National Conference on Offender Reentry-National Institute of Corrections-DC Public Safety

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Len Sipes: From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host Leonard Sipes. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a show today. The National Institute of Corrections Conference on Offender Re-entry, We’ll be giving out that web address all throughout the program and throughout the show notes.  We have two guests with us today. We have Bernie Izler, she is a Correctional Programs Specialist for the National Institute of Corrections at the Academy in Aurora, Colorado; and we have Captain Attila Denes. Yes, indeed, I did say Attila Denes. He is with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office there in Colorado. – And to Bernie and Attila, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Bernie Izler: Thank you.

Captain Attila Denes: Thank you.

Len Sipes: All right. This is exciting. This is a national conference on re-entry, but it’s a virtual conference, and that opens it up to anybody whether it is a community person, whether it is a businessperson, whether it’s an aide to the mayor, an aide to the governor, a student, a college professor; it doesn’t matter. You’re inviting everybody into this national conference, correct?

Bernie Izler: Yes, we are.

Len Sipes: All right. Bernie, it’s June 12th from 9 AM Mountain to 2:00 in the afternoon?

Bernie Izler: Correct.

Len Sipes: Alright, June 12th, 9 AM Mountain; that’s 11:00 Eastern Time. I don’t know what it’s like, what it is for the rest of the country. 9:00 AM Mountain Time there in Aurora, Colorado, and we go to the afternoon. So this is exciting stuff. What called you to create a national conference on offender re-entry? What caused the National Institute of Corrections to create a conference, a national conference, but in this case, do it via personal computers?

Bernie Izler: Okay, well first of all, re-entry in Corrections is everybody’s business is re-entry, and we also were trying to pick a topic in which we could get stakeholders and others in the community, whoever had an interest in this, that they could be involved, and one of the ways to do that is to go virtual with a conference, and that way, people don’t have to travel. There’s no cost involved except people’s time, as accessible as possible, so that was our two-pronged purpose with a virtual conference.

Len Sipes: And the really interesting thing about this is that a lot of the virtual conferences that I go to, it’s listen-only but in this case they’ll be able to watch and listen and ask questions, correct?

Bernie Izler: Correct. It’s kind of like there’ll be a thread of discussion with each of the presentations so that it’s kind of like when you’re at a regular conference and the speaker gets done, and there’s that line standing waiting to talk to the presenter. That thread of discussion is that line; it’s where you can ask that question, and the presenters will be able to talk to you, answer your questions. You can ask them a question, and that’ll go on even post-conference, as well as there’ll be threaded discussions where people can talk to each other, talk to their peers. They’ll just be open-type discussions where they can go in and introduce themselves and basically ask, you know, “Hey, I’m doing this kind of work in re-entry. What are you doing? What works for you?” They can throw that question out there, and they can network with each other.

Len Sipes: Oh, that is so neat. That is so neat because one of the most important parts of any conference is the networking. I think in some cases what takes place in the hallways and in the meeting rooms is just as important as what happens during the conference, so people can really have that same experience.

Bernie Izler: Yes, you’re absolutely right, reaching out to other people in the same kind of situation. They may not know each other. I’m sure there’s people, when it comes to one of our presentations on education, I know in looking at the list of people who are coming, there’s other people who are involved in education with this population, and they can reach out to each other and find out what they’re doing and support each other.

Len Sipes: That is really interesting. Give me some of the topics that you’re going to be covering at the conference, please.

Bernie Izler: Okay, well first of all, educational pathways to success, mental health, creating a cross-systems collaboration with that, cognitive behavioral programs with offenders, the victim’s role in offender re-entry.  There’s one particular program that’s called Starting Over Core, and that’s an offender-led group. Justice-involved women and the special things they deal with. Employment is huge where I think we have three presentations having to do with employment. Sentencing, where it starts, and also juvenile re-entry initiatives, and then our keynote speaker, Ed LaTessa will speak on what’s effective on reducing recidivism.

Len Sipes: What works, what’s evidence-based.

Bernie Izler: Yes. Correct.

Len Sipes: And that’s one of the things, ladies and gentlemen, I think and I see is really taking a lead on is helping the rest of us within the correctional system understand what is evidence-based, what does work, and my hat goes off to the National Institute of Corrections. Boy, in my public’s relations career, they’ve helped me out on a couple different occasions in terms of training and in terms of access, and you’re going to find that the National Institute of Corrections is probably one of the easiest federal agencies to deal with, certainly one of the easiest federal agencies I’ve ever had to deal with. Okay, Attila, where did you get that name and tell me that’s a family name?

Captain Attila Denes: Well, it’s a very common name in Hungary where my parents originated from, and when they came out here, they decided to give me a name to remember my heritage by, and boy darn, did they ever.

Len Sipes: Boy. That’s sort of like “A Boy named Sue,” that Johnny Cash song, I think it was, from decades ago. Now I’m really dating myself.

Captain Attila Denes: Oh yeah. Well, it stands out in a crowd. If there are 300 people in a crowd and someone says, “Hey, Atilla!” – I know exactly who they’re talking to.

Len Sipes: Captain Attila Denes, he’s with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office. There again, Colorado is well represented in terms of this program. Where is Douglas County?

Captain Attila Denes: Douglas County is on the southern rim of the Denver Metro area. We’re a community of about 300,000 people, and on the topic that we’re going to be discussing, it’s actually a partnership with the Arapahoe/Douglas Mental Health Network which is one of the community mental health centers in the Denver Metro area with a service population of around 600,000 folks. So we’re kind of a mid-sized community on the south end of Denver, and that’s what we’re going to be talking about.

Len Sipes: Now, what you’ve done is be able to go out and put together a collaboration of organizations to address mental health and other issues in terms of people coming out of the jail system there, correct?

Captain Attila Denes: That’s correct. Well, collaboration is kind of a vogue topic right now, and it’s certainly something that everybody’s talking about in the academic, scholarly world, you know, very hot topic of how do we combine all of our resources and thoughts and everything because since we’re all basically working with the same population, just in different silos, how do we break down some of those silos and overcome the resistance to working together that sometimes develops in our organizations so that we can actually accomplish greater things, that synergy that everybody talks about. It’s a pretty exciting topic, and definitely you sometimes get the pushback of well, collaboration is great and synergy is great but if you’ve got no money, how is that really going to help us? – And the reality is that there are really practical ways that it can.

Len Sipes: Well, yeah, it can. There’s no doubt that it can but we come, Captain, you and I have been in the criminal justice system for a long time. We’re hard-bitten; we’re cynical, and we are under the mindset that unless government ponies up and actually funds the stuff, it’s really not going to happen. In many cases I’ve heard from practitioners is that they reach out to people and try to form a collaborative relationship with people in the community, and they’re looking at them saying, “Hey, I’m overburdened as it is, and I’m underfunded as it is, and we’re relying heavily upon volunteers, and you want to bring 300 or 400 additional people into my program? We can’t handle that.” So, how do you get around that?

Captain Attila Denes: Yeah, well, it’s a challenge, and looking at it from the front end, it looks like this monumental thing that’s almost impossible to overcome but the reality is that the process of overcoming that is pretty simple. It’s not really rocket science. There have been a lot of scholarly articles published on it. You know, the—

Len Sipes: Oh, there’s an endless amount of literature about collaboration. Oh, there is.

Captain Attila Denes: Oh, exactly.

Len Sipes: And as my friends in the practitioner community are saying, “Okay, yeah, the research –.” It’s really easy for researchers in D.C. to say collaboration. They’re not the ones who have got to go out and live with this on a day-to-day basis. Try doing it, not talking about it but try doing it, but you’ve done it.

Captain Attila Denes: Exactly. Exactly. And, you know, there are different challenges depending on what community you’re dealing with. I worked with NIC on a crisis intervention team’s leadership program that was spearheaded out here in Aurora in 2010, ’11, ’12, and one of the things that we heard from these leadership teams that came out from state prison systems across the U.S. was, you know, “Collaboration is great and putting together these stakeholder groups is great but we’re kind of a closed system. We don’t really have strong ties with the outside community. We’re pretty much self-sufficient, so what do we do in place of that?” And so sometimes it requires a little bit of work to identify who exactly represents the various components of the stakeholder systems that we want to get involved in. I know that sounds high-level but it’s pretty practical when you break it right down.

Len Sipes: But you, being that you’ve done it and you’ve done it successfully, that’s why the National Institute of Corrections wants you to present at the National Conference on Offender Re-entry, and it’s a different name. That’s the name that I gave it. The VC stands for Virtual Conference. That’s one of the reasons why the National Institute of Corrections wants you to present because you have cynical idiots like me who can’t get together with the program versus somebody who has done what you’ve done. You’ve done it successfully. So you have lessons for me and for everybody else in terms of the fact that a) it can be done, b) how to do it successfully.

Captain Attila Denes: Exactly. And, you know, not to bust our arms patting ourselves on the back out here but the reality is that we were, whether it was by fluke or by design, we were able to come up with a system that worked pretty well, and the great thing about it, looking back on it now ten years down the road is that we have accomplished things that we never would have imagined possible at the front end, and that’s the really exciting piece of this.  You know, the way that this all started, back in 2002 was really a patrol-based law enforcement initiative called Crisis Intervention Team’s Training which was developed back in Memphis all the way back in 1987, and it was kind of spreading like wildfire across the western United States, and Colorado picked up that program in 2002 as a result of a legislative initiative. It was a task force that was in panel back in ’99 that recommended that we establish a CIT program, a statewide-coordinated program to roll it out across the state, and that really started up in 2002, and one of the key components of that planning piece for CIT training was putting together a steering committee, a local steering committee comprised of administrative and executive-level stakeholders from all these different groups that dealt previously in isolation with the same population, the population of people that are constantly going through that revolving door of criminal justice involvement, constantly coming into contact with the police and with the jails, and then going back out onto the street, under the supervision of probation or parole or whatever, and how do we impact those people and impact that population effectively, understanding that we all have limited budgets; we have limited staff; you know, how do we try to maximize that impact?  So we brought together these stakeholders who initially were pretty reluctant to talk very openly with each other because we recognized that, “Yeah, sure, we’re dealing with the same population but we have our own rules and policies and laws that govern how much information we can share and how our money can be used and all this,” but what was kind of magical about that process was, as we started going to each other’s steering committee meetings and working taskforce meetings and working group meetings and all these different meetings, and it was the same group of usual suspects, so to speak, showing up around the table, we started to get to know each other. There was this face-name recognition that developed, and we started to understand each other’s roles within the system, and our specific limitations, and what resources do we bring to the table, and things like that/  And that’s when we started to realize, if we start to share some information, share some resources, I can open up a little bit and say, “Okay, you know what? I can bring this to the table, and if we’re rolling out this training program, I can offer up this, this, and this. And then my colleague across the table in a different system, mental health center or the advocacy role, NAMI, whatever, you know, they can pony up something else, and we all start bringing our respective pieces to the table, and we found that we were able to build a really effective program that was originally just designed around that one small concept, how do we build a local CIT training program?

