American Probation and Parole Association-Update-35th Annual Training Conference

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[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes:  From the nation’s capital, this is D.C. Public Safety.  I’m your host, Leonard Sipes.  Today’s guest is Diane Kincaid.  Diane is the Deputy Director for the American Probation and Parole Association.  They are the leading organization promoting the issues in parole and probation in this country. They are at the forefront of virtually everything that’s going on throughout the United States, and for, to some degree, throughout the world in terms of anything involving community supervision services.  Their website, www.appa-net.org.  Before talking to Diane, our usual commercials.  We’re up to 200,000 requests a month for D.C. Public Safety, radio, television, blog, and transcripts.  Once again, we are really appreciative of all the guidance that you give us, and we will take it all, criticisms and guidance, whatever is on your mind, please get back in touch with us.  If you want to get in touch with me directly, it’s Leonard – L-E-O-N-A-R-D – dot-sipes – S-I-P-E-S, @csosa.gov.  CSOSA is the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, a federal parole and probation agency in Washington D.C.  You can follow us via twitter at www.twitter.com/lensipes, or you can comment, as most of you do, within the comment boxes of, again, D.C. Public Safety at Media, M-E-D-I-A, dot-csosa.gov, the radio show, television shows, blog, and transcripts.  Back at Diane Kincaid, Diane, how’ve you been?

Diane Kincaid:  Good, how are you, Len?

Len Sipes:  I’m fine, fine, fine.  Diane, you know, one of the things that I said when you, I’m a member, by the way, of the American Probation and Parole Association, and they were kind enough to give us, Tim Barnes and myself an award for our community outreach efforts, and from the podium, what I did was to thank Diane Kincaid because there are people all throughout the United States who depend upon Diane Kincaid to answer their questions and provide them with information and feedback about parole and probation, so she’s probably better known than anybody in the country in terms of parole and probation issues, and I thanked Diane from the podium, because she’s been there for years, and she really does know more than anybody else in the country regarding parole and probation efforts, so Diane, once again, thank you for everything that you do for those of us in the corrections community.

Diane Kincaid:  Thanks, Len, I really appreciate that, and I want to say, too, that doing what I do.  I truly appreciate the job that you do as far as outreach, because that’s not easy, and you do a wonderful job, so our association certainly appreciates it.

Len Sipes:  Well, compliments are going both ways, but without APPA, we wouldn’t exist.  We wouldn’t be there, and we wouldn’t have the strategies that we have today.  A variety of things that we want to talk about today, the 35th annual training institute coming up in Washington D.C. on August 15-18, that’s why I’m going to be repeating the website address throughout the program, www.appa-net.org, and talking about the training institute, talking about the marketing strategies, talking about a variety of resolutions that the American Probation and Parole Association has on their plate.  Parole and Probation Officer Week is coming up on July 18 through July 24.  A force for positive change is a logo that APPA produced a couple years ago to help the rest of us out in terms of our public relations effort, and also support for the second chance act, so that’s a long list of different things we have to do within a half hour.  First of all, let’s talk about the 35th annual training institute in Washington D.C. on August 15 and 18.

Diane Kincaid:  Yeah, we’re really excited about being in the capital.  We’ve never had one of our annual institutes in the capital of our nation, so it’s going to be really exciting.  We have a lot of wonderful activities planned, and CSOSA, as co-host agency is doing a wonderful job in helping us bring in some wonderful workshops and good presentations.  It’s going to be really good.  You know, we’re hoping to have a good crowd.  With the travel situation the way it is for many agencies, it’s difficult, and we understand that.  You know, it can be hard to have a budget for training, let alone for travel as well.  Hopefully, the location there in D.C. is going to be easy enough for people all along the east coast to get to, many people are going to be able to drive in, so that’s going to help out a whole lot.

Len Sipes:  If people have an opportunity to come to Washington D.C., bring your family if at all humanly possible, there are, you can spend days and days and days in Washington D.C. going to all of the free events, the Smithsonian, the Air and Space Museum, the World War II Memorial.  My wife and I, just the other day, were talking about going down and seeing the Holocaust Memorial.  I mean, there are an endless array of things and events that are all free.  D.C. is a very family oriented place, and did I say free?  So if you come to D.C., there is just a ton of things to do, cultural and historical and otherwise, it’s just an amazing city, and I’m privileged to work here, so I really encourage anybody to, who’s listening to this program, to pay attention to the website, www.appa-net.org in terms of the 35th Annual Training Institute.  Diane, I think one of the real wonderful things about your training institutes are the courses, but more importantly, just the ability to network with other people just like yourself.

Diane Kincaid:  Absolutely.  You have multiple opportunities at our conferences to go into the expo hall, to look at some of the new technologies coming out for supervision, just to talk to people, just to meet people, just to make contacts from people across the country who, more than likely, are facing some of the same situations that you are.

Len Sipes:  I spent time at the last training institute that I was at, I spent a half hour with an individual who was involved in promoting their parole and probation agency and representing that agency, and I just sat there and listened to this person for a half hour talk about his experiences, and it was just fascinating in terms of the different things that he was doing and employing, and I came out of that with, wow, saying to myself, wow, if I would just have this opportunity more often, just to talk to different people and pick their brains for ideas, the exhibitors area is always amazing, because you have people who set up their wares, commercial companies and otherwise, who set up the different booths, and talk about the technology and how it’s having an impact on parole and probation, correct?

Diane Kincaid:  That’s correct.  We generally have a couple or three new ones come in, the technology is always advancing, so there are a lot of new things coming out, and our exhibit hall, unlike some other conferences, is not huge.  Attendees absolutely have every opportunity to visit every booth and speak to the representatives of those companies.  So it’s not overwhelming, it’s not a huge crowd, we have a very friendly crowd, and what amazes me is how excited people are about the work that they do.  That really helps people do my job, just to see how involved they are, and how much they do really want to help people.

Len Sipes:  Well, this is a hard job.  I mean, working directly with offenders, working with people under supervision, it’s a hard job, and sometimes you come out of it reinvigorated when you talk to other people and strategies that they’re using and listen to their experiences, I think sometimes it’s an opportunity to recharge your batteries when you go to an APPA conference.

Diane Kincaid:  I think so, and you know, we have the opportunity as well, joining committees on a number of different topics.  Our website will give you an idea of the different types of committees that we have, just join up, get involved, and you can get a lot of information in our conferences.  It’s only a few days long, but you meet a lot of people, and you get a lot of new ideas.

Len Sipes:  And it’s in Washington D.C. which, boy, if you bring your family and you bring your kids, it’s the opportunity of a lifetime in terms of seeing everything that D.C. has to offer.  Again, all of this is on the website, www.appa-net.org.  Also wanted to tell you that we will be on the floor doing recordings, radio recordings of people on the floor of the conference, who are going to be, in essence, asking people why are they successful, or why their program is successful, or why their programs contribute to public safety, and so we’re just going to have a smorgasbord of people on the front lines, the parole and probation agents, and the other people who work on the front lines of community supervision and just get a sense as to why they’re successful, so if you want to be included in that, please show up and track us down.  Also, what we want to do, Diane, is talk about the marketing strategies part of it, the fact that we have a force for positive change as being the logo, and we have a website, an entirely different website.  Now you can gain access to the website, the marketing website, through the main website of APPA, or you can go to, and I’ll repeat this a couple times, www.ccmarketingstrategies.org – one word – dot-org, that’s www.ccmarketingstrategies.org. I would imagine CC is Community Corrections?

Diane Kincaid:  Correct.

Len Sipes:  Okay.  And why did we do this, Diane?

Diane Kincaid:  Well this is a project that began several years ago, and of course, you remember being a member of the working group that got together to decide how we would best approach marketing community corrections as an outreach activity for agencies across the country, and one of the final deliverables that we had on this project is this website.  We have a number of different target groups that we use examples of tools that you can use for these groups to create outreach opportunities for your agency.  We also were able to produce a number of really nice videos.  There are videos of officers speaking about their job and what they do.  There are other videos of offenders speaking about their experience being on community supervision, so we were real excited to get those out, and we hope that people will take an opportunity to look at it.  I want to mention to that this entire project was funded through the bureau of justice assistance.  It was a small grant that we received to do this work for them, because they realized that outreach for community corrections agencies was sometimes difficult.  You simply don’t have time or the budget to have a full time public information officer, and many smaller agencies simply don’t have that.

Len Sipes:  And in essence, the website makes it easy for you to gain new ideas and to, more or less, figure out for yourself what it is that you can do within your agency.

