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Successful Reentry Through Employment-Transcript

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Hi and welcome to D.C. Public Safety. I’m your host, Nancy Ware. Today’s show focuses on successful reentry through employment. Criminologists recognize that employment is crucial to successful reentry.

CSOSA understands that we have to do everything in our power to prompt employers to hire those we supervise. If you have questions or suggestions about CSOSA as a source for hiring, please call 202-220-5721 to talk to our employment specialists. We will post this number throughout the program.

To discuss this important issue, joining us today is the director of the D.C. Department of Employment Services, Deborah Carroll.

Director Carroll, welcome to Public Safety.

Thank you for having me.

First, I want to talk a little bit about your vision for the Department of Employment Services and the implications it has for those that we supervise, folks who are coming back from prison or who are under community supervision.

So my vision actually is to really build a system. Right now, the programs within the District of Columbia work within our silos and we do that fairly well, but in order for us to really an effective work force system we have to work closer together. That means reducing some of the duplication that happens across some of the agencies, making certain that businesses are aware of the services and the talent that we have in the District and communicating that better to the public. Then third, of course, making sure that folks have access to our services and systems. So what the means for CSOSA and the clients that you serve as well other returning citizens in the District is that being more accessible is going to be key to any success and ensuring that we have quality programs and services that can serve that.

One of the programs that we really found to be extremely helpful for our folks under supervision is Project Empowerment, but I know you have several other programs that you’re about to put in place that you’d like to share with our audience. I’d certainly like to hear more about them and the implications for the opportunities for those that we serve.

I’ll start with Project Empowerment. Project Empowerment is a program that’s been in place since 2002. The District has served more than 10,000 returning citizens and other hard-to-hire residents in the District. Typically these are individuals that have historically cycled on and off jobs and had difficulty retaining their jobs or because of their characteristics have had difficulty accessing employment.

What’s really important about this program is there’s a three week intensive that happens prior to putting anyone on a worksite. That three week intensive really focuses in on what those barriers are to the person being successful in employment. It helps them to deal with workplace related stress and how to handle that better. It focuses in on career pathways and understanding what their career goals are and really helps them to establish a roadmap to success.

It’s then followed by up to six months of work-related subsidized employment. We have a number of businesses that support returning citizens and others in the workplace. During that time period, that resident has an opportunity to demonstrate their skills while earning a wage at the same time.

What we have found historically is that programs like subsidized employment or programs that provide some kind of stipend tend to have better results in terms of longevity and completion rates in the program. I think what’s really critically important is that for residents that have trouble retaining jobs having a period of steady work experience that they can put on their resume is critically important and at the same time learning a skill in the work place.

So we’ve taken the successes of Project Empowerment and then tried to replicate certain other programs maybe from other populations or maybe even the same population but different variations of the same theme. My history is, of course, working with families and in analyzing the successes and the challenges around individuals that have children in particular is the problem with having steady work histories. When a business is trying to make a decision about a candidate, if they see someone with sporadic employment then a person that has good employment, obviously they’re going to pick the person that has a steady employment.

So during the time that I was working in that space, we really realized that  work experience is really critical. Also earning and learning at the same time is also critical because we found through our data analysis that residents sometimes will stop a program, whether it be educational program or other type of training program, because they need to support their families or they need to support their household.

We don’t want residents to have to be put in a decision of making a choice between getting their GED or a credential that can propel them to the middle class to having to find employment. So Project Empowerment and programs like that are the direction that we’re heading in.

One of the new programs that we’re working on is the Career Connections program. That program, in particular, is critically important because it’s part of our Safer Stronger D.C. initiative with the mayor. We’re doing that in particular. We’re targeting justice-involved youth aged 20 to 24 and specifically in the priority police service areas in the District. That’s going to be our priority group that we’re going to be focused on.

Through this investment, about $4.5 million was invested by the city, we are going to be working very closely with CSOSA as well as other organizations that serve justice-involved youth to really both identify youth and provide them with a suite of professional development services including programs similar to what Project Empowerment offers along with a period of work experience. Within that program, we will be providing incentives for those residents to also pursue their education. So we’re combining, again, some of the good things we know coming out of the Project Empowerment program and then marrying it up with a younger population that oftentimes needs education to help support them through their career path.

That population is, as you know, one of the areas that we really want to focus much more attention on in the District of Columbia because we have a number of programs. Some are youth employment, but they really need steady income so I think that those are real innovations that will help our city substantially, in particularly with this population.

I’m really excited about it because there are also other initiatives that we’re going to fold in to both Project Empowerment and the Career Connections program. That’s, of course, the Tech-Hire Initiative.

The Tech-Hire Initiative is an initiative through partnership, again, with CSOSA and other organizations we’ll be working with youth and teaching them the skills that will help them to build a pathway in the IT industry. Many youth now are very tech savvy. They oftentimes have cell phones. They use the internet. Those are skills that they already have. We want to be able to introduce the concepts of A+ certification and network administration along with maybe cyber security and ethical hacking. All of those programs have certifications where a person can complete them, demonstrate their work experience, and have the potential to earn a living wage and definitely move into a pathway of the middle class.

That’s great because I know that the whole field of IT and technology is an open field. If we can get some of our folks involved in that and learning at a young age and building on the skills that they already have and the knowledge that they already have, that would be substantial.

Yeah, I think that the work force development industry is changing. It’s changing in a good way, in the sense that it’s now understanding better what businesses need. It’s also projecting what we need for the future and of course, IT is one area that the United States as a whole needs better expertise in and there’s no reason why our friends coming out of CSOSA’s program or any of our other programs shouldn’t be a part of that.

The other thing is that people usually learn better when they’re doing. There’s been this myth, I think, that long-term unemployed residents don’t have the skills to be successful in the work place. I can tell you now just from my short experience with DOES and some of the youth that I’ve seen coming through the programs and the people that I’ve encountered that’s the furthest thing from the truth. It’s our job to make sure that we profile them to the public and to businesses in a way that shows that they can actually be successful and build better relationships with business and have different support mechanisms in place that allow for businesses to thrive while they’re working with residents and helping them to be successful in the work place.

Again, these earn-and-learn opportunities I think is one way to do that. The other is expanding our on the job training resources, being able to provide support to businesses that hire residents, making sure that they’re aware of the work opportunity tax credits and other incentive programs that the IRS have provided to businesses that hire the harder to employ citizens in this country.

Are you finding that a lot of the businesses are taking advantage of those incentives?

There is a growing interest, I think, in the subsidized employment space. Borrowing what we’ve learned from summer youth employment this year and the success we’ve had in getting residents that are in that 22 to 24 year old range placed in jobs. We’re finding really a growing interest in that. In particular because that’s an age group where you have a certain level of maturity that allows them to be open to learning. What we’re finding is that they’re not squandering those opportunities. They’re coming to work on time. They’re doing the things that are necessary for them to be successful in the work place.

I think it’s exciting that you’re dispelling some of those myths about our young people and their interest in employment and their willingness to do what they need to do to maintain those jobs. A lot of times they do need a lot of help and coaching and those kinds of things. Are there any plans within DOES in terms of working with young people to make sure that they stay in those jobs?

So we’re making sure that we provide the supportive services in the program. I think what’s going to be unique about Career Connections and what we’re also changing in our Project Empowerment program is that follow-up after they’ve been employed. Our goal is to have them retain those jobs at least for a year because if they do that then typically they’re on their way to being able to really be successful in that job. So we’ve heard definitely from businesses that sometimes those first few months are the most difficult.

Then also looking at any gaps that are available in the system that we can add support. A good example is transportation. There are some areas of the city where transportation is more difficult depending on where you have to go to go to work or what time you have to be at work. A good example is construction and they start at five in the morning. If you have children, there’s no child care available or not as many child care slots available in places that open at five a.m. so what do you do in order to make sure that your children are taken care of. That’s just one example.

Those are important aspects of maintaining a job. Certainly our partnership with the Department of Employment Services offers another resource through CSOSA to support some of the work that you’re doing. We’re very excited to have you here in the city. Are there any other initiatives for older individuals in the District that you want to discuss?

One area that we are focusing on is looking at ways that we can expand the subsidized employment to older residents and really building the similar model that we have in both the Project Empowerment program as well as the youth program for our seniors and those 35 and up range. Those are things that we’re looking to leverage right now.