Len Sipes: But the bottom line, Attila, because I’m going to go for the break quickly, and then we’re going to pick back up, but the bottom line in all of this is that, without the community, in terms of offender re-entry, we’re dead. Without collaboration, we’re not going to get it done because we simply do not, in many cases but particularly jail systems, we do not have the budget for mental health. We do not have the budget for employment. We do not have the budget for substance abuse. Without community collaboration, any sense of successful offender re-entry is dead in the water.

Captain Attila Denes: Yeah, exactly. Exactly.

Len Sipes: And I would imagine, Bernie, that’s the whole idea behind bringing in people like Attila, bringing in people like Captain Denes is to make sure that success stories from the field and what works from an academic point of view, from a research point of view, is all encapsulated within one conference.

Bernie Izler: Correct. The idea of a collaboration is not just that we have limited resources but also to be effective. We really need each other because most of our population, our offenders, when they go out in the community, they don’t have just one issue to deal with. They have multiple issues, multiple barriers to successful re-entry, and so the collaboration also is a way to be much more successful than working individually.

Len Sipes: I want to reintroduce our guests today and the topic. Ladies and gentlemen, the National Institute of Corrections is holding a National Conference on Offender Re-Entry. Everybody should go to this website, and it’ll be in the show notes: V is for Virtual Conference VC. This will all take place on June 12th, coming up real soon, 9 AM Mountain Time and the rest of you can figure it out in terms of what applies to you, from about 9:00 in the morning to 2:00 in the afternoon.  It is for everybody. It’s not just for those of us within the criminal justice system. Whether it be a preacher, whether it be a community leader, whether it be the aide to the mayor of Milwaukee, whether it is the aide to the governor of the state of California, everybody is welcome in terms of this national virtual conference. You can watch – it’s just not listen mode. You can watch what’s going on; you can listen in, and you can ask questions, and you can make contacts with everybody else at the conference. Did I summarize it correctly, Bernie?

Bernie Izler: Yes, you did, thank you.

Len Sipes: Okay. Now, I would imagine for the National Institute of Corrections, this was a pretty significant undertaking. I mean, you all had to say to yourselves at a certain point that we in the field no longer have the money to go to conferences, and this is probably a more powerful and more effective way to do a national conference on Offender Re-Entry. I’m assuming you’re saying, “Hey, this is a no-brainer considering everybody’s fiscal constraints. Let’s do this virtually through computers where anybody can sit in in their home, anybody can sit in in their office and participate in this national conference.

Bernie Izler: Yes, correct. As you talked about earlier about NIC being focused on service, one of the things that really caught my attention with the virtual conference is that we can reach down to the smallest jail, to any corrections professional; we can reach out to anybody, and when you have walk-in conferences, you only have people there who can afford to be there. So this was another way to really reach out and serve our community as well as corrections.  So .yeah, it was quite an undertaking because it was new and so it was a huge learning curve for us in putting this together and how it works and how it’s going to work for the field itself, just technology alone. How do we make sure that as many people as possible can access it because we know in corrections that we have firewalls and so on that, so, how’s that going to work, and how can we be successful getting to that group as well as the community?

Len Sipes: Well for what it’s worth, I’m going to more and more virtual conferences, more and more instead of attending. Even in Washington, D.C., where I’m located, even in terms of traveling three or four stops by subway and walking three or four blocks, which is pretty easy and pretty accessible, I’m finding more and more of these issues are taking place via my computer, and we’ve got the same firewalls that everybody else has and that doesn’t seem to be a problem, so more and more, we’re going to see more virtual conferences, more virtual meetings, more of these issues discussed via computer.

Bernie Izler: Yes, and the other thing that’s really great is we have, on June 5th, whoever’s registered will be able to come in to look at the site and access the on-demand presentations, and then on the 12th will be the live and the on-demand, and then all of it will be recorded. So that will be available after the conference too, so not only a matter of travel and so on, but time, so if there’s one presentation that you didn’t get to see live, once the recorded versions are up, if you’ve got an hour or so at your workplace, you can say, “Hey, I want to go in and look at that,” and you can still see it.

Len Sipes: But isn’t that, I mean, all of this, in terms of a virtual national conference, in terms of podcasting and what I’m doing, in terms of you recording it and placing it so other people can download, I mean, I ride in from the train from Baltimore to D.C. every single day, and yes, I’m crazy, for those of you who know how long that takes, but I get to read all the stuff from NIC. I’m the best-read person in my organization because I have two hours a day on the train so I read all of your material. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to download that through iTunes or download it through the National Institute of Corrections website and be able to participate, virtually, while I’m sitting, riding on my train ride from Baltimore to D.C. or back and forth? That, I think, is where all this is going. Don’t you agree?

Bernie Izler: Yes. I don’t know that we have that capacity with this conference but looking down the road, we’ve started to think in terms of what’s next and, certainly that’s what’s next. It will be a link for people on our website that they can go to it. I’m not exactly sure that we’re there yet with podcasts or that kind of thing but certainly on particular mobile devices, they’ll be able to access it.

Len Sipes: Oh, I’ll be more than happy to come out and train you on podcasting, not necessarily on Skype with all the problems we had before the beginning of the show. Hey, Captain Denes, again, convince everybody out there in the practitioner community, again, those of us hard-bitten and cynical about everything that comes along, convince the rest of us that this is something that everybody needs to participate in.

Captain Attila Denes: Oh, well, I think that just what we gain from each other is something that, it’s hard to picture the end result when you’re on the front end of it, you know. Like I was describing earlier, our collaboration here with the Mental Health Center and with NAMI and with all the other stakeholder groups, centered around just putting together a patrol-based training initiative, a crisis intervention team’s training, and we soon realized that, you know what, where this is really happening is in the local jails where people with mental illnesses and substance abuse disorders are over-represented three or four times versus what you would find out in the general population, and so the folks that are working with that population inside really needed those skills almost more than the patrol officers dealing with them on the outside.  And so as we started getting into that, then we started realizing, you know what? Maybe there’s some case management that needs to happen here. Not only are we trying to defer people from criminal involvement on the front end but sometimes these folks do end up in jails and prisons, and, you know, I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know there but as we’re getting ready to release them back out into the community, how can we connect them with services in advance of their release so that they’re not going through that revolving door over and over again.  So that whole piece of community re-entry was something we started talking about here in Arapahoe and Douglas Counties back in like 2003, 2004, and so we instituted a real small program at first, just one or two case managers at the re-entry level, working in the local jails, and we found that it was so effective that these same stakeholders started showing up at these conference tables over and over and over again. We thought, okay, what’s next? Where else can we go with this? And so one of the next things that happened was what we initially called Mental Health Court, which was a specialty problem-solving court for people with felony charges, nonviolent felony charges, who could be safely deferred from criminal justice involvement through evidence-based direct case management services and intensive treatment, and so, we now call that program the Wellness Court but it’s enormously successful here in Colorado.  That led to a Metro area, in the Denver Metro area, we had about a year-and-a-half long cross-systems services and gaps analysis that was facilitated for us by the National GAINS Center, and again, huge numbers of people showing up at these meetings, stakeholder groups from all across all different systems, and we realized, again, we’re all dealing with the same population but we’re dealing with them in isolation. How can we break down those walls, break down those silos, overcome institutional inertia, start sharing resources and information so that we’re not dealing with the same people over and over again but instead we’re getting them into effective treatment programs, diverting them from criminal justice involvement, making it so that they’re not filling our jails and prisons. That’s what it was all about.

Len Sipes: But everybody out there has exactly the same problems you do there in Douglas County. It doesn’t matter whether in Minnesota, Hawaii, Alaska, the state of Maryland, everybody has the same issues, so the bottom line is that they can learn from you and they can contact you and you can contact others. It’s a matter of sharing what works at the local level. Is that not the heart and soul of this conference?

Captain Attila Denes: Absolutely.

Len Sipes: Okay, and that’s one of the reasons why you’re there. So again, Bernie, the whole idea is to share what works at the local level by real people dealing with real problems, dealing with the same circumstances everybody else is dealing with. If Attila Denes can get it right, and the sheriff’s department there in Douglas County can get it right, that means everybody else can do it correctly and solve the same problems, and then again, that’s the whole idea behind this conference.

Bernie Izler: Yes. Well, and it’s also a mixture of we tried to get two successful programs in different areas as well as some experts in the field, like Professor Latessa, who’s going to talk about evidence-based practices. So it’s a mixture of both because sometimes the experts are like, “Okay, it’s a place to start, somewhere.” And then how does that look in the community? And you’re right; it can look very, you know, you may have the same problems but as Captain Denes said, it can look very different in each community as to what you have available and so on. So yeah, so it’s a mixture of all of those things.

Len Sipes: But the fact that they can reach out to Attila and actually talk to him and email him – Atilla, I’m not quite sure you want me to say this – but the fact that they can is encouraging because all these systems are sharing the same problems and the same concerns, so why not everybody get together through this national conference and help each other out?

Bernie Izler: Yeah, and that’s what the threaded discussions are about. Like I said, for each presentation, there’ll be a threaded discussion, and so our presenters will be monitoring those, and when you go in a register you sign up and you can say in each thread if you want it sent to your email, and then whatever goes on in that thread will come to your email.

Len Sipes: Oh, that’s so cool.

Bernie Izler: And then, also to our presenters, so they can see what the discussion is so the discussion will continue.

Len Sipes: You know, Bernie, I just wanted to ask you this question before we leave the program. This had to be scary for you. I mean, this is the first time NIC is doing something on this scale in terms of re-entry, correct?

Bernie Izler: Correct. Yes, I’ve had several times where I’ve been up at 2:30 AM in the morning, wide awake going, “Oh my gosh, what if we create it and nobody comes?” So yeah, and I’ve had a wonderful team here at NIC. There’s a lot of different people at NIC that have participated and made it possible. Our goal was 1,000, and once we passed that number, I’m not having those 2:30 A.M. wake-up calls. So we’re very excited that we’ve passed our goal and that it can go on, and having it up recorded online for four months, I’m very hopeful that we could even double that number.

Len Sipes: Oh, you’re going to easily double that number. In fact, I can tell you right now that you’re going to get 3, 4, 5 times the amount of people downloading it than listening to it live. All of my friends who do stuff live say that it’s 5, 10 times the amount of people that come in after the live presentation so you’re going to get your 1,000. I would bet my Buick that you’re going to get at least 5,000 people exposed to your conference but most of them are going to come in afterwards. Final minute, Bernie, Attila, final issues you want to discuss?

Captain Attila Denes: One thing I just wanted to throw out there from the cost standpoint is the criminal justice system is probably the least cost-effective method of obtaining mental health and substance abuse treatment. There are tons of community services that provide those same services at a much reduced cost and so from a taxpayer’s perspective, collaboration is the way to go.

