’s capital, but that’s not unusual for them to take on the law enforcement motif, and at the same time they’re interacting with people, some of the most challenging people on the face of the earth. How do you build that relationship with that person under supervision to the point where you can convince them that to go into drug treatment, complete drug treatment, make the restitution, not disobey any laws, not to bother the neighborhood, to get work, to get along well with their family, pick up their responsibilities? I mean these are all skills, immensely difficult people, and at the same time skills to deal with immensely difficult problems. The parole and probation people have got to be at the very top of their game every single day.

DIANE KINCAID: They do. And you raised an issue also that involves safety for officers. Unfortunately sometimes an officer can be killed in the line of duty. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen. So the stress and the safety and the diverse nature of the work is something that really goes undervalued I think.

LEONARD SIPES: I think most of them in, throughout the country have college degrees.

DIANE KINCAID: They do. It’s a very well educated workforce, because the skills that are needed are such that a good background in social studies and in psychology and those sorts of areas is really beneficial for someone who works in this field.

LEONARD SIPES: And at the same time many people within my agency here at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency have master’s degrees and above. So you’re right. It’s an extremely well educated field. And we have parole and probation people, again, juvenile justice people, pretrial people, in every jurisdiction in the United States.

DIANE KINCAID: It’s true. It’s well educated. It’s, you know, the ratios of males to females is about 50-50, so it’s well represented, very diverse as far as culture. As I said, probation, parole, and pretrial officers are just like you and I.

LEONARD SIPES: But it’s interesting that it’s a bit of an American invention to some degree. We had a delegation from China that sent some people over, and we sent people over there to build a community supervision system over in China. Either you were let go or put in prison. There wasn’t anything in between. So is parole and probation not just something that’s in every American jurisdiction, every county, every city, every state, and I would imagine it’s the same for Canada, but I would imagine, again, that it’s, they’re in most jurisdictions in the world but not all?

DIANE KINCAID: That’s true. Not all have a very well developed supervision system. And something interesting that I would like to mention as well is next summer the Second World Congress on Community Corrections, I’m sorry, is going to be held in Los Angeles, it’s going to be in July, 2015 –


DIANE KINCAID: And APPA is hosting that. So we’re going to be welcoming the world to talk about community corrections and how we can all learn from each other and help each other.

LEONARD SIPES: Now, in terms of getting people involved in the field, you all even have a website that is done by Marianne Mowat. Now, you’re also aligned with the Council of State Governments, your organization, so it’s larger than just the American Probation and Parole Association, it’s the Council of State Governments, correct?

DIANE KINCAID: That’s correct. We are an affiliate member of the Council of State Governments, CSG. They handle all of our secretary duties, our human resources, our benefits, that sort of thing, our county. So they are a tremendous support for the association. And you mentioned Marianne, who has worked on the website for several years now; it’s called Discover Corrections –


DIANE KINCAID: Which has a tremendous amount of information for anyone who is in the field and perhaps seeking employment in a different agency or different state. We have a job posting board. It also has a lot of information for someone who’s looking to work in the field who wants to know a little more about it.

LEONARD SIPES: And it also celebrates the field. So the point with American Probation and Parole Association is that you’re doing this year round, you’re doing it year round through the website, you’re doing it year round in terms of promoting this concept of A Force for Positive Change. So the American Probation and Parole Association is representing us, those of us in community corrections throughout the entire year, in terms of research with the Department of Justice, in terms of promoting community supervision and what community supervision does. So you guys are basically the center point of this discussion, not just for Pretrial Probation and Parole Supervision Week, July 13th – 19th, this year, but you’re doing it throughout the year.

DIANE KINCAID: We do. And we really, we’re a nonprofit, obviously, but I could tell you to a person all staff feel that we really are here to serve the field. Anything that we can do to make their work easier, anything we can help them with as far as getting information, the research that we do and the training that we try to provide is really just an effort to help, to really support those individuals.