We have the LEAP Academy which again is focused on younger people but in our work that we see in the District we have a lot of talented residents that want to either get back into the work force or are looking to increase their employment. They may be underemployed. So we’re really being mindful of that as one of our areas of focus.

The other is our professionals that are looking for employment and having a different suite of services available for them. Most times they don’t stay unemployed for very long. We do have some though that have been maybe caring for family members that have been sick and have been out of the work force for a while and need to get back into the work force. Others that are looking for different career paths as they transition out of unemployment. We’re trying to develop a whole suite of services connected to them.

We’re excited about all of those opportunities. Surprisingly, we have every single one of those types of individuals so we’ll be taking advantage of everything that you have to offer. We look forward to working with you and letting us know how we can support the work that you’re doing here in the District of Columbia.

On that note, I’m going to wrap up our first segment. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s been my pleasure to talk to Deborah Carroll, the director of the D.C. Department of Employment Services. Stay with us for the next segment as we continue our discussion on employment and successful reentry with two new guests.

Thank you so much Director.

Hi and welcome back to D.C. Public Safety. I’m your host Nancy Ware. We’re continuing our conversation on successful reentry through employment in the second segment with two employers who have hired people under the supervision the Court Services and Offenders Supervision Agency.

My guests for this segment are Marianne Ali, director of training D.C. Central Kitchen, and Omar McIntosh, CEO of Perennial Construction.

Marianne and Omar, welcome to D.C. Public Safety.

Thank you.

Thank you.

I’d like to start this segment off just asking you to tell us a little bit about what you do and then we’ll talk a little bit about the work that you do with our clients. So why don’t I start off with you Marianne?

Sure, Nancy. Thank you. My name’s Marianne Ali, and I’m the Director of Culinary Job Training for D.C. Central Kitchen. We run four culinary job training programs at the Kitchen, three at another location working with a local partner. We work with a lot of returning citizens, and we have a longstanding relationship with CSOSA that I’m really excited to talk about.

I can’t wait because you all have done an outstanding job in working with some of our clients.

Mr. McIntosh?

Thank you. Perennial Construction is a Washington D.C.-based commercial general contractor. We also have self-performed capabilities in structure repair and restoration and commercial demolition. We have had a great relationship with CSOSA and hired up to about 50 individuals over the last year and a half in our self-performed crews.

Excellent. I think it’s really important to talk a little bit about how long you’ve been hiring men and women under supervision and what your experiences have been. I’d like to hear a little bit about some of the challenges that you’ve faced and some of the success stories. I’ll start of this time with you Leo.

Certainly. I think that we started in early ’14, we had a labor need on a project. I went to my community resources and I met Mr. Tony Lewis with Project Empowerment. Through Tony we had a table of about 12 eager individuals, and I think that we hired every one of them for a specific project. Of that crew, I think four are still with us to this day. One has risen to the ranks for foreman. He’s a crew leader right now on a project in Washington D.C. So we’ve had great success. Our crew is led by three individuals who we all found through CSOSA and Project Empowerment. We also have a great network now to go back to CSOSA and vet and train new employees.

Excellent. And Marianne?

D.C. Central Kitchens has been in existence for 25 years. Since its inception, we have always worked with returning citizens. I think that our relationship with CSOSA has been at least 15 years of my tenure that we’ve worked closely with you all.

The organization itself has about 140 employees and 42% of those employees are graduates of our culinary job training program. About 50% of those folks are directly from CSOSA so we are excited about that.

Great. We are excited too obviously.

Some of the challenges that you’ve faced, if any, that you can share with our audience?

You know Nancy, when you think about culinary job training or culinary you think about food but our approach is we can teach folks how to cook but we really understand the challenges that our folks come in to us with. So we address each and every, well the majority of those challenges. We start off every morning with a self-empowerment group that has absolutely nothing to do with cooking at all but everything to do with changing your thinking and your behavior. That group is really, really helpful. At our graduations, folks are always talking about cooking was fine but this is what really helped me.

We also offer a transition group that’s specifically for folks that have just come home in the last year and a half and have those challenges, having to balance their time, reunifying with their family, child support, to really sort of help them navigate through those challenges successfully. Because those are the kind of things that people get tripped up on and we want to make sure that we help them manage that in a way that they don’t go back, that they don’t recidivate.

We also have a women’s group, gender specific that talks about challenges with being under supervision, sometimes it’s getting your children back and those kind of things. So we look for every area that there may be a need for that support and we just infuse it into what we do on a normal everyday.

That’s so important too because you know how hard it is a lot of times for the folks that come under supervision, particularly if they’ve been incarcerated for a period of time, to reintegrate successfully and to navigate, quite frankly, the community again.

Leo, can you talk a little bit about challenges that you might have seen? The folks that you’ve worked with?

Sure. I think in construction a lot of our success is based on our ability to react. When a client calls or has a need, we have to respond in a timely manner, we have to perform in a timely manner. So when it comes to our CSOSA hires it’s been about getting to work. That’s the first challenge. So employees who haven’t been working gainfully for years or weeks at a time, the cost. There’s a Metro card that has to be purchased and it has to take about two weeks before they get their first paycheck.

We have gone above and beyond our requirements by providing Metro cards. I keep smartcards. I keep them reloaded at all times in my office. We hand them out to new employees and they give them back to me on their first payday. I shake their hand and we exchange the paycheck for the card. It sounds simple but it’s necessary. We’ve had instances where individuals couldn’t get to work and you can imagine if you’ve been away from society for ten years, the concept of the metro, the taxi cab, or the bus is a little far out of reach. We’ve stepped in where there weren’t answers to provide those solutions. Yes it causes us to have a little higher margin on our work but hopefully our clients respect our work and will pay for those services.

Absolutely. I think it’s incredible that both of you all have taken the time to consider those issues and to try to address them like you have. Are there any incentives to hiring men and women who’ve been under supervision or who are coming back to society from incarceration?

Absolutely. We’re aware of many federal and local programs, even the tax abatement programs are available to us, but more importantly there’s a labor need in the city. There’s lots and lots of work in construction, infrastructure, industrial side, and we’re focusing very sharply on those areas. Where there’s a need, we’re trying to fill it. We’re trying to get our folks to work as soon as possible. There are programs. There are benefits. But more importantly there’s a need and a need to develop these individuals, all individuals with a positive attitude that want to work hard.

Excellent. Marianne?

Sure. Our approach is to work with our employers on the tax incentives. We have a huge employer base that we try to get involved into working with our students, our graduates.

One of the things that really is a consideration I suppose when you’re working with folks under our supervision are their criminal history and how difficult it is for them actually to get opportunities. What advice could you give to someone who’s reentering Washington D.C. or who is under supervision but has a criminal history in terms of seeking employment?

We advise our graduates to be honest but we also advise them to talk about what they are doing now, what they have done since they’ve come home, that they’re honest, that they’re eager to work, they have a great attitude. Nancy, we’ve had chefs come into the kitchen on a regular basis and the number one question and answer that we ask those chefs, “What do you look for?” And they’re looking for somebody, they’re not looking for somebody with a bunch of skills, they’re looking for somebody who is eager and has a great attitude.

That’s the critical piece right there.

I can’t emphasize this enough. I’ve hired pretty much every individual on our crew directly. I’ve spoken to them at length about what our expectations are, expectations of our clients, and expectations of their peers. I’ll tell you that we’ve had tremendous success because they respect their peers and they work together. Now that we’ve had two years working together as a field performance crew, there is a natural pecking order, and it’s seeming to work out for us at this point. So the attitude is a tremendous part of the hiring requirement. Not so much in your past but where you’re headed and how hard you’re willing to work getting there.

So critical. One of the things that we’d like to encourage more employers to do is consider this population. As an employer looking for someone, how would you encourage other employers like yourselves to consider this population? What kinds of things would you ask them to make consideration of for this hiring process as an employer?

I would say expectations need to change. I say that because a lot of employers expect you to walk in learning how to use the full suite of Microsoft tools and you’ve got a cell phone and you’ve got money in the pocket to get to work and get home. Those are not real expectations. I think that there’s a very, very large capable workforce that is serving time or under supervision right now. I would tell you that if your expectation is you’re going to help people be gainfully employed, build careers not just jobs, and have a long term sustainable career whether it’s with me or someone else that is what the expectation needs to be. From there, the rest is pretty easy.