Len Sipes: Alright, Bernie, final words? Thirty seconds.

Bernie Izler: Just that we welcome everybody to the conference. We’re very excited about it. We think it’s a very timely topic. Please, come and register for the updates. Our agenda came out today so people can look at that and just go to

Len Sipes: And you’re going to have a link to this on the front page of the National Institute of Corrections website, correct?

Bernie Izler: I am hoping so soon. We’ve kind of put this publicity out in pieces, so kind of—

Len Sipes: Okay. That would be a good idea because a lot of people may not remember the address but they will know National Institute of Corrections.

Bernie Izler: Yes, and when they go to the website, if they can’t find it, if they just type in [PH 0:29:31] tough key to door key, they’ll find it.

Len Sipes: Got it. Okay. Ladies and gentlemen, the National Institute of Corrections Conference on Offender Re-entry:, June 12th from 9 A.M. Mountain to 2:00 in the afternoon. Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. We appreciate your calls, we even appreciate your criticisms, and we want everybody to have yourselves a very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]


Evidence Based Practices in Community Corrections-DC Public Safety

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Len Sipes: From our studios in downtown Washington D.C., this is D.C. Public Safety, I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. The show today is about evidence-based parole and probation, evidence-based re-entry from prison, and as always, we’d like to thank you for listening to the show. We are amazed as to all the contacts you’re giving us, the emails, twitter messages, and the comments in terms of D.C. Public Safety through the comments section. You can always contact me at Leonard – L-E-O-N-A-R-D – dot-sipes – S-I-P-E-S –, or twitter me at twitter/lensipes. Our guest today is Neil Goodloe. Neil is a trainer and consultant for Northpointe Institute for Public Management. But the important thing is that Neil is with the Commonwealth of Virginia. He was Chief Probation Officer at the end of his career in Charlottesville, Virginia area, and I’m going to give you a couple of contact points for Neil before we begin the program. His website is www.northpointe – N-O-R-T-H-P-O-I-N-T-E –, and you can reach Neil via email at N-G-O-O-D-L-O-E –, I’ll be repeating those throughout the show. Neil Goodloe, welcome to D.C. Public Safety.

Neil Goodloe: Good morning, Len, and thank you for having me on the show.

Len Sipes: I hear, Neil, ladies and gentlemen, at a conference, and although I was dealing with media, multiple media at the time, I didn’t have the opportunity to listen to everything that Neil was saying, but when I was in the room, Neil spoke passionately about this whole concept of evidence-based parole and probation, evidence-based re-entry, and those of us in the criminal justice system, we talk about evidence-based issues a lot, and as to whether or not there really is a strong evidence-based for community corrections, for parole and probation, for offender re-entry. Neil spoke passionately, he was on the mark, he was on the point, he told lots of stories about his time with the Commonwealth of Virginia as the Chief Probation Officer in Charlottesville, Virginia, the chances that he had to take, and the opportunities that he created for this whole concept of evidence-based community corrections, so Neil Goodloe, who’s now a trainer and consultant with Northpointe Institute, again, welcome back to D.C. Public Safety. Neil, give me a sense as to what evidence-based really means.

Neil Goodloe: Well, really it means practices that are based, at least in part, on research and science and the accumulated wealth of information over the past two, some would argue even three decades, into what actually works in a correctional setting to improve, not only short-term processes, but long-term outcomes.

Len Sipes: But that a lot of us in the system struggle with the concept of evidence-based, I’m completely sold. I think evidence-based procedures are absolutely wonderful, and I think you were able to score some major coups down there in the Charlottesville, Virginia area. But we struggle with evidence-based, there’s a consensus of people I’ve talked to who say, “You know, Leonard, when it comes to drug treatment, there seems to be almost an exact science of the kind of drug treatment, of the kind of analysis, of the kind of individualization that you take, the modality, how long the individual should be there, what sort of follow-up there should be, there’s a lot of precision in terms of drug treatment, but when it comes to the other parts of what it is we do, whether it’s supervising offenders, how big the case load should be, how many contacts should you have with the individual, what kind of individual should get the most supervision, those are all concepts that are still up in the air.” There’s no solid evidence – I’m sorry, they believe that there’s a limited amount of solid evidence to tell us, to guide us, to indicate to us what we should be doing regarding parole and probation.

Neil Goodloe: Well, I would beg to differ. I think that if you read the literature as it has accumulated by way of a process called meta-analysis, which is roughly translated to the study of studies, there has been a considerable accumulation of evidence over the last couple of decades that there are specific things that work. Those specific things are interwoven in a practice, and I think one of the difficulties that people have in applying evidence-based practices in real time in real correctional situations is that they try to implement different pieces of this puzzle without seeing the entire structure of an evidence-based practice all woven together with a common thread.

Len Sipes: And that’s the point, though. That’s the point. All of us believe in this stuff. I’m talking to you, you’re talking to me, the people that I talk to, we all believe that this is exactly the way that we should go, but you know, there is the Washington State Public Policy Institute, and thank god for them, that provides a list of research, it’s a state agency, that provides a list of research of 554 comparison group evaluations of adult corrections, juvenile corrections, and prevention programs, and they in a very recent document, although they’ve said the same thing before, do give, what programs, do give a sense, not a sense, but give a precise list as to what programs work and what programs do not work. So we have that, but beyond Washington State Institute for public policy, all that accumulation of evidence doesn’t seem to reside in one particular place.

Neil Goodloe: Well, and I think that was particularly my problem, Len. I embraced these concepts back originally around 2004, 2005. There was, at the time, no real road map as to how to implement the what works literature, and so myself and my colleagues in Virginia, there were actually four, well five pilot sites for the implementation of an evidence-based practice in Virginia Community Corrections, and we struggled early on with just the idea of, how do we operationalize these lessons that have been learned through meta-analysis, and how do we apply these to our particular circumstance where we are, knowing that each one of us were facing a different set of challenges, so one of the things we had to come to grips with from the very beginning is you start where you are, not where you want to be, or not where somebody else is, you start where you are, and you start with what you have, which at this point is a fairly stressed system that is struggling to find resources to address needs, and the resources that we do have are often devoted to risk control efforts, which are important, but fewer resources are devoted to risk reduction, which I would argue keeps us safer 5 years from now.

Len Sipes: I think the research, I think most criminologists would state that the research is somewhat clear, that there has to be a combination of supervising offenders, and at the same time, assisting offenders, and you know, from time to time, I’ll do shows, and people will disagree. They’ll say that, “Leonard, your job as a law enforcement agency is to make sure that offenders are doing what they’re supposed to be doing, and my counter is that, in terms of mental health, who would deny an individual coming out of the prison system who is obviously mentally ill, who would deny that person mental health assistance, and what are the odds of that person re-offending, costing the state millions of dollars in the long run in terms of a crime, in terms of an investigation, in terms of a prosecution, in terms of a re-incarceration, that if he doesn’t get the mental health treatment, it seems inevitable that he’s going to move down that path. So that’s the example that I use, that mental health treatment is part of it, but it’s also other things, such as educational programs, such as assisting people in terms of their finding jobs. I mean, the list goes on.

Neil Goodloe: Well, it does, and ultimately, behind all of the reasoning for an evidence-based practice is a truth that had escaped me for years as a probation officer. I had attempted to change people from the outside in for years, and obviously, that can become a very frustrating experience for a practitioner when you see the same people who you “fixed” come back for second and third and fourth helpings of correctional resources. So at some point, it became abundantly clear to me that there is this careful balancing act between risk control and risk reduction, and that embedded in that strategy are elements of risk control, which we will never be able to divorce ourselves from, they’re part of the job of the probation officer, they’re part of the job of folks in institutions to run safe and orderly prisons, these are very important, but they’re incomplete. And they’re incomplete because they do not address the primary factor that weighs into whether somebody actually changes their behavior, and that is that change is an intrinsic issue. It happens inside someone, lasting change anyway, and change is achieved when an individual internally decides that their thinking and their behavior is not getting them what they want.

Len Sipes: Go back to the days that you started this concept, when you became the chief probation officer for the Charlottesville Metropolitan Area, I think it’s four or five counties surrounding Charlottesville. Go back to those days, you’ve seen the constant flow of people coming in and out of the office, every parole and probation agent in the country sees that constant flow of people coming in and out of the office, and at what point did you sit down and say, you know, there’s got to be a better way of doing this.

Neil Goodloe: I think it’s probably when I started seeing children of former probationers coming in, and then at some point seeing grandchildren of former probationers coming in, realizing that not only was there not a significant change process taking place in the lives of the people I worked with 20 years ago, but that there was a ripple effect, and the dysfunctional elements in their lives had been passed down from generation to generation, and I just got really tired of seeing the same people time and time again, and then seeing their offspring.

Len Sipes: That’s a powerful point, by the way, a frightening point and a powerful point, but please, go ahead.

Neil Goodloe: So the idea originally occurred to a couple of folks in Virginia independently, it was very interesting how it evolved. I went off to Sam Houston State University right after I was appointed the chief for new executive training. And that was one of the first times I had really been exposed to evidence-based philosophies of management, and it just started planting a seed in my mind, and then a very good friend of mine and colleague from Charlottesville named Pat Smith who ran our local probation office invited me to a meeting, and at that meeting, we were addressed by several members of the national institute of corrections who presented us with essentially an hour’s worth of the evidence, which was extremely compelling, and I left that meeting with sufficient doubt in my mind as to the efficacy of what I had been doing personally in my practice for really 20 years.

Len Sipes: So the whole idea is that you, and I see the National Institute of Corrections part of the U.S. Department of Justice provides you with an overview of evidence-based practices, so needless to say that you went back to your superiors, and you went back to the funding sources, and everybody quickly agreed, the staff quickly fell in line, and you were able to, within a couple months, start this process of introducing evidence-based procedures, correct?

Neil Goodloe: Well, that sounds a whole lot easier than it actually was. It sounds a little bit like a fairy tale. If it were that easy, everybody would have already fully implemented evidence-based practices by now, but it’s not, it is a process, I am convinced more than ever that it is a process that is attitudinal. It involves people. And I think that’s one of the things about the research itself that is lacking, is that human dimension. It’s very easy in an ivory tower environment for an academic to say, do this, because this works, but it’s another thing entirely to actually implement better assessment and better interpretation of that assessment and better engagement with an offender and better case planning that comes out of that engagement, and better interventions that are the product of that plan, it’s a lot harder to do that in real time with real people who are already up to their necks in work and have really, many of them who have been in corrections for a long time have been battling the workflow for years as, you know, it’s not surprising that they would be a little worn out and tired given the magnitude of the increases in correctional population –

Len Sipes: It’s one of the hardest jobs in the world. I’ve done pieces of it throughout my career, and it was exhausting every time. I’m going to reintroduce Neil Goodloe, everybody. He is a trainer and consultant for Northpointe Institute for Public Management, he was with the Commonwealth of Virginia, the chief probation officer for Charlottesville, Virginia and the surrounding area counties. I want to give the website, he currently works again for Northpointe Institute, the web address for Northpointe Institute is www.northpointe – with an ‘e’ –, or you can reach him directly at ngoodloe@npipm – or n? –

Neil Goodloe: M.