Diane Kincaid:  That’s correct, and alongside that, as a sort of partner project, we did one on our own where the force for positive change came from.  That’s also available on our website with other tools.  They’re kind of linked projects, but they are pushing that same idea that you want to be prepared in your community for questions about the job that you’re doing.

Len Sipes:  Now it strikes me that the most important part of all this, because I’ve talked to, and you’ve talked to a lot of people throughout the country, and we’ve had people throughout the world, I mean, we’ve had a big contingent from England to come in and take a look at what we were doing with radio shows and the television shows and the blog, and talking about, this is something that we want to do.  But two things come to mind, it strikes me, in terms of marketing, community corrections, and marketing parole and probation.  Number one, most of us don’t do it, and I would like to ask your opinion as to why we don’t do it, and I suppose the second part of it is, well, let’s just stick with that for a moment.  Why don’t we market?

Diane Kincaid:  Well, it’s a difficult job to market yourself in a profession where it sometimes is difficult to actually explain what you do, and the professionals who do this type of work, for the most part, are just too busy to do outreach.  They keep their heads down, they take care of their clients, they report to a judge, they’re going to court, they just don’t have time to sit down and think about what they need to tell the community, or what they need to tell the media, but it’s very important that they do that, because unfortunately, situations will arise where something happens.  You may have an offender who does something on supervision, and everyone will turn around and look at that probation or parole department and want to know, you know, how did this happen, why did this happen?  But if you have that background, if you have that support of your community or support of the media.  They understand more about what you’re trying to do, and they understand that, while you’re trying to help offenders straighten out their lives and get a second chance, some people just have a lot harder time doing that than others.

Len Sipes:  Well, look.  Parole and probation agencies, it’s difficult.  You and I are going to agree to that, and everybody else listening to the program is probably going to agree to it, because it is inevitable that people coming out of the prison system, whether by parole or by mandatory release, are people who are on probation, they’re going to go out and do some terrible things.  It’s been that way in the 20 years that I have been associated with community corrections, and so it really doesn’t matter.  It, from the standpoint that, whether you want to market, or whether you want to work with the media or not work with the media, about 5 or 6 times throughout the course of the year, the media is going to say, why did that parolee, that parolee who committed that murder, was he properly supervised?  How many times did you come into contact with the individual, did he go to drug treatment, I’ve read his pre-sentence report, and he was supposed to get treatment for mental health treatment, did he?  I mean, that’s a difficult process for most parole and probation agencies, and what we’re saying is transparency is probably the best way to go, and there’s nothing more transparent than to explain what it is that you’re doing throughout the course of the year rather than what you’re doing within the context of something terrible happening.

Diane Kincaid:  That’s true, and in the community, and policymakers need to understand that none of this happens in a vacuum.  Funding must be provided for programs to help offenders.  You can’t simply release someone out into the community who has a substance abuse problem, who may have a mental illness, and expect them to just, do just fine.  They do need services, and the funding for that has to be provided.

Len Sipes:  Right, but I mean, to explain that whole process, it’s a lot better to explain that process in the context of, not being in the context of all heck breaking loose.  When a parolee goes out and commits a series of murders, and he may have been properly supervised, not properly supervise, to explain all of this in that context, your message never gets across.  All people want to know is, are you protecting my safety.  Where there are hundreds of other issues that we should be talking about throughout the course of the year, so the media and the public has a better understanding of what it is that we do on a day to day basis.

Diane Kincaid:  Well, and a lot of times, reporters will write these stories without speaking to anyone, any of the officials, or any of those authorized to speak to the media from community corrections.  They assume they know facts that may not be true.  They glean reports from here and there, but they really need to have that contact to get the correct information.

Len Sipes:  Diane Kincaid is the deputy director of the American Probation and Parole Association.  She’s been with the organization, how long, Diana?  150 years?

Diane Kincaid:  I’m not quite that old!

Len Sipes:  No!

Diane Kincaid:  But about 10 years or so.

Len Sipes:  But you’ve been there, you’ve been there for a solid decade, and she is, in essence, what all of us need information as I needed information yesterday, somebody was asking me what the average caseload of parole and probation agencies throughout the country was, I said contact Diane Kincaid.  I don’t know if the person has contacted you as of yet, but Diane is the, when somebody says, I need to know this information, my response is, Diane Kincaid, and here’s her telephone number.  www.appa-net.org is the website.  Again, we’ve been talking about the 35th annual training institute coming up in Washington D.C., August 15th through 18th, and we’ve also been talking about the new website APPA has put up in terms of promoting community corrections, www.ccmarketingstrategies.org, all one word, ccmarketingstrategies.org, or to access the site through the website address that I’ve given probably now a dozen times, but I mean, a force for positive change.  What that says from APPA and for the rest of us is that we’re there to improve your life.  We’re there to have a positive impact on the community.

Diane Kincaid:  And to also support public safety.  That’s one of the primary functions of community supervision.

Len Sipes:  Right.  And that’s one of the things that I find most difficult, because when our response to practically everything, why are you doing this, and why are you doing that, it’s all a matter of public safety, it’s all a matter of keeping people safe, how many times throughout the 20 years that I have been speaking for both, you know, in some cases, both law enforcement and correctional, and community correctional organizations, I mean, the common theme is safety.  I mean, reporters want to know what you’re doing to keep them safe, their families safe, their communities safe.  Everybody wants to know what you’re doing to create a safer environment for them, correct?

Diane Kincaid:  That’s right, and they really need to understand that community corrections does provide that function.  You know, without them, I can’t imagine what types of things would happen, and how ill people, some of those offenders may be, and you know, it’s keeping the community safe, but also providing opportunities for offenders to change their behavior.

Len Sipes:  And the weird thing about it is, I think there’s research from the bureau of justice assistance – I’m sorry, statistics, bureau of justice statistics, U.S. Department of Justice, talking about the fact that I think one in every 40 Americans is under some form of community supervision, either probation, which is probably 85% of them, or parole or supervised release, which means you come out of the prison system, or on pre-trial, or on some sort of juvenile supervision.  I think it’s 1 out of every 40, now that’s currently under supervision.  If you count everybody who’s been in contact with the criminal justice system, it’s got to be at least 1 out of every 20, so the point is that anybody living in any metropolitan area anywhere within the United States or anywhere in this world, they’re going to encounter on a day to day basis a lot of people who are either currently caught up in the criminal justice system or been somehow some way have had contact in the past with the criminal justice system, and I suppose the question is, is that if that person has a mental health issue, do you want that person under treatment being, you’re interacting with that person every day, or do you want that person who needs treatment without treatment?  Isn’t that the question?  Isn’t that the inference that with these programs, we are safer?

Diane Kincaid:  That’s absolutely true.  For those people with mental illness, unfortunately, a lot of times, they are caught up in situations where they’re arrested for a crime, they’re jailed, if they were on some sort of medication, they’re more than likely not going to have that when they go to jail, so their situation deteriorates.  Back and forth, that entire process of going through the criminal justice system is difficult for a lot of people, so having that support system in between, you know, we’re talking about pretrial supervision, investigations, all the way through, they need that support to help them as well as to help the community.

Len Sipes:  I’ve seen a variety of research on drug treatment, and it’s not encouraging, that out of people caught up in the criminal justice system, I have seen figures ranging from 1 in 11 to 1 in 20.  I’m sorry, let me go back.  Either 11% get drug treatment, ranging from between 11% and 20% of people who need drug treatment caught up in the criminal justice system get drug treatment.  So what that’s saying is, very clearly, is that the overwhelming majority of people who need drug treatment don’t get it, and I think that’s one of the reasons why the bureau of justice assistance of the U.S. Department of Justice funded the American Probation and Parole Association to create marketingstrategies.org, so it’s just not them who are talking about these issues, it is us here at Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, it is the people in Albuquerque, the people in Amarillo, the people in San Francisco, the people in Minnesota, all of us collectively are talking to our media about the need for programs.

Diane Kincaid:  True, and you know, a good place to find out about these programs are in, our website has some examples of these things, there are a number of federal websites for all sorts of programs that have been, they’re evidence based, they’ve been proven to work, and can be altered if they need to be for various agencies across the country.  It never hurts to ask questions.  You know, it goes, everything from technology and information sharing, the global justice information sharing project is a fabulous place if someone is looking for sharing offender information across jurisdictions with law enforcement, with, from community corrections to jails and prisons, there’s so much information out there that all you need to do is look for it or ask for it.

Len Sipes:  And I think that’s one of the interesting things, because we have you, and now you’re a membership based organization, and I am a member, have been a member for the last couple years, but so, you don’t have to be a member to go to the website, and to take a look at either APPA’s website, or the marketing strategies website, and to glean an awful lot of good information just from the websites.

