Jobs in Corrections-Discover Corrections Website–DC Public Safety Radio

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Radio Program available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2012/11/jobs-in-corrections-discover-corrections-website-dc-public-safety-radio/

[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes: From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes, and ladies and gentlemen, today we’re going to be talking about jobs in Corrections. It’s an issue of great importance because the vast majority of people in this country who the criminal justice system supervises are supervised by Corrections personnel. They’re supervised by parole and probation agents or they’re supervised within prisons, they’re supervised within jails, but the overwhelming majority are again, in the community being supervised by parole and probation agents.  We thought we’d do a radio program about jobs in Corrections. We have a new website that is created by the American Probation and Parole Association called “Discover Corrections,” and “Discover Corrections,” there’s a league of agencies involved in this with the American Probation and Parole Association taking the lead. Our guest today is Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt. She is a Research Associate for the or with the American Probation and Parole Association., and Mary Ann, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Thank you, and good afternoon.

Len Sipes: Yep. I’m looking forward to this conversation because, you know, this is a very important topic. The quality of our criminal justice personnel means the quality of justice. It correlates exactly with the quality of justice that we end up providing, correct?

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Oh, exactly, exactly, and this website offers career-based resources for students and graduates as well as our military veterans and other individuals who are seeking their first job in this career, and for those individuals who may be trying to look at Corrections as a second career.

Len Sipes: You know, and one area during this recession that has always been hiring, and that’s Corrections.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Yes, and not only individuals who are seeking positions as parole officers and probation officer but positions that you may not always think of as positions that are in the career field, like registered nurses.

Len Sipes: Oh, absolutely. I mean, there’s an endless number of individuals with individual specialties that corrections agencies throughout the United States whether they be federal, whether they be state, whether they be local, they need a wide array of people to staff these positions.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Yes, exactly.

Len Sipes: Okay. The website for “Discover Corrections” is www.discovercorrections.com – www.discovercorrections.com. Mary Ann, give me a sense as to all the different agencies that are involved in the “Discovery Corrections” website project.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Okay. Just to give you a little history, the Bureau of Justice Assistance, in an effort to address workforce development issues in Corrections – community Corrections, jails, and detention centers, as well as prisons and institutions – provided funds to the Counsel of State Government, the American Probation and Parole Association, to develop and implement this exciting website. So this innovative project is a collaborative effort overseen by APPA, and our partners are the American Correctional Association, the American Jail Association, and the Center for Innovative Public Policies.

Len Sipes: So you’ve got a lot of people involved in this and it’s funded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance of the Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice, so you’ve got federal funding and you’ve got the biggest and best correctional agencies, and very well-respected correctional incremental justice agencies deeply involved in the project, and the American Probation and Parole Association is taking the lead.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Yes. Yes. You know, I can’t say enough regarding our partners and the tremendous amount of work that they put into this project as well, and they really should be commended for all of the material they provided and expertise.

Len Sipes: This will be the first time in the 40-or-so years that I’ve been in the criminal justice system that if you were interested in a career in Corrections, regardless as to where you are in the United States, I mean, you could be sitting in American Samoa and access the website and say, “Son of a gun, that’s something I would like to do in New Mexico” and go for that job.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Yes, yes, and I think when you look at the website, there are four components or key sections to the website. The first one is “Why Corrections”; the second one is “Explore the Field”; the third is “Career Resources”; and then finally you come to “Post your Job and Find your Job.” When you’re looking at the jobs that are available across the country, you’ll find that they’re in Bismarck, North Dakota, Pine City, Minnesota, East Baton Rouge, Idaho. So no matter where you’re looking, there are jobs that are being posted.

Len Sipes: And one of the things that I do want to say, Mary Ann, about the folks who are in Corrections – again, I’ve been in the criminal justice system for over 40 years, started off as a police officer, and I’ve done a lot of different things both on the correctional side and the law enforcement side, and I want to give a shout-out, I suppose, or recognition to people in Corrections. I don’t think there’s any more difficult and exciting job than being a main-stream correctional officer. I’ve been in and out of literally hundreds of prisons, or prisons hundreds of times, and I understand how difficult and how challenging and how exciting that job is; and people, I don’t think correctional officers get the respect that they deserve. I think as far as I’m concerned, as far as a lot of people are concerned in the criminal justice system, correctional officers deserve a huge amount of respect. Parole and probation agents, what we here in Washington D.C. call community supervision officers, again, that is an extraordinarily difficult job. They’re out in high-crime neighborhoods dealing sometimes with people presenting really unique challenges. These are exciting jobs. These are really interesting jobs. These are not boring jobs at all. They pay well in many instances and they have good government benefits behind them so people looking around and they’re uncertain about a career in Corrections, I’m not quite sure they need to be uncertain. I think a life in Corrections is a life of, you know, not just pure excitement from the law enforcement point of view but I think they’re very exciting, very challenging jobs. They’re never boring.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Yeah, I agree. My first job – I was in the field for approximately 28 years based out of Minnesota – and my first job was at the Women’s Facility here in Shakopee. I believe that my first job as a Corrections officer gave me the foundation that I needed for a career in Corrections.

Len Sipes: Well, I have first-hand experience inside of prisons. I have first-hand experience riding along with parole and probation agents, and they have my endless, endless admiration in terms of their ability to protect public safety and their ability to try to help the individuals caught up in the criminal justice system. Okay, so we have a website, “Discover Corrections” – www.discovercorrections.com – and you’ve got the mainstream criminal justice agencies, correctional agencies involved in it. It’s both on the jail side, the prison side, and the community Corrections side. We’ve said it’s funded by the BJA, the Bureau of Justice Assistance of the U.S. Department of Justice. So how has it been? I mean, have you been successful? Has it placed a lot of people? Do you think that you’re getting the interaction that you’re looking for?

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: We’re beginning to analyze some of those key outcomes that you’re pointing out. We believe that people are beginning to go to the “Discover Corrections.” It’s a fairly new website. We are marketing through Facebook and other avenues but we do have close to 200 agencies that have listed jobs on the website.

Len Sipes: That’s great.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: And that also then, you know, when you post jobs, then it brings job candidates, and you see more and more people then accessing the website. But based on our initial surveys, both the job-seekers as well as the employers have provided us with very positive feedback.

Len Sipes: And you said before that there were four primary sections to the website. I’m not quite sure that I gave you full time to explain what they are. Could you give them to me again, please?

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Oh, certainly. “Why Corrections” is the first section when you’re looking at the website.

Len Sipes: What is that designed to do, “Why Corrections,” because people are confused about a career in Corrections possibly?

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Well, possibly confused or maybe wondering, “Is this the direction should I take and really what does it involve?” It explains the three components. It talks about Corrections as a critical component of the criminal justice system, and that it requires dedication, integrity, and commitment to working with individuals who come into the criminal justice system; and that also that there are rewards and that it can be highly gratifying to work in this field and help people make real life changes.

Len Sipes: Well, I’ve seen it firsthand. I have seen especially on the community correction side with parole and probation agencies, with the treatment side, within prisons, I’ve seen people turn the lives around of people caught up in the criminal justice system. It doesn’t happen every time but certainly it is just amazing to see people go from tax burdens to tax payers, and we owe, again, a debt of gratitude towards the people in community Corrections and mainstream Corrections who helped that person get there.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Um-hum, um-hum.

Len Sipes: Now you also have personal stories on the website that I find really interesting. You’ve got some personal stories about people from my agency, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, and you’ve got personal stories from people throughout the country talking addressing why they got involved in Corrections.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Exactly, and that’s I think a very important part of the website. It’s real people telling their stories, and that is in the “Explore the Field” section of the website.

Len Sipes: Okay, so that’s a good segue.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Okay, and there are stories from wardens within our prisons, and there are probation officers. There are other positions such as there’s a nurse, there’s a teacher, and a variety of individuals who are working in our field, both in community Corrections, jails and detention, prisons and institutions.

Len Sipes: You know getting back to teachers for a second, I remember when I was representing the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, which was Law Enforcement and Corrections, and we had the unfortunate privilege I suppose, I can say that now, of taking over the Baltimore City Jail. The state took over the City Jail. And what was truly amazing to me is that the teachers who worked in the Baltimore City Jail who were providing educational services to juveniles and young adults, they had the second highest increase in test scores in the city of Baltimore. Maryland has, I think, the highest test score ranking in the country, and they had the second highest for the city of Baltimore in the Baltimore City Jail, and I was amazed.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Wow.

Len Sipes: I would sit down and talk to those teachers and say, “How did you accomplish this ?” – And working with the correctional officers and working with the teachers, they told me their game plan, and then years ago I interviewed them for the radio with I was with the State of Maryland. Here are teachers working in a correctional setting, producing the second highest increase in grade average scores for an entire city. I thought that that was phenomenal, so again, it’s a wide-open field. We need lots of good people to come into Corrections not just necessarily as correctional officers but as you said, teachers and nurses and administrators and bean counters and accountants and plumbers and lawyers and ten tons of people.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Exactly, exactly, and so then when you’re viewing the website, then you can also then go on to the third section which is “Career Resources,” and that really is designed to provide specific information. So you’re looking at a state and say you’re interested in going to Montana. Well, it will give you a snapshot of how Corrections is organized in that state.

Len Sipes: Oh, that’s great.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Okay, and also then it provides a glossary of common terms, and also there’s a whole list of national links that you can click as a resource.

Len Sipes: So if I want to go to Hawaii, I can go to Hawaii and just work as a correctional officer. I can work as a parole and probation agent.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: You could.

Len Sipes: I could.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: There’s some openings.

Len Sipes: There are some openings. I’ll think about that in the dead of winter. All right, so have we covered three of the four sections of the website?

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Yes, and then the last one is “Post your Job and Find your Job.”

Len Sipes: Okay, and that’s pretty simple. Now anybody within the criminal justice system can post jobs?

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Correct, both private and public.

Len Sipes: Private and public. Thanks. I was going to ask that. And so anybody, a 17-year-old searching for his or her future can go to that website and say, “Wow, I’ve always wanted to go to Wyoming and they’ve got openings for parole and probation agents in Wyoming.” I mean, it’s open to anybody.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Exactly.

Len Sipes: All right. I think it’s an exciting concept. I’m going to give the website and we’re going to move into the second part of the program. Ladies and gentlemen, we’re talking about jobs in Corrections with Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt. She is a Research Associate with the American Probation and Parole Association. She is the administrator of “Discover Correction,” a really unique website funded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance of the Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice, in league with some of the biggest criminal justice agencies in the country, and she is with the American Probation and Parole Association. The website for the American Probation and Parole Association is www.appa-net.org – www.appa-net.org. The “Discover Corrections” website again is www.discovercorrections.com.

Mary Ann, what has been the response of people seeking jobs o the website? Do they find it useful? Do they find it easy to navigate?

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: They find it easy to navigate. I think what they would like is to see more job openings but that’s throughout the country, and of course we would like to see more job postings but more jobs are coming available, and if you’re willing to consider relocating, there are positions throughout the country that are available.

Len Sipes: Well, I remember talking to a couple of nurses decades ago who spent five years in Alaska then spent two years in Hawaii, and I’m not quite sure I’m encouraging leaving criminal justice jobs but I would imagine this gives you the same opportunity to travel the country and work for a career in Corrections. The people coming to the website, can they find what they’re looking for? That’s the bottom line. Are they satisfied with their experience?

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Yes. Yes.

Len Sipes: Okay, and have they written you back saying, you know, “Gee, I’d like to see more jobs listed,” or “I’d like to see it easier,” or what’s been their feedback?

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Yes, that’s in some of the feedback, and also, you know, I respond to individuals who use other social media outlets such as LinkedIn, and of course people will talk about, you know, it would be nice to be able to stay where they’re at however, you know.

Len Sipes: Yes.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: And then also a number of people throughout the country really recognize the need to be open to be mobile and to consider job opportunities in other areas of the country.

Len Sipes: Sure. It gives you a chance to see the nation and to get a sense as to what’s happening in other areas. If I was a young man, I would love to be a parole and probation agent in Alaska, so there you are. If anybody up in Alaska wants to hire an older individual, please contact me when I retire.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Well, and there are openings. So when you go to the site, there is a U.S. probation officer opening in Bismarck, North Dakota. Pine City, Minnesota, there is a probation officer opening. It’s a lovely part of the country if you like northern Minnesota where it’s very outdoorsy, close to Duluth.

Len Sipes: And I’m glad you brought that up. There’s a lot of federal positions in here. There are federal parole and probation issues that are administered by the individual district courts within the federal system, and there are federal prisons, I’m assuming, that are within the system. So again, if you want to be a correctional officer and have a federal job with all of that security and all the pay that comes with it, and you want to go to a certain area of the country, boom, it’s there for you.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Exactly. And not only are there entry-level positions but there are management and administrative positions as well, so like Salt Lake City is looking for a trial court executive. There’s the Sheriff’s Volunteer Coordinator, which can be an entry-level position. There is also the superintendent of Mental Health Services in Maine; also the Minnesota Sex Offender Program in St. Peter is looking for a facility director, and a business analysis out of Arizona, the Arizona Judicial Branch. So there’s a variety of positions.

Len Sipes: Well, you know, I’ve been on the website several times and I’m just discovering the full complexity of all the different jobs that are available especially, you know, some of these jobs are really interesting. I mean, you can make a career, an exciting career, a very interesting career in any of these. How does an agency get on your website? Is it simply a matter of calling up and saying, “Hey, I’ve got these 20 jobs I want to advertise?”

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: No, you don’t even have to call. You go to the website and where you see “post your jobs,” you simply click on that and you will be able to create a login, you know, there’s a password etc., register your agency, and then begin posting your jobs.

Len Sipes: And is there a cost to agencies in terms of posting information on the website?

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Is there, I’m sorry, what?

Len Sipes: I’m sorry, is there a cost to post information on the website?

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Is there a cost?