Len Sipes: M! Neil, let’s pick it back up, we have another 15 minutes left. So you go back to staff, and staff understandably says, “Look, we’re up to our eyebrows in offenders as it is. We’re running, we’re working late, we’re working weekends. Please, you’re asking us to take on a whole brand new batch of duties.”

Neil Goodloe: Yes.

Len Sipes: And, so I’m not quite sure that they’re going to go skipping and dancing into the night, of people who consider themselves to be awesomely overworked, to take on another huge amount of work.

Neil Goodloe: I wouldn’t describe them to be universally enthusiastic, although I will say that there were considerable numbers of my staff that understood that an emphasis solely or largely on risk control was not making us safer in the long term.

Len Sipes: And I think they would come to that, they would come to that consensus, and if they cared at all about not just having a job, if it went beyond that to the larger public safety issues, I would imagine that eventually they would support it, but at the beginning, I mean this sounds frightening, you’re now going to do what? You’re now going to help them find employment, you’re now going to help them with their mental health issues, you’re now going to help them find a place to stay, you’re now going to help get them involved in drug treatment, you’re now going to help them in terms of their family issues, and you’re going to bring a new attitude towards it that, yeah, you’ve still got to supervise the dickens out of them, but at the same time, you’re going to try to help them get the services they need. Now is that the gist of it?

Neil Goodloe: Well, that and more, and I think the real dividing line between business as usual and evidence-based approach is that we, well two very basic things, we assess, and when we assess, we understand who is at high risk to recidivate, and we’ve done that before, and there’s some tools to do that, but we really didn’t understand well enough the causal factors that were fueling that risk. So part of it is getting smarter about what to attack, which needs are most linked to future criminal activity, and if we were to reduce the strength of those crime producing or criminogenic needs over time, that we could actually reduce recidivism in the community. And some of it is –

Len Sipes: Right, and keep the community safer.

Neil Goodloe: Yeah, so some of it is simply understanding the, not just needs and isolation, but needs as how they relate to other needs, and how there are some needs that are very longstanding and very well entrenched, there are other needs that are very transient and very, and more easily overcome –

Len Sipes: Why is the offender doing what they’re doing. That’s the bottom line, correct?

Neil Goodloe: Essentially, yes. But if it were that easy, we’d be done already. The real trick is in getting folks to actually engage the offender in a conversation about those needs and to help create some type of motivational leverage to drive this person, to help them come off their precontemplative view of change and to actually get them to embrace the concept that they need to change.

Len Sipes: Well, you know, it’s funny, because this gets to the heart and soul of the conversation. There’s a lot of people who deal with offenders who essentially state that they do want to change, but they find themselves in circumstances where they don’t know how to change. Now that creates a big excuse for bad behavior, or for illegal behavior, and I will get emails regarding that. But in essence, if the person has this anger problem that they’ve had because they were abused or abandoned by the parents or one parent in the household, and if he grows up angry, and if he grows up with that chip on their shoulder, that’s a lifelong sort of thing that is not easily overcome.

Neil Goodloe: And it’s not only not easily overcome, it also bleeds out into virtually every other segment of their life.

Len Sipes: Right.

Neil Goodloe: So it tends to exacerbate any other dysfunctional elements this person might have.

Len Sipes: Right. So helping that person come to grips with why he’s got a chip on their shoulder the size of Montana becomes important, and once that recognition takes place, getting him in proper mental health or counseling services to help him deal with it. Am I on track, or am I off track?

Neil Goodloe: No, I think you’re right on the money. In fact, if you look at the Washington State Meta-analysis, you see the words “cognitive behavioral” time and time again under the category of things that work and things that provide a fairly sizeable bang for the buck. What the science is telling us and what actual practice is confirming is that the most effective forms of treatment for many of these dysfunctional elements involve their thinking, because thinking is no more than an action that hasn’t taken place yet, so if we can address the thinking that underlies behavior and actually teach skills to address dysfunctional thinking as it happens, there are reductions in recidivism that occur that are pretty eye-popping.

Len Sipes: So instead of simply lashing out immediately over a provocation, the person thinks about how he’s going to respond to that provocation, where in the past, it would have been a violent response almost instantaneously, maybe something that he doesn’t even quite understand himself, now it’s a process of thinking through his behavior, and that can be done.

Neil Goodloe: Yes. Essentially, social learning in action, and it involves practice. It involves practice in a face setting, it involves repeated practice until new skills become fairly well entrenched and can be used in a very stressful situation as you just described.

Len Sipes: But when we’re doing all of this, it’s not just anger management, which is what we call here at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, it’s just not drug treatment, it’s just not mental health treatment, it’s just not employment, or it’s just not housing, it’s all of that put together in terms of an integrated whole, that’s when it gets really complicated.

Neil Goodloe: And it really does, especially when we understand that we achieved the greatest reductions in recidivism by accentuating the use of our, most of our resources, and most of our time, and most of our attention and energy on that highest risk population.

Len Sipes: And the research does seem, as long as we’re talking about evidence-based, the research does seem to suggest, not with a lot of precision, but suggest that we get the biggest bang for our buck by focusing on the high risk population, and in some cases, doing very little/nothing with the low risk population, am I correct in that?

Neil Goodloe: Well, in fact, there is a sizeable body of research that would suggest that overdosing low risk offenders with supervision is actually harmful and raises their risk for violent potentially[?? 24:23]

Len Sipes: Okay, but does that apply to providing services as well? Because if a judge orders drug treatment for a person with a marginal history of substance abuse, those guidelines of the court are enforceable, and if that person doesn’t go to the drug treatment, then he could be violated and returned to prison.

Neil Goodloe: Yes.

Len Sipes: So the question becomes, does that apply to lower risk, do social, looking at the social needs of an offender, of a low risk offender, is that part of this thought, or is it just being careful in terms of not to over-supervise a low risk offender? I hope I’m making sense.

Neil Goodloe: Sure. Low risk offenders actually do have needs, and they may have fairly sizeable needs, but those needs are not directly related to any risk of recidivism. My concern about tossing low risk and high risk folks into the same treatment settings, though, is that social learning is going on in the training setting, and if you have two individuals, say Ward Cleaver on the low end and Charles Manson on the high end, the good news is, by virtue of that interaction, Charlie gets a little bit more pro-social. But in the process, Ward picks up a whole lot of anti-social, very toxic beliefs and attitudes and values from Charlie. So there are significant indications that we can lower recidivism generally in the communities by finding ways to keep low risk and high risk folks away from each other.

Len Sipes: Okay, Neil, we’ve got four minutes left. Summarize, if you would, what is, give me a quick list of what the evidence does say in terms of re-entry, of offender re-entry, in terms of parole and probation supervision. Give me the five most important lessons from the research.

Neil Goodloe: Wow, in four minutes? Okay, here goes! First of all, we need to understand that the criminal justice system is a process. It’s not 7 or 8 different siloed organizations all working independently. In order to maximize risk reduction efforts, we need to be able to break down a lot of the barriers that have existed historically between pre-trial and the judiciary –

Len Sipes: Okay, so everybody has to work together.

Neil Goodloe: Everybody has to work together and start speaking a common language about what we’re trying to do so that we’re not reinventing the wheel at every single step when a person goes from a local jail to a state prison and then onto parole or onto probation, but we’re all part of a plan that is very carefully orchestrated, very carefully staged and sequenced.

Len Sipes: Understood. What’s the next –

Neil Goodloe: One intervention is building on what’s been done before.

Len Sipes: Understood. Next point.

Neil Goodloe: So there’s one. Another thing is, I think we, historically, have over, we have overvalued how good we are at exercising human judgment as a risk indicator.

Len Sipes: What does that mean?

Neil Goodloe: What that means is that we, in an average workday, we make hundreds of decisions that are either instantaneous or near so, and we use our gut to do that. Well, unfortunately, the research is showing pretty clearly that our gut is not a whole lot better than flipping a coin when it comes to actually predicting future criminality.

Len Sipes: Okay, so this is the point –

Neil Goodloe: We need to be able to rely on actuarial assessment instruments, to be able to be comfortable with what they’re telling us, and then to be able to very carefully blend what we’re seeing and our judgment and our experience and take that risk tool and understand what it’s telling us and be able to make decisions that are better informed when we use this on it.

Len Sipes: So we have, all work together, we need to assess the offender –

Neil Goodloe: Okay, next thing we need to do is be able to interpret what that assessment is telling us, be able to connect the dots of causation from the time this person was done until they’re sitting across from you in the office, to be able to understand in some logical, linear way, how their crime producing issues developed, how strong they are, and what we can do together, the officer and the offender, to enter into some kind of behavioral contract to address those issues.

Len Sipes: Okay, so we map out a plan.

Neil Goodloe: We map out a plan, but that plan can’t just be the probation officer’s plan.

Len Sipes: Oh, absolutely!

Neil Goodloe: The plan has to be a plan that is mutually developed. Otherwise, it’s going to end up in the trash can in the lobby as the offender leaves.

Len Sipes: Understood.

Neil Goodloe: Because it’s not going to have any buy-in.

Len Sipes: I have a quick question, and we’re almost out of time, but where are the resources coming from to do all these services?

Neil Goodloe: Well, interestingly enough, there are initiatives out of Washington, the Second Chance Act contains millions of dollars to help us better understand how the re-entry process works, what we can do to maximize the chances of somebody staying out of prison once they’ve been released, and so there are, there is money in the pipeline available by way of grant application to go after some of this money. There are also, I think there’s an understanding in many states around the country now that we need to take the dollars that we do have already and be able to maximize their use so that as stewards of the taxpayers money, we are providing the highest value for each of those dollars that we can.

Len Sipes: Neil, you’ve got the final word. Ladies and gentlemen, this has been D.C. Public Safety, our guest today has been Neil Goodloe. Neil is a trainer and consultant with Northpointe Institute for Public and Management. He was the chief of Probation for the state – I’m sorry, the Commonwealth of Virginia in the Charlottesville Metropolitan Area, the four or five counties surrounding. The website for Northpointe is www.northpointe – with an ‘e’ – Neil’s direct email is Neil, I’m just going to quickly summarize. I think what you’re saying is that we all need to work together, there needs to be a thorough assessment of the offender, we need to map out a plan, we need to know what the evidence has to say, what the recommendations are in terms of best practices, and we need to put it together in terms of a concentric whole. Do I have it, or do I not have it?