Diane Kincaid:  Right, and I provide information to nonmembers as well as members.  I don’t, when somebody gives me a call, I don’t look them up and say, oh, you’re not a member, I can’t help you.

Len Sipes:  There you go, and that’s what I like about APPA.  You help everybody, but I did not want to put those words in your mouth, so I appreciate the fact that you guys do that, believe me.  Okay, so the parole and probation officers week, I’m, do I have that correctly, July 18-24, that’s what I call it, but it’s had another name?

Diane Kincaid:  We refer to it as the probation, parole, and community supervision week.  We want to include as many groups involved in a very detailed profession as we can.

Len Sipes:  Right, because you have pre-trial, you have juvenile.

Diane Kincaid:  Right, right.

Len Sipes:  Okay, and what is that all about?

Diane Kincaid:  Well, we celebrate a week every July, it’s generally the second week in July, second or third week, looks like.  We produce a website, we produce a new poster every year with a theme, this year’s theme is support for a second chance, reflecting, you know, all of the funding that has come from the federal government into the second chance act, and it’s, you know, most people think of the second chance for parolees, but unfortunately, there are a number of people who need a second chance who have been in and out of a jail, a community jail, or community transitional housing, so those services are needed for others besides just parolees.

Len Sipes:  Well, the second chance act, did you want to explain what the second chance act is?

Diane Kincaid:  The second chance act is a federally legislated funding program, was first passed through Congress, and then a year or so later received some funding from the U.S. Congress to provide grant funds for various agencies for things like jobs programs for offenders, treatment services for offenders, mental health programs, just a myriad of programs to assist offenders coming out of prisons and jails, just to get their lives on track and to make sure that they are getting the services that they need to become law abiding citizens.

Len Sipes:  And I think that that’s an amazing thing, because you have legislation from the federal government.  We’ve had bits and pieces of it in the past, but certainly this is significant.  There are hundreds of millions of dollars involved for community organizations, for parole and probation agencies, for a wide variety of groups to actually apply for funds, and to do reentry programs, offender reentry programs in their own communities, and it doesn’t, to my knowledge, I don’t think it has to be limited to solely to people coming out of the prison system, although I may be wrong about that.  IT has to do with community supervision across the board.

Diane Kincaid:  Pretty much.  I mean, they, the first set of funding proposals that were sent out, have covered a number of different programs.  I think, like I said earlier, most people do think about parole, parole release as that second chance, and giving services to parolees to get back into the communities, but I don’t know that it is specifically limited just for that.  It’s a pretty wide net.

Len Sipes:  But I think it is significant that there are hundreds of millions of dollars now coming from the federal government that weren’t there before, and hopefully, we can evaluate some of these programs and get a sense as to, a) do they work as well as everybody suggested that they do, and b) what are the specific strategies that make programs, some programs stronger than others?

Diane Kincaid:  Right, and what the federal government also urges is that these programs be evidence based, so that they are replicated, they can be replicated across different agencies and different areas, different jurisdictions.  You know, there are some pretty stringent rules on when they hand out money, and what the reporting process is for that.

Len Sipes:  Diane, we only have a couple minutes left in the program.  I did want to touch upon the resolutions.  You have one, on pre-trial supervision, victim restitution, restitution of voting rights, and felony tax refund intercept.  These are four resolutions that are going to be sent out to the membership of APPA?

Diane Kincaid:  We have recently had several of these resolutions passed on and reviewed by our executive committee and board of directors.  There are a number of different things that come out of federal initiatives that we support, oftentimes, our representative or a senator at the federal level will introduce a bill, and we will see that as something that is encouraging for community corrections, and we will write a resolution for our membership supporting that.  That happened for restoration of voting rights, and actually, our executive director was in D.C. a month or so ago, actually a couple months ago, and presented testimony in front of a House subcommittee supporting that legislation and emphasizing how important restoring rights is to offenders.

Len Sipes:  Sorry we didn’t get to the other three in terms of an explanation, but we are out of time, and I would, Diane, again, I want to thank you for all of the services that you provide to thousands of individuals every year, simply in terms of answering the questions and being sort of the front person for the American Probation and Parole Association, so we are grateful.  Ladies and gentlemen, today we’ve been talking to Diane Kincaid, the Deputy Director of the American Parole, Probation and Parole Association, two websites, www.appa-net.org is the principal website.  The marketing website is www.ccmarketingstrategies.org.  Ladies and gentlemen, like I said before, we’re up to 200,000 requests on a monthly basis for D.C. Public Safety.  For the television shows, for the radio shows, for the blog and the transcripts, you can go to media – M-E-D-I-A – dot-csosa – C-S-O-S-A – dot-gov to access those four services.  You can comment in the comments section, and we do get about 10-12 comments out of the comments section every single day.  You can contact me directly, Leonard, L-E-O-N-A-R-D – dot-sipes – S-I-P-E-S – @csosa.gov.  You can follow us on twitter at twitter.com/lensipes, L-E-N-S-I-P-E-S one word, we’ll take all of your comments, whether they are positive or negative, and we appreciate your suggestions in terms of future programs, and you have yourselves a very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]

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Probation-Parole and Community Supervision Week-Second Program-DC Public Safety

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

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

This radio program is available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2009/07/probation-parole-and-community-supervision-week-second-program/

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

– Audio begins –

Len Sipes: From my microphones in downtown Washington D.C., this is D.C. Public Safety. I’m your host, Len Sipes. We are doing the second show in one day in terms of National Probation and Parole Officers Week – Community Supervision Week. It is a week to celebrate the role of Parole and Probation agents. We call them Community Supervision Officers here in the District of Columbia. And the week started off, the coverage started off, with the American Probation and Parole Association and they have materials on their website, APPA-net.org, and there you can find materials about the week and the fact that the Parole and Probation agencies’ communities’ supervision agencies throughout the country, and beyond, are celebrating the week using their materials. But to look at it from a local point of view, from the point of view in the District of Columbia, we have three people with us today. We have Amanda Rocha, and she is the co-chair of this week of the celebrations here in the District of Columbia. The chair is Bernita Johnson, and she is by her microphones, and Len Palma is from our – not from our – but from the Pre-trial Release Services Division. Ladies and gentlemen, we do want to thank you for all the letters, all of the phone calls, everything that you’ve been sending to us regarding the show, regarding criticisms and comments. Please continue your comments through either the comments section of the web site of D.C. Public Safety, or directly via email, leonard.sipes@csosa.gov, or you can follow me by Twitter, Twitter/LenSipes, and to Amanda and to Len and to Bernita Johnson, welcome to D.C. Public Safety.

Unidentified Female: Thank you.

Len Sipes: All right. Bernita, tell me about this whole concept of why we’re celebrating National Parole and Probation and Community Supervision Officers’ Week.

Bernita Johnson: Well, the week is designed to recognize community supervision officers in D.C. and the hard work we do. So CSOSA has designed a week worth of activities so that we can acknowledge the CSO, show appreciation for them, acknowledge our relationships with stake holders, provide some education to the community, do some community service and give back and just celebrate the work we do every day as community supervision officers.

Len Sipes: We have a proclamation from the mayor?

Bernita Johnson: We do. Mayor Adrian Fenty did sign a proclamation coining this National Probation and Parole week, and he recognized CSOSA and Pre-trial services in our proclamation.

Len Sipes: And one of the things I want to point out, ladies and gentlemen, that the Court Services of Offender Supervision Agency of the District of Columbia is a federal agency. We have community supervision officers – what most people call parole and probation agents out are out supervising 15,000 offenders on any given day. Pre-trial, I think, Len Palma supervises about 6,000 offenders, but we’re going to stick with Bernita for a minute. One of the things that I do want to get across, however, is going beyond the usual government niceties about celebrating this week. And I want to get into the realities of what happens with Parole and Probation agents when they’re in the community – what their contributions are to public safety. That was, in essence, the heart and soul of the show that we did this morning with the American Probation and Parole Association. And I want to continue that theme in terms of what it is that we do, Ms. Johnson. Do we really contribute to public safety?

Bernita Johnson: Yes, Len. We are charged with the very difficult job because, while we are supposed to protect public safety, we do have to help the offenders. We have to work with them, develop a very personal relationship with them, to try to assist them in having better lives so that they do not commit crimes.

Len Sipes: Well, but the public is going to say, “That’s nice that you’re helping them and the research is pretty doggone clear that it has to be both an enforcement role and a helping role.” So there’s no doubt that the helping role needs to be there and the programs need to be there and we need to participate in those programs. But the average person out there in society says, “I simply want to be protected and I expect you to protect me.” So the bottom line is: do we protect not only the citizens or the visitors or the people who do business in Washington D.C., do parole and probation agents – isn’t their first job public safety, whether it’s D.C. or throughout the country? And if so, how do we accomplish that?