Len Sipes: Yes.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: No. T his is free. This service is free so it’s no cost to your agency.

Len Sipes: Mmm, neat, okay. And I guess one of the final questions is launching the “Discover Corrections” website; it is an important enhancement to the field of Corrections, why? Explain why that is. In the past, you sort of were limited, I suppose. If I’m living in Baltimore, Maryland, where I currently live, the only opportunities I’m going to be exposed to are going to be those advertised in the Baltimore Sun. Now suddenly it’s the entire world opens to me, and I would imagine that’s the heart and soul of it.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Yes. And one of the other things, when we really began to examine how we wanted to impact job searching in the Corrections field, was considering some of the feedback that we receive from students. For many students, they do not know now to access career or job information in the field of Corrections. I mean often, at least in the past, you would have to know exactly what agency you wanted to consider employment in, and then you would have to go that agency’s website, where this really allows individuals to go to one website.

Len Sipes: And have it all done right there and see all the varieties of jobs that are open to you.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Um-hum. And it also allows employers to search resumes of registered job seekers.

Len Sipes: Oh, I didn’t know that.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Um-hum, so that’s I think a very positive feature of the website.

Len Sipes: That is a very positive, so I can throw in my own resume upon retirement and then the good folks in Alaska would reach out and say, “Hey, Leonard, come on up. We’d love to have you,” and then my wife would divorce me but that’s beside the point.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: That’s – yes. You know, they can look for the right person because I think oftentimes in this field it is about looking for the right person in that specific position.

Len Sipes: And like any other criminal justice endeavor, we really do have to go through quite a few people to find the right person. It takes a unique human being to be successful in Corrections. Either in mainstream prisons or in terms of community corrections, it takes a unique individual to be able to do these jobs.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: I would agree. It can be challenging yet also very rewarding.

Len Sipes: Mary Ann, did we cover all the topics?

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: I believe so.

Len Sipes: All right, good. Ladies and gentlemen, this has been DC Public Safety. We did a radio show today on jobs in Corrections with Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt, a Research Associate with the American Probation and Parole Association talking about what I think is an extraordinarily good idea website, a national website, or an international website there at www.discovercorrections.com – www.discovercorrections.com. Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. We do appreciate your calls. We appreciate your letters. We appreciate your comments. We appreciate your criticisms. And we want everybody to have themselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]

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Interview With Acting Assistant Attorney General Mary Lou Leary-Office of Justice Programs-DC Public Safety Radio

Welcome to “DC Public Safety” – Radio and television shows, blog and transcripts on crime, criminal offenders and the criminal justice system. We currently average 90,000 page views a month.

The portal site for “DC Public Safety” is http://media.csosa.gov.

Radio Program available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2012/06/interview-with-acting-assistant-attorney-general-mary-lou-leary-office-of-justice-programs-dc-public-safety-radio/

[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes:  From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety.  I’m your host, Leonard Sipes.  Today’s interview is with acting Assistant Attorney General, Mary Lou Leary of the Office of Justice Program’s U.S. Department of Justice.  Miss Leary has 30 years of criminal justice experience at the federal, state and local levels, with an extensive background in criminal prosecution, government leadership and victim advocacy.  Before joining the Office of Justice Programs in 2009, she was Executive Director of the National Center for Victims of Crime.  She also served in leadership roles at the office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia.  From 1999 to 2001, she held several executive positions at the Department of Justice including the Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs, Deputy Associate Attorney General, and Acting Director of the Office of Community Oriented Policing Programs. For the sake of brevity, the Office of Justice Programs oversees the work of the federal effort to evaluate fund and provide technical assistance to the country’s criminal justice system.  Before getting into the bulk of the interview, I want to provide just some of the examples of the Office of Justice Programs in terms of what they do.  Just some of the topics, bullying, DNA backlogs, domestic violence, elder abuse and mistreatment, faith-based programs, hate crimes, human trafficking, identity theft, indigent defense, mentoring of offenders, juvenile justice law enforcement tactics, prisoner reentry, victim assistance, and a database as to what works.  Acting Assistant Attorney General Mary Lou Leary, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Mary Lou Leary:  Well thank you, Len.  It’s a pleasure to be here.

Len Sipes:  I’m really happy for you to be here.  Then we had Laurie Robinson on before she left.

Mary Lou Leary:  I know.

Len Sipes:  And we had a real exciting interview, I think, and a very popular interview.  How does it feel going … and Mary Lou has left, she was the Assistant Attorney General, and now you’re in the Acting position.  That’s a lot of responsibility thrust on your shoulders.  But you’ve been in this position before.

Mary Lou Leary:  I have, Len.  It actually is quite a natural transition for me.  I was serving as the Principle Deputy Assistant General to Laurie Robinson at OJP for the three years of this administration.  And then when Laurie moved on, I stepped into the role of the Acting Assistant Attorney General.  And for me it feels just right.  I did this before during the Clinton Administration.  And it’s kind of funny, we’re into repeat performances.

Len Sipes:  Yes, we are.

Mary Lou Leary:  Because Laurie was the Assistant Attorney General during that administration.  And I came in when she left and served as the acting for the rest of the term.

Len Sipes:  But it’s such a broad, big organization.  Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, National Institute of Justice, the National Criminal Justice Reference Service that I worked for for five years early on in my career.  I mean, it just goes on and on and on in terms of the agencies.  Office for Victims of Crime, the Bureau of Justice Assistance, Community-Oriented Policing, you have such an amazing amount of organizations under you.

Mary Lou Leary: Yeah.  Well that’s what makes this job so exciting, and really, so much fun.  There is this incredibly broad spectrum of issues.  We are the only federal agency that is dedicated to serving state, local and tribal public safety entities.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Mary Lou Leary:  And so public safety includes every piece that you could possibly find in the criminal justice puzzle.  All the systems, all the programs, it’s quite an extraordinary range.

Len Sipes:  Well one of the things that I brought up in Laurie’s interview was the fact that you get all these technical reports on CSI, Crime Scene Investigation.  All the fallacies and the fact that you watch these programs on television and most of what you see is not how it’s ordinarily done. But all these technical documents that develop all that expertise come from your shop.  You are Madam CSI.

Mary Lou Leary:  Yeah.  Well, in a way.

Len Sipes:  You are.  You’re Madam everything.  You’re Madam offenders leaving the prison system, you’re Madam corrections, you’re Madam law enforcement, you are the very epitome of the criminal justice system at the federal level.

Mary Lou Leary:  Well that’s exactly what OJP does.  We cover every single issue in the criminal justice system.  And it’s wonderful that we do that and that we have that broad scope.  Because we know that the best approach to take, and the one that really works, is a comprehensive approach.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Mary Lou Leary:  You can’t deal with one aspect of the criminal justice system without paying attention to the whole of it.  So for instance, if you increase the number of arrests that you’re making, that’s going to have an impact.  It’s like a domino effect all the way through the system.  The pre-trial, the prosecutor’s office, the court system, the prison system, probation, parole, reentry, it all is impacted, each piece by what happens in the other.

Len Sipes:  Yeah.  Nobody’s in isolation.  Everybody’s dependent on everybody else.

Mary Lou Leary:  Exactly.

Len Sipes:  So what one part of the criminal justice system does affects the other parts of the criminal justice system.

Mary Lou Leary:  Exactly.  And that is, in fact, one of the primary messages that OJP delivers to the criminal justice field.  We are all in this together and the only way we can attack these problems and have success is by working together and by being conscious of the impact that one individual agency’s actions have on the rest of the system.

Len Sipes:  There are three things I want to get to pretty quickly in the interview.  Number one, a practitioner focus.  I’ve spoken to you in the past and one of the things that you’ve been adamant about is this idea of serving the practitioner, serving the people who actually run the criminal justice system, being sure that they have the research and the facts and the technical assistance to make sense of their day-to-day lives.

Mary Lou Leary:  Yes.  That is one of my primary goals at OJP.  I, myself, as a practitioner for 30 years, I was a local prosecutor, I was a federal prosecutor, I ran a national victim’s advocacy organization.  So I know how difficult it is for practitioners who are incredibly busy, to learn about what’s actually being researched in their field, and what works, what doesn’t work, what are the latest trends.  You are putting out fires all day, every day and you don’t really have the time to dig up the evidence and maybe base what you do on what is known to be effective.  And so that’s our job. We’ve got to figure that out.  We have to do the research.  We have to do the statistical analysis.  We have to read all the literature and understand the evidence about what does work in the criminal justice.  And then one of our most important jobs is translating that.  You have to make that understandable and accessible to practitioners in the field.  A mayor should be able to just go to a website or make a phone call and communicate that, “Hey, you know what we’re having a big problem with youth gangs in our city.  Do you know if anybody out there is doing something that’s been effective?  Do you know if there are any researchers who are really looking at this problem?  Help me out here.”  That’s our job.

Len Sipes:  Right.  You have said that they need to get answers.  They don’t need to get a telephone-sized book of research.  They don’t need to be given an esoteric overview, they need answers.

Mary Lou Leary:  Exactly.  But those answers better be good ones and they better be based on real evidence.

Len Sipes:  Right.  And I wanted to start the interview off with that background.  Because you are Madam criminal justice, you have served in the criminal justice system, you’ve been a practitioner.  So you’re just not a policy wonk that hangs out in DC.  You have actually served in the bowels of the criminal justice system and you know what it’s like, how difficult it is to get ahold of research and make sense of research.

Mary Lou Leary:  Yeah.  Exactly.  And I think that that is one of the things that I bring to the job that, frankly, makes me effective in that position.  Because I really understand, I get it.  I know what’s happening on the streets.  I learned everything … I know about that from working with local police departments.  I ran the cops office for a while which provides police to communities across this country.  And I think it’s important to have real respect for research and science, but also to have that practical, pragmatic approach to problems.

Len Sipes:  Absolutely.  You’ve been there.  So that’s the message I wanted to get out.  But having said that, research is an extraordinarily important part of what it is that you do.  Which we say we can substitute best practices for that word research.  Research, that word is a little scary to a lot of the people in the field. What you’re trying to do is establish best practices.  Because states and localities, they’re running out of money.  The budget issue is such a huge issue throughout the country for criminal justice organizations.  They’re basically saying, “Fine, if we’ve got to deal with a 15% reduction in our budget, we’ll do what we have to do.”  But what’s the way … what does the research say … or what are the best practices to maximize what it is we do?  Is there technology; is there new ways of doing things?  What can we do to maximize what it is that we do on a day-to-day basis?  And that’s what you’re emphasizing.

Mary Lou Leary:  Right.  Well you hit the nail right on the head, Len.  It’s true that resources are really tight.  And looking ahead, we can only presume that they will be getting tighter.  And so in that climate, it’s more important than ever that you base your strategy on what is the best practice, what we know works.  And it’s just as important not to waste any time, not to waste any resources human or financial, on things that don’t work.  Because we do know a lot about what doesn’t work as well and we want to discourage the use of those approaches that don’t work.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Mary Lou Leary:  We’re trying to make that approach easy and accessible, understandable.  In fact, just last year, we launched something called crimesolutions.gov.

Len Sipes:  Yeah.  Good.  Thank you.

Mary Lou Leary:  That’s a website.  Yeah.  It’s a great tool.

Len Sipes:  Crimesolutions.gov.

Mary Lou Leary:  It is a wonderful tool.  We’ve gotten great feedback from people.  And here’s how it works.  We have a group of researchers who scour the literature and look at all the practices, and rate programs that have been used across this country to address different crime problems.  So they rate them and we put it up on the website.  So you can see what’s effective, what’s working, and what’s not.  And you can search it every which way with all kinds of different search terms.  So say you’re the chief of police, or you’re running the youth program in your community, and you want to know is there anything out there that is evidence based that has worked on this issue.  You can go to crimesolutions.gov and search.  And you will see what programs have been used in that context, and which ones have been proven effective, and which ones have not really had an effect, and which ones are still kind of in the proving stage.  And this website now has over 200 programs on it.  And if you don’t find what you’re looking for the first time, go back for sure, because we are adding new programs every single week.

Len Sipes:  And the thing I want to emphasize about the website is that again, it’s not this esoteric, oh my God I’ve to spend five years reading this stuff.  It gives you a very quick chart in terms of what works and what doesn’t.

Mary Lou Leary:  Exactly.

Len Sipes:  And then once you’ve figured out what works, what doesn’t, then you can research it from there.  So people should not be afraid, “Oh my God, not another esoteric website or piece of research.”  It’s easy to read.

Mary Lou Leary:  Exactly.  It’s not wonky in any respect.

Len Sipes:  There you go.

Mary Lou Leary:  And if you are more interested in reading the study itself, the methodology, and so on, you can do that.  You can just go deeper into the website and really get that kind of a nuanced understanding of it. But if you want something that’s quick and dirty and practical, that is your tool.

Len Sipes:  There you go.  Now you’re also talking about opening some sort of technical assistance outreach program, right.  So once they say, “Oh, geezies, peezy” this particular thing works in terms of what you said, in terms of gangs.  Here are the research in terms of where it works.  I wonder what funding technical assistance other research is available.  And so you’re now instituting a help desk, if you will.  Once they’re moving in that right direction they can talk to somebody who knows the subject well.

Mary Lou Leary:  Well, in fact, we have several ways of getting at that.  You can go on the website, ojp.gov and you can look under funding opportunities.  And then you also look at our science agency’s National Institute of Justice, and Bureau of Justice statistics to see what research reports are coming out, what statistical reports are coming out.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Mary Lou Leary:  But if you have a problem that you don’t really quite understand in your community and you need some expert help in assessing the problem, trying to figure out what is really going on here.  We are working on the development right now of something called the Diagnostic Center which would be kind of a companion piece to crimesolutions.gov.  Crimesolutions.gov will tell you about the programs that already exist and whether they work or don’t.  The Diagnostic Center will bring in some expert technical assistance to help you get a handle on what is my problem in my community.  And then we’ll match you will technical assistance and experts who can help you marshal the evidence-based practices to address that.