Neil Goodloe: All that plus protecting our people and not burning them out in the process, because the people are the most expensive and the most important resource that we bring to bear in this problem, and if we don’t solve that human element, we’ll just end up in a continual turnover cycle that will not get us where we need –

Len Sipes: Completely agree. Ladies and gentlemen, we want to thank you for listening, and you can reach me at Leonard – L-E-O-N-A-R-D – dot-sipes – S-I-P-E-S, or you can follow me at twitter/lensipes, or you can comment on D.C. Public Safety, either the television shows, the radio shows, the transcripts, or the blogs. Please have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

– Audio ends –

Meta terms: Evidence-based, what works, corrections, jail, prison, prerelease, employment, crime, criminals, criminal justice, prison, incarceration, parole, probation


Leadership Development in Criminal Justice Agencies

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Len Sipes: From our studio in Downtown Washington, DC this is DC Public Safety, I’m your host, Len Sipes. We have and I think an extraordinarily interesting program today; Leadership in Criminal Justice. I’ve been in the Criminal Justice system for almost 40 years. And I can tell you that there’s no issue more contentious than this concept of leadership within the criminal justice system. Do we really breed free thinking people who are going to attack crime problems or correctional problems or court related problems through innovation, through interesting concepts. Through exploration, through research. It’s difficult within a bureaucracy and there is probably no bureaucracy more stodgy than the criminal justice system. So we have two, I think really interesting people to talk to today. One is Debbie Owens. She is the Deputy Commissioner of the Baltimore Police Department. And I’m going to give out her email address in a little while. And the other interesting person we have is Doctor William Sondervan. Doctor Sondervan is a Professor and Director of Criminal Justice at the University of Maryland University College. And again I’ll give out his email address and his website afterwards. The interesting thing about the University of Maryland, the University College, 94,000 students throughout the country and throughout the world. They have a European division, they have an Asian division. So we’re talking about a major administrative academic effort coming together with mainstream criminal justice to develop this concept called Leadership in Criminal Justice. Debbie Owns and Doctor Sondervan, welcome to DC Public Safety.

William Sondervan: Thanks, Len.

Debbie Owens: Thanks, Len.

Len Sipes: All right, I want to start off a little bit with you, Bill; 94,000 students, the University of Maryland, the University College, the whole concept, I mean, is this the normal college? Or is this something that brings a new and innovative way of offering higher level academic programs to students?

William Sondervan: Well, we’re actually quite unusual. A very interesting university. We’re part of the University system of Maryland. And there’s 11 colleges and universities in this system. And our distinct mission is the adult part time learner. And working with the professional in the field. And I’ve been a practitioner my whole life. I’ve had 23 years in the Military Police retiring and Lt. Colonel and then the States Correction Commissioner. I was asked to come in and create a program specifically for practitioners to help the people in the field to better be able to do their job. And that’s what makes us a little bit different.

Len Sipes: Debbie, first of all, congratulations to you all in Baltimore City, you’ve reduced the homicide rate to its lowest point in many years. You’ve also recorded recently a 2 percent reduction in violent crime. Debbie Owens is Deputy Commissioner of the Baltimore City Police Department. Debbie, why did you get involved with the University of Maryland, the University College? What advantages do they bring to the folks at the Baltimore City Police Department?

Debbie Owens: You know, actually it’s Commissioner Deerfeld’s(?) idea. I know that he’s worked with Bill before and we have done some things with universities and toyed around with various types of leadership development. And we just were taken aback by the effectiveness and the accomplishments that the University of Maryland, University College has made. And so we sat around, I remember Bill one morning at breakfast talking about this whole subject of leadership and Bill and his cohorts just brought years and years of knowledge and experience to the table. And we just felt comfortable and it has ended up being a great partnership.

Len Sipes: All right. Now we’ve got the easy questions out of the way, the introductions out of the way. Debbie Owens can be reached at debra.owens – o-w-e-n-s at baltimorepolice dot org. Bill Sondervan can be reached at, the website is Okay. The niceties are out of the way. Now let’s have the fun part of the conversation. Again, I’ve been in the criminal justice system for 40 years. It is a stodgy, bureaucratic system, whether we’re talking about corrections, whether we’re talking about the judiciary, whether we’re talking about pre-trail, it doesn’t matter. Parole and probation, it’s a system of hierarchies. It’s a leader at the top setting the tone for everybody else in law enforcement. In some cases it’s very paramilitary. In corrections it’s very paramilitary. Is this a structure, I’m talking specifically about the criminal justice system, not IBM or not Google or not, you now, the big automotive companies. Is the criminal justice system conducive to creating people who are going to think for themselves, create for themselves, try things for themselves and take risks?

William Sondervan: Well, Len, if I may, that’s what this program is all about. And the way we kicked it off and the way we got started was sitting around the table with Commissioner Fred Deerfeld and some colleagues and this is all about relationships and friendships that go back years. And as a new Police Commissioner for the Department, Fred Deerfeld sincerely wanted to make a better, a safer city and create a better police department by giving his mid level managers and his officers the tools to do that. And we kicked around a lot of different ideas and by going back and forth we came up with a model which is really unique. It was new to Baltimore City police and it was new to the university. He had some selling to do on his end, I had some selling to do on our end. The people at University of Maryland, University College were skeptical at first, but then became very agreeable. And now they really love the program, our Dean, our Provost, our President are all involved in it. And Fred wanted something where the mid level managers in this program could actually help solve problems. Well, we’re teaching them leadership skills and problem solving skills for them to go into the city and to tackle some problems and to come up with solutions to problems is part of the learning process. And I think that’s really neat and that’s really kind of what we did. And I’m going to ask the Deputy Commissioner to talk about that a little bit. But what we did in our format is we started out with, we have four credit classes that lead to a 16 credit criminal justice leadership certificate. And all those credits apply to a Bachelor of Science degree. And a part of this whole thing is the Commissioner wants to encourage these people to get their Bachelor’s degrees. But the way we have it set up is we have a week in the classroom, which is intensive, in classroom learning, and then we follow that with six weeks of online environment. And in the online environment the students have to do a journal, they have to do pape
rs, they have to do research. But really what’s unique about this is our faculty working with the Police Commissioner and the Deputy Commissioner and your senior staff is that they come up with projects. And they basically give our faculty the projects. The projects are then assigned to the students who are broken down into teams and the teams go and they actually research those projects, they come up with solutions. And at the end of each class those students have to brief the Commissioner, the Deputy Commissioner and other members of the command staff on their solution to problems. And I think this is really remarkable. And I think a lot of the things that the students were able to do, the Commissioner adopted them for actual implementation. And another part of this thing, as I think for the Commissioner, Deputy Commissioner, they really got to see their people. Some of those folks in the class they didn’t know that well because it’s a huge police department. But they got to watch their people in action and they really learned a lot about them and they really saw who has leadership ability, who doesn’t and who’s going to come to the top.

Len Sipes: Okay, well, Bill, I think we answered the question in a roundabout way. Debbie, I’m going to put the question to you, now, what Bill just said makes sense. I mean, within an academic setting, you’re allowed to do lots of different things. You’re allowed to explore. What about people when they get beyond the academic setting? Is the Baltimore Police Department, and I would, I’m going to venture and say most criminal justice bureaucracies are pretty stodgy. They want leadership from the top and not leadership from mid level, street level management. Am I right or wrong?

Debbie Owens: No, you’re absolutely right, Len. And your earlier comment about law enforcement agencies and paramilitary organizations that are somewhat single minded, you’re right from the top down where we’ll give you the directions, we’ll give you the orders, we’ll tell you how to think, we’ll tell you what to do.

Len Sipes: Right.

Debbie Owens: That’s the way it’s always been in law enforcement. But this new Commissioner, this new command staff, this new mayor and regime in this city, we’re looking for more creative ways to have leaders, the new young future leaders of this police department and law enforcement in general, to begin to be creative and to think for themselves and to step outside of this whole paramilitary thing, concept. And be able to come up with, be able to analyze problems, situations, issues in their communities and develop programs or processes or better ways to manage those issues rather than the top forcing thoughts and movements downward.

Len Sipes: Can either one of you give me some examples as to how ideas came up from street level managers to improve the situation in the City of Baltimore?

Debbie Owens: You know, essentially we sat down with several different groups of people. And once again this was sergeants, lieutenants up to deputy majors, which are similar to a captain’s rank in the military.

Len Sipes: Right.

Debbie Owens: We looked at some of the issues that we were facing or had been facing over the last several years in the City of Baltimore and issues that we thought is corrected or altered would help with the reduction of crime and the improvement in the quality of life for the citizens of Baltimore. And we looked at things like foot patrol. Many, many, many years ago, as both of you well know, you’ve been around for a long time, foot patrols, that’s the way cops got around. They were on foot and they were in neighborhoods. And neighborhoods felt good about knowing the name of their cop. And as years have gone on we’ve gotten away from that. So we talked about things like our foot patrol project. We talked about recruitment. Recruitment is a huge issue in law enforcement and the criminal justice ,

Len Sipes: Law enforcement agencies were at least having a tough time recruiting people before the recession.

Debbie Owens: Correct.

Len Sipes: I don’t know if that’s, I don’t know where we are now, but at one point some law enforcement leaders described it as being a bit of a crisis.

Debbie Owens: It was. And everybody was fighting for the same pool of candidates. And so one of the groups in this class actually had concerns about what the advertising, the types of advertising the locations that we were advertising for recruitment. So they took it upon themselves to work with one of the local TV stations and developed probably one of the most successful recruitment videos that we’ve ever had. So literally everybody sat down and looked at issues that we thought that people could analyze and make an impact on. And that’s pretty much how we decided on what projects or what groups the groups will get.

Len Sipes: Now, the whole idea of exporting this, now, again both of us, all three of us have been in the criminal justice system a long time. We’ve talked about similar issues decades ago in terms of taking line managers and providing the opportunities for a college education, more and more people coming to law enforcement, by the way, as you all know in corrections have Bachelor’s degrees, have advanced degrees. But the rank and file ordinarily most of the people in law enforcement do not. We’ve talked about developing leadership throughout the years in terms of college courses, but the thing that’s intriguing me is this concept of leadership. A sergeant basically saying, you know what? I think what the hierarchy is doing in the City of Baltimore, or a correctional sergeant in a prison saying I think what the hierarchy is doing is wrong. I think there’s a better way of approaching this. And I’m going to use it from a research point of view, a best evidence point of view. And present my ideas to these individuals. Are those ideas going to receive a welcome reception? And I’m going to put myself out on a limb and say for a lot of criminal justice agencies the answer is no.

William Sondervan: Well, I think the answer is no. And I think there’s a big leadership gap in police departments and juvenile justice across the whole system. And I think that’s something that really needs to be addressed. There’s a rapid turnover of senior leaders and mid level managers and these are the kinds of things that have to be explored. And that’s exactly what’s going on in this particular program. We’re encouraging the mid level managers in this class to think for themselves and to come up with ideas. And the police commissioner, the deputy commissioner have welcomed this and their open. And they’re sitting down and they’re talking, you know, with the people in the class about their ideas. They’re getting it from the line people out in the field and they’re learning a lot by talking to the people and they’re actually taking what they’re telling them and they’re putting it into action. I think this is what really makes it remarkable.