That’s fabulous.

The way we do it at the Kitchen, Nancy, it’s a 14-week program. Our students are with for seven weeks and then they go on four weeks into an internship, then they come back to us for the last three weeks. We engage our potential employers to come to the Kitchen and be a part of the actual process, the training process. We hand pick our internship sites. We want to know that those chefs have been to the Kitchen, who understand our population, who want to give back, and want to work to help develop our students into great employees.

Both of you are extremely successful. I’ve been to your graduation Marianne and it’s so exciting to see the chefs come in, all the people that support the D.C. Central Kitchen. To just expose our folks who are under supervision to that is just incredible for their self esteem.

For you Leo, you’ve just got a number of projects in this city that you’re already involved in that you can tell our audience a little bit about if you’d like.

Out of respect for my clients, we don’t disclose most of our project sites but we do have several commercial sites under demolition and construction. Some in the Dupont Circle area and the downtown central business district as well. Our crews have traveled as far as Rock Hills, South Carolina working for public utility clients and as far north as Baltimore, Maryland on infrastructure projects. So we are very busy. We look to stay very busy and hopefully look to find a home for people in the communities we work in.

Excellent. Marianne, for you you’re working with many of the chefs, very important chefs, all around the city and the country quite frankly. You want to talk a little bit about some of those networks?

Of course there’s Jose Andres who’s a very good friend of the Kitchen, who also supports us on multiple levels. The students are exposed, for example, we just had our annual fundraiser and there were chefs there who are battling chefs competing and the students get to meet those chefs and work with, for example, Tyson’s came in. They came down to the kitchen, and the chef worked with the students. So they’re exposed on a regular basis. It’s really to get them comfortable in talking and understanding that those folks give their time because they want for you to end up working alongside them.

It has to be very encouraging and really an opportunity for you to feel that you’re giving back to the city when you’re hiring these men and women and also to watch their self esteem grow. Do you want to comment a little bit on some of the things that you’ve seen with the folks that you’ve worked with?

At the end of the program, we have a brunch that graduation morning. It’s a more intimate setting with the graduates and the staff. I’ve heard some incredible things. I’ve heard people say that they never have finished anything but a prison and now, “I’m graduating and I have a job. I’ll be able to give back to my community and come back to D.C. Central Kitchen and give back to D.C. Central Kitchen.” Women who have been able to get their children back doing the training program. It’s just incredible stories when you see folks the first day that come in and they’re sort of slouched over like this, and at the end of the program, their head is high, their eyes are open, and their shoulders are back. I can’t tell you the feeling that we get.

I’ve watched them. Omar, you’re going to end us.

I’ll tell you these stories are a labor of love but watching the progress and the levels of progress from earning your first paycheck to training a work crew to learning how to use tools and skills has been excellent.

I appreciate both of you joining us and sharing your experience and most importantly, being willing to open your heart and your businesses to this population who are very much in need of it.

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s been my pleasure to talk to Marianne Ali and Omar McIntosh. Again, if you have questions or suggestions about using CSOSA as a source for hiring please call 202-220-5721 to talk to our employment specialists. Thank you for watching today’s show. Please watch us next time. We explore another important topic in today’s criminal justice system. Have a great day.


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Mental Health and Recovery – DC Public Safety Television

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Nancy Ware: Hi, and welcome to DC Public Safety. I’m your host Nancy Ware. Today’s program is on mental health and recovery. There are approximately 700,000 people leaving prisons throughout the country every year and it’s vital for public safety to make sure they successfully reintegrate into society. But reentry is complicated by the fact that so many have either diagnosed or self-reported history of mental health challenges. Today’s program provides an overview of mental health issues within the criminal justice system from the DC Department of Behavioral Health and the Jail and Prison Advocacy Project of University Legal Services, plus we have interviews with two CSOSA experts. What are the lessons learned from research and application? What should society do about mental health within the criminal justice system? My guests for the first half are Stephen T. Baron, Director DC Department of Behavioral Health. Welcome, Steve.

Stephen T. Baron: Thank you, Nancy.

Nancy Ware: And Tammy Seltzer, Director of Jail and Prison Advocacy Project, University Legal Services. And to Steve and Tammy welcome to DC Public Safety.

Tammy Seltzer: Thank you for having us.

Stephen T. Baron: Thank you.

Nancy Ware: We’re really, really excited about this segment, because, as you know, the mental health system is a great partner to the criminal justice system, but we still have many challenges that we’re trying to overcome as we try to address the needs of this population and when they’re reintegrating into the community. So first I wanted to talk a little bit about some of the challenges that we see here in the District of Columbia, and I want, Steve, for you to talk to u about exactly what does the Department of Behavioral Health do and what are some of the challenges that you see as you move forward with your vision and your view of where we need to go.

Stephen T. Baron: Thank you, Nancy, and it’s great to be here. The Department of Behavioral Health is a year old tomorrow.

Nancy Ware: Wow!

Stephen T. Baron: A year ago the mayor and the DC Council created the Department of Behavioral Health as a merger with the Department of Mental Health and the Addictions Prevention and Recovery Administration, which was previously in the Department of Health. So we’re a brand new department, even though we bring a legacy of both APRA and DMH of many, many years of service in the District. But we as the Department of Behavioral Health oversee a network of providers that serve over 20,000, over 30,000 individuals –

Nancy Ware: That many. Wow!

Stephen T. Baron: For both mental health and substance abuse disorders. Our biggest challenge with folks in the criminal justice system is that we need to be there when people need the services and provide the range of services people need. We’ve put a number of things in place in the District. I’m proud to say that one of the most intensive mental health services is called Assertive Community Treatment, or ACT, and nationally probably in most states or most jurisdictions about 2% or 3% of the people in the public systems are getting ACT, which is an evidence-based practice, in the District between 8% to 10% of the enrollees in our public system for mental health are getting Assertive Community Treatment. We also realize we have to have strong partnerships, both of course with your agency, helping work with folks once they leave incarceration, with the Department of Corrections, and also with the Metropolitan Police Department, the District’s police department, where we have worked very collaboratively to establish the District’s Crisis Intervention Team program, CIT –

Nancy Ware: Yes.

Stephen T. Baron: As it’s known nationally. We call it here Crisis Intervention Officer, CIO, and we’ve trained over 600 MPD officers.

Nancy Ware: Now, is that throughout the whole police department or just certain teams?

Stephen T. Baron: No, throughout the whole police department.

Nancy Ware: Which is excellent.

Stephen T. Baron: And at all levels we basically focus on the patrol officers, but their emergency response teams have been trained, sergeants, some operational folks have been trained, and it’s a very popular training, and it’s been going on for five years now.

Nancy Ware: That’s excellent.

Tammy Seltzer: And I would add to that DC is a jurisdiction that has other law enforcement agencies involved and you all are involved in training them as well.

Stephen T. Baron: Yeah. Thank you, Tammy. Also Capital Police have participated, Amtrak Police, Georgetown University Police, Housing Authority Police, I think there’s 30-some police departments in the District and we’re trying to include as many of them as we can.

Nancy Ware: That’s possible.

Stephen T. Baron: But our primary customer has been the Metropolitan Police Department. And they work very closely with, we have a mobile crisis team that’s available seven days a week, every day, for 16 hours a day.

Nancy Ware: Which is, you know, the training across these law enforcement agencies is so critical, as we’ve seen in the news, because you never know who’s going to be the first responder and who will come in contact with someone who has mental health issues, and it’s so critical that we take the responsibility here in the nation’s capital to be sure that we equip our law enforcement and our first responder officers with the tools that they need to recognize some of the symptoms of mental health and mental illness in particular. Tammy, I want to ask you a little bit about some of the challenges that you see in DC, because you’ve worked as an advocate, and we’re very pleased that we have a partnership with you to make sure that we do our due diligence in meeting the needs of this population. As you know, as we talked about earlier, there are approximately 700,000 people coming out of our prisons and jails with mental health issues, and many of them have major depression, manic mania, serious psychosis, so some of those challenges are things that we have to take into account as we deal with reentry. Can you talk a little about your experiences with the District?