Len Sipes:  So we’re talking about a one-stop shop.

Mary Lou Leary:  Yeah.  Absolutely.

Len Sipes:  That’s amazing.

Mary Lou Leary:  Yeah.  It’s very exciting.

Len Sipes:  I’ve been in the criminal justice system for 42 years.  Why did it take us so long to do that?

Mary Lou Leary:  I know.  It is quite remarkable.

Len Sipes:  It is quite remarkable.  What you have done is significant.  It is one of the very few times in my 42 years in the criminal justice system that I’ve said that I can go to one spot, get a quick summation of the research, talk to somebody, get quick answers, that is just incredible.

Mary Lou Leary:  It’s very exciting.  And it really is the embodiment of what we have been encouraging for years.  Which is you know what criminal justice practitioners, there’s some sound research out there that could actually help you get your job done every day.  These researchers, they’re not a bunch of egg heads who don’t know how to talk to cops and other folks.  They do know and they want to talk, because they figured out all this cool stuff that you could be using to do a better job every day.

Len Sipes:  Right.  And again, with the budget situation people are looking for answers. I want to re-introduce Mary Lou Leary, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.  Giving out the website, it is www.ojp.gov, www.ojp.gov.   You did a heck of a YouTube video a couple years ago when you were Director of the Office a Center for Victims of Crime.  So obviously, you’re interested in new ways of bringing material, fresh ways of bringing material to the criminal justice system.

Mary Lou Leary:  Yeah.  Very interested in making all of our information easily available, quickly available.  You got to meet people where they are.  And we know from research that actually in a … not very long, most people will be accessing internet, for instance, from their mobile devices as opposed to a desktop. So if you can’t get to where the people are, your message will not be heard.  So we’re very interested in exploring the full gambit of social media, Twitter, You Tube and all kinds of things that my teenage daughter could probably tell you more about than I could. But we know that that’s the way that you got to go if you want to be helpful to people.

Len Sipes:  Your background, former prosecutor, former Executive Director for the National Center for Victims of Crime.  A lot of people are going to take — they’re going to like that.  I’ve heard people throughout the decades saying, “Too many policy wonks at OJP, not enough real people who have been in the criminal justice system.”  You’re a former prosecutor; you’re a staunch advocate of victims of crime. That brings … I’m not going to say a new perspective to the Office of Justice Programs, but it brings … in the minds of a lot of people … a refreshing perspective.  You understand how this system works, you understand criminal victimization.

Mary Lou Leary: Well I certainly do.  And I’ll tell you, having been a prosecutor for so many years, this is my dream job.  Because all those years I saw these problems that were seemingly intractable in the criminal justice system.  And you would see the same defendants.  You’d prosecute them this month and then you’d prosecute them next month for a very similar offense.  And sometimes you just kind of felt like you were just doing a clean-up operation and not really solving the problem.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Mary Lou Leary:  And you could see that the problems that played out in the courtroom were so related to many, many other public safety issues that never came into the courthouse. So now this … OJP puts me in a position where I can actually address those issues.  And I can reach out and develop partnerships with all kinds of public safety agencies, tribal leaders, philanthropic organizations, foundations, private sector, all kinds of partners all of whom really see that this issue matters, it’s so fundamental to the way we live in this country.

Len Sipes:  One of the things that you said to me is the idea of bringing everybody to this table to maximize our impact on the criminal justice system, so whether it’s foundations, whether it’s private organizations, to take all these dollars, all that expertise, and marshal it to have the greatest impact.  And I find that interesting.

Mary Lou Leary:  Oh, it is fascinating.  And we’re really just scratching the surface.  We had a meeting at OJP with foundations, a number of foundations about 60 of them, all of whom have interest in various aspects of criminal justice.  A number of them, for instance, are really interested in kids who get involved in the criminal justice system.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Mary Lou Leary:  Many of them are interested in preventing kids from getting involved in that system.

Len Sipes:  Sure.

Mary Lou Leary:  There’s a whole domestic violence community out there with interest in the philanthropic sector.  And we have been partnering with a number of those kinds of philanthropic groups projects that we are doing at the Office of Justice Programs.

Len Sipes:  So nobody’s out there in isolation.  It is not [PH] PIU versus the Office of Justice Programs of the Department of Justice.  It’s PIU in concert with the Office of Justice Programs.

Mary Lou Leary:  Absolutely.

Len Sipes:  And that applies to the Urban Institute, that applies to the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the National Correctional Association.  It doesn’t matter, the whole idea is let’s all work in lockstep because state and locales are hurting from a budget point of view.

Mary Lou Leary:  That’s right.  And if you … what we try to do is we try to seed innovative projects around the country, new approaches to problems.  But after a certain period of time, the program has to move forward on its own and we try to seed other places.  So in order to plan for sustainability of those innovative approaches, you have to look to other places in the community, other places in the philanthropic world, and so on.  So we work with our grantees to try to educate them about that.  And we are able to facilitate communication between the philanthropic sector and grantees.

Len Sipes:  But I don’t want to get too far away from that answer, the question I had a couple minutes ago.  Your role as a prosecutor has been firmly established.  And a lot of people feel very comfortable about that.  But you’ve seen victims, talked to victims of crime, you’ve represented the National Center for Victims of Crime.  You understand the nature of criminal victimization on a very personal level.

Mary Lou Leary:  I certainly do.  This actually is a real passion of mine.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Mary Lou Leary:  And it has been ever since I started as a baby prosecutor decades ago.

Len Sipes:  Yes.

Mary Lou Leary:  I worked in the Middlesex County DA’s Office.  We had one of the very first victim/witness assistance units in the country.  And in fact, it was established by Senator John Kerry when he was the DA in Middlesex County.  And I learned from those advocates, how critically important the way you treat victims can be to their ability to recover. They need to be treated with respect and dignity.  And you need to make a victim feel safe.  And you need to make sure that a victim is heard.  That’s the most important thing.  So much more important than winning your case.  And I really feel that.  And I have really supported victims throughout my career.  And at OJP is a great opportunity to continue that. I am really excited because part of what we do, a big part of what we do at OJP, is working on victim issues through our office on victims of crime.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Mary Lou Leary:  And we have spent the last two years talking to folks who work with victims of crime all over this country.  We’re talking to practitioners, we’re talking to researchers, we’re talking to advocates, we’re talking to cops, you name it.  Anybody who has an interest in victim issues. What’s happening in this field, what are the unmet needs?  Crime has changed so much over the years.  Now we have all these financial frauds –

Len Sipes:  Yes, we do.

Mary Lou Leary:  – and internet perpetrated crime, and stalking through the internet, through devices you place on people’s cars, and so on.  There’s just a whole new world out there.  And it will continue to evolve. So the Office of Victims of Crime is looking at that and talking with people in the field saying, “Okay, we have a lot of these needs that have been with us forever that we haven’t met yet.  How do we meet those needs better, and at the same time, deal with these emerging crime issues and these emerging needs of victims?”

Len Sipes:  And I just wanted to point out there’s a lot of people out there who will be applauding as they listen to this.  Because, again, they have this image of people at the top of the Office of Justice Programs as being stoic policy wonks.  You’re not.  You’re a real live human being who’s suffered through this issue personally, directly, and you know, you’ve tasted it, smelled it, felt it, you know what’s going on out there.

Mary Lou Leary:  That’s exactly right.  And that’s why it’s so important to get out in the field and talk to people.  You have to see it, you have to talk, you have to hear it, you have to walk the walk. What we will see coming out of this big effort with Victims of Crime this summer, I believe, at the end of the summer is a report called Vision 21.  And that is to shape the path forward for the victim services field, into the 21st century and beyond.

Len Sipes:  That’s great.

Mary Lou Leary:  Yeah.  The Victims of Crime Act was passed in 1984.

Len Sipes:  Yes.  A long time ago.

Mary Lou Leary:  Things have changed a lot since then.

Len Sipes:  Yeah.  They have.

Mary Lou Leary:  And it’s time to revision the way we serve victims.  So I am just so excited.  I can’t wait to see that report and to most importantly, act on the recommendations.

Len Sipes:  In the final minutes of the program, one of the things I suppose that we want to do, is to assure that regardless of whether it’s law enforcement, corrections, parole and probation, the judicial system, the juvenile justice system which Attorney General Eric Holder is certainly a huge proponent in terms of this issue of tremendous violence being directed towards children.  It doesn’t matter what the issue is, your job is to be sure that the best research is being done, answering questions on the part of people at the county and state and local level, giving them access, quick access to this information via the new databases that you’re putting out.  So that’s the bottom line.  If there are questions, or if there are issues, they can come to the Office of Justice Programs for answers.

Mary Lou Leary:  Absolutely.  And they’ll find real people, and people who care very, very much about their work and about public safety in this country.

Len Sipes:  In the sense of being evidence based, we … I don’t want to get into a methodological discussion but it’s a matter of taking a look at the better research.  The research that’s fairly well done.  And trying to draw conclusions from that research.  And that’s essentially what you guys have done, in terms of crimesolutions.gov and in terms of the Diagnostic Center. Take a look at Project Hope, which is a wonderful program in Hawaii which has dramatically reduced recidivism as a parole and probation program, a substance abuse treatment program.  And what you’re doing is funding its replication in other areas throughout the country to see if the success that they had in Hawaii, which was considerable, can be replicated in Baltimore and in Des Moines, and in San Antonio.

Mary Lou Leary:  That’s exactly right.  In fact, we do that a lot with different kinds of projects.  Project Hope, this probation program was developed by Steve Alm, who was a former U.S. Attorney in Hawaii.  And right away we could see that his approach was different and that it was really interesting and promising. So we worked to support that program from the get go and then we sent in a team to research and evaluate it.  Those evaluations would knock your socks off, it just made such a big and positive difference.

Len Sipes:  It does.

Mary Lou Leary:  Exactly.  So now that’s just kind of like the business of OJP.  You get good programs started, you evaluate them, if the evidence shows, ‘whoa, this really works’, then you want to get it out to as many communities as possible and tweak it to apply to the needs of that particular individual community.

Len Sipes:  And getting that information out to those communities in the right way.  That you don’t have to struggle.  It’s like, oh my God, I remember when I worked for the Maryland Department of Public Safety, this is decades ago.  The Public Safety Secretary would bring this document from NIJ, telephone-size book, plop it on my desk and go, “Sipes, I don’t have time to read this.  Give me a one-page summation.”

Mary Lou Leary:  Right.

Len Sipes:  “Just tell me if it works, doesn’t work, and why it works and doesn’t work.” Because he knew that I used to work for the National Criminal Justice Reference Service.  So he sort of figured I would know how to read this big, long, esoteric document. What you’re trying to do is to take this research and make it come alive.

Mary Lou Leary:  Yes.  Make it real.  And you demonstrate that through actual programs in the communities.  Reentry is a great example of that.  We are helping communities across this country to deal with the massive return of incarcerated offenders.

Len Sipes:  Seven hundred thousand a year.

Mary Lou Leary:  Seven hundred thousand a year.  And where do they go?  They go right back to the neighborhoods that they came from.  The same environments, the same folks, the same buddies in the neighborhood. And you can’t just release people from incarceration, send them right back to that environment and expect that they are going to do just fine.  They’ve learned their lesson and now they’ll behave.

Len Sipes:  No.  It doesn’t work that way.

Mary Lou Leary:  No.  You have to provide support, and it has to start right from the moment of incarceration.

Len Sipes:  And if we did that, we could reduce the budgets of states and locals by huge amounts.  If you get just a 15% reduction in recidivism in the rate of return back to the prison system by providing programs, you’ve just saved that county, that state, tens of millions of dollars.

Mary Lou Leary:  Exactly.  And that is one of our major goals.  Not only to help them save that money, but at the same time, to improve public safety.  Because if your reentry programs really work, you will not only save money, but people in that community will be safer and you will reduce re-victimization.

Len Sipes:  And that’s the common theme throughout this entire program, reducing re-victimization.

Mary Lou Leary:  Exactly.

Len Sipes:  That is what … you’re the office of reducing re-victimization.

Mary Lou Leary:  Yes, we are.

Len Sipes:  Yes.

Mary Lou Leary:  And for me, that’s a wonderful orientation because I am so passionate about crime victims.

Len Sipes:  Final seconds of the program.  The law enforcement side of things, it’s people, places, little focusing on high-risk offenders, high-risk places.

Mary Lou Leary:  Yeah.  We know a lot about hot spot policing, for instance, where you look at the hot spots through your crime mapping and so on.  And that’s where you want to target your resources.  We know that works.  We know that there are innovative approaches to dealing, for instance, with youth violence.  We know that there are ways of saving money on incarceration and then reinvesting it in things that do work.

Len Sipes:  And a beauty about all this is that if you go to www.ojp.gov and if you go to the Crime Solution’s database you can get a tremendous amount of information on all of this.  Really want to express my appreciation to Acting Assistant Attorney General, Mary Lou Leary for being with us today.  Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety.  We really appreciate all of the cards, letters, comments and criticisms at times, in terms of what it is we do.  We really appreciate your participation.  And we want everybody to have themselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]

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Successful Probation Practices in Travis County, TX, DC Public Safety Radio

Welcome to “DC Public Safety” – Radio and television shows, blog and transcripts on crime, criminal offenders and the criminal justice system. We currently average 90,000 page views a month.

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Radio Program available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2012/04/successful-probation-practices-in-travis-county-tx/

[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes:  From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety.  I am your host Leonard Sipes.  Ladies and gentlemen, the program today is about successful probation practices in Travis County, Texas, where they have reduced recidivism over the course of the last six years, and have saved taxpayers in excess of $21 million.  Our guest today is Dr. Geraldine Nagy, Director, Travis County Community Supervision and Corrections.  Geraldine, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Dr. Geraldine Nagy:  Thank you, I’m glad to be here.