Bernita Johnson: Public safety is first and foremost because we are dealing with the criminal population. So we have to make sure that they’re not committing the same crimes that they did commit or committing new crimes. But I think that in order to successfully effect change in people and make sure that they’re not committing crimes, we have to do look at the side of it where we’re providing those services.

Len Sipes: Agreed.

Bernita Johnson: So it’s really important to provide the services in order to prevent the negative behavior.

Len Sipes: And we talked about that this morning with Diane Kincaid, the spokesperson for the American Probation and Parole Association, how difficult it is for community supervision personnel to walk that fine line because we carry badges. We are law enforcement officers, but at the same time we have to do two things. We have to enforce the public safety – if we feel that this person is a threat to public safety, we have to do what we have to do to remand the person back to the parole commission, back to the courts, and return a person back to the criminal justice system. But at the same time, we’re obligated to help them wherever we can and programs become very important. One of the examples that a lot of people use is this issue of mental health. I mean, who would deny that that person – when they come out of the prison system, if they’re mentally ill – who would deny that person access to mental health treatment? That most people throughout this country, regardless of their political persuasion, I think most people would agree that mental health treatment is important if that person is going to successfully come back out of the prison system and not return to the criminal justice system.

Bernita Johnson: Of course. And as CSO’s, we’re charged with with everything. All the drug treatment issues, the mental health issues, any issues that the individual might have – we’re charged with addressing them and just building rapport and trust with the population, so that they can believe we’re out to help them; because a lot of times people – they’re receptive to what they believe will really help them. They’re not going to be receptive if they think that we’re law enforcement officers or if they feel like we’re police, then they’re not going to be receptive to us. They’re going to be afraid of us. And then we won’t be successful.

Len Sipes: Walking that fine line, I think, it’s one of the most difficult things in the world. In my former life as a police officer and spending six years in law enforcement, I can go into a situation and walk out 20 minutes later and I’m done. That parole and probation agent, which is what they’re called throughout the country – here, they’re called community supervision officers. That person is going to end up spending years with that individual, with that individual’s family, with that individual’s mother, with that individual’s children, with their employers. I mean, we’re in it for the long haul. And I think that is indicative to how difficult your job is.

Bernita Johnson: Yes. It’s a very difficult job. But it’s also very rewarding. To start at the very beginning with someone and see them be successful. Even if they might not go the straight and narrow path the entire way, they may go back to jail for a short period of time and then come back out and we’ll be able to continue to work with them. It’s rewarding because you really get to see change, and you really get to see the rewards and benefits of the services that we have to offer, and the public safety side as well. They also know that we’re serious. If we end up having to return an offender to jail, to the parole commission or to a judge, they know that when I’m on supervision, I really have to do what I’m supposed to do because my community supervision officer is going to take this very seriously, if I get re-arrested or if I’m not living where I say I’m living. So the relationships we build with the offenders and their families and the community is very important.

Len Sipes: And everybody has to understand that there’s no such thing as an offender coming out and dotting every “I” and crossing every “T.” They’re going to mess up to a certain degree. I’m astounded about all the technical violations that we record here at CSOSA. So, that person could be going to drug treatment, could be working, could be reunited with his family, could be taking care of their kids once again but still pull positives for marijuana.

Bernita Johnson: Right. Because one of the things that even they’ll tell you in the 12-step program is that relapse is a part of recovery.

Len Sipes: That’s right.

Bernita Johnson: So you will end up having to deal with those issues. If someone may be clean for a year or two years, they may relapse. And you still do have to address them appropriately.

Len Sipes: Right. But the public is going to say, “Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Wait a minute. The person’s out of prison and he’s doing drugs? Put him back in prison.” And if we did that, the capacity of the prison system of this country would double overnight. We would bankrupt every state in the United States.

Bernita Johnson: Exactly. And you’d ruin a whole lot of families in the process. The goal is to help as many people as you possibly can. To put someone in drug treatment for even nine months would be more beneficial than putting them in jail for three months for a violation of drug use. So it could, if you’re talking about a father who relapsed and used cocaine two or three times, you’re going to benefit him and his entire family more by sending him to drug treatment then you would by sending him to jail.

Len Sipes: The average parole and probation agent in this country has a bachelors’ degree and most of the people that I’ve talked to throughout the country have masters’ degrees. And some even higher than that. So it’s a fairly educated work force.

Bernita Johnson: It is. But what’s even more interesting is the population we deal with is not educated. So we’re charged with dealing with an uneducated population and communicating with them well enough so that they understand what we expect of them.

Len Sipes: I want to make a point of the show, in fact you were part of the television show, Bernita, just the other day, where we did 8,000 accountability tours on any given year where we go out with police officers, but we also do 40,000 home visits, an additional 20,000 visits where there is no police officer. You travel – our personnel travel in high crime communities. But I’ve done, ride-alongs with our community supervision officers – you go into tough communities. You interact with some fairly tough people. That’s even before getting to the offender’s door. Your job could be considered a bit dangerous.

Bernita Johnson: It could be. But we’re community supervision officers. We’re supposed to go out into the community and build relationships in the community so that we can help that individual be successful in the community. So, you may encounter some not-so-nice things going to some one’s door, but you have to kind of embrace every opportunity you get to help that person. So you have to meet the family, the friends, the neighbors, and look for anything pro-social in the area that can help that offender – whether it be a school that the offender can go to, a drug treatment program that’s close to his home that he can go to while he’s still able to be at home; or just getting to know the community is very important to be successful in what we do.

Len Sipes: The program goes all throughout the United States. It goes well beyond the District of Columbia where 20% of our audience is international. What do people need to know about what it’s like to be a parole and probation agent officer/community supervision officer in this country? What do people not know? I mean, there’s not a lot of story – I mean, there’s 10 tons of stories about cops. And so people feel – even if they don’t get the right idea – at least they’re exposed, to some degree, as to the heroism and to the hard work and dedication of police officers. There are no shows out there about parole and probation agents. So, you have a unique opportunity to tell literally tens of thousands of people what is it like? What do they need to know about being a parole and probation agent?

Bernita Johnson: Well, it’s not an easy job, but it can be extremely rewarding. We do not have arrest powers. We do not carry guns. We do not try to hurt the people that we deal with on an everyday basis, but we also are charged with protecting the community without guns and without arrest powers. So we’re out here, trying to convince people –

Len Sipes: But you do carry a badge?

Bernita Johnson: We do.

Len Sipes: And you are considered a law enforcement officer.

Bernita Johnson: We are law enforcement. And we’re trying to convince people to choose to live better lives instead of trying to scare them into: “We’re going to arrest you,” or “I have a gun, I can shoot you.” We’re convincing people that this is the best choice and a lot of times, it’s very challenging.

Len Sipes: All right. We’re going to go over to Len Palma now. Len Palma represents Pre-trial Services. Pre-trial is – you’re not going to understand this, ladies and gentlemen, I’m not quite sure I understand it either – an independent entity within the larger structure of the Court Services of Offender Supervision Agency but they are, in essence, a part of CSOSA administratively. I provide them with social services or our attorneys provide them with services, but they are – they have their own board. They have their own entity. They have their own independence. So in any event, Len Palma, you do the pre-trial end of things and is your job significantly different from that of a parole and probation agent or a community supervision officer? Get on top of that microphone, if you would.

Len Palma: No. Hi, Len. No. It’s not that different at all, actually. We just do things in a pre-sentence mode.

Len Sipes: Okay. And a pre-sentence mode means what? You’re supervising offenders until trial?

Len Palma: We’re supervising defendants until sent,

Len Sipes: The sentence. I’m sorry.

Len Palma: Until sentencing.

Len Sipes: Okay. Until sentencing. You have levels of contact. You drug test them. So in essence, there are a lot of similarities. You just have them for a much shorter period of time.

Len Palma: Yes.

Len Sipes: And one of the things that I note about pre-trial services agency in the District of Columbia, you have one of the highest return-to-court statistics in the country. I’m not quite sure that you’re aware of tha,t but the last time I looked at the statistics, pre-trial services in the District of Columbia is successful in terms of getting more people to trial than most pre-trial agencies in the country. So you’re certainly to be congratulated for that.

Len Palma: Thank you.

Len Sipes: What is it about pre-trial that makes it successful? What is it about pre-trial that prompts that success rate?