Tammy Seltzer: Certainly. The DC Jail and Prison Advocacy Project has been around about seven years and it was created to help DC residents who have serious mental illness, and in that case we’re talking about bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, major depression, to help them with reentry. And initially it was started to help with reentry from the jail and the correctional treatment facility, which is where women are housed here in DC. But DC is a unique animal, we don’t have a state prison, and so DC residents who are serving a longer sentence, more than a year, end up in the Federal Bureau of Prisons. And so their challenge, on top of being incarcerated and having a criminal record and having a mental illness, is also that they are being held in facilities that can be anywhere in the country, there’re over 100 facilities. And this can mean that they’re hundreds or even thousands of miles away from their families. So whatever supports they may have had in the community and with their families, they don’t have that, and then it makes it much more difficult to plan for that discharge planning piece.

I would say that most of the people that we work with, our clients have difficulties with housing. We know nationally that people with serious mental illness are twice as likely to be homeless at the time that they’re incarcerated, and then they also have a difficulty with having some sort of a stable income. Most people with serious mental illness who’re involved in the criminal justice system are not employed and they really depend on disability benefits. So the challenges we see for people are getting them, for some people getting linked to mental health services, some have been linked before, but that link has been severed by being sent so far from home. For other people, like a young man who called me yesterday, he’s in his 20s, he’s been incarcerated for four years, he didn’t know he had a mental illness until the behaviors occurred that caused him to get arrested in the first place, and so he’s never been linked to mental health services, and those are the, we will help him get linked to mental health services. But those are the kinds of challenges that our clients are facing, and some of them are unique to DC, but I think a lot of the reentry issues, people with serious mental illness are coming out of the Federal Bureau of Prisons every day –

Nancy Ware: Yeah. That’s true.

Tammy Seltzer: And so those are issues that apply in every state in the country.

Nancy Ware: Yeah. And I’m really glad you brought up the young man, because we know that sometimes some of these symptoms don’t really materialize until their 20s, their early, late teens, early 20s. And so we’ve had a lot of challenges in dealing with young men and women in our system. Have you seen special issues coming out with women in particular as you’ve been working with that population?

Tammy Seltzer: Absolutely. We have a special project right now to assist women who have mental illness in getting their disability benefits from Social Security before they come out, because it’s really critical. If you don’t have a place to live, you don’t, you’re not, if you don’t have a steady income you’re going to have difficulty finding a place to live. It’s really hard to take advantage of services and treatment unless things are stable for you. So that’s something that we’re working with. And as part of that we’re serving more women. And we had a woman the other day who after coming out of prison she became unexpectedly the custodial parent of her one-year-old.

Nancy Ware: Oh, wow! That’s a whole [INDISCERNIBLE 00:09:56].

Tammy Seltzer: And so all of the sudden on top of trying to take care of herself and meet her own basic needs for housing and income and making sure she keeps up with her terms of supervision and stays clean and sober and goes to mental health treatment she has to worry about, “How am I going to take care of a baby?” And actually it was really wonderful that her community supervision officer at CSOSA was able to help her with parenting classes, because she said, “I’m getting frustrated.”

Nancy Ware: Don’t know what to do.

Tammy Seltzer: “I’m getting frustrated. I don’t know what to do.” And wonderfully a parenting class was starting that provided childcare and food so that she can attend these series of classes and gain confidence at being a mom, which she hasn’t been –

Nancy Ware: [INDISCERNIBLE 00:10:42] –

Tammy Seltzer: Because she’s been incarcerated.

Nancy Ware: That make or break their success, so that’s excellent. Now, the two of you have really worked closely together, and I know that University Legal Services has also worked very closely with the Bureau of Prisons, as has the Department of Behavioral Health, and we’ve been really as a system here in DC trying very hard to make sure that there’s prerelease planning for folks who are coming out of prison. Can the two of you talk a little but about some of the work that you’ve done together on this?

Stephen T. Baron: Yeah. Well, the most important thing of course is transitions from people leaving incarceration after a couple years, even leaving the DC jail after four or five months these transitions back into the community are just so important, and the more upfront planning you do the better it is, the more likelihood it is it’ll be successful, really putting you heads together to look at housing opportunities. I think in the District the real challenge is around the affordable housing.

Nancy Ware: Yeah.

Stephen T. Baron: We have worked very hard to increase the intensive services, like I spoke about earlier, through assertive community treatment and other types of services. But it is around the housing and having the time to plan for it and have the person participate. I do know we’ve worked with, I’m sure University Legal has been involved, but definitely your office, the Bureau of Prisons, and some of the offsite facilities, like in West Virginia and North Carolina, to do some offsite tele-meeting –

Nancy Ware: Teleconferencing.

Stephen T. Baron: Teleconferencing –

Nancy Ware: Yeah. That’s true.

Stephen T. Baron: To do some planning.

Tammy Seltzer: Yeah. The best situations are when we get advanced notice –

Stephen T. Baron: Yes.

Tammy Seltzer: That somebody is coming out. And we have a great relationship with some of the psychologists, psychiatrists, and social workers who work in some of the Bureau of Prison facilities. Allenwood, for example, we have a psychologist or psychiatrist who calls us practically every week giving us cases with advanced notice. And when we have advanced notice and it’s a situation, a lot of these situations are people who’ve never been successful in the community with their mental health treatment, and so we have taken advantage of the Assertive Community Treatment teams that you’ve been talking about, the ACT teams, Steve. That’s been very important for our clients to be successful, to have that level of intensity in the community. And so when we get advanced notice that we –

Nancy Ware: It makes a difference.

Tammy Seltzer: It really makes a huge difference.

Stephen T. Baron: It makes a big difference. It’s critical, the Friday at four o’clock mandatory release.

Tammy Seltzer: Those are the cases that keep me up at night are when people come out at the last minute –

Stephen T. Baron: Yeah.

Tammy Seltzer: That we don’t know and they don’t have a place to stay and they’re releasing to a shelter and –

Stephen T. Baron: Right.

Tammy Seltzer: And what’s the best thing that we can do. And definitely working together, our three agencies, to try and come up with an emergency plan and then a longer term plan is what we try to do.

Nancy Ware: I want to thank again Steve and Tammy. And, ladies and gentlemen, please stay with us as we continue our discussion on mental health and recovery with two new guests. We’ll be right back.

[ Commercial Break ]

Nancy Ware: Welcome back to DC Public Safety. I’m Nancy Ware. I stated during the first half of the show successful reentry from prison is vital for public safety and strengthening our communities. To continue our discussion on mental health and recovery we have two new guests from our agency CSOSA, Associate Director Thomas Williams and [PH 00:14:21] Ubah Hussein, a social worker in the mental health unit. And to Tom and Ubah, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Ubax Hussein: Thank you, ma’am.

Tammy Seltzer: Well, glad to be here.

Nancy Ware: Glad you’re here. To start off, Ubah, I’d like to ask you to talk a little about what you’re seeing in terms of mental health issues among our clients who’re coming into our system on probation and parole and supervised release.

Ubax Hussein: I think that people are coming home with a lot of co-occurring behavioral health conditions, some of which Director Baron has already talked about. The other subpopulation of concern is that as is happening with the rest of society the returning citizens are also aging. So we’re seeing a higher number than I remember last year of people that have onset of dementia, for example, and who are needing nursing home services. So the coordination of reentry planning has really focused on those people that have age related dementia, the population that we’re familiar with working with that have the co-occurring schizophrenia and maybe a PCP addiction or something, and then another population of people that are coming home with significant medical conditions, renal failure, diabetes, HIV disease. And so planning around all of those service needs, both behavioral health, age related services, and medical services, has been a challenge that I think CSOSA is meeting very well in terms of partnering with our community providers.

Nancy Ware: That’s quite a menu.

Thomas Williams: Yeah. And I think one of the reasons that we’re seeing this change or this shift in the population has to do with the number of previous periods of incarceration that happen over time, five and seven year periods of incarceration, and then the individuals are coming back. We’re trying to do the best that we can when they are in the community and then something else will happen and they go right back again.

Nancy Ware: So they go in and out of the system.

Thomas Williams: So there’s almost, you hate to kind of say revolving door kind of a situation, but the multiple periods of incarceration are leading to the things that we’re seeing now in the population. That makes it a little bit more challenging for us to try to address adequately and then try to get the service needs accomplished, both on the mental health or the behavioral health side, as well as on the physical health. Now they got two different issues that we’re trying to address simultaneously.

Nancy Ware: So what is our best approach as a supervision agency to all of these challenges that you’re seeing with this population coming out of prisons and jails?