Len Sipes:  Okay, Geraldine, this is a program that has received a lot of publicity.  There are a lot of notices in the literature that I read, the people that I talk to about the wonderful things that you have done down there in Travis County, Texas, in terms of probation.  In essence, one of the things we said before hitting the recording button is that you’ve basically taken the probation department and have gone beyond the usual instructions of most probation departments, which is to follow the orders and the mandate of the courts, and what you have done is actually reduced recidivism, which means reducing new criminal offences.  You’ve saved taxpayers, literally, tens of millions of dollars.  How did you do all that?

Dr. Geraldine Nagy:  Well, it took a lot of people doing a lot of work.  But it began with a very honest look at probation, and probation in Travis County, but probation in general, and we decided that our mission in Travis County was not only be to make sure that people complied with their conditions of probation, but we had a responsibility to do what we could to reduce crime in Travis County, Texas, through our interactions with the probationers.  So we redefined our role and we expanded our mission and we put numerous changes in place in order to accomplish that.

Len Sipes:  Now, you’ve had a 17% reduction in recidivism, and that’s based upon what, new arrest?

Dr. Geraldine Nagy:  That’s new arrest statewide, so it’s any kind of arrest in the state of Texas.

Len Sipes:  Okay.

Dr. Geraldine Nagy:  And that’s an [PH] average reduction.

Len Sipes:  Okay.  And for Travis County, what would be the recidivism rate?  Was it still 17%?

Dr. Geraldine Nagy:  The recidivism rate at this point is 24%.

Len Sipes:  That’s amazing.  That is absolutely amazing.  And the fact that you’ve been able to save $21 million in the process.

Dr. Geraldine Nagy:  Yes, you know, I think there are a lot of things that are remarkable about this.  I think first of all, it hasn’t required a huge infusion of money into Travis County Probation.  We’ve basically, in our processes and cost efficiency, and stay focused on that goal of protecting the public and reducing recidivism, and evaluated everything we did with that goal in mind.  And so most of what we’ve been able to do has been a better realization of resource and taking a more focused approach to what we do.

Len Sipes:  Now, this whole idea of evidence-based practice, what you did was take a look at the literature, take a look at the research and basically said to the folks when you were hired, I think I can do a better job utilizing the research and bringing evidence-based practices to Travis County, Texas, and I think I can reduce recidivism, and I think I can save taxpayer dollars.  What was their reaction to your proposal?

Dr. Geraldine Nagy:  You know, what I found with the probation officers, and the other – the managers and the leadership here, is that everyone was on the same page with regards to having probation being meaningful and being able to measure the results with measures that mattered to other folks in the community, the judges, the people who live here and things.  And so, I didn’t get a lot of resistance from staff.  I think the average probation officer back in the older days really had wished, would have wished if they had known, to have this information available so that they could do their jobs better.  So I think there was some excitement about new opportunities.  So there wasn’t a lot of resistance from staff.  It required a lot of education.  It required strong leadership throughout our organization.  But people were willing to try something new if they thought it was going to make a difference.

Len Sipes:  Well, I’ve been in the criminal justice system for 42 years.  If somebody, if I was doing the same thing the same way for 20 years, and somebody came along and said, “Leonard, we’re going to try an entirely new way of conducting public affairs,” I would be very anxious. I would say, “Oh, my heavens, look.  I’ve been doing this for 20 years.”

Dr. Geraldine Nagy:  Yeah, and I’m sure some people felt that way, but, you know, I just felt that it was so important not to diminish what they had been doing.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Dr. Geraldine Nagy:  They had been doing what they had been doing quite well.  They were serving the courts quite well.  So this was not saying what they had done was wrong or unimportant, but they could do more.  And that we could reallocate our resources and we could actually reduce their caseloads by being smarter, how we did things, so that they could make a difference with their folks.  And so, yeah, I’m sure there was some anxiety, some not knowing, but I think that’s part of making any meaningful change, and people for the most part stuck with it.  Our turnover rate has been very low.  And I see a big difference in how people relate to their jobs now.

Len Sipes:  Can I ask you whether or not, is it your belief that most probation agencies in this country follow your model?  My guess would be that most do not.  My guess would be that most still follow a very traditional model of basically doing what the courts ask them to do and to follow the mandate of the courts.  It’s quite a change to go over to a model that basically said, hey, I’m going to make things dramatically better.

Dr. Geraldine Nagy:  I think there’s a growing interest in evidence-based practices and making changes at the local level.  I think there’re some challenges to do that, and so I think what is different from Travis County is we were successful in really, over the course of the years, doing a top to bottom change to bring us into alignment with a broad array of knowledge and research.  And I think that required a great deal of planning and doing it in a very methodical way, and that is the [INDISCERNIBLE] which describes the process that we went through, is to give some assistance for people who know what to do, but they aren’t quite sure how to do it.  Because it is complex change.  That takes time.

Len Sipes:  Well, from the list–

Dr. Geraldine Nagy:  There was a lot of interested–

Len Sipes:  Go ahead, please.

Dr. Geraldine Nagy:  Oh, I’m done.

Len Sipes:  Okay, just on the list that I’m looking at, it includes so many things in terms of motivational interviewing.  I just did a radio show on motivational interviewing, redesigning conditions of supervision, a uniform policy on sanctions, reduced caseloads in the regular units of felony revocations, staffing and review committee, technical violation, court and document of mental health integrated services program.  I mean, I can go on and on and on about this list.  A reentry drug court, a DWI court for repeat offenders, an absconder unit, web-based interactive workforce, redesign of the sex offender management program, establishing a counseling center for intensive outpatient operations.  I mean, enhance job skills training, retooling of job performance measures, that’s a lot, Geraldine.  That is just a huge amount of work.

Dr. Geraldine Nagy:  It is a lot.  And I think our key was to do a lot of planning upfront, planning the [PH] class, [PH] work through the important steps, because I think the mistake that many people make when they start a significant change is they throw something out without a lot of warning.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Dr. Geraldine Nagy:  About why they’re doing it and how it fits the bigger picture.  So we’ve really worked on educating folks.  We’ve worked on working very closely with our judges, our prosecutors, our defense bar, and we really, you know, one person cannot do this.  Even your top administrative team cannot do this.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Dr. Geraldine Nagy:  It needs to be leadership at all levels throughout the organization.  So we had to develop folks to be able to manage workgroups and produce products, and to work fairly independently.  And that took the first year.  So there’s some development that has to take place.  But the second most critical thing is putting a structure in place to actually implement things and manage the work so that it gets done.  And I think that’s what we did here in Travis County, that brought us quite a bit of success much sooner than I expected.  So I think that was key.

Len Sipes:  You had to sell this to, I would imagine, the court, the county commissioners, local law enforcement, your treatment partners.  You had to sell this to lots of different people, correct?

Dr. Geraldine Nagy:  Yes, I think for probably the first year I did 30 or 40 different presentations.

Len Sipes:  Wow.

Dr. Geraldine Nagy:  To community groups, to commissioner of court, to the prosecutor’s office, to the county attorney’s office.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Dr. Geraldine Nagy:  To commissioners because I felt that what we needed to have is a clear understanding of what we were going to do, why we were going to do it, what I expected the outcomes to be, and to build confidence in our department.  Because we are not a county entity.  We are a judicial entity, we are funded primarily through state, so I needed to build those alliances and yes, we needed support.  We worked very closely with many people.

Len Sipes:  Geraldine, what’s the essence of the program?  I mean, I just read a long list of the individual initiatives.  Some of the individual initiatives that you took on, that you implemented, what is the heart and soul of probation agencies in order for them to be successful, in order for them to have the same results that you’ve had there in Travis County?  What’s the secret sauce?  What is the heart and soul of it?  If you could give an elevator speech in terms of what makes for a successful probation agency, it would be what?

Dr. Geraldine Nagy:  I think it’s working with the local system collaboratively as a whole, and secondly, creating a culture that knows how to make decisions, relies heavily on research and data, and will take an honest look at itself and change what it needs to.  And so, our way of doing business is probably the biggest change – you listed some of the things that we did, but probation is a living dynamic sort of thing and there are always new problems, there are always new issues, and those need to be based on research and evaluation rather than opinion or emotion.  And so, we’ve taken a different approach to how we do business.

Len Sipes:  Now, in terms of the offender population, you assess them, correct?

Dr. Geraldine Nagy:  Right.  Yeah, an assessment is a foundation of effective probation.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Dr. Geraldine Nagy:  Apart from what I just said, if you [PH] take one thing, it’s in order to be effective, we must know who we’re dealing with.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Dr. Geraldine Nagy:  On an individual level.  So we need to know how likely they are to reoffend, we need to know what issues are contributing to their criminal behavior and then we need to develop strategies, either through probation supervision or treatment, just focus on those specific areas.  But the foundation is assessment, and the foundation for the courts as well is assessment because they set the conditions of probation.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Dr. Geraldine Nagy:  That’s the start.

Len Sipes:  Once you have an assessment, what do you do with them?  I mean, do you divide them into high risk and low risk, can provide different strategies based upon levels of risk?

Dr. Geraldine Nagy:  Yes.  If you were to look at the research, it would say one thing that I think cannot be disputed.  That is, if you over-supervise, over-treat low risk people, people who have support in their lives, have a lesser criminal history, they’re unlikely to reoffend, then you will do them harm.  They are actually more likely to go out and commit a new crime.  If you take your high risk person, and you only see them monthly, for example.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Dr. Geraldine Nagy:  And send them to a treatment that is not very intensive, you can pretty much expect that they will go out and commit a new crime frequently.  So the idea is that we reallocate our resources and sort these [PH] folks, for lack of a better word, so that we know who to spend our time with.  So it’s really somewhat like an emergency room.  You expect to go in there for people to triage the people.  The same thing should happen in a probation department because it really is in some cases life or death for a potential victim in the future.  I mean, that might be the rare case, but still, we’re making important decisions here.  And so, it’s important to be informed.  It’s important to be fully informed and to respond to that.  The key, I think, for probation departments, many do assessments, it’s how they’re used by the courts, by the probation officer, at the point that there’s a non-compliance, at the point in deciding should this person get off probation, all of those are key decision making points.  So the assessment needs to be utilized at each of those decision points.

Len Sipes:  My guest today is Dr. Geraldine Nagy.  We’re halfway through the program.  Dr. Nagy is Director of Travis County Community Supervision and Corrections, well established within the [INDISCERNIBLE] as having one of the most successful probation programs in the country.  A significant reduction in recidivism, a savings to taxpayers of over $21 million and that’s why we have Geraldine at the microphones again today.  A high risk offender, Geraldine, has to receive the bulk of the services.  The low risk offender, you’re talking about a danger of over-supervising them, that’s something a lot of people have a hard time understanding.  So the judge sentences this person to probation, and he’s been in touch with the criminal justice system a couple of times for say, non-violent crimes.  He doesn’t have a substance abuse history.  Is that the kind of person we’re talking about for low risk?

Dr. Geraldine Nagy:  Yeah.  And there’s two types of low risk folks.  Some, it’s a situational one-time thing; they’re corrected at the point of arrest.  They’re not going to do it again.  For those [INDISCERNIBLE] are low, low that we supervise in very large caseloads.  Those other low risk folks that do have some issues, maybe some treatment requirements, and so, we put them in treatment, but it would be a lesser intensity treatment than what we would provide for a high risk person who has a longer history.

Len Sipes:  I had a judge one time said, “Be careful when you ask for treatment for low risk offenders because if I impose those conditions of treatment, those conditions of treatment are enforceable.  And so, the person doesn’t like the program, doesn’t like the group, doesn’t like the facilitator of the group, and the treatment modality doesn’t fit that particular person’s needs, if you come back and tell me that he’s not in compliance, I could possibly send that person back to jail or prison.  So be careful what you ask for,” is that what we’re talking about here?

Dr. Geraldine Nagy:  Yeah, and low risk people exactly like you have described have been going to Texas prisons for some time.  I mean, our legislative budget board looked at who exactly is going to prison in the state of Texas and there’s a substantial number of low risk people that end up in the state prison.  So, yeah, piling on extensive conditions for low risk people puts them at greater risk of being revoked, but it also puts them, if they comply, in situations where they’re interacting with high risk people, but it also interferes with their ability to do the things that makes them low risk, like maintain employment.  Do what they need to do with their children and families.  So there’s a number of reasons that low risk people need to be supervised less.  But the greatest one is if you’re supervising them, you can’t supervise the high risk.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Dr. Geraldine Nagy:  At the level that you should.  So that really is, when I talk about the allocation of resources, one of the biggest shifts in our department was moving that attention to high risk people, so now, they’re watched more closely, but they also have more requirements.  Then there’s that constant interaction to make sure that they’re benefitting from those requirements.

Len Sipes:  Now, it’s interesting that well over, I guess, 35 years ago, I remember that when I left law enforcement and went to college, and started studying criminology, there was a book I read many decades ago called Radical Non-Intervention that said exactly that.  Be careful of what you do with the low risk offender.  Sometimes the best thing you can do is not interact with that person, interact with that person as little as possible.  Don’t bring them full bore into the criminal justice system.  You’re going to create more problems than you solve.  That concept’s been around for decades.

Dr. Geraldine Nagy:  Yeah, you know, not everybody understands the concept because I think not everyone realizes that we have the tools and methods to identify those low risk folks well.  And that again, [PH] goes back to assessments.  So I often hear people that say, “Oh, no, that’s not going to work.  What if this one person…?”  And the question is, can we do a good job in making those judgments with the tools that we have?

Len Sipes:  Right.

Dr. Geraldine Nagy:  And yes, much better.  Much better than we could than we did before, certainly, when we just kind of looked at a person and said, “Oh, you look low risk and you look high risk”.

Len Sipes:  Right.  Right.  And using the tools.  It’s not perfect.  I mean, it’s not 100%, but I’ve been told by people in the field that it does approach 80 – 85% accuracy.