LEONARD SIPES: I walk by the National Police Memorial every day on the way to work and I interact with their people. So they have a huge presence in downtown DC, a huge memorial, where people come throughout the Unites States in the spring to celebrate the sacrifice of police officers and the sacrifice that police officers make, not just in terms of the past year, but in all previous years. The names of all deceased police officers killed in the line of duty are aligned on a long wall. We don’t have anything like that for parole and probation, do we?

DIANE KINCAID: We don’t. And, again, that’s just something that, you know, I don’t think the average probation, parole, or pretrial officer would really even expect it. It’s not something that they really look for. They see their work as helping others, keeping the community safe, just like law enforcement, obviously. But they go about their business; they do the job as best they can – and I think they do a fabulous job – and don’t really want a pat on the back, for the most part.

LEONARD SIPES: Well, but I do think they want recognition. I do think that –

DIANE KINCAID: And they deserve it.

LEONARD SIPES: I – they want recognition for the fact that they carry very large case loads. I want the audience to think about the fact that they’re extraordinarily well educated people. I mean I know parole and probation agents who have PhDs. They’re out there every day in tough neighborhoods, dealing with people with problems and with issues and convincing somebody to how to take care of your child, be sure that you go to school every day. “We heard from law enforcement resources that you’re out on the community, out on a corner bothering the community. I’m told by your substance abuse provider that you’re not attending all the sessions or that you’re being disruptive.” Those are all major life issues, and when you’ve got a large case load and you’re dealing with people that intimately and being that involved in the lives of hundreds of people on your case load, that’s got to take a toll. And recognizing that the vast majority of people that are part of the criminal justice system are their responsibility, not prison, their responsibility, I do believe, both of us believe that they need recognition.

DIANE KINCAID: That’s true. And just talking about all of this with you it just brings up the amount of work, the amount of stress that these individuals are working under, the large case loads. If you find someone who has been in this system working in the field between five and seven years, they’re dedicated, because it is hard work, it’s something that takes a lot of mental effort, physical effort oftentimes, so they’re really dedicated people.

LEONARD SIPES: We’re talking to Diane Kincaid. She is the Deputy Director of the American Probation and Parole Association, We’re talking about Pretrial Probation and Parole Supervision Week. Now, one of the, you know, the whole idea is this is not just one week that we’re celebrating, we’re celebrating them throughout the course of the year. One of the ways that you celebrate community service or community supervision personnel is the fact that you’re having a conference coming up in New Orleans on August 3 through August 6 of this year. Now, you do two of them a year, right?

DIANE KINCAID: We do. This will be our 39th annual training institute. Our annuals are typically July, August, and then we have winter institutes that tend to be a little bit smaller, recently they’ve been right around the same size, that’s January, February, for the winter. This institute looks to be really big. We have a really good registration right now, we’re not even to the deadline to register, we haven’t had that last push, and I think everybody’s excited to be in New Orleans, so we’re looking to have a good show with everybody. We’ve got a full exhibit hall, with a lot of new exhibitors, to show sort of the items that they have to help probation, parole, and pretrial professionals do their job.

LEONARD SIPES: That exhibition hall is one of my favorite spots when I go to your conferences to find out what’s new, and especially from a technology point of view, what’s new, what’s happening throughout the rest of the country. There’s a lot of really interesting things that’s coming onboard, coming up in terms of community supervision. I remember doing a radio show within the last couple weeks with Joe Russo, talking about corrections technology or community corrections technology, and that’s a very exciting field. So I think as the research indicates that more and more of this idea of crime control is going to be placed in the hands of parole and probation agents, the level of technology seems to be increasing and our options seem to be increasing. I’m thinking specifically GPS, but there’s now devices that can tell whether or not a person is under the influence of alcohol, there will be technology in the somewhat near future that will indicate whether or not a person is on drugs or using drugs. So we’re doing a lot of remote supervision, some agencies are using kiosks, some people are doing facial recognition, some people are doing remote fingerprinting, there’s a lot of technology that’s coming our way, because, again, most people caught up in the criminal justice system are our responsibility. They’re not in prison, they’re out in the community, they’re out in the street, and they’re our responsibility, correct?