Thomas Williams: Well, first and foremost it’s the qualities of staff that we’re able to bring within the organization, and we can’t say enough about the quality of the staff that we have working for us. Number one, they have, several of them have advanced degrees, they’re really dedicated to the population, and they have a passion to work with the groups that we are charged to supervise, and I think that’s one of the key things. The second thing that we have to do is to ensure the level of training is at a level which is highly functioning, so that we’re able to identify the help that is needed for the population and then make sure with that training and the passion that the staff will bring to the job, that we can then identify what is actually needed at the appropriate time and then have a strategic plan to work with that individual through the course of the supervision period. And we can’t stop without having first the assessment, that’s so fundamentally important and getting information from the institution or the jail that the person was in, in terms of what was happening while they were there, and then making that plan consistent when they actually come out, so it’s not a disjointed effort, but something that’s really consistent.

Nancy Ware: So that continuity of care, are you seeing some changes now over the course of the last several years? We heard from our guest from the first segment some of the work that they’ve been involved in, in trying to help CSOSA, which is Court Services and Community Supervision Agency, to better meet the needs of this population. Ubah, do you want to speak to some of the things that you’ve seen?

Ubax Hussein: Sure. I think one of the most important things that’s happened is we’ve always had reentry planning in place as an informal kind of setup, but two and a half years ago Mr. Williams took the initiative really formalize that into a working group. And so within that working group we do a monthly telephone conference, we have a forecast, for example, our October telephone conference is going to be on who’s coming home February 2015.

Nancy Ware: And this conference is within whom again?

Ubax Hussein: The conference is with the Bureau of Prisons; it’s with Department of Behavioral Health, and CSOSA.

Nancy Ware: Excellent.

Ubax Hussein: And so this three core working group, we know what the needs are, we know what the deficits are, and when appropriate someone might need the advocacy services, for example, of ULS. So we’re able to get – early planning is the best. So we get the releases of information signed, we get in contact with families, we confirm the releasing address, we have them in many ways initiate Medicaid before they come into the community, referral to ACT teams, all of that paperwork, which takes time to work its way through the system, we can get started on individual reentry planning 120 days ahead of their release date.

Nancy Ware: That is critical.

Thomas Williams: It is. But one of the things that, with the process that Ubah just discussed is a real challenge for us is that the system itself within the District of Columbia is one that were dependent upon to try to help this transition smoothly, because unfortunately a lot of times the family members aren’t there –

Ubax Hussein: That’s right.

Thomas Williams: To try to pick up – as Ubah had mentioned, some of the population is aging a little bit and some of the activities that happened while the individual was in the community –

Ubax Hussein: Yeah.

Thomas Williams: The families are saying, “I love him, but he can’t stay here.”

Nancy Ware: Right.

Thomas Williams: Or –

Nancy Ware: And this population is particularly challenging alone without being involved with the criminal justice system. Many families abandon family members who are having mental health problems, because they’re so difficult to manage, and then you couple that with being in the criminal justice system.

Thomas Williams: Justice System itself.

Nancy Ware: It puts a lot more weight on I guess the probation, parole [OVERLAY].

Thomas Williams: It does. And that’s, as I mentioned, that’s one of the challenges that the staff are facing is that the person needs to live somewhere, and a shelter is not the appropriate place for any individual who has mental health issues, and we had, would be worried about medication management. It’s not an environment for which we could have that’s supportive enough to support the individual in some of the things that they’re actually facing.

Nancy Ware: So, Tom, tell me a little bit about what CSOSA has done to address this population.

Thomas Williams: Yes.

Nancy Ware: I know you’ve had some innovation over the last few years. So what are some of the things that have been put in place to address this population better?

Thomas Williams: Well, one of the things we did we hired Ubah, and that was something that was on the planning stages for a long while, because what we recognized is that the line staff, the CSOs, the community supervision officers, albeit while meaning and compassionate about the work, we were needing someone else to help them in terms of being a consultant to what they were doing.

Nancy Ware: So Ubah’s job is to…?

Thomas Williams: Ubah’s job is to bridge the gap between the agency and the stakeholders and –

Nancy Ware: She’s like a coordinator?

Thomas Williams: Yes. And also it’s to act as a consultant to the line staff as they are dealing with difficult cases. So pretty much what Ubah will do for us, as the staff are working out assessment issues with the individual in terms of what that plan is, they will then call Ubah and then use her as the consultant and say, “Look at this plan. Does this plan make sense based on this individual?” And we’re looking at the prior history of the individual in terms of the prior episodes that the individual may have had with regards to hospitalization, medication management, and all of them Ubah will then give input into the plan. And then what the staff will do will coordinate with Steve Baron’s group, the Department of Behavioral Health, in terms of what is the best plan for this individual while he’s in the community and what do we see as potential barriers for that person in terms of trying to get that individual healthy enough to operate basically on your own, and that’s really the goal that we’re trying to get to. There’s one if the person can navigate within the society on their own with some assistance or they need to identify where they need to go to get assistance when they need it and also to have a supportive environment to help them when they do have difficulty.

Nancy Ware: So, Ubah, you work with who in the, within CSOSA? Do you have teams that you’re working with? And talk a little bit about that.

Ubax Hussein: I work closely with the behavioral health supervision teams for the men and women, and I partner with the treatment specialist for the sex offender teams sometimes, because the population’s needs overlap. In the community really my primary partnership is with DBH, Department of Behavioral Health. There’s two cases that actually we’re working on. There’s a lady we’re trying to bring home, her release has been delayed from September to November, 71 years old, wheelchair bound, onset of dementia, only family member is her older brother.

Nancy Ware: Wow!

Ubax Hussein: And she has a senior apartment, but she’s not at a place where she can live independently. I mentioned that because I think regardless of the innovations and the planning and the collaboration that we’re doing, there’s a limit to the available community resources in terms of continuum of housing services, supported housing, and especially in terms of sometimes we have another gentleman whose release has been retarded more than a year, because the recommendation from his BOP team, Bureau of Prisons team, is that he needs to be in a secure setting, based on his high risk, as well as his high need.

Nancy Ware: Now, let me ask you about secure settings. Does CSOSA have a secure setting that addresses co-occurring disorders? You’ve talked a lot about that being a challenge. Tom, can you talk about that?

Thomas Williams: Sure. We have been fortunate in terms of the funding that we receive from Congress to have a reentry sanctions center, and basically that’s a location on the grounds of DC hospital, DC jail complex that is there, and we’re able to address mental health issues, as well as those individuals who are in the community and having some difficulty. Instead of having the court or parole commission revoke that individual, we actually can kind of do like a timeout, if you will, work on those things that got that person into difficulty with precaution and noncompliance and then bring them back.

Nancy Ware: That’s great.

Thomas Williams: Unfortunately for us though, the group that Ubah is talking about, which is a subset, are those that we classify as severe and persistent mental health, these are persons who have very severe issues with regards to their mental health functioning and they have some physical issues as well. And we don’t have a facility, a really secure facility currently in the District that can handle that and that’s not a negative for the District, it’s like national –

Nancy Ware: Yeah.

Thomas Williams: That the severe and persistent mental health population unfortunately we don’t have a place for them to go.

Nancy Ware: So we’re still working with DBH, Department of Behavioral Health, and others to figure out how we can get through that.

Thomas Williams: Yes.

Nancy Ware: So you have two units in the Residential Reentry and Sanctions Center?

Thomas Williams: Actually it’s five floors. We have two for males and then one for females.

Nancy Ware: Okay. And that’s where co-occurring?

Thomas Williams: That’s correct.

Nancy Ware: Okay.

Thomas Williams: And one of the innovations that we did within the organization several years ago is that we, as Ubah mentioned, we split the population. We recognized that the female population –

Nancy Ware: Yeah.

Thomas Williams: With mental health needs is a little bit separate and needs to be separate from the male population. So we had three teams, one is general supervision, and two are mental health or behavioral health for the female population, and we have five teams for males. And unfortunately, as Ubah had mentioned, with the increase that we’ve seen in the mental health population we had to create another male team. So we’re going to have eight teams all total.

Nancy Ware: So let me ask you. Within the total population under supervision are you seeing an increase in the behavioral health needs of that population?

Thomas Williams: We are. We have about 18,000 cases under supervision with the new organization and about 20% of that population –

Nancy Ware: Yeah.