Dr. Geraldine Nagy:  Well, and low risk is not no risk.  It’s important for us to recognize that.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Dr. Geraldine Nagy:  But still, when you look at the research, over and over and over again, it shows that if you over-supervise or treat these folks, they are more likely to go out and commit crime.  In other words, it doesn’t stop them, it makes them more likely to [PH] commit a crime.

Len Sipes:  So now you have the resources that focus on the higher risk offenders.  Now, they come into contact with your probation officers on a much more frequent basis.  They can keep a stronger eye on them and you can get them involved in the programs that they need because there’s a substance abuse history for the bulk of offenders, there are mental health issues for a large percentage of offenders on criminal caseloads, so now you can get them involved in the programs and now you can keep a much better eye on them, and hopefully, through the programs and through the supervisions, lower their recidivism risk.

Dr. Geraldine Nagy:  Right.  And we did a lot of training with our officers to build the skills to be able to do that well.  You mentioned one of those things, motivational interviewing, which is really a strategy for assisting offenders to break through denial and to make a commitment to action-oriented steps to deal with their drug addiction, for example, and really, you know, making sure that they’re addressing the things that for that particular individual, put that person at risk of committing another crime.  So there’s a different level of interaction between the officers and probationer now.

Len Sipes:  And it’s not necessarily confrontational in terms of reading them the Riot Act, again, motivational interviewing is breaking down, as you said, breaking down those barriers and getting the person to understand what it is they did and the steps that they need, cognitive behavioral therapy or what some people call thinking for change, getting them to think differently about who they are and what they do.  And that’s proven to be successful.

Dr. Geraldine Nagy:  You know, if we want to really make a change in a person, we all know that we have to change their thinking.  And we have to get them to recognize for themselves the importance of the change, and that’s what motivational interviewing and supervision is about.  It’s really helping that person take responsibility and giving them the tools, now that they know they need to take responsibility, how can they solve problems.  How can they manage their impulsivity?  Those are just two examples.

Len Sipes:  But it’s interesting that there’s a lot of people within the criminal justice system, let alone outside of the criminal justice system, who, they sort of scoff at this concept of motivational interviewing and they sort of scoff at this concept of incentives for good behavior on probation, yet these are the things that seem to prompt change in terms of people who desperately need the change.

Dr. Geraldine Nagy:  You know, one of the things that we do now, is we do what is called [PH] fidelity study, in which we look at case files and evaluate individual officers and the department as a whole as to how much they’re adhering to these new strategies [INDISCERNIBLE] level.  Just an example.  We think that probation officers don’t matter.  I have in front of me a preliminary study, but it looks to see, do offenders who have an officer that does a very good job on their supervision agreement or plan, does that have a relationship [PH] risk with [PH] revocation and recidivism?  And what we found was that there are officers that do well, have offenders with a 17% reduction in technical revocation, a 10% reduction in revocations as a whole, and they’re less likely to have arrest at 12% level.  That’s just one little element.  That’s just one little element.  So I guess what I’m trying to say here and want to be clear about it, that quality of what that officer does with the offender starts with this plan, and people who have a good follow-up plan are significantly less likely to be revoked, a 10 and a 17% reduction is great for this one small, little area.

Len Sipes:  Sure.

Dr. Geraldine Nagy:  And a [PH] 12% reduction in recidivism.  So officers matter.  They make a difference in what they do in that office with the probationer.  And that’s what this is all about.  Really changing that interaction so that people are successful.  And that’s probably the biggest change we’ve made.

Len Sipes:  Well, I think it is.  I mean, and that’s one of the reasons why I wanted to bring it up, because you see motivational interviewing and people just don’t understand how important it is for that officer to guide that individual in terms of the proper way of conducting their lives.  And that the officers’ embracing of motivational interviewing, maybe there needs to be a different way of phrasing it or describing it, but that seems to be the heart and soul in terms of getting people to do what it is they should’ve been doing from the beginning.

Dr. Geraldine Nagy:  You know, when I go to a doctor and he just doesn’t even look up to me and reads from a chart, and we don’t have an interaction, I think I’m less likely to comply with what he’s told me to [PH] do.  But if, has a very engaging conversation, listens to me, talks about my problems, and problem-solves with me, I am likely to do that.  And I think that’s true of [PH] probation.  I think that’s true with the probation officer, and so that’s really what we’ve switched from, is going through routine process and a checklist, to actually having a problem-solving session with somebody who’s trained to help you solve your problems.  Whether it be drug abuse or impulsivity or hanging around with the wrong friends, or not having a job, any of those.  And so, I just think it’s — [PH] we believe in proving that that it makes a difference and it’s a viable alternative.  That when people go to prison, which is very costly, and has all sorts of other ramifications for a society, that it’s a viable alternative to doing that, where they don’t get that sort of assistance.

Len Sipes:  We have three minutes left in the program.  You know, Project Hope in Hawaii, which was able to reduce recidivism and returns to prison significantly, you know, it was interesting that they responded very quickly to violations in terms of incarcerations.  But one of the things that I was really sort of surprised about is that their focus on programs was really a change in philosophy in terms of how you deal with the offender, in terms of both motivational interviewing and enforcing the conditions of supervision rather stringently.  And I remember asking about the impact of programs, and programs were an important part of it, but not necessarily the most important part of it.  Do you feel that that’s true there for Travis County?

Dr. Geraldine Nagy:  Yeah, I agree.  One of the things I want to make sure I’m not misunderstood about is that while officers are working with people to change, they’re also an officer of the court, and so those officers that are able to maintain that authority and hold people accountable, are also more effective in getting people to take responsibility for their actions and to change.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Dr. Geraldine Nagy:  And I think that’s what Project Hope does, is very quickly it shows that this is serious business.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Dr. Geraldine Nagy:  And that’s what we expect our officers to do as well.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Dr. Geraldine Nagy:  Now, the response needs to be appropriate.  We don’t want to throw somebody in prison, but jail I think can be a very useful tool.

Len Sipes:  Yeah, well, certainly and in terms of Travis County and Project Hope in Hawaii, that seems to have been borne out by the data.  Do you feel that you have — well, first of all, no parole and probation agency in the country feels that they have all the resources necessary in terms of mental health, in terms of drug treatment, in terms of job assistance.  But do you feel that you have enough for your higher risk offenders?

Dr. Geraldine Nagy:  No.  And there’s probably no director that’s gonna say, as you said, say the answer to that is [PH] yes.  But we have a certain issue here in Texas.  People are funded by the number of people that are on probation.  And what’s happened in Travis County as we get more successful as a criminal justice system and diverting low risk people, even from prosecution, and sentencing people to probation, rather than to prison, our population is changing, so our population is [PH] growing some, meaning we get less funding for operation because we don’t have all these low risk folks on probation anymore.  So our caseloads are almost all-high and medium risk, and yet we’re not getting [PH] funding for that.  And so, there’s some challenges to funding.

Len Sipes:  That’s got to be a huge challenge.  All right.  Now, you’ve been written up so often and accolades have come your way, so what is your principal advice to other directors of parole and probation throughout the United States or for that matter, throughout the world?

Dr. Geraldine Nagy:  Well, I think that people often don’t initiate major change because they know that it’s going to be difficult.  And they anticipate all the challenges from the beginning.  And what I would say to other directors is success, when you’re dealing with any major change, in the middle, it can look like failure.  You can look at people who have created change in our culture and then in the middle, there were substantial challenges.  And the way that I see that is that the challenges are just part of the puzzle, so don’t stop because you don’t have solutions to those from the get go.  People will help you solve those problems.

Len Sipes:  I want to thank you for that.  Our guest today, ladies and gentlemen, has been Dr. Geraldine Nagy, Director, Travis County Community Supervision and Corrections.  Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety.  We want to thank you for all of the contact.  We’re up to 133,000 requests on a monthly basis for the radio/television show’s blog and transcripts at media, M-E-D-I-A-C-S-O-S-A.gov.  Please have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]

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Intelligence and Information Sharing in the Criminal Justice System-UMUC-DC Public Safety

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

Radio Program available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2011/09/intelligence-and-information-sharing-in-the-criminal-justice-system-umuc-dc-public-safety/

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

[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes:  From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. We have a really interesting program for you today, ladies and gentlemen—intelligence, intelligence sharing, what’s happened within the criminal justice system, the larger arena of national and local and state intelligence sharing, the lessons we’ve learned since 911, the lessons we’ve learned in terms of an exchange of information between law enforcement, corrections, parole and probation, and the national intelligence apparatus. We have at our microphones, back again, Doctor William Sondervan. Doctor Sondervan, or Bill Sondervan, is the executive director for Public Safety Outreach, University of Maryland University College. They have an astounding 94,000 students there at the University of Maryland University College. And also joining him at our microphones today is his colleague Peter Oleson. Peter is an associate professor of intelligence studies. Let me give you a little bit of background about Peter. Senior intelligence policy advisor to the Secretary of Defense, Assistant Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, he was a CEO for his own consulting firm for quite some time. So we have a true expert to talk to us about this whole issue of intelligence and intelligence sharing within the criminal justice system, in the larger society. And with that introduction, Bill and Peter, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Dr. William Sondervan:  Thanks, Len.

Peter Oleson:  Happy to be here.

Len Sipes:  Alright Bill, let me give you the first go round. Just set up University of Maryland University College. You have students throughout the world. 94,000, that’s quite a few people.

Dr. William Sondervan:  Yes, actually we do. UMUC is one of the 11 universities in the University of Maryland system, and we have classes all through Maryland. We do most of the on-line learning for the university system, and we also have an agent in a European division. We have people on the ground teaching in about 26 different countries, to include Iraq and Afghanistan.

Len Sipes:  That’s amazing. Peter, you’re an associate professor there at UMUC, so you have this mix of people that you and your other professors teach in terms of intelligence studies. Give me this larger sense. We were discussing before the show that the listeners to this program may be a bit confused in terms of intelligence studies. What we have is the CIA, Central Intelligence Agency. We have the FBI, we have lots of organizations throughout the country at the federal level who gather intelligence information. But we’re principally, today, talking about criminal justice system, how agencies share information with each other. My agency, the Court Services and Offenders Supervision Agency, we share information all the time regarding high risk offenders, regarding those offenders who pose an obvious risk to public safety. We share that information with the metropolitan police department, we share that information with the FBI, we share that information with the Secret Service, we share that information with the U.S. Park Police and other law enforcement agencies. So the bottom line in all of this, I’m presuming, is the public safety; despaired agencies getting together and sharing information to protect public safety. That, to me, is the bottom line. Am I correct?

Peter Oleson:  Oh, I think very much so. I mean, the whole investment in intelligence in the United States really was an outgrowth of the surprise at Pearl Harbor, and you know, the conviction that we should never let that happen again. And yet, of course, in 911, it did. There are really many communities when you think about intelligence. You mentioned CIA and the FBI, both of which are probably the best known for the simple reason that that’s what you see on TV and in the popular novels. But I like to think about their being indeed four different communities that deal with intelligence, and certainly the national intelligence community is one of them that comprises those that you mentioned, as well as the intelligence activities within the Department of Defense and the military services, and several other department levels of the federal government. The second community I’d really think about is the Homeland Security Community, which of course is headed by the Department of Homeland Security, and which uses intelligence, of course, for very specific reasons of keeping not only the United States safe, but our citizens overseas and our allies. The third is really the law enforcement community, which has traditionally used intelligence in limited senses to drive intelligence-led policing, but which of course has expanded greatly since 911, when we have learned that we really need to deal international terrorists, and also with international criminal organizations that will deal in drug trafficking and money laundering and many other illicit activities. But what a lot of people, I think, don’t recognize is that intelligence also is used very extensively in the private sector in large corporations, in international corporations to understand their environment, to understand their market, to understand their competitors; and in a defensive sense, to protect their own intellectual property and products from espionage by others. The Chinese seem to be particularly adept at this at present.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Peter Oleson:  And also against counterfeiters.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Peter Oleson:  Yeah, I’ve worked with a large international pharmaceutical firm that uses intelligence to identify who is counterfeiting their products so that they can go after them with law enforcement; so that when you open a bottle of whatever is their medicine, you can be guaranteed that it’s not gonna poison you.

Len Sipes:  And we go on for the next half hour in terms of the IT community and Apple computer and all the rest –

Peter Oleson:  Absolutely.

Len Sipes:  – that are very jealously guarding their secrets and making sure that their products that are released without their competitors knowing about them.  Bill, let me go back to you for a second. One of the things that you mentioned in prior conversations with this sense of sharing intelligence within the correctional community, you were the Commissioner of Corrections for the – the Division of Correction – for the Maryland Division of Correction, part of the Maryland Department of Public Safety. Both of us worked there in terms of full disclosure, and Bill, you, in terms of running the prison system, you discovered a lack of intelligence sharing and sought to rectify that with both federal and local law enforcement agencies for a wide variety of reasons.—Number one, to keep your prisons as safe as humanly possible; number two, to share that information with law enforcement and community corrections, to be sure that those people coming out of prison, who again posed a clear and present risk to public safety, that that information was shared and that the law enforcement and parole and probation community knew how to keep an eye on that person.