Len Sipes: I think from a , go ahead, Debbie.

Debbie Owens: I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt.

Len Sipes: No, please.

Debbie Owens: One of the most, probably one of the most interesting things about the program and one of the most successful things about the program, if you could go back and speak to those that went through the original, the first program was that they had an opportunity for their voice to be heard and their thoughts and concerns about issues that are going on, not only in this police department, but that are going on in concert with other law enforcement agencies or other partners, whether it be parole and probation, whether it be corrections. Those folks are out and about day in and day out working on the street and they have concerns. And they felt like their voice wasn’t being heard. But in this case I think that they have now realized that it’s very open minded at the top of the police department and that their voice can be heard and that they had some great ideas and that they were able to be very successful in not only looking at these projects but putting together finished products that they could carry away with them and actually implement. That was actually one of the biggest things, Bill, that we talked about was them being able to not only devise programs, but literally go back and implement them into their own districts or divisions or sections and then go back several months later and evaluate how it worked. So I think that’s been a huge success.

William Sondervan: And let me add to what the Deputy Commissioner just said, one of the things that was really unique that came out of this was, you know, sometimes universities are like criminal justice agencies. They don’t listen either.

Len Sipes: Sure.

William Sondervan: But in this case they did. One of the things that came out of this class was a need for a graduate program for criminal justice practitioners. So we’ve sat down with the class and we did some brainstorming and said, okay, if we’re going to create a masters program for mid level police officers or mid level correctional officers to prepare them to go up to senior leadership, what should be in this masters program? What should it look like? What are the skills that you need to have. And by going to that process, we listed all these things out. And we went back to the university administration. We took the Dean, the Provost and the President of the university and we said, hey, these police officers in Baltimore City wants to do a masters program. And here’s the kinds of skills that we need. And we went round and round and we came up with a couple of models. But what we settled on was a Master of Science in management that has leadership management, communications, skills for strategic planning, all those kinds of things plus a core of real solid criminal justice courses that would create just a perfect degree for them. And then what we did with it is we set it up as a dual degree program so that if they finished this and they wanted to go on by taking three more six credit classes, they can get an MBA. Well, we took what the officers told us, we put it together in a packet and it went all the way up to the President of the university and got approved by the Maryland Higher Education Commission and by our Criminal Justice Advisory Board. And we now have a masters program that’s coming, that’s going to be avaiable in the Fall online and in the classroom and it’s exactly designed to take this group of mid level managers and prepare them to be senior leaders. And I think this is great.

Len Sipes: Well, my guess is that the combination of criminal justice in leadership and business is exactly what’s needed instead of a straight criminal justice degree. Ladies and gentlemen, you are listening to DC Public Safety. I am your host, Len Sipes. Debbie Owens is the Deputy Commissioner of the Baltimore City Police Department. You can reach Debra at debra – d-e-b-o-r-a-h dot owens – o-w-e-n-s at baltimorepolice dot org. Also at our microphone is Doctor William Sondervan, Professor and Director of Criminal Justice for the University of Maryland, University College. It’s a sort of a non traditional college. It’s been around for a long time. I, as a budding police officer, close to 40 years ago took courses from the University of Maryland, University College, so I have a direct connection with UMUC; 94,000 students throughout the world, Okay, so we have, again, this idea of leadership. We have, what we’re saying is that we all admit that the criminal justice system is a bit stodgy. And really doesn’t jump up for joy when that sergeant comes up and says, you know, I’ve done a little bit of research. In fact I’ve done a lot of research and I’ve checked with this organization and that organization. And one of the things that they suggest is we do whatever it is, blah, blah, blah. And now, possibly, some of the criminal justice agencies throughout the country are embracing that concept. Now, I’ll direct the listeners and I can’t remember the names of the television shows, I’m sorry, movies that were about say 30 years ago, about the rogue cop in Los Angeles. In other words cops who were not listened to. Cops who were just part of the system, they were just pawns in the system, if you will. And they took it out against themselves through drugs and alcohol and to the larger society. It was this whole concept of the rogue cop. And there were some textbooks devoted to the whole concept of – one textbook called the Ambivalent Force back from the 1970s. So this concept of cops not being listened to, developing a subculture amongst themselves because they were isolated from the command structure, isolated from the ability to provide the information directly. That’s part of the folklore of policing. You know, it’s top down and we’re being ignored, so if we’re being ignored, we’re going to act out. Am I making any sense?

Debbie Owens: Lots of sense.

Len Sipes: Okay.

William Sondervan: Yeah. I think you are.

Len Sipes: And doesn’t that apply to the entire criminal justice system? And won’t this concept not only improve the keeping of good personnel within the criminal justice system because they have a way of getting directly involved in the policy process. It’s going to recruit people into the criminal justice system. I think this is a win/win situation for everybody. But I’m not quite sure how people outside the criminal justice system have a good understanding of what it is that we’re talking about. So that’s why I go back to those movies in the 70s and the book, the Ambivalent Force, and I think the author was Joseph Wambaugh(?) who did a series of books about dysfunctional police.

William Sondervan: Well, Len, this is what it’s all about. It’s all about good leadership. It’s about good management. It’s about strategic planning. It’s having good quality communication up and down the line where people feel empowered. That the officers are a part of the solution where they’re contributing their ideas, they’re contributing their knowledge, they’re being listened to carefully and there’s ownership and there’s buy in and there’s communication and you get the whole department, you know, going in one direction and feeling good about their leadership and what they’re doing and feeling good about contributing, to making their city or their state a better place. And, you know, anybody who works in policing or in corrections or in juvenile justice has to be that kind of person because those kinds of jobs are more than just the money. You know, there’s got to be that kind of character about a person to do well in those jobs.

Len Sipes: Well, we have a high , go ahead, Deb. Please.

Debbie Owens: Go ahead, Len. I’m sorry. Go ahead.

Len Sipes: We have a high turnover in law enforcement. We have a high turnover in corrections. And I understand that depends upon the economy and that depends upon what law enforcement agency throughout the country we’re talking about or what correctional agency we’re talking about. But the turnover problem is there. And it just seemed to me that other people would say, you know, this is not only a career with a future, this is an opportunity, this is a career that treats me not as an equal, I understand that, but it allows me to give input as to what the burning issues are.

Debbie Owens: Exactly. I mean, I think that Bill hit on it perfectly and you have as well, Len. One of the things that this program has also done, you know, these guys and girls that have attended this, they’re going home and talking to their wives and their girlfriends and their parents and their friends and they’re talking about their involvement in the University of Maryland Leadership program. But it also has given the everyday street cop, detectives, those folks that are out on the front line day in and day out, it also has given them the hope and the opportunity that their voices can be heard as well. So that it’s not just for the mid level supervisors, but once again this is an open minded police department and an era in law enforcement and juvenile justice where everybody’s voice is able to be heard. It’s not just one person who is saying this is the way things are going to be handled here. But everybody, you know, as many ideas as you can get involved in, solving, whether it be juvenile crime or social issues or partnering with the various agencies in cities. Everybody now understands that they have an opportunity to be heard and that their suggestions will be accepted.

Len Sipes: And that’s the heart and soul behind problem oriented policing. The concept that, you know, you have an issue, I think the most frequent example problem oriented policing is a commercial environment. It could be a bar, it could be a restaurant, it could be, oh, who knows? But the bulk of the calls for that particular police district are from that location. And from areas directly related to that location. So there’s a problem. How, instead of endlessly running to calls for service at that locations, the officers and the sergeants and the lieutenants figure out what it is about that location that is necessary and how can we solve that problem in that particular location. In the case of problem bars it’s taking their liquor license away from them. But problem oriented policing is designed to take just about any criminal justice problem and to analyze it, not necessarily by the hierarchy but more by the people who are at that line level. So there is a bit of a tradition in law enforcement, at least. And I think a merge in tradition in corrections to look at things from a problem solving point of view, that requires the rank and file.

William Sondervan: Absolutely, Len. And part of doing leader development is preparing those mid level leaders and managers to listen to the people below them as well. It’s not just from them up, it’s from them down. It’s teaching them how to do those very things you talked about.

Debbie Owens: And Len, we’ve also involved the, I know wherever I go the Commissioner goes. The other senior command members. And I’m sure the folks that have gone through this class. But wherever we go, whoever we’re involved with, especially in the community, we’re talking about programs like this and specifically about this program and how we’re developing leaders and police officers and folks to analyze problems. And their involvement and their suggestions on what they see and what they would like to see.

Len Sipes: Well, that’s part of ,

Debbie Owens: This goes out further than just the police department itself.

Len Sipes: That’s the other part of it, Debbie, with the whole concept of community oriented policing. Now, there is, nobody has a clear definition as to what community oriented policing is. It is principally a concept, a philosophy. But the bottom line is that not only is rank and file involved in solving problems, and when I say rank and file, I’m talking about the officers, sergeants, lieutenants, people directly involved in that particular district, but community members themselves. And that’s very difficult for us. I mean, what we’re talking about throughout this entire program is that the concept is difficult from the part of the criminal justice system, the bureaucracy, difficult concepts to implement. Number one, listening to rank and file, number two, listening to community people giving them an opportunity to have direct input into and how a law enforcement agency or for that matter a corrections agency or judicial agency how they conduct business. Again, that’s , it’s tough for the bureaucracy to embrace both, but this embraces all of that, correct?

Debbie Owens: Correct.

William Sondervan: Absolutely, Len.

Len Sipes: You know, I can remember being a part of the community crime prevention movement a couple of decades ago for the two Department of Justice Clearinghouses and (chuckle) and I ended up going around the country talking to law enforcement folks and they were looking at me like I was crazy in terms of, you know, just forming that bond with the community, in terms of empowering the community folks to come along and solve that problem. You know, the bottom line is that unless we get the community involved, unless they own the problem, the problem is never going to go away. Unless rank and file owns the file, the problem is never going to go away. I think that’s what we’re basically admitting to, so we’re not talking so much of an educational program, we’re talking about a different way of looking at crime and criminal justice issues.

William Sondervan: And the same concepts apply in running a prison system, inside of a prison, when you do, when people leave and you do their exit interviews and ask them why they’re leaving, you know, a lot of times they’re leaving because they feel like they’re not empowered, that they’re not able to solve problems. That they’re afraid in their work environment. And that they just basically are going to have a low morale. And a lot of people under good leadership will grow and prosper. And if they’re not listened to and if they’re involved, if they’re not empowered, they’re going to not be motivated and you’re going to tend to lose them.

Len Sipes: Well, Bill, a direct example of that is that you, when you ran the Maryland Prison System, implemented in the most dangerous prisons we had this problem oriented approach and got the rank and file involved and let them make decisions for that particular pod in terms of how they handle violence, how they handle interactions between very, very disruptive and in some cases, dangerous inmates and correctional folks, violence went down and violence went down dramatically in those areas.