Thomas Williams: Is now, have behavioral health issues.

Nancy Ware: My goodness.

Thomas Williams: So I’ll be able to have units; our branch basically has really expanded. And about a year and a half ago we actually split that behavioral health branch, because it was becoming too large.

Nancy Ware: Yeah.

Thomas Williams: So our average we have about a seven to one ratio, one supervisor to seven staff members working with the population.

Nancy Ware: Good. And in closing, Ubah, can you just tell us very briefly what some of the challenges are with the women that you’ve been working with, very briefly?

Ubax Hussein: Research shows and our experience shows that women come with really complex psychosocial needs, including history of childhood sexual trauma, many of them may have lost their children, custody of their children, and so in addition to supervision and behavioral health needs, there’s family rebuilding that they’re engaged in, and that requires a lot more support.

Nancy Ware: Well, I want to thank our two expert guests from CSOSA. We’re very proud of the work that you’re doing in our agency and we look forward to some of the new innovations that you come up with as you meet the challenges of our population. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for watching today’s show on mental health and recovery. Please watch for us next time as we explore another important topic in today’s criminal justice system. Please have yourselves a very pleasant day. Thank you for joining us.

[Video Ends]


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Synthetic Drugs – DC Public Safety Television

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[Video Begins]

<Music Playing>

Len Sipes: Hi, and welcome to D.C. Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. Synthetic drugs, spice, K2, are all references to fake marijuana, littered with substances that are harmful and deadly. They are filling emergency wards and causing long-term physical and emotional damage, yet they are easy to find and often mistaken for harmless, kid-friendly products. To discuss the issue of synthetic drugs in the district of Columbia and throughout the United States, we have two guests on the first segment; Adrienne Poteat, the Deputy Director of the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, my agency. And Ryan Springer, the Deputy Director of the Addiction Prevention and Recovery Administration, here in the nation’s capital. Welcome to D.C. Public Safety.

Ryan Springer: Thank you for having me.

Len Sipes: I can’t think of a more difficult yet important topic, Ryan, in terms of getting the word out that this is something that is extraordinarily dangerous. Spice, K2, synthetic drugs; the word on the street is, my fear is, is that they may not be all that harmful and from all the research I’ve done and all the people I’ve talked to, they are deadly. They are harmful, and they are putting people in psych wards, they’re putting people in emergency rooms all the time. How do we get the word out?

Ryan Springer: I know, and thank you for having me again. I’d be remiss if I didn’t note that APRA has now merged with the Department of Mental Health.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Ryan Springer: To form the Department of Behavioural Health.

Len Sipes: Fine.

Ryan Springer: Which is timely, given this issue that we’re talking about.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Ryan Springer: Because, as you mentioned, folks are using these substances and for some they use it once and they’re ending up, you know, with a psychosis … psychotic break. And ending up in a psychotic hospital, psychiatric hospital.

Len Sipes: Right.

Ryan Springer: And so it’s a very serious issue that we’re dealing with, based on a one-time use.

Len Sipes: What are synthetic drugs? I mean there’s hundreds of ingredients.

Ryan Springer: Yes, there are. And so synthetic marijuana is made in a lab. So it’s a chemical compound that folks put together. And so it’s sprayed on dry plant material, for synthetic marijuana specifically, so they make it in a lab, it’s a liquid, they spray it on this plant material and it looks something like marijuana. But they’re adding different scents to it, so that when you burn it or smoke it, it has different scents, aromas, that it gives off.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Ryan Springer: Yeah.

Len Sipes: But it’s been declared illegal, five or six major ingredients, by the Drug Enforcement Administration, back in 2011.

Ryan Springer: Yeah.

Len Sipes: The D.C. Council has declared it illegal.

Ryan Springer: Yeah.

Len Sipes: Yet it still seems to be widely available

Ryan Springer: Yeah.

Len Sipes: … on the streets. They may not be hanging up any more … and we have to show pictures throughout the program

Ryan Springer: Yeah.

Len Sipes: … as to how kid-friendly … these things look like the older version of pop rocks.

Ryan Springer: Yeah, yeah.

Len Sipes: I mean, Scooby Doo and all the rest of the descriptions, they look like something a nine-year-old would be drawn towards.

Ryan Springer: Yeah.

Len Sipes: And yet they’re extraordinarily dangerous.

Ryan Springer: It’s one of the big issues that we have with this whole synthetic marijuana. Because it is targeted to kids. And so I want to acknowledge the community for bringing it to the attention of the state. Because this came from our prevention centres, which we have one representing two wards in the district. And so they had a community conversation, and through the folks in the community talking about this issue, talking about the impact they’re seeing on their kids, and MPD also verifying that, they brought it to our attention, there are these things being sold all over the place, to kids. And the impact on the kids is just you’re seeing these kids being very zoned out, not really engaging anyone, and for some, ending up in the emergency room. And so they brought it to our attention, we got this campaign started through some funding from the Federal Government. We’ve moved on from there. The biggest challenge is the fact that the key ingredients, there are over 130-something of the cannabinoids, which is the key ingredient.

Len Sipes: Right.

Ryan Springer: But as you mentioned, the DA’s only allowed about six of those key ingredients. And so the challenge here is even if MPD goes into a store and they pull the product from the shelves, when they go test it, the folks who are making this, they change the compounds on a monthly basis. So if you have a test that tests for one of those six, by the next month they’ve changed the compound and so the test no longer words. And that’s been the challenge.

Len Sipes: We have to debate what the message is to the larger public, but Adrienne..

Ryan Springer: Yeah.

Len Sipes: … we at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, we supervise 24,000 people on parole or probation or released from prison on any given year. And so 80% of the people that we supervise come from substance abuse histories. We’re now increasing our testing level for synthetic drugs, are we not? Because before, it was very difficult but we are increasing that capacity, that testing capacity, correct?

Adrienne Poteat: That’s correct. We are increasing the testing capacity.

Len Sipes: And we’re trying to get the word out to the population that we supervise that this is truly dangerous.

Adrienne Poteat: Yes. Not only to the population, but to the staff as well as the community. We want to educate everyone in terms of the effects of this drug.

Len Sipes: Okay. And at the same time, we’re really working with the offender population, with our staff, with everybody, in terms of saying the testing is going to increase. If we see signs of it in terms of our community supervision officers, when they go in the homes, if they see evidence of this, we put them in substance abuse therapy. We try to do certain things. We do accountability tours. We try to up the degree of surveillance, including drug testing for our population, correct?

Adrienne Poteat: You’re absolutely correct, Len.

Len Sipes: Okay. So, for both of you, what message do we give? I remember back in the Sixties it was reefer madness. I remember … and nobody believed the authorities back then that marijuana was harmful to you, and everybody continued to do marijuana. Are we running into that problem now in terms of K2 and Spice and synthetic marijuana? Is this conversation going to be believable to people in the communities, whether they be Washington D.C. or Milwaukee or Hawaii? Is this conversation going to resonate with them?

Adrienne Poteat: Well, we hope it’s going to be believable. You know, if you have a population of 100 and you reach a portion of that then you’ve reached someone. Surprisingly enough, we have taken this message out to the community and we’ve educated them and they had no idea the effects of the drug, how accessible they were. Some of the traumatic effects that it’s had, and some … in that audience, we’ve had ex-offenders that are there as well, and did not have the education about the drugs. So for us to get that message out, at least it has had an impact somewhere because also some of the community has started looking for some of the stores that have attempted to sell that. And the police have asked, you know, either ban the stores or stand up in the community, say, “We don’t want this in our community.”

Len Sipes: Right.

Adrienne Poteat: So it has had some impact somewhere, but we still have a long way to go.

Ryan Springer: Yeah.

Len Sipes: We were talking before coming onto the set to all of the participants in the program we’re talking about the difficulty in terms of getting the word out.

Ryan Springer: Yeah.

Len Sipes: In terms of being real. I mean, and some of the folks were saying, you know, if people want to get high, people want to use drugs, this is down at the corner store. It may not be displayed any more like it used to be, but it’s under the counter, it’s being sold on the street. I mean, what message do we give? And I do want to put up your website, by the way.

Ryan Springer: Yeah.

Len Sipes: What I think is an extraordinarily good website in terms of prevention, prevention methods, and educating both kids and adults.

Ryan Springer: Yeah.

Len Sipes: And we’ll do that throughout the course of the show.