Dr. William Sondervan:  Exactly right, Len. You know, I retired from the military police in the Army, and the last job I was on the joint staff when General Powell was the chairman. And you know, we share a lot of information, a lot of intelligence all the time. And then there was a point that initially, as Assistant Commissioner for Corrections, in charge of security operations, and I came to Maryland, and it just really dawned me, it just hit me right between the eyes, that we had so much going on in these prisons. We had 27 prisons with 24,000 convicted felons, and they were doing all sorts of things, but we all worked in stovepipes.  The prisons didn’t talk to each other. The prisons didn’t talk to parole and probation. We didn’t talk to the jails, we didn’t talk to the local police, we didn’t talk to the federal authorities, and it was all in stovepipe. All the information that we gathered was very informal and it was through informants and snitches and things that the warden would pick up. And there were several big incidents that happened that just really embarrassed me as being responsible for security, and I go into a lot of them. But one of them specifically, I had one of the federal agencies came to see me, and they closed the door, and they said, “Did you realize that one of your contract chaplains happened to be an imam who was also a co-conspirator in blowing up the World Trade Center the first time around, is working in your prison as a chaplain, and he’s recruiting disaffected inmates to be terrorists.” I just about fell out of my chair! We confirmed that, and that was going on along with several other things; and we got to the point where we decided we had to do something about it. So we partnered up with the high intensity drug trafficking area, the Washington-Baltimore area, and they helped us with funding. The whole idea was to collect the intelligence, to analyze it, and disseminate it the best we could. So they gave us money, we hired two former NSA intelligence analysts to help us get going. I started a security threat group office, I appointed a captain, hired a civilian. We hired two retired civilians from the National Security Agency to help us, and we appointed a lieutenant in every prison. We started this whole process of finding out what was going on in prisons, finding ways to deal with it, taking a look at it and disseminating to others. So we were able to do a lot of really important things. Just a couple of examples, but one of the things we did was we were able to take back the inmate phone system, which goes out on a bid to the Department of Budget and Management.  We were able then to record inmate phone calls, and once you record inmate phone calls, the software exists to be able to go in and use it for intelligence purposes, to capture whatever you wanted to do. So we started doing those things, and from there, it all kind of grew, and we all started working together. We went out and we talked to police departments, we talked to the other prisons, we talked to the jail administrators, and we started partnering with everybody. We started getting onto intelligence committees. We started finding ways to work with each other, and it was really a start, and it’s really grown since then. One of the things we also did is we were able to validate gangs in the Maryland prison system. Just as an example, what we would do is every month we would put together a list of validated gang members who were going home to particular communities, and we would share that with parole and probation, and with the local police.

Len Sipes:  You know, the bottom line in all of this is because an individual hearing this program, who is not part of the criminal justice community, may say to themselves, “Oh, wait a minute, this sounds very oppressive. This sounds almost scary.” We are talking about, and I think we need to constantly bring the program back to this focus, we are talking solely about individuals who are engaging in acts while in prison – still engaging in acts, organized crime, still ordering homicides, still ordering murders, still ordering people to be victims of violent crime while in prison. And at the same time, through that intelligence apparatus, we knew that once they were released, we could no longer legally hold them when they went back into the community. We know through intelligence that they were gonna go straight back to being involved in very violent crimes, to the point where we had people followed through the law  enforcement community. So I think the focus on the whole program has to be in terms of the criminal justice or the corrections community, to remind everybody, again, we’re talking about some bad actors. We’re not talking about everybody within the prison system. We’re talking about people who pose a clear and present danger to our either national security or to our local security, correct?

Dr. William Sondervan:  Absolutely, Len. And –

Peter Oleson:  And I would add a point, Len, if I could [OVERLAY]

Len Sipes:  Yeah, Peter, please.

Peter Oleson:  – Bill, is that, you know, for those who might think along the lines of civil libertarians, that you know, once a person has been convicted and put in prison, he does not have the same rights as you and I would, as law abiding citizens in our homes. Being monitored by the appropriate authorities is both legal and most appropriate, as I think you’ve pointed out.

Len Sipes:  And something we’re obligated to do.

Peter Oleson:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  To, once again, protect public safety.

Peter Oleson:  Absolutely.

Dr. William Sondervan:  Some of the issues that also came out of that, is, you know, once I retired after serving 10 years in corrections and being a Commissioner of Correction, I came to University of Maryland University College, and was asked to put together a state of the art criminal justice program for practitioners. So the way we did that is we established an advisory board with very, very senior people in the community. And we took a hard look at our curriculum, and one of the things that everybody said unanimously is that we don’t have an intelligence component for criminal justice. We really need to have that. We need to get out of stovepipes. We need to trust each other, we need to work with each other, and we have to start collecting, analyzing and sharing intelligence if we’re gonna win and the bad guys are gonna lose. So that’s kind of – that’s what we did. And as a result of that, we put together a certificate program in our undergraduate criminal justice program that focuses on the art and science of doing intelligence. And by going through that process, that’s where I met Peter Oleson. My background is police and corrections, and I’m not really an intelligence person, except for being a consumer of intelligence while I was in the military. I had the good fortune of meeting Peter Oleson through mutual friends, and Peter then came on board, and he became the advisor of UMUC in terms of intelligence, and he’s been a great help to us in not only perfecting that undergraduate certificate in intelligence, but also a master’s program in intelligence management.

Len Sipes:  Well, I’m sitting here in what is affectionately known by those of us who work here, ground zero. I’m sitting one block away from Pennsylvania Avenue, I can see the Washington monument, I can see the Supreme Court, can’t see the Whitehouse. The Congress is hidden by a building in front of me, but this is – you know, we within the Washington community, are extraordinarily grateful of everything the intelligence community does, because we know that every day, every single day when we come into downtown Washington DC—and I would imagine New Yorkers feel that way, I would imagine people through the country feel this way—is that we are extraordinarily grateful to the intelligence community in terms of protecting us. And that larger intelligence community extends to parole and probation agents, extends to police officers, extends to middle management. It extends to the national agencies, and there are many. I mean, if it wasn’t for the intelligence community, our lives would be at risk.

Peter Oleson:  Oh, absolutely, and I think what he public doesn’t know, of course, is the number of times when intelligence has in fact frustrated a plot that could have resulted in significant casualties or damage to Americans. You know, the challenge of course is that you have to be on top of it all the top, and you know, a terrorist only has to be successful once. You know, that is a very high standard. It’s one of the issues we always have in intelligence, you know, when you’re accused of an intelligence failure, that sometimes people apply an impossible standard to what’s success and what’s failure.

Len Sipes:  We’re halfway through the – oh, I’m sorry, Peter, let me just cut you off for a second.

Peter Oleson:  Sure.

Len Sipes:  We’re halfway through the program, and let me re-introduce the both of you, and hold that thought for a second. Doctor William Sondervan, Executive Direction of Public Safety Outreach, University of Maryland University College. Peter Oleson, associate professor of intelligence studies, a man with an extraordinary, extraordinary background, probably the most senior intelligence person I’ll get to talk to in my career. I want to thank you both for being on the program. Both can be reached at www.umuc.edu; www.umuc.edu.  I’m sorry, Peter, I interrupted you. Go ahead with your thought please.

Peter Oleson:  Well, I was talking about how do you judge success.  I think one of the important things for anybody thinking about intelligence, is to realize that intelligence is prospective. It’s looking at what might happen in the future, and trying to give decision makers the information they need to take the appropriate action. You know, it’s not an investigative ex post facto activity.  And so you’re never always fully knowledgeable of what might happen. As a matter of fact, in intelligence analysis, I always like to use the analogy with students that it’s like putting together a thousand piece jigsaw puzzle –

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Peter Oleson:  – only somebody tore the picture off the cover of the box, so you don’t really   know what the picture’s supposed to look like. And when you open up the box, you find that anywhere from 30 to 60 percent of the pieces are missing; and yet your job is to describe in detail what is that picture.  That’s the challenge that intelligence faces.

Len Sipes:  And Bill, that same intelligence package comes down all the way to the local level in terms of people in prison who we know. I mean, we had, when I was working for the Maryland Department of Public Safety while you were there, there was all sorts of instants, all sorts of times where we had individuals followed as soon as the person was released from the gate because we knew, we had hard, strong intelligence that person was headed straight towards a series of violent crimes in terms of an associate or in compliance or – he had accomplices; that as a group, they were gonna go out and commit violent crime. So it’s just not keeping a dirty bomb from going off on Pennsylvania Avenue, it’s keeping individuals who are avowed violent criminals from going out and hurting other human beings.

Dr. William Sondervan:  Well, it’s even deeper than that, Len. It’s not only when they leave, when they go on the outside, it’s also like you alluded to earlier, what they’re doing while they’re still in prison. They can commit crimes from behind bars, and I think a lot of people in the police field think that when an inmate gets locked and he goes behind the walls of the prison, he automatically puts on a halo and he becomes a good doobie. But that’s not the case at all. What we uncovered is that people were running drug empires, they were putting hits on people, they were intimidating people, they were defrauding people, and it goes on and on. So a big piece of that as a corrections professional–and that’s really my expertise–is to prevent that from happening while they’re in there; and in being able to share the intelligence we have with the parole and probation people, with the police people in the community, so that they can prevent the violent acts when they go out.

Len Sipes:  And I just want to be, again, re-emphasizing certain points, that what we’re talking about is not all prisoners. We’re not talking about 50 percent of prisoners. We’re talking about a sub-set that we know are engaged in acts that are obviously dangerous to public safety.

Dr. William Sondervan:  That’s true. A lot of the inmates don’t do that, but it’s a small percentage of them. But that small percentage can cause a lot of damage.

Len Sipes:  Well, one of the interesting things about the custodial setting, the prison setting is that the best sources of information we have are fellow inmates, because they don’t want the problems. They don’t want any trouble. They don’t want violence erupting, nor do they want violence erupting in their own home communities. The best source of information we have are the inmates themselves, because they see the intelligence sharing process as something that keeps them safe, and something that keeps their community safe.

Dr. William Sondervan:  You’re absolutely right. The majority of inmates just want to do their time. They want to be safe themselves. They want their families to be safe, and they just want to do their time, be productive. A lot of them want to work, they want to go to school. So quite frankly, a lot of the inmates want to be informants, and a lot of inmates tell prison officials what’s going on, and it’s really a good source of intelligence to put together that piece of the puzzle that Peter was talking about. You know, you have to gather intelligence from a variety of different sources, and try to make it all fit, and try to get a good picture of what’s really happening.

Len Sipes:  Peter, now, you know, there are so many intelligence related agencies that we have in this country –

Peter Oleson:  Mm-hm.

Len Sipes:  – ranging anywhere from probably a dozen federal agencies—I think I read at one –

Peter Oleson:  17 actually.

Len Sipes:  17 federal agencies, all the way to the New York City police department that’s sending their own people overseas to gather intelligence. And they’ve been able to stop crimes, acts of terrorism from happening in New York because of that. So it’s a huge –

Peter Oleson: Indeed.

Len Sipes:  – apparatus, and the criticism before 911 is that we weren’t sharing information. Are we now sharing information?

Peter Oleson:  Well, I mean before 911, there were actually legal restrictions in sharing information–that you weren’t allowed to do it. And part of that grew out of the investigations of the intelligence community in the 1970s with the Church and Pike Committees, the subsequent executive orders and laws. And nobody in the intelligence business wanted to be criticized for doing things wrong, so, you know, they were overly conservative, in my view. Much of that has changed. The prohibitions and sharing certain kinds of information, such as grand jury information with intelligence people, has been swept away with subsequent laws. The imperative to share is being emphasized very much by senior managers. The current Director of National Intelligence, Jim Clapper, his major theme for managing the federal intelligence community is related to integration, which really means sharing and getting the information that somebody needs to them, either for analytical purposes or for making some kind of executive decision. And I think he has pushed that ahead rather well and rather dramatically. Jim’s a strong manager. I’ve known him many, many years. The importance about sharing really has two things, and in my view, if you spent a lot of time and effort collecting intelligence and you don’t use it, you frankly wasted that time and energy.

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Peter Oleson:  And worse yet, you may be sitting on something that somebody else really needs. The ex post facto investigations that we have had, of 911, even back of Pearl Harbor, we had the information oftentimes that we needed, but we just didn’t put it together properly; and it didn’t get into the right hands.  That was truly the case at Pearl Harbor because neither General Short nor Admiral Kimmel, who were the commanders out there at the time, were privy to the fact that we were reading Japanese diplomatic communications, and that clearly indicated that hostilities were…

Len Sipes:  About to break out. Yes, yes, yes.

Peter Oleson:  And so they were caught unprepared, and pilloried for it, and I think somewhat unjustifiably.

Len Sipes:  Yeah, they turned out to be scapegoats, yes.

Peter Oleson:  But, you know, this is not a unique problem. It’s happened many times. In the intelligence business, you also – you always have a conundrum between the secrecy of your source and your desire to protect that source –

Len Sipes:  Mm-hm.

Peter Oleson:  – whether that be an individual or a technical means that can easily be thwarted, and sharing the information. And frankly, the risk of revelation or leak goes up with the amount of sharing you do. You know, that’s the inevitable problem you have, and how you balance those takes decisions every day by a lot of people.

Len Sipes:  Well, the same thing, we have the same problem here, that a community supervision officer—what is commonly known as a parole and probation agent in the rest of the country—will gain information and it’ll be that a person is about to engage in a series of violent crimes, part of a gang retribution, share that information with MPD, at the same time having to protect their source. So, all of us at all levels of the criminal justice system suffer through that sort of ethical decision in terms of protecting the source while sharing the information.

Peter Oleson:  Absolutely. There’s an interesting observation I would make also, and that is sort of how intelligence and law enforcement activities are merging since 911. I mean, it used to be in the Cold War that intelligence focused on foreign armies and foreign countries, but since the terrorist attacks, and with the growth of international criminal organizations, intelligence is increasingly focused on what the intelligence community calls sub-national groups. You know, you can say it’s individuals or small groups of individuals, which has always been the focus of law enforcement. And what you’re seeing in the case of New York City, as you pointed out, is an organization that is a police organization using intelligence, I think, quite effectively. And I might comment that Ray Kelly’s positioning of New York City police officers overseas, brings the expertise of a cop to the scene of foreign terrorist incidents, which really gives us insight and better analysis than you’re gonna get say from a CIA officer who’s stationed in the embassy, who is not a trained investigator. I mean, his purpose is entirely different. And so I think that that has benefitted not only New York, but because New York does share information, it’s benefitted all of us.