Len Palma: Well, we have a lot of people that are devoted to the excellence of the agency. We are constantly upgrading our ability to collect information, as well as the mode in which we collect them. So, things like that, whether it’s new programs or new ways to interview people or just things like that, are constantly what help us generate more information that allows us to keep in contact with these defendants as they’re out in public.

Len Sipes: Because you have, in essence, the same sort of walking of that fine line that Bernita addressed – that sense that if the person’s not following what it is that he or she should be doing, you’re sort of obligated to return to the court and there is the possibility that they could revoke their community supervision status before their trial and put the person within jail. Correct?

Len Palma: That is true. That is true.

Len Sipes: And that’s a tough decision to make because you’ve got to ensure that they do what’s right and, in some cases, that means going and getting treatment while they’re waiting for court, correct?

Len Palma: Correct.

Len Sipes: And because people obviously – if a person has a drug problem, we try to get them into drug treatment. If the person has an anger problem – and a lot of our offenders seem to have anger problems – I mean, you’ve got to deal with that.

Len Palma: Correct. It is tough. But we’ve got to wear different hats at different times. But, first and foremost, we’ve got to keep in mind that the public safety is number one. And so, if public safety demands that we must report every aspect of the defendant’s compliance to the court, then that’s exactly what we have to do.

Len Sipes: Len, we’re going to continue with you, we’re quickly halfway through the program. I want to re-introduce our guest. We have Bernita Johnson and she is the chair of this committee that is taking a look at celebrating, at least here in the District of Columbia, all the different things that we do at the Court Services of Offender Supervision Agency and we’re not squat without our personnel. Our personnel is – they are the Court Services of Offender Supervision Agency, which is why most of our radio shows, most of our television shows, and most of the articles – national articles – that we create focus not on the leadership, but focus principally upon the people who do the job. Bernita was just doing a television show on accountability towards it and we didn’t put up the chief of police, nor did we put up a chief of CSOSA. We put up two people who really do accountability tours, and two police officers who do accountability tours. And she did a great job. So, Bernita is the chair of the committee. The co-chair is Amanda Rocha and you’re going to be talking to Amanda in a second. Len Palma is currently up talking about the whole role of a pre-trial services officer. If you’re interested in what’s happening throughout the country for National Probation and Parole and Community Supervision Officers’ Week, you can go to appa-net.org and att.org, that is the website of the American Probation and Parole Association. We did a program with them earlier this morning. Len, I want to continue with you a little bit. Walking that fine line is just real difficult. Because, when I talk to individuals, when I do talk radio, when I talk to a newspaper reporter, when I talk to community group leaders, you get the sense that: “Okay, well if you’ve got a guy and he’s violating his conditions of supervision, please put him in prison.” And my response is: “We can’t put everybody in prison and you can’t return everybody to jail or the D.C. jail will just become dysfunctional in a heartbeat.” We have to live within our own resources. Every state in the country has to live within their own resources. States have big budget cuts going on right now, and they’re struggling with how do we keep all the prisons open? California’s talking about releasing 30,000 criminal offenders. So other states are having similar problems. So we’ve got to live within the confines, within the resources of the criminal justice system as they are not as we wish them to be.

Len Palma: Yes. That’s true.

Len Sipes: And that’s tough for the individual pre-trial services officer to make all those decisions and to make them right all the time.

Len Palma: It is. It is. And it’s a lot of pressure because we have a lot of defendants that are on – we have a lot of defendants that are on our case loads. And so, we find it challenging at times to try to get through our case loads, to give each particular defendant the kind of case management that each one deserves. We’re not always successful but the ones that we do manage to maintain contact with and get through, come through and then end up returning to court, end up not picking up another charge.

Len Sipes: Right.

Len Palma: Or being re-arrested. And it all ends good in the end.

Len Sipes: Another thing that I believe that people don’t understand about parole and probation agents/community supervision officers/pre-trial service agents – and we’re not even talking about the juvenile side – is that so many of our offenders, this is my way of putting it, come to us with chips on their shoulders the size of Montana. For whatever reason they’re not the easiest individuals to work with and you’re tasked with not just working with that offender but working with the family, working with the employer. But how do you reach a person who has that big of a chip on their shoulder?

Len Palma: Well, believe it or not, we just went through a training that all the agency went through is a motivational,

Len Sipes: Interviewing.

Len Palma: ,interviewing skills.

Len Sipes: Yes.

Len Palma: And that was geared toward helping most of our case managers to somewhat get the defendants that come into compliance without having to resort to threatening them with court action and things of that nature. Other than that, we try to stick mostly toward the books and get people to come into compliance through normal means as in, “Well, this is what the court has ordered. This is what you have to do and let’s try to meet at a middle ground.”

Len Sipes: I was in a field office – a CSOSA field office – one time and we’re going over to see a community supervision officer who I knew. And she was just livid. She was tearing into this offender and is like: “Look, how many times do I have to tell you to stop the drugs? You’re within a millimeter of me sending you back.” And she’s like – there’s no motivation, no motivational interviewing skills at that stage of the game. She’s just reading this guy the riot act. And afterwards she just looked me a little sheepishly and she goes: “Leonard, how many times do I have to tell the guy not to do it? And he keeps pulling positives. I’m a human. I express my own frustrations and my own feelings. What,” I mean, she expected criticism from me and my response was: “No criticism here. I understand how diff – I’ve worked directly with offenders in my past. I know how difficult it can be. The three jobs that I had working directly with offenders were the three most difficult jobs of my life.”

Len Palma: It is. And it’s challenging to try and keep your emotions out of it. And a lot of times, your emotions get the best of you because you only want what’s best for the defendant. In addition, you want that feeling, you want to succeed. You don’t want to get that feeling where I failed because this defendant didn’t do what he was supposed to be doing.

Len Sipes: Right.

Len Palma: So it is challenging. It is tough in that regard. But you, as a pre-trial officer – because you’re running through so many of these defendants, you have to try to separate yourself from that emotion because, in my experience, emotions tend to muddle the waters, and then cloud decisions, and you end up saying things that you normally shouldn’t be saying to the defendant. And you should be trying to keep it on a professional scale.

Len Sipes: Right. But I just want the public to understand that this is an extraordinarily difficult job. I want them to admire parole and probation agents/community supervision officers/pre-trial services officers because you all have got a tough, tough job. And you all protect public safety and you walk that fine line between programs and enforcement every day. And I remember the times that I did it, and it was like: “My heavens, this is one tough job to motivate people who may not want to be motivated.”

Len Palma: It’s scary because I’m a court representative now and as I sit in the courtroom and I listen, I listen to some of the testimony and sometimes some of the charges as they’re being read out. You can’t help but sit there and be human and go: “My goodness, we’re letting this guy out?”

Len Sipes: “What’s up with this guy?”

Len Palma: What say? What’s going on there? But you are still given that task by the oath you took to protect and serve the public, to make sure that this defendant does not go on and do anything else and make sure he returns to court on time.

Len Sipes: Understood. We’re going to go over to Amanda Rocha now. Amanda, one of the things that again, I’ve talked to offenders. I’ve talked to more than a couple of offenders who credited community supervision officers with their turnaround, who credited with them for,I spoke to a couple on the mental health case load who told me that if it wasn’t for the CSO’s insisting that they take their meds, if it wasn’t for the CSO’s – community supervision officers – coming into constant contact with them, they would not be here today. They would be back in jail. Is that true? I mean, do you guys really have that much of an impact on individual human beings?

Amanda Rocha: Absolutely, Len. We’re dealing with people. We have to remember that this is a human. We’re humans and they are also humans.

Len Sipes: Right.

Amanda Rocha: We have to have patience with them and in the time that we’re working with them, we’re building a rapport. And so I absolutely believe that a person, a CSO – a community supervision officer – would be able to make that big of an impact on these people. As I said, they’re humans and sometimes they just need someone to listen to them, someone to take the time to really understand what’s going on with them. They have – sometimes they have a lot of issues and sometimes they have just a couple. But part of our job is to talk with them, to help address those issues. I had a person that opened up to me and shared something that I didn’t think was something that he would come out and tell me.

Len Sipes: Right.

Amanda Rocha: And I think that just shows that sometimes when you’re working with them, that they can become comfortable and share things that they may have not told anyone else.