William Sondervan: Well, it’s very similar to policing, only in a different environment. You know, for example, we took the – Maryland has a correction annex which was just full of the most violent maximum security prisoners we had in the state. And the violence there was just through the roof. And what we did is we implemented unit management. It’s almost kind of like community policing where we put a lieutenant in charge of each housing unit, we put the same people assigned to that housing unit on a constant basis and they worked together as a team and they engaged in problem solving and they came up with their own solutions in how to reduce violence. And it worked. It worked very, very well. And it got to the point where this very dangerous prison where nobody wanted to go to became a very nice place to work and people were happy to be there. And the concepts are similar.

Len Sipes: And you know it’s interesting you can go into a prison and feel the energy and feel the emotion as soon as you walk into the institution. And you can go into other prisons and you feel the lack of the tension immediately upon entering into the institution, so it’s amazing what philosophy or what change in philosophy would do just in terms of managing a prison. And I would imagine Debbie Owens, just in terms of managing crime within a neighborhood.

Debbie Owens: Yeah. You’re exactly right, Len. I’ve noticed a huge change in the areas where these participants in this course are now working, whether it be in a district or in a detective unit, you could just sense that there is some renewed motivation on their part and they’re eager to take everything they’ve learned. You know, one of the issues that I thought we would have problems with was how the course was set up and that they would be gone. Because we had to take different things into consideration, one being deployment. This is a very long program over the course of weeks and to have 25 people, especially mid level managers missing from your day to day crime fight would be tough. And you know we toyed back and forth with time frames and the fact that they are there for a week in class working together as teams, tossing around ideas is great. But what was even more encouraging to us is when they came back to their own environment for six weeks and did everything online, you could see that the things that they had learned and discussed and the topics that they had talked about in the week that they were all together that they were already implementing. So it wasn’t like we had to wait to the end of a semester or wait until class was finished and they got a certificate to see any results, we saw results every six weeks. They’d go away for a week and they’d come back for six weeks and they just had this energy about them. And once again they’ve encouraged others, whether it be a street cop or a detective or others that they’ve worked with, the community member, they’ve convinced them now that it’s okay to talk about together how we can fix these problems and how we can be creative and think in different ways that we’ve never thought before.

Len Sipes: Debbie, you’ve got the final word. Debbie Owens, Deputy Commissioner of the Baltimore City Police Department. Again, congratulations in the huge reductions in homicide in the City of Baltimore as well as the two percent reduction in violent crime over the course of the last year. It’s Debra, d-e-b-o-r-a-h dot owens, o-w-e-n-s at baltimorepolice dot org. And Doctor William Sondervan, Professor and Director of Criminal Justice at the University of Maryland, University College. William Sondervan, I’m sorry, wsondervan, w-s-o-n-d-e-r-v-a-n at umuc dot edu. Or the website for the University of Maryland, University College, Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. I really want to thank all of you for the comments we’re getting, a ton of them now that I’m on Twitter and the other social networking site such as FaceBook and MySpace. And as well through the email in this show and through the comment section in this show. Keep your comments coming in. We really are listening to them. We really do examine them all, discuss them all and we respond to every comment. We appreciate it. Ladies and gentlemen, please have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

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Victim Services-An Academic Approach-DC Public Safety

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Leonard Sipes: From our microphones in downtown Washington D.C., this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. We’re going to talk today about the collegiate approach to victim assistance ;back at our microphone is Bill Sondervan, the Executive Director of the Center for Criminal Justice Administration, University of Maryland, University College where 95,000 students all throughout the world attend online collegiate instruction and truth in advertising; I teach for Bill. I’m an associate professor of Criminal Justice at University of Maryland, University College, and we have Roberta Roper.

Roberta is somebody who’s a sheer joy to talk to. I’ve talked to her lots of times in the past but the first time on this air. She is the Chair of the Maryland Crime Victims Resource Center and she is, again, a passionate, passionate advocate for victim assistance. And again, the whole idea is how can a college, how can a university system take victims’ issues and incorporate them fully into the instruction of criminal justice personnel? What can we do regarding criminal justice personnel and sensitize them to not only the rights but obligations of the criminal justice system towards crime victims?

Ladies and gentlemen, before we begin, let’s share our usual commercial. We are up to 177,000 requests for DC Public Safety for the month of July. We are really appreciative of all the emails that you’re sending us, all the comments on the program and the fact that you’re following us by Twitter. If you want to get in touch with me directly its And with that out of the way, Roberta Roper and Bill Sondervan, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Sondervan, Roberta Roper: Thank you.

Leonard Sipes: Bill, you’ve been at this air a couple of times now. The last program that you did was really interesting. We did a program of how the university is incorporating instruction with the Baltimore City Police Department, how they’re using, I guess, Tools of the Trade to improve public safety for the city of Baltimore. And now, I would imagine that, in essence, is what you’re doing here. You’re taking a collegiate approach to victim assistance in conjunction with the Maryland Crime Victims Resource Center. In essence, not just for the state of Maryland, but for the entire world considering your population goes throughout the world – trying to do what you can to incorporate a victim’s approach to criminal justice instruction.

Bill Sondervan: Yeah. That’s exactly what we’re doing. We’re trying to use all the tools available to us to do that. And as you know, UMUC has classes all through Maryland and we teach in 26 countries around the world on the ground but we also are the online arm of the university System of Maryland. And about 50% of our students are military and others and they’re all over the world, and in foreign countries. So how we got into this with Roberta Roper was, well, first of all, my background, I’ve been retired, I was a Chief of Police in the Army, I was a Provo Marshall, and then I was the State Corrections Commissioner. So I’m very, very aware and very sensitive to the issues of victims.

And I taught part-time as a way of giving back in the classroom for years, and I always thought,victimology is one of the courses that I taught. And victimology is really important but you have to get students involved in it, and you have to make them interested in it. I was having trouble getting students to see this is more than just a college class. And so what I did was ask Roberta Roper if she would come to my class and be a guest speaker. We did this about the third class into it. And Roberta came to that first class and she talked about what happened in her life, the personal tragedy that happened to her daughter and her family. And then she talked about what happened when she went into the criminal justice system, this was 25 years ago, and how poorly they were treated and how little that they were – had rights and how little they could talk about their daughter.

Then she talked about what happened over the years and how things had changed, and when she got done talking for about an hour and a half and interacting with the class, victimology became a very important topic and the students had tears rolling down their eyes and it went from being a college elective to be something very important to them. And a lot of our students over the years then went and volunteered and got involved in helping victims, and got involved in victim rights issues. And to take another step farther, when I became the director of the program three years ago, I thought, what a great way to be able to reach people worldwide and get this very important message out and make victimology important to our students all over the world.

So what we did was we asked Roberta Roper to come to our studios and we interviewed her in the studio, and the interview and the conversation was along the same line. Roberta talked about what happened to her daughter and her family, and she talked about what’s happened in the victim’s rights area over the last 25 or so years; and we put that in our classes. So now when a students takes a class with us they go online and they log on to a learning management system and they have a textbook and they have discussions every week but a part of that we have built-in modules. And, in one of our modules, right in the beginning to get people really interested in the topic, you click on the module and Roberta comes on, and Roberta talks about her experiences and, along the way, the film stops and there’s discussion questions. So then they have a discussion about the issues and we play it through like that. And so what a great start to get students interested in the topic of victimology and it’s really, I think, turned people’s thoughts and views about the whole subject around from just being a college course and just an elective they’re taking, to something that they’re very passionate about and something that’s very important to them.

Roberta Roper: Bill is absolutely correct. Changing attitudes and creating an atmosphere in which people can identify with others is critical to getting and making any progress. And that’s what’s so extraordinary about this whole series and the University College’s efforts in our collaboration. It’s nothing short revolutionary from it was 27 years ago.

Leonard Sipes: The whole idea I think of this larger issue of victim assistance, We have done, by the way, a series of programs and we’re going to continue to do a series of programs with the National Organization for Victim Assistance, NOVA. And this whole concept of victims’ issues, victims’ rights, for those of us who have been in the criminal justice system, it is – we saw first hand how victims were victimized not only by their attacker but the criminal justice system. The fact that we did not provide everything to that victim that we could do, should do, and the fact that it’s now we have a national constitutional amendment and there are state amendments in most of the states, constitutional amendments in most of the states, not only suggesting that the criminal justice system do the right thing but compelling the criminal justice,

Roberta Roper: Requiring, yes,

Leonard Sipes: ,requiring the criminal justice system to do the right thing in terms of crime victims. And Roberta, you’ve been there from the very beginning. Bill, you have been there from the very beginning. I’ve been there from the very beginning. I used to be the Subject Level Specialist for Crime Prevention and Victims for the Department of Justice’s clearing house. So all of us were there from the very beginning; we saw what happened, we saw how terrible it was. Roberta, I never know how to summarize your particular set of circumstances, but your daughter was murdered viciously and your process through the criminal justice system was not pleasant.

Roberta Roper: Well, you said it earlier; the secondary victimization was in many ways worse than the horrific crimes committed against our daughter, very destructive. One year parents and you try to raise children properly. It almost destroyed our family because unlike our daughter’s killers, we had no right to information, no right to observe the trial, no right to be heard and a victim impact statement before sentencing. And fundamentally, being treated with dignity and respect, that’s critical. Though Americans are a caring people, we tend to think that crime happens to other people, it can certainly happen to us.

We live good lives and so this way to create identification is key to any progress, and certainly from our experience in 1982 – today things are vastly different. You mentioned state constitutional amendments, 33 states now have state constitutional amendments. We have not yet succeeded on the federal level, however, we do have one of the strongest pieces of federal legislation that was passed in 2004, the Justice For All Act – Crime Victims Rights, in which again, there is not only a requirement but there’s the ability to have an attorney represent the interest of victims when those rights are not enforced. And so we’ve made extraordinary progress.

But I think the real extraordinary thing for me is this, what’s happening on the educational level because, obviously, we have to look to the next generation to maintain and continue to expand – but to keep the promise, because laws are wonderful, but laws that are ignored are meaningless. And so we need to have people in the field who understand their obligations under the law. And more importantly, can see through the eyes of a crime victim and how important it is that they’re treated with dignity and respect, and that to the extent that they are able to participate and choose to participate, that they be given those rights.

Leonard Sipes: But,

Roberta Roper: I personally dream of a day when crime victims’ rights and services are part of the fabric of our whole criminal justice system, just as the rights of someone accused or convicted of a crime are. But we’re not there yet.