Len Sipes:  We have three minutes left in the program. Either one of you can address this question. To me, the intelligence sharing apparatus is absolutely necessary to protect me, to protect our communities, to protect our children, to protect our welfare, to protect our jobs. It’s absolutely critical, absolutely necessary. The information has to be shared, but yet many within the larger American community are a little frightened and a bit overwhelmed by the intelligence gathering and sharing process. They see it as a bit Orwellian. They see it as overbearing, that there’s a fine line to be walked in terms of protecting the public and being overly zealous in terms of the collection of information. There are endless examples of criminal justice organizations and intelligence communities who did go overboard, who did collect the wrong intelligence from the wrong people at the wrong time. So how do you address that?

Peter Oleson:  Well, Len, that’s why oversight by independent groups is absolutely essential, whether it be from the intelligence committees in Congress or whether it be things like the Intelligence Oversight Board in the Whitehouse, or shall I say, an independent group at a local community level that has all the appropriate access and who can always be a check and balance. I mean, that’s the basic nature of our government is checks and balances, and when you deal with civil liberties, checks and balances are critically important.

Len Sipes:  But I do want to emphasize in the final minutes, is that the individual intelligence officers, the individual police officers, the individual parole and probation agents also understand their constitutional duties in terms of the privacy of individuals and when it’s necessary to gather information to protect public safety. They understand that as well, correct?

Peter Oleson:  They are basically well trained but, you know, you can face ethical questions every day. This is not a simple world. It’s a very complex one, and the fact that we’ve done so well at the individual level, I think, is a remarkable testament to the American law enforcement community and the intelligence officers who support them.

Len Sipes:  Okay, Bill, we got about 30 seconds left. Go ahead and wrap up.

Dr. William Sondervan:  Len, I just wanted to add that UMUC, we’ve taken on the mission to prepare people to go into a multitude of agencies, all the criminal justice agencies, and be intelligence specialists and analysts. And part of the program, we’ve incorporated the legal and ethical issues involved in intelligence, besides the theory into practice. So our whole goal is to produce graduates that can go out in the field and be advisors to leaders of agencies and help them do these things, and do them properly.

Len Sipes:  Everybody pretty much understand the limitations and understand the roles. I think that’s what you’re trying to say. I mean –

Dr. William Sondervan:  Exactly.

Len Sipes:  And that’s what everybody who’s listening to this radio show needs to understand, that it’s just not Congressional oversight. The individual officers pretty much know where they can go and where they can’t, but they gotta go where they gotta go to protect public safety.

Dr. William Sondervan:  Exactly.

Peter Oleson:  Absolutely.

Len Sipes:  All right, ladies and gentlemen, I really want to thank you for listening today. Our guests have been Doctor William Sondervan, the Executive Director for Public Safety Outreach, University of Maryland University College, www.umuc.edu.  94,000 students, that’s a huge university. Joining him today is Peter Oleson, associate professor for intelligence studies; again, a person with an extraordinary background, and to Peter, you can look at the web site. Once again, it’s the same for the University of Maryland University College, www.umuc.edu. Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. We thank you for your interest and calls and letters, and please have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]

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Sexual Exploitation of Children-DC Public Safety-US Department of Justice

Sexual Exploitation of Children – “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 radio shows, blog and transcripts.

Television Program available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/video/2011/07/sexual-exploitation-of-children-dc-public-safety/

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

[Video Begins]

Len Sipes:  Hi, everybody.  Welcome to D.C. Public Safety.  I’m your host, Leonard Sipes.  Today’s show is about sexual exploitation of children, and you know what?  It’s really about a rescue mission.  The FBI estimates that on any given day there’s a million pedophiles online looking for your children.  The attorney general, Eric Holder, what he did was to frame a national effort to look at what we can do, what we in the criminal justice system can do, and to look at what you as parents can do.  To discuss this on the first half of the program, we have Francey Hakes.  She is the national coordinator for child exploitation, prevention, and interdiction from the U.S. Department of Justice, and we have Dr. Michael Bourke, chief psychologist for the United States Marshal’s office, and to Francey, and to Michael, welcome to D.C. Public Safety.

Francey Hakes:  Thank you for having us.

Len Sipes:  All right, did I frame all this issue?  I mean, we have a lot of people, a lot of concern, a lot of individuals involved in exploiting our children.  So can you frame it for me a little bit, Francey?  And can you give me a sense as to the national effort as announced by the attorney general, Eric Holder?

Francey Hakes:  Of course.  Some people have described the sexual exploitation of our children as an epidemic.  I would certainly describe the explosion of child pornography that way.  So last August, the attorney general, Eric Holder, announced our national strategy for child exploitation, prevention, and interdiction.  It’s the first ever national strategy by any government in the world, and it’s certainly our first.  It’s supposed to have three prongs: prevention, deterrence, and interdiction.  What we decided to do is bring together all of the federal, state, and local law enforcement partners, all our prevention partners, all our sex offender management partners, our court partners, and most importantly, our parents and community groups together to bring this effort under one umbrella so that we can fight child sexual exploitation on all fronts.

Len Sipes:  The numbers that I’m talking about, they’re going up dramatically.  The numbers are astounding.  We’re talking about a huge number of individuals trying to violate our kids on a day to day basis, and when I say violate, we’re talking about psychological and physical bondage, are we not?

Francey Hakes:  Unfortunately, the children that are being sexually abused, especially the ones whose images are being traded like baseball cards across the internet, across the world, are being violated in increasingly violent ways, and we’re seeing increasingly younger and younger children being violated that way, and that is the reason that the attorney general and all of our partners decided to get together and start this effort, so that we could do something about it, and our ultimate goal is to eradicate child exploitation ultimately.

Len Sipes:  Michael, you’re the chief psychologist for the United States Marshal’s office.  You are an expert.  You understand these individuals; child sexual predators probably better than anybody else.  Who are they?

Michael Bourke:  Well, for eight years, prior to coming to the Marshal Service, I treated these men in federal prison, and the truth is there isn’t really one mind of a predator, you know, so to speak.  These men come in from all walks of life, they’re from all socioeconomic groups, they’re both genders, frankly, and these men tend not to burn out like other types of offenders do.  So really, when we talk about what is the sex offender, they, they’re folks that are our neighbors; they’re folks that are our coaches and civic leaders in our communities in some cases.  So they, most individuals that offend against children are actually known to those children and some have a very positive relationship in other ways with those children.

Len Sipes:  Well, help me frame it Michael, because on one hand, we have, according to the FBI, a million pedophiles online, and they’re trying to entice these kids into meetings, and they’re trying to entice them to exchange images.  These images are going to haunt them for the rest of their lives.  On the other hand, most sexual exploitations involved people who were known to the victim.  They’re the neighbor.  They’re the uncle.  They’re the coach.  I mean, what do you say to parents?  I mean, the numbers seem to be overwhelming.  What are the chief lessons to be learned here, and what prevention lessons can we put on the table?

Michael Bourke:  Yeah, I think, and Francey may have something to add to this, but from my experience, parents need to be aware of what their children are doing online.  They need to be aware of who their friends are online, with whom they’re chatting at night, they should be paying as close attention to those friends as they do if their child’s going to go spend the night at someone’s home, and frankly, a lot of parents are a little intimidated by some of this advanced technology on the internet, children have a lot of access and avenues by which to access the internet, including mobile devices, and parents need to just get a little, get some additional education, and they need to pay attention to what these kids are doing online.  It’s a very dangerous place.

Len Sipes:  They’ve got to be aggressive.  We run, by the way, in this program, we run a commercial about parents intervening with their kids and their online experiences, but the parents need to be aggressive.  Is that the bottom line?  I mean that’s the principal prevention method, if parents are aggressive in terms of what their kids are doing, and keeping an open line of communication, so if that child is approached, he can go to the parent and tell the parent about this experience.  Am I right or wrong?

Michael Bourke:  Yes, I think that’s accurate.  And also that relationship is very important between the parent and child as well.  For the parent to have a relationship with the child where the child feels comfortable coming to the parent and saying, someone attempted to solicit, or asked me to send them a dirty picture.

Len Sipes: Right.

Michael Bourke: or something like that, so that the parent can take action because so much can occur despite parents best efforts…

Len Sipes:   Right.

Michael Bourke: these children can access the internet in a number of locations in a number of ways.

Len Sipes: Right.

Michael Bourke:  so building that relationship and that type of rapport with the child is very important.

Len Sipes:  Francey, you mentioned at the beginning of the program that The Department of Justice, for the first time, is bringing a coordination of effort in terms of parents, in terms of community organizations, in terms of law enforcement, in terms of everybody within the criminal justice system.  What is the bottom line behind that coordination, is it to be a more effective tool for prevention, a more effective tool for apprehension and prosecution?  What is it?

Francey Hakes:  Well, like I said, in the beginning, it’s really three prongs.  There are three main focuses of the national strategy: prevention, deterrence, and interdiction.  Interdiction is traditional law enforcement investigation and prosecution.  I’m a federal prosecutor, and I’ve been prosecuting these cases for 15 years.  That’s obviously very important and will continue to be very important.  But we’re never going to investigate and prosecute our way out of the problem.  The numbers are simply too large.  So deterrence is very important, and that’s where the United States Marshal Service and others, our state and local partners, through their sex offender management and monitoring, they are so key, and one of our best tools is going to be prevention.  We’d rather not have the victims to have to rescue in the first place.  We’d rather the children be empowered to protect themselves.  We’d rather the parents have the tools that they need to know how to protect their children, and so that’s why organizations like the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, Netsmarts, these organizations give out free materials, they have websites, they give out free materials for parents, teachers, students, and groups to obtain the information that they need to protect themselves online.  It’s not just the parents, it’s not just the students, it’s not just the teachers.  It’s all of those groups, plus our community groups, that need to have the materials necessary to protect themselves, not just online, but in their day to day activities, I think sometimes in this internet world, we’ve become, and Dr. Burke is correct, that children have access to the internet through so many devices now that it’s, sometimes, I think, a little terrifying.  But we also have to remember that the majority of children who are being sexually abused are being abused by those that they know, and so arming them with the knowledge, the empowerment, the understanding of what is right and what’s wrong and what’s okay to tell, who to go to, a trusted adult, those things are very important.

Len Sipes:  Having those age appropriate conversations with the kids, informing them, but not scaring them.

Francey Hakes:  Exactly right.

Len Sipes:  Now, so all these statistics that I mentioned at the beginning of the program, one million pedophiles, and a 914% increase in the number of child prostitution cases,  do we have the capacity to deal with this?  Is the criminal justice system at the federal, state, and local level overwhelmed by this process?  Do we have the wherewithal to deal with this effectively, or are we fighting an uphill battle?

Francey Hakes:  Well I think, sometimes in prosecution, we always used to call it shoveling smoke because it seems like the more you shovel, the more that there is. And I think with respect to child sexual abuse it’s been around for a long time, we hope that we can eradicate it, and where I think, we’ve started well, we’re on a good path.  Are we somewhat overwhelmed?  I think it’s overwhelming.  I don’t think we’re overwhelmed.  There are huge amounts of effort going on at the federal, state, and local level, but the key here is what the national strategy was designed to produce, and that is partnerships, collaboration, and cooperation at all levels of government, including globally.  This has become, of course, an international problem with the advent of the internet.

Len Sipes:  A global issue, right.

Francey Hakes:  It is an absolutely global issue.  And so we’re working with industry on ways to solve the problem.  You probably heard the announcement last week from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and Facebook and Microsoft.  Microsoft has invented a new technology called Photo DNA.  They donated it to the National Center.  The National Center, in turn, gave it to Facebook, and Facebook is going to employ this technology throughout their systems which will search for and find known images of child pornography so that they can be eradicated from their systems.

Len Sipes:  Wonderful.  Michael –

Francey Hakes:  So these are things that we have to do to work together and really think creatively between law enforcement, community, and industry.

Len Sipes:  Michael, can we persuade people who are child sex offenders, who are pedophiles, not to get involved in this, or is that drive, that’s going to be with them for the rest of their lives–can the system have an impact on their behavior?  Can we persuade them not to do this–that we’re taking sufficient actions that’s likely for them to get caught, can we persuade them not to do this?

Michael Bourke:  Yeah, it’s a great question, Leonard.  I think the answer is, it’s fairly multifaceted, but the short answer is that there is no cure for pedophilia.  There’s no cure for these fantasies and these drives, per se.  There is, however, for any of these individuals, a possibility of managing that behavior.  This is not something inevitable, this is a choice, these men are responsible for those choices, and women, and we can assist them in doing that with creative external management.  By that, I mean things like the registrations and outpatient treatment programs and things like that.  With proper external management and proper internal management, these men are capable of living a life in which they never harm a child.

Len Sipes:  Right, so treatment does work.  That’s one of the things I did want to get across.  Treatment does work, and we within the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, our sex offender agency, we’re going to talk about that with two people involved in that unit on the second half, but treatment does work,  we can really persuade individuals who are on the edge.  The commercial that will run between the first and second half, we’ll talk about ìwhen did you become a child sex predator?î  Obviously, we’re under the opinion that we can persuade people who are on the edge not to do this.  This is wrong; you’re going to get locked up.  We can meaningfully intervene.

Michael Bourke:  Right, well there are individuals that, with those proper things in place, have a choice not to re-offend.

Len Sipes:  Okay.

Michael Bourke:  That’s correct.

Len Sipes:  The final part of it is aggressive prosecution.  We need to go after them in every way shape and form and that’s what we’re trying to do with the federal, state, and local level, is to set up these dummy operations to pretend that you’re the 14 year old, the 13 year old, to monitor whatever it is that we can monitor, and to go after these people and arrest them and prosecute them.  Is that correct?

Francey Hakes:  Well that’s right, and that’s one of the reasons why we place such a high emphasis on technology and training for our law enforcement and for our prosecutors, because this is often a very high-tech crime, and we need a high tech solution, and that’s why we’re working with industry on things like I talked about, the Photo DNA initiative, but there are lots of other tools that law enforcement uses to keep up with the bad guys who are trying to assault our children.  There are very sophisticated groups out there that have banded together to discuss their deviant fantasies and to plan ways to sexually assault children, and we have to find ways to be just as sophisticated to break their encryption, to get into their passwords, to find a way to infiltrate these groups, and we are doing that at the national level in order to make clear to these would-be predators that they have nowhere to hide, and that’s why it’s so important for us to have very strong, firm sentences as well, because that is part of our deterrent prong.