DIANE KINCAID: That’s true. And technology really has taken off in the last few years, you know, the different tools that can be used to supervise individuals. And I have to say too, not every person who is on supervision is a danger to anybody. They’ve done some things that maybe they shouldn’t have. They just need a little guidance, they need some support. So the greatest majority of those individuals really do need the skills of community supervision officers. Then there are the ones who need a little bit more help, who need more direct supervision, and that’s what’s taken care of as well.

LEONARD SIPES: How many community corrections agencies throughout the country celebrate Pretrial Probation and Parole Supervision Week?

DIANE KINCAID: We have quite a few. We hear from a number of those, you know, we have the ideas on here about how to recognize staff, to maybe have a staff luncheon, maybe go out and do some community service work with your agency logo on your shirt, just get out in the community and let people know that you are part of it, that you are supporting them, that you are trying to keep them safe, and to help those people who are under supervision. I would say there are dozens of agencies we hear from every year that are doing different things, and a lot of the ideas that we have on our website about how to recognize staff and volunteers come from the field, they come from people telling us what they’ve done. So that’s always really interesting to see.

LEONARD SIPES: I recognize that more and more agencies are getting involved in doing what we’re doing, which is the promotion, the creation and promotion of radio shows and television shows, Facebook pages, I’m finding a greater presence on social media from community corrections personnel.

DIANE KINCAID: That’s true. And for anyone who’s interested, APPA also has a Facebook page, we’re on LinkedIn. There is always a really active discussion in the LinkedIn page for APPA, a lot of really good ideas, a lot of information being shared there, so I’d encourage people to take a look at that as well.

LEONARD SIPES: Now, we are, is it fair, Diane, I say to others and I’ve heard others say to me that we are at the epicenter for change. When I’m taking a look at the criminological research coming out from the US Department of Justice, from Pew, from the Urban Institute, from the Council of State Governments, it’s always an emphasis on parole and probation. I’m finding that, through research, that there has never been such a presence of parole and probation agencies, community supervision agencies. It basically seems that if we are going to rearrange the way that we do business within the criminal justice system to be more effective, to be smarter, to reduce rates of recidivism, it all comes down to community supervision agencies and community supervision personnel. Now, is that my observation? Is my observation or the observation of others correct or is that an exaggeration?

DIANE KINCAID: No, I agree with you. I do see that trend as well. And the fact is, we cannot build prisons to buy ourselves out of crime. It’s just not going to work. For one thing we can’t afford it, and that’s a horrible thing to say, but we cannot afford to put every person who breaks the law into a prison or jail. And most of those people don’t need to be imprisoned. So when they’re part of the community, when they’re getting the support they need, when they’re getting some substance abuse help, when they’re getting some therapies, then they can have a job, they can take care of their families, they can pay their taxes, they can be part of the community and support their own community.

LEONARD SIPES: Someone once told me that, theoretically at least, that every governor has had a discussion with every director of corrections in every state in the United States, and their message has basically been you must reduce your budget, that corrections is taking such a large share, we don’t have the money to build roads, we don’t have the money to build colleges, we don’t have the money to do head start programs, we don’ have the money to build schools or to improve schools, because so much of it is going towards corrections, and you have to reduce the reliance upon incarceration. So whether we’re approaching it criminologically or whether we’re approaching it from the standpoint of budget, more people are going to be coming onto community supervision, correct?

DIANE KINCAID: I would say that that is the trend these days, because people that realize that, not only does it help state budgets, as far as the Department of Corrections and their prison system goes, but it helps the community. When people are in prison they’re breaking apart families, they, or they’re not supporting their children, they’re not supporting their spouses, they – it just really sort of creates an imbalance in our communities when you have so many people in prison who more than likely don’t necessarily need to be there or don’t need to be in there as long as we do so today.