Leonard Sipes: Bill Sondervan, University of Maryland , University College, you’re incorporating this whole concept of victimology into all the different courses that you offer there through the University of Maryland, University College. My sense is, and I think the sense of an awful lot of people who have been in the criminal justice system is that even though we have, I think, 33 constitutional amendments and we have national legislation, a lot of us in the criminal justice system still do not fully understand victimology. And I don’t think it’s because we’re bad people, I don’t think it’s because we don’t sympathize greatly with victims. I think all of us are running at a 500 miles an hour, we’re handling hundreds of cases. We’re doing an awful lot of stuff and the real effort that it takes and it takes, I think, a good amount of effort to service victims properly. I think that gets tossed to the wayside because we’re just running so hard on so many different things. Am I right or wrong?

Bill Sondervan: Yeah, I think so, Len. And I think that victimology in academia is really like a secondary subject. It’s not one of the primary courses you have to take to get your degree. So our approach to this is to make it part of the degree and make it really an exciting, hard-hitting course that has a big impact on people and just really, really grab their attention, get them into it and make it important to them. And that was what our whole goal was in this class and I think we’ve done that.

Leonard Sipes: But I mean, is it one class? Is it a variety of classes?

Bill Sondervan: Well, no, it’s one class and it’s a 15-week class. It’s very in-depth and it’s very thorough but it leads students into understanding other things in the criminal justice as well. But what it really gives them is just the real appreciation of the plight of victims and the importance of this whole victims’ rights movement.

Leonard Sipes: Is it a required class or an option?

Bill Sondervan: It’s an option, but it’s one of the ones that everybody takes.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. And everybody should take because, again, I get back to this larger issue. When I was a police officer decades ago, I would see the impact of what crime meant to individual human beings. I would imagine all of us fully understand that if there’s a violent assault or a rape, or a homicide, obviously, the family and the larger community is going to be impacted by that. But the whole concept of victimology extends to somebody breaking into your garage. I’ve seen people move out of communities because their garage was broken into twice. It goes way beyond violent crime in terms of our perceptions of our own personal safety, the safety of our family, which is fundamental to all of us. But, again, we run hard within the criminal justice system and I think sometimes we see these issues as just getting in the way. Roberta mentioned she wants to see these institutionalized as much as protecting the rights of the perpetrator and that does require legislation, I think, Roberta.

Roberta Roper: Well that’s why we have states to pass state constitutional amendments and efforts continue on the national level, as well, and the Justice for All Act was one piece of that, and that we’re now in the process of testing this. But without a mechanism to seek enforcement and a remedy, when those rights are not enforced, they’re just simply paper promises. So we have to not only pass legislation, we have to change attitudes; we have to provide training and the support services that are needed. And you’re right, nobody intentionally seeks to harm another person who suffers the consequences of crime but it does take training and it takes a shift in attitudes, understanding that, in fact, without the respect and cooperation of crime victims the system would cease to exist.

Leonard Sipes: Yesterday, Bill Sondervan, the Executive Director for the Center for Criminal Justice Administration. You can reach Bill at University of Maryland, University College has 95,000 students throughout the world. Roberta Roper is just not the Chair of the Maryland Crime Victims Resource Center, she is a national figure on the issue of crime victimization. You can reach her directly at or the website is or the 800 number, the toll free number is 1877-VICTIM-1. Roberta, one of the things that you wanted to bring up was the National Day of Remembrance, which is this September 25th in Washington D.C. And there is a national toll free telephone number for that, 180-0438-6233 and we’ll be putting that into the show notes as well. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Roberta Roper: Yes, thank you. Yes. This will also represents the collaboration between the Parents of Murdered Children, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and the Maryland Crime Victims Resource Center, and our audiences are the families of homicide victims but also stakeholders and legislatures, and others who work in the field. And it includes a day-long symposium at the Ronald Reagan Building during the daytime and an evening ceremony and reception at the Press Club, and we’re certainly trying to, again, raise awareness. Congress, at the urging of Parents of Murdered Children several years ago, established this National Day of Remembrance, and it’s a bipartisan effort, and it’s the first of its kind and so we’re really pleased to be part of it and working together with POMC and MADD.

Leonard Sipes: The concept, getting back to the criminal justice system, and its approach to victims issues, I talked to, interviewed people who were directly involved in providing victim services to individuals and my question at one point was, “How many times do you have to remind your hierarchy?” Now these are individuals within bureaucracies and they’re the ones who are charged with helping victims out and cutting through the clutter, cutting through the disarray within the criminal justice system and helping these individuals wherever the law allows. And so they are passionate representatives of victims’ rights but the question was, how often do you have to go to your hierarchy and remind them that there is federal legislation or a constitutional amendment to help victims and this is not an option, this is something that you’re legally obligated to do? And they looked at me through the microphones, if you will, and in essence said, “Well, it happens quite a few times.” I know you think that’s,

Roberta Roper: It’s an ongoing effort. Yes.

Leonard Sipes: That’s the heart and soul of this whole concept, Bill Sondervan, and I think that’s one of the reasons why you’re doing what you’re doing.

Bill Sondervan: Yeah. When I was a States Corrections Commissioner it was really important to me and I saw this as well. I mean, like you said earlier, everybody gets caught up in the day-to-day operations. There’s so much concern about the perpetrator and about the inmate that sometimes the victims are forgotten. So we set up a Victim Services coordinator and a Victim Services officer and this person’s full time job was to keep the victims’ issues at the forefront to do a variety of things, to commemorate, to remind people, working on programs where we could advise victims when an inmate was going to come up for parole, when an inmate was going to be released, to take requests from victims, victim’s families and coordinate those requests and make things happen. We would take victim’s families on tours of prisons. We did everything we could to keep this in the forefront.

Leonard Sipes: And again, within a very a busy criminal justice system, that could be problematic. I think the newspapers – we violated individual’s constitutional rights, a person accused of a crime, or the person convicted of a crime, I think – very quickly be on the front page, yet I don’t see a lot of newspaper coverage of us violating the rights of crime victims, Roberta.

Roberta Roper: No, you don’t because number one, most crime victims don’t know that they have a right to do anything about it. That’s an inherent problem. Making certain that every crime victim knows that they have certain constitutional rights within their state, and then providing them legal assistance to seek enforcement if those rights are endangered or denied, and then taking further action. The Maryland Crime Victims Resource Center actually has one of the nation’s first legal clinics to provide free legal assistance because the crime victims shouldn’t have to pay for – most of them can’t afford to do that. And the purpose of the attorney is not to interfere with the prosecution in any way, but simply to ensure that the rights that the crime victim has under their state’s laws are enforced and, if they’re not enforced, that there’s some action to remedy that.

An example of another collaboration that we are working on here in Maryland is with the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board. Again, the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Service is trying to make that agency more victim-friendly to ensure that victims who desperately need compensation, perhaps to bury a child, to seek counseling for a family member, or lost wages when a crime has occurred or the principal bread winner has been murdered. And it’s been very rewarding to see some progress, though slow, on that effort and, as you say, all of us have the demands of our daily lives but again, this is a topic that the criminal justice system has only in recent years has really begun to address. If we had a timeline we would be on the very first little couple of dots in terms of criminal justice system in progress, and in relation to how victims are treated. And again, victims simply deserve certain fundamental support services, and to be treated with dignity and respect.

Leonard Sipes: No argument there. I remember as a police officer years ago where a burglary victim wanted me to stop by the house and talk to that individual about what I was doing regarding their particular burglary. And I said to myself, “I’ve got five calls scheduled, there’s no way that I can go back and talk to that individual. What I will do is get back to that individual at the first available opportunity, but it’s not gonna be tonight,” and it turned out not to be next night and it turned out not to be the next night after that. When I finally got back to him, his complaint was that obviously I wasn’t taking his burglary seriously if I couldn’t get back to him as quickly as I wanted to. This was before the days of cell phones.

Roberta Roper: Well, then that’s why today law enforcement agency – many seek to have a victim assistance unit, so that the police officer can focus on the apprehension, the arrest and all of that of the person who should be charged with the crime, and in fact, the victim can have the communication and referrals, perhaps, to other support services in their community through a non-enforcement person (a law enforcement person) but someone who is in the victim assistance unit. And that’s one of the things we’re encouraging in every law enforcement community to do today.

Leonard Sipes: All three of us have been discussing this concept of victimology for three decades now and in some cases it’s longer than three decades. Are we ever going to get to the point where a program like this becomes a moot point? Again, I emphasize that if we violate the rights of a perpetrator, we are immediately – that case is dismissed. We are held to disciplinary review. Are we are ever going to get to the day where this conversation is not necessary?

Roberta Roper: That’s my vision. That’s my dream. And I would encourage any of your listeners to call us on the toll free number. If we can’t provide the direct assistance, we could certainly make the proper and appropriate referral. But most people don’t know that they have that right to seek a remedy and that’s where we have to fill that gap.

Bill Sondervan: That’s my goal as well, Len. I’ve promoted the victims’ rights and victims’ issues as a Chief of Police, as a Corrections’ Commissioner. Now I have the opportunity to do it in academia and UMUC has given me the tools to do this worldwide. So, all I can say then is I’m going to do everything in my power to do it and people like Roberta Roper are just an absolute inspiration to me and if we keep doing this, I think we will get there one day.

Leonard Sipes: We’re going to follow up with the contact numbers one more time and these contact numbers will be in the show notes. Bill Sondervan is Executive Director for the Center for Criminal Justice Administration. He’s email is, University of Maryland, University College, is what Bill is in charge of in terms of the criminal justice program. Roberta Roper is Chair of the Maryland Crime Victims Resource Center and Roberta is shy. She is a national figure in terms of this concept of victims’ rights. So it’s just not Maryland, it is throughout the country and Roberta’s had an impact throughout the world, I do believe, on criminal justice issues – is the email address, Again, I emphasize that they are willing to help anybody; it’s just not Maryland, 1877-VICTIM-1.

It goes beyond Maryland, you can always try the National Organization for Victim Assistance which is, and I remember that from my programs with the National Organization for Victim Assistance. I want to remind everybody the National Day of Remembrance, September 25th 2009. I know these programs live way beyond 2009 but for this case it’s September 25th 2009 in Washington D.C. The 800 number is 1-800-4386-233. Again, we’ll have this information within the show notes. Any final words Roberta or Bill? Did we cover everything?

Roberta Roper: Well, we never cover everything. I just wanted to remind your listeners that this Day of Remembrance is an annual event, always on September 25th. You gave the information for 2009 event, it will occur every year.

Leonard Sipes: Excellent point. Bill, wrap up.

Bill Sondervan: I think that this show is an excellent idea to do just like we talked about, to keep victims’ rights and victims’ issues in the forefront of everybody’s mind and have people think about them and not just let it be an afterthought.

Leonard Sipes: Amen. Amen to both. And ladies and gentlemen, we really appreciate you listening in to this program. This is DC Public Safety; we are on 177,000 times a month, according to statistics for the month of July. You can reach me at I work for the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency in Washington DC. You can follow me on twitter at or comment in the comment box on any of the 4 websites that we have for D. C. Public Safety and I want everyone to have themselves a very pleasant day.

– Audio Ends –

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– Audio Begins –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Diane Kincaid: No, go.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Audio Ends –

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