Len Sipes: You take a look at the research and most of our offenders – this is not most of our offenders in the District of Columbia, but national research – most come from broken homes. Most raise themselves. The level of substance abuse is extraordinarily high. It is not unusual for people caught up in the criminal justice system to be doing substances at the age of 12, 13, age of onset of crime 14, 15, 16. A lot of these individuals, they’re angry because they weren’t raised, dad’s not in the home, and the mental health – this is a self-assessment on the part of national research that 55% of offenders believe that they had mental health issues. If you take a look at the research regarding women offenders, the majority of women offenders report sexual violence especially during childhood. In terms of abuse and neglect, most offenders report instances of abuse and neglect. You take an individual like that and you’re trying to come into contact with him and trying to get him on the safe and narrow, get her on a safer path, get them involved in mental health treatment, getting them involved in substance abuse treatment – that’s just tough. I mean, it may be the parole commission would say: “Okay. If you violate, you’re going to go back to prison.” Maybe the courts say, “If you violate, we’re going to put you in prison, maybe for the first time, maybe for the sixth time.” But motivating that kind of person under those circumstances is difficult.

Amanda Rocha: It sure is. It takes a lot of patience and it is difficult. It’s challenging and it’s frustrating and it’s just something that, in time, you’re able to work with the person but you do have to understand that you’re not going to be able to change a person. You can want what’s best for this person as much as possible but you can’t sit there and,

Len Sipes: Yes. I understand. It’s tough.

Amanda Rocha: Right. It is tough. But you can do what you can. You can only do what you can. You have to understand that sometimes you aren’t going to be able to assist somebody and sometimes you are going have to take them back to court or go to that next level.

Len Sipes: Nobody asked you to be a miracle worker but at the same time they do. That’s the frustrating thing about being a community supervision officer or parole and probation agent. I mean, people are asking you to take on everything about that person’s behavior and to modify that behavior in such a way that they’re no longer a threat to public safety and get them involved in the programs, work with the family, work with the kids, work with the grandmom, work with the employer, and, if necessary, put them back in prison.

Amanda Rocha: That’s right.

Len Sipes: That’s impossible.

Amanda Rocha: It is.

Len Sipes: Yes. But –

Amanda Rocha: We’re doing it everyday.

Len Sipes: That’s exactly right. This is what we ask parole and probation officers to do, and agents to do — every day. So we’re going to go back to Bernita and we’re going to let her follow up because we only have a couple of minutes left. Ladies and gentlemen, I do want to remind you that if you’re looking for information about this week, it is at the American Probation and Parole Association-net.org. The American Parole and Probation Association. Bernita, we only have a couple of minutes left. What is it that the public needs to know that we didn’t talk about?

Bernita Johnson: I think that what Amanda said was very important, that we are dealing with human beings and these are lives that we’re talking about, not just the lives of the offenders but the lives of their families and their friends, and the entire community is at stake. So what we do is very important. It can be very rewarding, but it can also be very challenging. So hopefully people can start to realize how important a job probation and parole officers have.

Len Sipes: If you can have an impact on that one particular offender, you have an impact on his kids because most of them have kids. You have an impact on our tax base because they become taxpayers. You have an impact on so many things just by intervening in the life of that one individual. And that intervention could be drug treatment. That intervention could be anger management. And that intervention could be prison.

Bernita Johnson: Exactly.

Len Sipes: And that’s a tough, almost impossible, set of things to consider.

Bernita Johnson: It’s tough but not impossible. We do believe it’s possible that’s why we come to work every day, that’s why the job can be rewarding, and hopefully the public can get onboard with what probation and parole officers try to do and we can help these people re-enter the community successfully.

Len Sipes: Bernita and Len and Amanda, I want to thank all three of you. Ladies and gentlemen, what I’m asking you do is, the next time you discover that the person sitting next to you is a parole and probation agent, a pre-trial services agent, a community supervision officer, thank them because they really do significantly, significantly contribute to the public’s safety and contribute in many ways to the bottom line – taxpayers instead of tax burdens. Ladies and gentlemen, this is D.C. Public Safety. Once again, we want to thank you for all of your contacts, all of your suggestions to improve the radio show. Get in touch with me directly via email: leonard.sipes@csosa.gov. Please have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

– Audio ends –

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Probation, Parole and Community Supervision Week-Resources Available-DC Public Safety

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

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

Radio Program available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2009/07/probation-parole-and-community-supervision-week-resources-available/

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

– Audio Begins –

Len Sipes: From our microphones in downtown Washington D.C., this is D.C. Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. At our microphones is Diane Kincaid, she is an information specialist, or the information specialist for the American Probation and Parole Association. What we’re doing, ladies and gentlemen, is celebrating Probation, Parole, and Community Supervision week, which is exactly the day that we’re recording this, July 19th, it lasts from July 19th to July 25th, and we are here to talk about, not only the materiaLen Sipes available from the American Parole, Probation and Parole association, but this larger concept of what it means to be a Parole and Probation Officer, to be a Community Supervision Officer, as we call them here in Washington D.C., but before we do that, we get to our usual commercial thanking you, the listener and thanking you, the viewer, to our T.V. side, and the people who come in and take a look at our blogs and transcripts. We are beyond 140,000 requests on a monthly basis, and on a monthly basis, we get an additional 50,000 pages downloaded, that’s a record for us. We really appreciate everything that you have to say in terms of suggestions, even criticisms, you can reach me directly at Leonard, L-E-O-N-A-R-D – dot-sipes – S-I-P – and people say, “Leonard, that’s “˜T,’ it sounds like “˜T,'” no it’s ‘P’ as in “peculiar, pumpernickel,” S-I-P-E-S – @csosa.gov, or you can comment directly on the blog itself in the comments section, or you can follow me via Twitter at twitter/lensipes. So with that long introduction, back at our microphones, Diane Kincaid, information specialist for the American Probation and Parole Association, Diane, welcome to D.C. Public Safety.

Diane Kincaid: Thanks, Len, it’s a pleasure to be with you this morning.

Len Sipes: Now what we did, ladies and gentlemen, this is our second recording that Diane has done. We tried a new mixer to improve the show a little bit, and it shows you what happens when you combine technology with criminologists, we messed it up, and we tried spending a good part of the day on Thursday editing the show. We gave up and asked Diane if she would be kind enough to come back in and re-record the entire program. It was a wonderful program the first time around. I think we started off with the concept that people simply do not understand the contributions a parole and probation agents, of community supervision personnel, whether they’re on the adult side or the juvenile side. We talked about that there are approximately 100,000 individuaLen Sipes who do parole and probation work throughout the country, adult parole and probation, there’s many more who do juvenile parole and probation, and that these individuaLen Sipes are out every day in high crime communities, generally speaking, unarmed, and they are interacting with criminal offenders, they’re trying to do two things, they’re trying to get them in programs, get them involved in issues and programs that are going to lessen their rates of recidivism, and at the same time, take action to return them to the criminal justice system if they do not behave properly, and that’s an extraordinarily difficult job, Diane, correct?

Diane Kincaid: It is, and when you consider that there are over 5 million adults somehow involved in the community supervision aspect of corrections, you have to think that these officers and agents, they’re incredibly busy. They do not have stress free professions by any means, and you know, you mentioned a lot of the things about going into dangerous areas, and the thing about probation, parole, and community supervision is that there is such a varied work, the work is so different for each officer. There are many who do these home contacts, or they go out to see if an offender is working where he or she says he’s working, but there are others who do simply things like – not simply, but who only do, perhaps pre-sentence investigation. The work is incredibly varied, and I think that’s one of the difficult things to explain to people who don’t know anything about the system, and for the general public, they may know someone who works in probation or parole, and they say, “Well he just sits at a desk and he writes a report.” That report is part of an entire system, and that’s a very important part, so everything works together to keep our community safer.

Len Sipes: The amazing thing is that, now again, I’m coming from the side of law enforcement, I’ve spent six years as a law enforcement officer, and so I’m not putting down police officers by any stretch of the imagination. I have a huge degree, or a huge sense, we all do, a huge admiration for our folks on the law enforcement side, but I do feel, I guess, somewhat ill at ease that our people on the parole and probation side simply do not get the recognition. There are no television shows out there talking about the exploits of parole and probation officers, there are very few radio shows that look at what it is that they do. I mean, these people really do put their lives on the line day in day out in terms of what it is they do. Yes, there are some people, a few, that sit behind desks and write reports, but you know, we did a television show the other day about what we call accountability tours where our people, community supervision officers, go out with the Metropolitan Police Department, and they do that about 8,000 times a year. But without that police officer, in terms of doing home verifications, and in terms of going out into the field and supervising individuaLen Sipes in the field, that’s an additional 60,000 times every year. 60,000 individual contacts, and they’re by themselves. I think that people simply don’t recognize the complexity of the work, the danger of the work, the large caseloads that many of our parole and probation agents have throughout the country. This is an extraordinarily complex and difficult job.