Len Sipes:  Okay, we have one minute.  So through the national effort, for what attorney general Eric Holder announced, the Office of Justice Programs, US Marshals Office, Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, we can look them in the eye and say that we’re gaining ground, that we have the wherewithal to come after you guys.  Stop it.

Francey Hakes:  I think the message is, to the would-be pedophile out there is you’re probably talking to a law enforcement officer, and watch out for the knock at your door.

Len Sipes:  Cool.  Michael?

Michael Bourke:  I agree.  United States Marshal Service has also set up what we call the National Sex Offender Targeting Center.  It’s a multi-agency, multi-disciplinary intel and operational hub.  We’re looking in all corners for these men.  We are going after them when they fail to register, and we’re putting all of our efforts toward this problem.

Len Sipes:  We have to close now.  I really appreciate this stimulating conversation.  Ladies and gentlemen, Francey Hakes, National Coordinator for the Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction from the US Department of Justice, Dr. Michael Bourke, Chief Psychologist for the United States Marshals Office.  Stay with us on the second half of the program as we talk to individual parole and probation agents, what we call community supervision officers, who supervise sex offenders on a day to day basis.  Please stay with us.

[Music Playing]

Len Sipes:  Welcome back to D.C. Public Safety.  I continue to be your host, Leonard Sipes, and we continue to explore this topic of sexual exploitation of children.  The first half, we talked to two individuals from the Department of Justice, and we framed the numbers, and the numbers are truly staggering, but what does that mean in terms of the local level?  We talked about the importance of partnerships, and we talked about the importance of people at the local level enforcing laws and providing treatment services.  To talk about what it is that we do here within the District of Columbia; we have two principals with us today.  We have Ashley Natoli, a community supervision officer for the sex offender unit of my agency, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, and Kevin Jones, another community supervision officer for the sex offender unit, and to Ashley and Kevin welcome to D.C. Public Safety.

Ashley Natoli:  Thank you.

Kevin Jones:  Thank you for having us.

Len Sipes:  All right, Ashley, give me a sense as to this issue of the sex offender unit.  What is it that we do?  What is it that we do in the District of Columbia that’s unique?

Ashley Natoli:  Well, we supervise offenders who have either been convicted of a sex offense, had an arrest for a sex offense, or an offense that is sexual in nature.  They come to our unit and are supervised in our unit.  There is roughly about 450 active cases in our unit right now, about 670 total of all sex offenders right now.

Len Sipes:  Now, the interesting thing is what we at CSOSA do, and this is different from a lot of parole and probation agencies throughout the country, is that if you’ve had a sexual conviction in the past, not your current charge, but 15 years ago, if you had a sexual conviction, or if you had an arrest, you come to the sex offender unit, right?

Ashley Natoli:  That’s correct.

Len Sipes:  All right.  Kevin, I want to talk to you.  This is something that’s intrigued me from the very beginning of my time in corrections, that is, is that so many of the offenders on the sex offender unit are so compliant.  They dress well, they work, they show up on time, they dot their I’s, they cross their T’s, and they give every appearance of people who are compliant vs. other offenders, sometimes it’s pretty obvious that they have issues.  With the sex offender unit, the sex offenders, they can give the impression that nothing’s wrong with me, just spend your time with more troublesome people.  You don’t have to really spend that much amount of time with me, look at me, I do everything right.  Am I in the ballpark?

Kevin Jones:  You’re in the ballpark exactly, Leonard.  These guys are the most compliant guys on our caseloads.  They actually drug test as scheduled, always on appointments, on time.  They’re in the office, they appear to be, have all their ducks in a row.  I think our main focus is, what are you after you leave our office?  So that’s why we use a lot of our safety tactics, are that, we have a lot of collateral contacts with the offenders and the offenders’ families, and we really get to see what kind of guys they are once they leave our office.

Len Sipes:  Now, I guess I shouldn’t brag, but then again, I am the host of the program, and this is our agency, so I am going to brag.  We have one of the best sex offender units in the country, in my opinion, and what I’ve heard that from a lot of people, one of the best sex offender units.  We have very high levels of contact.  We drug test the dickens out of them, we submit them, they have to submit to lie detector tests, polygraphs.  We put them in treatment, sometimes through the treatment process we find out about other things, we search their computers.  We put them under surveillance, if necessary; we work with local law enforcement in terms of joint supervisions.  We go to their home unannounced.  You guys do it, and sometimes with our partners in the Metropolitan Police Department, they’re under a lot of supervision, right?

Ashley Natoli:  That’s correct.

Len Sipes:  Okay, and what does that do for that person, either one of you?

Kevin Jones:  That person, as we do unscheduled contacts, it kind of keeps them off balance. Again, he has to be held accountable for, if he has no contact with minors, we assure that by doing home visits, and when we’re in home visits, we’re actually looking for things that might kind of be off the beat, maybe a possible toy, things of that nature in someone’s home, and at that point, they’re questioned.

Len Sipes:  Now it’s also extraordinarily difficult, at the same time, with handheld computers, commonly known as smartphones.  I mean, the smartphone that I carry every day is as powerful as a desktop computer five years ago.  You can do anything you want with a smartphone.  So yeah, we have the right to search their computers, but they may not be operating off their computers.  They may be operating off of a portable device, correct?

Kevin Jones:  That’s correct.

Len Sipes:  How do you deal with that?

Ashley Natoli:  We look at the smartphones and the handheld devices similar to a computer.  We have the ability to search those just as we would a computer, and in most instances, the offenders will be having these handheld devices as opposed to having a computer,

Len Sipes:  Right. And the other thing that we are aware of too is a lot of the gaming consoles, such as Play Station 3’s, can be manipulated into being a computer as well, so we have to be looking out for a lot more than just a laptop in the home.  We have to be looking into what they’re using as a phone, what they have, and then we’re asking the questions and following up with the searches.  And that becomes the intriguing part of this, because it truly is a cat and mouse game.  Now I don’t want to overplay my hand here.  These individuals, in many cases, are compliant.  You’re supervising them, they are in treatment, treatment does work, you can take individuals, and they can control their impulses.  They don’t necessarily have to be out there offending.  But this is truly the, Dr. Bourke mentioned it in the first half, this is the master psychological game.  It is a psychological game, is it not, of cat and mouse, of looking for nuances of listening to individual little things that may not mean that much to another community supervision officer, but to you, means a lot.  Am I right or wrong?

Ashley Natoli:  That’s correct.

Kevin Jones:  Yeah, that’s correct.

Ashley Natoli:  A lot of these offenders, they are masters of manipulation and deception, and that’s, in most instances, in a lot of instances, how they ended up offending in the first place, because they have an incredible ability to groom these victims, and they’ve mastered the art of manipulation, and so we have to be aware of that so we aren’t taken advantage of.

Len Sipes:  Well, tell me a little bit about the grooming of the victims, because we didn’t get involved in that in the first half.  They will go online with them, and they will have, not just hours of conversations, but days or weeks or months of conversation before they ask for a photograph, or then that photograph moves on to a more sexually suggestive photograph.  This is a process.  They’re very patient individuals.  Correct?

Kevin Jones:  That’s correct.  A lot of the guys that are in the grooming process while on sex offender treatment, a lot of that comes out in the treatment process, and once you find out that a guy might be on supervision, an offender might be on supervision for one offense, during that sex offender treatment process, you will find out that this offender has had multiple victims that he has proposed and that he has groomed, and this makes this offender a little more dangerous than what, from the outside, what it looks like to just this one victim.

Len Sipes:  And again, I mean, the idea of going in unannounced, putting on a GPS tracking device, but all of that, we talk about the technology, and I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself with the technology, it strikes me, the most important ingredient we have here in terms of protecting the public is the savviness of the people who are supervising these sex offenders.  Do I have it right?  It really doesn’t matter about the computer part, the GPS, and the tracking devices, and the lie detector tests, what really matters is your ability to read the tea leaves as to whether or not this person is truly compliant or not.  Am I right or wrong?

Ashley Natoli:  That’s correct.  You have to be very patient and very thorough and leave no detail unturned.  Like with the GPS, we’re not just looking at, are they complying with their curfew, are they charging their device, we’re looking at, where are they going during the daytime.  So you actually look at all their tracks so you can know, did this offender go to the park, or was this offender near a school, so we’re aware of that, and we can put alerts on there so it helps us to identify that, but we have all this information, and if we’re not doing the right thing with it, then

Len Sipes:  And the neat thing about it is we can overlay Google Earth, so we’re taking a look at that intersection, and we’re not quite sure he’s hanging out at the intersection, but when we overlay Google Earth, a-ha, there’s a playground that didn’t show up on a regular map.  So we do have the technology tools to try and keep up with the individuals, but it’s really is more understanding who that person is.  How long does it take until you get a sense as to that sex offender?  How long does it take before you feel that you’re inside that person’s head, that person’s mind, that person’s modus operandi?

Kevin Jones:  Well, again, with the treatment modal-, coupled with the GPS, you can probably feel your offender out, I guess, in about two months, maybe, to that nature, and a lot of it is, you’re questioning his every move, which makes him uncomfortable, which is, at the same time, holds him accountable for where he’s going, so as long as he’s knows that he’s being tracked, and that we have exclusion zones from the zoo, from parks, and things of that nature, then that kind of keeps him in compliance.

Len Sipes:  And we’ll get word from the Metropolitan Police Department and other law enforcement partners that we saw the guy spending way too much time outside of the St. Francis School.  It was a block away, and maybe he has a legitimate reason for being there, maybe he doesn’t, but that’s also the law enforcement partnership feeding us information, right?

Kevin Jones:  Yes.

Ashley Natoli:  Yeah, definitely.

Kevin Jones:  And apart with the law enforcement contact, we do unscheduled accountability tours, and that’s with our partnership with Metropolitan Police Department, and at that time, we also have what we call GPS clean sweep tours, where we will come do unscheduled accountability tours on an offender who has a GPS curfew of 7:00, just to make sure that they’re in place, that there’s no type of shielding, anything of that nature, and we also are really big on the Halloween project, where, that we will come to the offender’s home between the hours of 3 and 11, and he is to be in that home at that particular time.

Len Sipes:  Right, and we have found violations on the Halloween tour. We have found kids inside the home, and we have found them, they’re not supposed to be giving out candy, they’re not supposed to be decorating homes.

Kevin Jones:  Lights supposed to be off.

Len Sipes:  We roll up to the house, and there’s decorations, and there’s candy, so we’re trying to protect the public in that way.  The other major thing that we’re trying to do is look at social media, look at Facebook, but there are literally hundreds of sites that kids go onto.  I was reading this morning about going onto gaming sites.  You know, it’s not a chat room, it’s not Facebook, it’s now gaming sites.  So we’re now in the process of taking a look at social media and tracking that person through the social media process, correct?

Ashley Natoli:  Yes.

Kevin Jones:  That is correct.

Len Sipes:  Okay, and there’s a certain point where we are going to be expanding this to other offenders beyond sex offenders, but that’s part of their world, and that’s part of the experience of kids, and if they’re going to be there, we need to be there, right?

Ashley Natoli:  That’s correct.

Kevin Jones:  Yeah, and we actually have a mechanism where we are monitoring Facebook, and we’ve had situations where we’ve seen our offenders who may have no contact with minors, and in his profile sheet, he’ll be holding

Len Sipes:  Right!

Kevin Jones:  a child.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Ashley Natoli:  And it’s not as simple as just searching them by their name.  You’re searching their aliases; you’re looking, searching by email addresses and different things, because a lot of it is not going to just be given to us.  We have to find the information.  It’s there if we search for it, deep enough.

Len Sipes:  Right.  We’re not going to give away our secrets in terms of how we’ve figured this out, but Cool Breeze was his moniker, nickname seven years ago, and son of a gun if he’s not using Cool Breeze in terms of his Facebook interactions, so there are all sorts of ways of getting at this issue.  So the bottom line is this.  What do we tell parents?  I mean, you guys are there protecting their kids, you’re protecting all of society, just not the kids, but you’re protecting society, protecting kids from further activities on the part of these individuals.  You know them better than just about anybody else in the criminal justice system.  What do we tell parents?  One of my chief messages is having an open conversation, so if somebody approaches that child, that child talks to the parents.

Ashley Natoli:  I agree, and I also think parents need to be aware that this is something real and that happens every day, and that a lot of people think, oh, it won’t happen to me, or it won’t happen to my children, but you need to be aware that it is a problem and it will happen, and you need to know what’s going on so that you can educate your children appropriately and know that this is real.

Len Sipes:  Well, the FBI is saying one million predators.  That’s just an unbelievable number of people.  I mean, they’re attacking your kids, correct, Kevin?

Kevin Jones:  That’s correct.  And a lot of it is, just like we were stating, collateral contacts.  You have to build a collateral contact with the offenders’ family members.

Len Sipes:  Right, and employers and friends.

Kevin Jones:  Employers, friends, significant others.

Len Sipes:  The bottom line is that you’ve got to get, and we’re going to close with this question, you’ve got to get a complete psychological profile of who that person is.  You’ve got to know that person better than their own mother knows that person, correct?

Kevin Jones:  That’s correct.

Len Sipes:  All right, we’re going to close on that.  Ladies and gentlemen, Kevin Jones, community supervision officer for the sex offender unit, my agency, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, Ashley Natoli, the community supervision officer, again, with the sex offender unit.  Thank you very much for watching, and please, protect your children.  Please have an open and honest conversation and age appropriate conversation with your children.  Watch for us next time when we explore another very important topic in our criminal justice system.  Please have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Video Ends]

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