LEONARD SIPES: And I’m bringing all this up to be sure that the listeners understand the importance of community supervision officers, because all the research that I read it’s parole and probation, the parole and probation becomes the epicenter for the change within the criminal justice system. I’m reading now that it’s just not a Republican or a Democrat or a left wing or a right wing point of view, that you have some rather conservative people out there coming together with people on the other side of the aisle and they’re pushing for the same change, that this is now a universal message that goes across political spectrums, that we’ve got to be smarter, we’ve got to be better, we’ve got to reduce recidivism, we’ve got to bring programs on, and we’ve got to have the right people to apply all of this. And, boom, we’re right back to community supervision personnel, parole and probation personnel.

DIANE KINCAID: Yeah. And I think too we have to add in this whole focus on evidence-based practices, where we know what works and we can prove it. We can prove that these things and these methods and these practices do work to reduce recidivism, to reduce imprisonment, and to help our communities.

LEONARD SIPES: Right. And we have to be sure to assess them, to figure out what their risk level is, what their need level is, being sure that we supervise people at the right levels, making sure that we have the programs in place to provide the substance abuse treatment or the mental health treatment or the job assistance. I mean this is beginning to be very complex, and it calls for extraordinarily well educated, extraordinarily dedicated, extraordinarily motivated people to be parole and probation agents.

DIANE KINCAID: It’s true. And just to go back to some of my recent comments, that I don’t mean to say that we don’t need prisons, obviously we do. There are individuals who are a danger to our communities; they’re a danger to others, maybe even a danger to themselves, depending on how they’re living. But there are still those who – the biggest population in our prisons are drug offenses and property offenses. Not everybody in prison is a murderer. So –

LEONARD SIPES: But what you’re saying –

DIANE KINCAID: And we have to think about that.

LEONARD SIPES: What you’re saying goes right along with what the research community throughout the country and the advocacy community throughout the country and what the US Department of Justice is saying. My only – in terms of the fact that we cannot continue to send everybody to prison or we cannot continue to send everybody to prison for the length of time that we ordinarily do. And, again, theoretically, every governor in the country has had this conversation with their corrections people basically saying we can no longer house the amount of people that we housed before because of budget reasons. And according to the Department of Justice data we’re seeing a gradual, not a huge, but a gradual change in terms of the small decrease in prison population over the course of the last five years. So all of your, all that you’re saying is nothing more than what’s what the reality is.

DIANE KINCAID: Yeah. And that’s, you know, and the evidence proves it, so you can’t really argue against something that you can show somebody works. So the more states that get into this and the more states that start working on these different ways of doing things and different ways of thinking about offenders is just going to reinforce that.

LEONARD SIPES: Okay. We’re going to wrap up. And I do want to reemphasize that information is available at the website of the American Probation and Parole Association,, Pretrial Probation and Parole Supervision Week is July 13th through 19th of this year. Our agency, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, our director is in the process of doing a video outreach to all employees. Again, parole and probation is at the epicenter of change, the research, the advocacy, whether you are on the right or the left of the political spectrum, all, everything is now being, the emphasis is now parole and probation and community supervision, and that’s where we’re going.

DIANE KINCAID: Yeah. It’s been a great pleasure to speak with you today, Len. I really enjoyed it.

LEONARD SIPES: Well, we’re not done yet, because I do want to reemphasize that we have the conference coming up in August in New Orleans, August 3 through 6, and that is, again, at your website, and the fact that you do have Discover Corrections. That website that is funded I think through the Council of State Governments, through APPA, through the Department of Justice, through the Bureau of Justice Assistance. So you’re doing this throughout the course of the year. I think that’s the important thing to understand, that the American Probation and Parole Association is leading the rest of us in terms of trying to build up parole and probation, again, A Force for Positive Change has been the logo of APPA for the course of the last several years. So it’s your emphasis is constant throughout the course of the year, and we really do thank APPA for everything that you do.

DIANE KINCAID: Well, it’s a real pleasure to work with those in the field and it’s an honor, so it’s a great job.

LEONARD SIPES: Okay. We’re going to wrap up. Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. Our guest today, again, Diane Kincaid, Deputy Director of the American Probation and Parole Association, talking about Pretrial Probation and Parole Supervision Week, this year, July 13th, 19th, This is DC Public Safety. We appreciate your comments, we even appreciate your criticisms, and we want everybody to have themselves a very, very pleasant day.