Diane Kincaid: It is, and you mentioned law enforcement, and of course, law enforcement has a very important place in our society, and one of the things that occurred to us as we began looking at some branding initiatives for the field is that, when you see a police officer on duty, that officer has a uniform. They have a badge. You see their weapon. You see, you know, you have an image in your mind of what a police officer looks like, whether he or she is in a squad car, they’re on a motorcycle, they’re out in the community walking the beat, but probation and parole officers, most of the time, do not have uniforms. Many of them aren’t armed. There are a lot of departments who are arming their officers, and that’s something eLen Sipese to take into consideration, all of the training that’s necessary, many officers are trained equally as well as law enforcement, as police officers are, if they are issued a weapon. So you know, the training that goes into it, and the knowledge, and the expertise that goes into it is incredible.

Len Sipes: We are talking about, ladies and gentlemen, probation, parole, and community supervision week, which happens to be this week, the day that we’re recording this program, July 19th through the 25th. There are materiaLen Sipes available on the website of the American Probation and Parole Association. The website is appa-net.org, appa-net.org, O-R-G, Diane Kincaid, her email is diane – K-I-N-C-A-I-D – @csg.org. Diane, one of the things that I think that the field owes the American Probation and Parole Association, and you in particular, a huge vote of thanks. Whenever we within the field need to come to grips with a particular topic, whenever we in the field need to ascertain what other states are doing and what other jurisdictions are doing, we go through the American Probation and Parole Association, specifically we go through you. You’ve been in this job for 10 years.

Diane Kincaid: Yes, and it has been a tremendous learning experience for me, having come in, certainly knowing the difference between probation and parole, but really not understanding the detailed work that these professionaLen Sipes do, and one of the things about working with APPA is that I have access to some of the best in the field. You know, people that are on the cutting edge of research and technology, and that is what makes my job doable is that I can email people like you, I need to find out about what’s going on in D.C., or I need to find out about a program that you all have going on, so just being able to email or call people up like you, or anyone across the country who I think, wow, that would be somebody who has some information that I can get to someone eLen Sipese, and that’s really a good part of my job.

Len Sipes: One of the things that the Association has done is doing a media campaign, or a public relations campaign, with a concept of a force for positive change, something that can galvanize the entire parole and probation industry, community corrections industry, around a particular brand, that brand called a force for positive change, that is aLen Sipeso on our website, talking about the brand and talking about the week, so it’s just not only this particular week, you’re trying to do something throughout the course of the year.

Diane Kincaid: We are, and we worked this logo and tagline into the Probation, Parole, and Community Supervision Week celebration this year, because we really wanted to launch that, and we wanted to work those two ideas together. There are aLen Sipeso other items available through that branding initiative, so there’s a separate page that has more detailed information about that and about some of the other resources you can use for that in your agency.

Len Sipes: And again – I’m sorry, go ahead, please.

Diane Kincaid: No, go.

Len Sipes: APPA.net.org is where those materiaLen Sipes lie. Now Diane, we’ve scratched the surface just a tad in terms of the Parole and Probation Agents, what we call community supervision officers here in the District of Columbia. Again, a good part of my life was law enforcement and law enforcement support. When I started getting involved in the correctional part of it, spending time when I was with the Maryland Department of Public Safety, spending time in the prison systems, I mean we had the state police, we had other law enforcement agencies, but there on the corrections side, I spent a lot of time with correctional officers, I spent a lot of time with people who are doing community corrections, I spent a lot of time with parole and probation agents to learn their job, to understand their job, and I came away with it with an amazing appreciation for our Parole and Probation Agents, and I think that that was sort of, I said, gee, why didn’t I know this before? Why wasn’t I really appreciative of their work before? I would read their pre-sentence reports, and some of these are some of the most amazing criminological overviews of a person, of an individual, and I came away with this saying, “My heavens, these people really probably know crime and criminaLen Sipes better than any other professional that we have!” Police officers, when I was a police officer, I would roll into a scene, and 15 minutes later, I would roll out. The parole and probation agents have these individuaLen Sipes for years!

Diane Kincaid: Oftentimes, they do, and they, more often than not, really get to know this person, and when you are supervising an offender who perhaps has done something that they may well have committed a violent act, if it’s tremendously violent, they’re probably going to be in prison, but you know, depending on what they’ve done, a probation and parole officer can get to know this person and can see cues if there is something going wrong, if an offender has a job, loses it, seems to be struggling with substance abuse, you can see these warning signaLen Sipes coming up, and you can help divert the offender away from those things. You know, we’re talking about people who are adept at motivational interviewing, cognitive development, change, behavior change, so they really are, often times, are very well versed in counseling, and just really getting to know people and helping them.

Len Sipes: And picking up those cues, I think, is the most important thing, getting to know the family, getting to know the mother, getting to know the children, getting to know the wife, getting to know the neighbors, getting to know the employers. It’s just not supervising an offender. It is coming into contact with just about every aspect of his life, where he lives, how he conducts himself, is he standing on the corner at night bothering people, is he violating the law, is he going to drug treatment, is he completing his community service work, that’s an immense challenge, especially considering the fact that many parole and probation people throughout the country have very large caseloads, and when I say very large, 100, 150, 200 cases are not unusual.

Diane Kincaid: That’s not unusual at all, and when you consider all of the talent that goes into it and the professionalism, and the strength that they bring to their job, you aLen Sipeso have to think about how the funding stream has, you know, in our economy right now, many agencies are looking at serious cuts to their budgets. All the while, we are expecting these people to protect the public safety, so the economic times are always difficult for probation and parole, but even now, more than ever, it’s become even more serious.

Len Sipes: But there seems to be a paradox, Diane, because both of us read the newspapers throughout the country through various electronic services, and we see that many jurisdictions are saying, okay, we’re going to depend – and this is all due to the crisis, budget crisis that is affecting most states throughout the country, and what they’re saying is that we want parole and probation to do more. We want to incarcerate fewer people, not from a philosophical point of view, simply from a budget point of view, we want to incarcerate less and depend more on community supervision. Wow! That’s, we’re struggling to do what we do within the confines of our current budgets, let alone taking on significant additional people. California at one time was talking about releasing upwards of 30,000 offenders from their prison system, and that would be absorbed by their parole and probation system, so in essence, I hear more calLen Sipes for parole and probation to do more and a greater emphasis for parole and probation to do more, but some states are calling the parole and probation.

Diane Kincaid: They are, and that’s part of the reason why we sort of initiated this branding project, because probation and parole is such a difficult field to understand, not only for the public, but for the policy makers. You know, when they’re going to make their budget decisions, when they’re initiating legislation, when they are proposing bilLen Sipes that are going to affect corrections in general, they don’t see far down the road to see what it’s going to do to probation and parole, but part of what we’ve done is put together these resources that will allow agencies to go out and project that positive image –

Len Sipes: And I think most of us within the field think that that is crucial. We’re halfway through the program already. Diane Kincaid, information specialist with the American Probation and Parole Association. We’re talking about Probation/Parole and Community Supervision week, which is this week of July 19th through July 25th, our programs seem to live years afterwards, so we do do these things, and we do celebrate this around this time of year, celebrate parole and probation agents, people who work in community supervision, the address is appa-net – dash net – .org, for information on this week, probation and parole, and community supervision week, and materiaLen Sipes to help promote the week. Diane, one of the reasons, one of the things I think there’s a problem in terms of understanding what it is that we do, that one side of us are law enforcement officers, we carry badges, we are very well trained, in many cases, some of us do carry firearms, some of us across the country do have arrest authority, but I think that’s only a minority of people in parole and probation, but we’re tasked to do two different things. We’re tasked to a) enforce the law, ensure public safety, that means that the person is posing a threat to public safety, if the local law enforcement telLen Sipes us that he’s out in the corner bothering people, and that he’s doing things he should not be doing, or violating drug tests or not going to drug treatment, we have the option, and in many cases exercise that option of putting that person back in prison, either through the parole commission, or through the courts. The other seems to be our dedication to getting the person into drug treatment, getting the person into mental health treatment, getting the person into employment services, and that these are things that are clearly in the best interests of society. I know of nobody out there who would object to an offender who was a mental health problem of getting mental health treatment, so we have two roles. One is an enforcement role, and one, to try to help this individual achieve what this individual needs to achieve to lower the rate of recidivism, to protect public safety, and at the same time, to help him live a life where he can pay taxes and take care of his kids.

Diane Kincaid: True, and you have to weigh public safety. Obviously, someone who is violent should not be out in the community. Someone who is known, who has those tendencies, and assessment tooLen Sipes are of great use to probation and parole, because they give those cues to the officer, or they let that person know that this offender, they might be having a problem here. They might be going back into these problem behaviors, and you know, knowing all that and doing all that is just amazing to me. You know, learning more, I’ve learned something new every day about the field, even after having worked here for several years, and you know, part of what we really want people to understand is that the work these professionaLen Sipes do cannot be done away with. Our society cannot live without these people, so we really do need to thank them whenever we meet one of these.