Ryan Springer: Yeah.

Len Sipes: But what message do we give that’s convincing?

Ryan Springer: You know, and it’s a good question, because, as you mentioned, we don’t want to get down the path of saying, you know, “Don’t use this because it’s bad.” That kind of a message isn’t really … it doesn’t invite change. And so we’ve been trying several tactics in engaging the community. One I mentioned, the work with the prevention centers, which has shown, you know, great impact. We have communities who are actually engaging their businesses in the community around not selling these things. So that’s one aspect of it. Through the social media, the website and online advertising, we’ve had over … online alone, we’ve had over 25 million hits on the advertising there. And so as Ms Poteat said, you know, we’re really touching a lot of folks, and we expect that out of the millions that we touch, many won’t even start using. But for those who do, our hope is that we can educate the community members as much as possible so that they can then, you know, uh, we can work on community prevention so that they can tell their family members, their brothers, their aunts, their uncles, about the dangers of this drug, that they see themselves. We have a youth core program where we’re training … we’ve trained over 300 youth this year. Where they’re educated on this information so they can actually speak with some authority to their partners and their peers around the ills of using this drug. And honestly, going into a community, they can have a much bigger impact, having used it, or a peer of folks who’ve used it, telling their story better than I can.

Len Sipes: Well, we’re done … yeah, please, Adrienne.

Adrienne Poteat: Now, Len, if I can add something.

Len Sipes: Yeah.

Adrienne Poteat: You know, we’re being a little creative at the agency. We’re even going to put together our own video.

Len Sipes: Right.

Adrienne Poteat: And we’ve asked for participants, whether they’re ex-offenders, to come and participate in that video, so that we can show it in the waiting rooms, when people come into the office, or if we take it out in the community. And hopefully we will have that in production by January or February.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Adrienne Poteat: So, to actually see people that have used, to be able to talk on this video, also I think will be significant for us.

Len Sipes: But the thing … I keep going back to the same thing, that years ago, decades ago, warning people that marijuana was dangerous, we’re now … we’re here saying that synthetic drugs are dangerous. They’re ending up in psychiatric wards. They’re ending up paralysed. Not all of them, because you talk to some people who have used synthetic drugs, they say, “Hey, it’s fine, it’s not a problem, it’s cheap, it’s down the street, I know where I can get it. What’s the issue?” So, to that person, he’s looking at us right now and saying, you know, “You’re not being real with us, you’re not being honest with us.” But the flipside, the emergency room visits and the psychiatric wards and the crippling behaviour, and the crippling consequences of synthetic drug use is real.

Ryan Springer: Absolutely.

Len Sipes: It really is happening, so, on one side, you know, people are saying, “I’ve used it, it’s not a problem, it’s no big deal.” On the other side, you’ve got the three of us who are saying …

Ryan Springer: Yeah.

Len Sipes: … “Please think twice about this.”

Ryan Springer: And honestly, I think this was a bigger conversation, other than just synthetic, you know, marijuana or synthetic narcotics. And it’s a, to me, it’s a conversation at the community level around how do we empower communities to think in a more public health kind of mindset and overall health and wellness for the community?

Len Sipes: Mm.

Ryan Springer: And it’s changing that culture so that we, you know, we’re engaging these folks around not using in the first place. Not just synthetic marijuana, but not engaging in risky behaviours. And so the work that we’re doing with our prevention centres is around that and so it’s not just synthetic marijuana, but it’s engaging these communities around, you know, how can we be a healthier community? And to do that, you know, obviously using synthetic narcotics isn’t a good option. But we’ve got to try to build that capacity at the community level.

Len Sipes: Well, within any community in the country, not necessarily Washington D.C., but in any community in the United States you’re going to have an addict-based community. You are going to have a community of people who want to get high. They’ve been getting high since they were young kids. Again, the 24,000 people under Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, supervision on any given year, 80%, 70-80% have histories of substance abuse. So you’ll have that …

Ryan Springer: Yeah.

Len Sipes: … built-in ‘I want drugs’ personality. That’s who they are and that’s what they are. Once again, it’s down the street, it’s Scooby Doo and why aren’t the authorities doing more about it? Why aren’t they getting it out of our neighbourhoods? Adrienne, with our population, that’s a tough message to give. It’s dangerous but you can get it right down the street.

Adrienne Poteat: You’re right, and you can. You can just buy it anywhere. Hopefully there’s some of the treatment programs that we send some of the offenders to, they will understand and get a better idea about the impact and effects …

Len Sipes: Okay.

Adrienne Poteat: … doing that. We have some people that have been very successful, regardless if they’ve used drugs in the past or they’ve tried this. Once they got into the programs and they really, really understood the effects and what it has done to their bodies or the minds, or some of the behaviour that they have displayed, some of them have actually stopped and said, “I don’t want to have to be the person that ends up in the graveyard.” Or, “I don’t want to have to be the person that continues to go back to prison over and over again for my constant drug abuse.” So if you reach that one person, I feel that we have done something. We’re never going to reach the entire population. But then you bring those people back to some of the groups that you have, and let them tell the message. Because they’re the ones that have experienced it. They may not listen to us because they will say, “Well, what do you know? You’ve never used the drug.” But those people that have, they are an important factor in the treatment continuum that their message can be important and vital to this population.

Len Sipes: Nobody in this city, nobody in this country has more experience than the two of you right here in terms of dealing with drugs and dealing with people caught up in the criminal justice system. Nobody has more credibility than the two of you right now, in terms of talking at least to the bureaucracy. You’re saying that people should really be staying away from synthetic drugs. You’re saying that it’s dangerous. Am I right or wrong?

Adrienne Poteat: Yes.

Ryan Springer: Absolutely.

Adrienne Poteat: Yes.

Len Sipes: I tell you, thousands, tens of thousands of people are really being screwed up by this.

Ryan Springer: The main message, don’t even think about trying it. Just because … and again, I don’t want to go back to the previous messages of marijuana back in the day, but because you’re seeing people use it once and they’re in the emergency room and ending up in a psychiatric unit for the rest of their lives, there’s that message. But too, if you have a question based on whether it’s your peer or whatnot, come get the information and look it up. is the website.

Len Sipes: Right.

Ryan Springer: And you can get the information from that.

Len Sipes: You get the final word.

Ryan Springer: Yeah.

Len Sipes: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for being with us on the first half of D.C. Public Safety, as we take a look at this very important issue of synthetic drugs. In the second half, we’re going to have two people under our supervision, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. People who know and have a sense as to what’s going on in the street and street attitudes regarding synthetic drugs, K2. Stay with us. We’ll be right back.

<Music Playing>

Len Sipes: Hi, and welcome back to D.C. Public Safety. I continue to be your host, Leonard Sipes. We said on the first segment that synthetic drugs, Spice, K2, are all references to fake marijuana. And they’re filling emergency wants and causing long-term psychological and emotional damage. Yet they’re often very easy to find and mistaken for harmless kid-friendly products. To continue the discussion on synthetic drugs in the District of Columbia and throughout the country we have two guests who are currently under the supervision of my agency, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. They are Jonathan Fox and Derek Nixon. And gentlemen, welcome to D.C. Public Safety.

Jonathan Fox: Hello.

Derek Nixon: Hi

Len Sipes: I appreciate you guys being here. Now, what is the … you’ve heard on the first segment the three bureaucrats, me and Ms Poteat and Ryan Springer, talking about synthetic drugs. You guys are on the street, you’re out and about, you’re seeing what’s happening, you’re experiencing what’s happening. What did we say on that first half that makes sense to kids on the street? Anything?

Jonathan Fox: Everything you said was actually correct. You know. But you just, you know, left out the part that the problem with the drug started before the user.

Len Sipes: Right.

Jonathan Fox: It goes back in the history of the child, you know. And peer pressure.

Len Sipes: Right.

Jonathan Fox: That plays a big part of, you know, using the drug.

Len Sipes: Well, but, you know, people, we were talking about in, in the green room before coming out here today, there are people want to get high, they’re going to get high and synthetic drugs are right down the street and they know who’s selling them. They’re reasonably priced and they’re hard to pick up by my agency in terms of the drug test. And so we start doing more drug testing, which we plan on doing. I mean, so, to a lot of people who want to get high, their point is ‘why not?’

Jonathan Fox: Mm …

Len Sipes: Either one?