Len Sipes: Yeah, I make it a personal point of telling everybody that I meet in community supervision how I feel they’ve contributed to public safety. I mean, we do that for police officers, we do it for firefighters. Obviously, we do it for our military, but in terms of parole and probation people, an extraordinarily difficult job. I was at a conference one time where, dealing with women offenders in the District of Columbia, and a woman offender got up and addressed the entire conference and basically said, “Last night, my roommate, and I have my two children and I living in this person’s house, and this person pulled a knife on me, so I grabbed a knife back to protect myself and my children. Now, what are you going to do for me? I no longer have a place to live.” So in the context of all of the complexities of dealing with a large caseload and all of the complexities of dealing with offenders and the issues that they bring to the table, there is a parole and probation agent who has to spend a good part of the day finding housing for this mother and two kids. That is just a tip of the iceberg in terms of the complexity of parole and probation work.

Diane Kincaid: It is, and when you think about the kinds of lives that many offenders have lived, and perhaps difficult childhoods, getting to the root of that, we talked about how probation and parole officers can make recommendations to have supervision revoked, but if someone is a substance abuser, and they’re put back in jail or prison, that’s not treating the root of the problem. You’re treating a symptom, but you’re not treating the actual problem, so probation and parole officers are trained to, you know, as much as they can, as much as their budgets and resources in their community will allow, is to treat that root problem.

Len Sipes: And everybody needs to understand, who is listening to this program who is not part of the parole and probation system, that every offender, virtually every offender brings these sorts of problems to the table. It’s not unusual for the person to be working, it’s not unusual for the person to be going to drug treatment, and who, for all intents and purposes, is doing well in every aspect of their community supervision, to pull drug positives. If we put everybody in prison that pulled those drug positives, we would double the capacity of prisons overnight. It’s our job to see if we can manage this individual, assess this individual, discuss this individual with our fellow parole and probation agents, and to see what we can do to get this person to stop pulling drug positives and continue, in essence, a reasonable readjustment after prison with everything eLen Sipese. That’s hard to do, because the question becomes, at what point do you violate the person and send the person back to prison, or at what point do you try to maintain the person in the community, and with the budget cuts all throughout the country, governor’s offices more and more and more are asking us to do whatever we can not to violate a person unless they pose a clear and present danger to public safety.

Diane Kincaid: That’s true, and when you weigh the cost and benefit, there’s no question that when community supervision is done correctly with sufficient resources, it can absolutely reduce recidivism, and it can create citizens who are paying their taxes, they’re paying their child support, they are working in the community. Oftentimes, offenders before citizens just like people who have never committed a crime, and probation and parole is not easy for offenders. People seem to think, oh, it’s just a slap on the wrist. Well, oftentimes, it’s not. It’s very difficult. You’re talking about people who, if they have some sort of conviction, it’s difficult for them to find a job. It’s oftentimes difficult to find someone to rent an apartment to them. So they’re struggling with that as well as perhaps a substance abuse problem, you know, their schedules are crazy where they have to perhaps meet with an officer twice a week, they are struggling to get a job, they’re trying to find someplace to live, they might be taking care of the children, so their lives are very complex, and just because they’re wrapped up with this supervision.

Len Sipes: Yeah, and on top of it, they really don’t trust us, so they don’t trust anybody within the criminal justice system, so to get them to open up, when I do ride-alongs with community supervision officers here in the District of Columbia, and I did them in the state of Maryland, I’m amazed when that parole and probation person goes into the home, talks to the family, and they’re talking back, and they’re having a good solid conversation in terms of how do we get 19 year old Johnny back into the programs that he needs to be in, and this parole and probation agent is enlisting the entire family’s assistance, so they tackle this issue as a family. Now considering that people really don’t trust us within the criminal justice system, the offender really doesn’t trust us, to see the offender and the parole and probation person having, what I consider to be a meaningful conversation. I’m sitting back and saying, wow, now that takes a lot of talent and a lot of perseverance, and a lot of talent, let me say that word twice, to be able to get the family to be allies and be able to really communicate on a personal basis with that offender, considering very few of them, especially the offender, trust us at the beginning. It takes time to build that trust, and it takes time to convince that individual to do what they should be doing.

Diane Kincaid: It does, and we’ve talked a little bit about partnerships with law enforcement. Probation and parole officers must work with partnerships with all leveLen Sipes of the community. They oftentimes have good working relationships with law enforcement, oftentimes in some agencies, when an officer goes out for a home contact or for any type of contact with an offender, that they might take a law enforcement officer with them, knowing how to get resources to an offender, how to, where do you go to find a job, who do you talk to about getting substance abuse treatment, knowing those things about the community makes them a tremendous resource for offenders.

Len Sipes: And aLen Sipeso at the same time to providing the wherewithal of basically saying, look, you’ve got a court order, this is not an option. You have to go to drug treatment, you have to repay your victim, you have to do community service work, and by the way, John, we feel that you have a bit of a mental health problem through your assessment, and we now need to get mental health treatment. That’s a big plate of things to do, especially with a person who is resisting your efforts to do it.

Diane Kincaid: A lot of times, they are, and when you talk about mental illness, that is just a whole nother tremendous issue faced by these officers, just realizing that someone does have that problem, and you know, you can’t really express how important assessment tooLen Sipes are to a probation and parole officer.

Len Sipes: Yeah, the fact that we, again, know these individuaLen Sipes, in many cases, better than they know themselves, and we uncover issues, I mean, a lot of these offenders, and people always send me emaiLen Sipes, or tell me that I’m making excuses for offenders, and it’s really not, it really is just basically stating the facts as they are, they’re coming from very difficult backgrounds, many offenders have raised themselves since the age of 8, they have dropped out of school, they don’t know who the father is, they’ve had a bad relationship with their mother, they feel abandoned, and in many cases, they have what I call a chip on their shoulder the size of Montana. We’re not talking about people who are easily drawn into these services, and breaking through that barrier to get that offender, and the entire family, for that matter, to become allies. That is a skill that we should be celebrating.

Diane Kincaid: Right, and just as you said, a difficult childhood or a difficult life is no excuse for breaking the law, but we have to, as a society, recognize that there are some things that are difficult for people, and we’re talking about individual psyches and individual brains, and we all react differently to things that we encounter. Some people can sort of get over things, and others can’t, and we have to accommodate them.

Len Sipes: And to do that with large caseloads, to do that with limited resources, I know of parole and probation agents who give a lot of evening time, who give a lot of weekend time to both enforcing the roles of parole or probation, and at the same time, trying to help these offenders cross that bridge into a tax paying lifestyle instead of a tax burden, and they do that on weekends and the evenings. I think, once again, we as a society owe a debt of gratitude, and we should be expressing that freely in terms, I think all of us feel that way, that we owe a debt of gratitude towards our people who are parole and probation agents, who are, generally speaking, carry bachelor’s degrees and advanced degrees, and generally speaking very dedicated to what they do.

Diane Kincaid: They are, and that’s, the emphasis behind this week, and we celebrate this week, and we do a website every year. It’s always the third week in July. We have a new poster design, there are brochures, there’s the new PowerPoint presentation on our resource kit that you can take into a school or take into a community group and do a presentation about your job and what it means and how it’s important, and then on another aspect of what we’re trying to branch out into is some of these newer technologies to keep informed and to reach out into the field is we have a facebook page now, and we’ll be launching a twitter page in the next few weeks, so we’re really excited about that.

Len Sipes: Getting involved in social media to do a better job of informing everybody what it is that the Parole and Probation Agents do. Our guest today has been Diane Kincaid. She is an information specialist for 10 years, for a full decade with the Parole and Probation Association. We’re celebrating Probation, Parole, and Community Supervision Week, as of today, July 19th through July 25th, you can go to the website of the American Probation and Parole Association, appa-net – appa-net – N-E-T – .org, Diane Kincaid, her email is D-K-I-N-C-A-I-D – @csg.org. Ladies and gentlemen, this is D.C. Public Safety, once again, we really thank you profusely for all the letters, phone calLen Sipes, emaiLen Sipes, and you can again follow me on twitter at twitter/lensipes, or via email, which seems to be popular, Leonard – L-E-O-N-A-R-D – dot-sipes – S-I-P – not “˜T’ – E-S – @csosa.gov, or you can simply comment within the show notes, and I want everybody to have themselves a very, very pleasant day.

– Audio Ends –

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