Jonathan Fox: Main thing …

Len Sipes: Go ahead.

Derek Nixon: No, go ahead, go ahead, go ahead.

Jonathan Fox: No, I was saying like the, you know, the main thing the gentlemen with the CSOSA agency is that, you know, they’re doing testing. And they’re testing for, you know, mostly hard drugs. And they’re using this as a substitute now, knowing that, you know, it damages them worse than the actual hard drug, marijuana.

Len Sipes: But if that’s the word on the street, is the word on the street that synthetic drugs actually do damage? Or is that just the price of getting high? I’m …

Derek Nixon: It’s on … the word is on the street that, you know, it has certain side effects but, like he just mentioned, it’s just basically a substance … cause we all … we all on urines for hard drugs and there’s … this doesn’t show up. So that’s like why not do it? You know?

Len Sipes: Well, that’s what I hear.

Len Sipes: That’s what I hear from you guys and talking in the green room, and other people before coming on and doing the program today. But I, you know, we talked about the first segment of what happened back in the 1960s and 1970s with marijuana. Bureaucrats like me got up and said, “It’s dangerous.” Nobody believed us and nobody cared. So my fear is, is that we’re going to … some twelve-year-old little girl is sitting there today, watching the three of us right now, whether it’s in Washington D.C. or somewhere throughout the country, or somewhere throughout the world. Because this program’s going to be on the Internet for years to come. And she’s going to say, “Well, I know where I can get some of this,” and why not do it? What do we say to her?

Jonathan Fox: You’ve got to look at the effects that it’s taking. It’s killing the brain cells. It’s making you slower reactions, you know. And it’s just not … it’s not like marijuana. It’s worse than marijuana, actually. You know, because of the chemicals and the stuff that they’re making it with.

Len Sipes: On the street right now, we were talking before about the fact that currently in the District of Columbia, people are seeing the posters at the bus stops, they’re seeing the posters on the buses themselves. They’re seeing it out in the community, talking about K2, Zombie, and talking about it being dangerous. Does that have an impact?

Derek Nixon: It does, it does. But it does have an impact. Well, if someone wants to get high on K2, they’re going to do it. You know?

Len Sipes: Right.

Derek Nixon: So basically it’s like … you want to get the word out there, the word is out there on the bus stops, metro and all that. But if someone will do K2, they’re going to do it.

Len Sipes: Right.

Derek Nixon: It’s just plain and simple.

Len Sipes: And that’s just about with any drug.

Derek Nixon: With any drug, right.

Len Sipes: And see, that’s the thing, it’s scaring me because these packages look kid-friendly, and I’ve got that twelve-year-old girl, I saw the segment the other day where a young teenage girl, twelve or thirteen years old, she is now paralysed for the rest of her life. She’s in a wheelchair for the rest of her life because of synthetic drugs. I mean, this stuff is real. This issue is real. It’s a real problem for real people, but I’m not quite sure we’re convincing people that it’s a real problem.

Jonathan Fox: I’m just starting to see the campaign has gone more harder than what they were, you know, and I believe they should have to, you know, really show an example, you know, just by, you know, giving the posters, saying to these youth out there in the streets that, you know, don’t do K2, it turns you to Zombie, I don’t … me personally, I don’t think that’s going to reach. I mean, that’s good to get the message out there, but I think we should have more damaging evidence towards that, you know.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Jonathan Fox: And show them, just like you said, you know, you’ve seen this twelve-year-old girl paralysed from the effects of synthetic drugs.

Len Sipes: Right.

Jonathan Fox: I mean, I think these youth should see the effects of this, see her, you know, say … and let her, you know, let her, you know, tell her story, if she can speak.

Len Sipes: But, you know, throughout the last couple of decades, drug use has gone down and gone down considerably. So somebody is making a decision. I mean, the criminal justice system, we can’t force people to not to do drugs. I mean, somewhere along the line, this is people making up their own minds not to do drugs for that … to have that level of drop over the course of the last two decades. So it has gone down, so there’s obviously a point where people are saying, “This not in my best interests to do heroin or do cocaine or do whatever,” but when it comes to K2, you don’t know what it is you’re doing. At least with cocaine, at least with heroin, at least with the other … marijuana, you have some sense as to what you’re getting into. With K2, with Spice, with synthetic drugs, you have no idea what you’re putting in your body.

Jonathan Fox: That goes back to just what I said. You have to show, you know what I’m saying, the chemicals and ingredients that’s in this synthetic drug. Just like, you know, back …

Len Sipes: But we don’t know. I mean, there are hundreds of them.

Jonathan Fox: I mean, you know, just like back in the day when they showed the pork, you know, they put the pork on the wall …

Len Sipes: Right.

Jonathan Fox: … they had it sit in the sun, then, you know, maggots came out the pork and a lot of people backed up from pork.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Jonathan Fox: You know, same thing with synthetic. You have to show damage and effect, you know. And this is the cause, and this is effect.

Len Sipes: So, my point is, is that all of us know people or have talked to people directly that have done synthetic drugs. Some people walk away from it unaffected. And then they are going to tell their friends that, “Hey, it’s no big deal.” And other people are going to emergency wards. Is the word on the street that it’s dangerous or is the word on the street that this is something worth trying?

Jonathan Fox: Both, cause, you know …

Jonathan Fox: Addicts, you know, addicts are going run to it, you know. Addicts are going to run towards it at their own risk.

Jonathan Fox: Yeah, exactly, you know. Addicts going to run towards anything that they feel as though is going to take them to the next level of high. You know. And for people in the lower realms you know, there, they probably back up saying like, “No, I’m not trying to go there.” But it’s …

Len Sipes: Right, so if you wanted … if you’re looking for that high, K2 is not going to get in your way. The warnings are not going to get in your way. But it’s the people on the edge, the parents of people on the edge, people who maybe swung one way or the other, we can talk to them. Or is it possible?

Jonathan Fox: It’s possible. Anything worth a try. You know, my saying, there’s nothing beats a failure than a try, so .

Len Sipes: Alright. What do we tell parents?

Jonathan Fox: You have to educate them on it first of all. It’s just like, you know, the ingredients of a drug is like case law. You can read it in two, you know, languages. You know, so you have to make it concise and scoop down to their level and explain it to them. Because once you read in the ad,
you know, there’s ads up there on marijuana, there’s ads on crack cocaine, there’s ads on … all type of drugs. But they still continue to do it.

Len Sipes: Doesn’t anybody get ticked off over the fact that, you know, you take a look at these packages and they’re so kid-friendly. They look like something an eight-year-old wants to go and chew on, just because they’re Scooby Doo and they’re just so friendly and colourful. I mean, they look like they’re trying to market to seven and eight-year-olds. I know that there are kids, eleven, twelve or thirteen who are confused about this. I mean, you’ve got to say that at least a seven-year-old, an eighteen-year-old, a twelve-year-old, you’ve got to say that, man, this is stuff that can really, really harm them.
Jonathan Fox: If you think about it …

Len Sipes: Am I right or wrong?

Jonathan Fox: You definitely right, and I agree with you. The thing about it, a drug dealer is heartless. You know why? Because he doesn’t know the effects that he’s having on his community. You know, with starting casualties, wars, you know. People are getting sick, people who are stealing from their family. So a drug dealer, they’re not going to think of the effects when he’s packaging his product to sell to the community, because all he’s thinking about is the dollars. So these big companies that’s issuing these packages, they’re going to make them colourful and enticing for kids or whoever to come to them, cause colours attract people, you know.

Len Sipes: But that’s a thing that gets me, now. I understand the dealers with heroin, I understand the dealers with cocaine. I understand the dealers with crack. These are being sold by store owners.

Jonathan Fox: I don’t want to cut you off but, you know, but …

Len Sipes: Go- cut me off

Jonathan Fox: … I don’t want to cut you off, but it … you cannot separate a K2 seller from a crack seller, cause both of them are drugs.

Len Sipes: Right.

Jonathan Fox: They’re still a drug dealer.

Len Sipes: Alright, they’re still a drug dealer.

Jonathan Fox: You know.

Len Sipes: No doubt about it.

Jonathan Fox: You know, and if you sell it … see, you know, if you sell it in a store or …

Len Sipes: But some of them …

Jonathan Fox: … you sell it on the streets.

Len Sipes: But some of them are businesspeople, right? I mean, they’re running gas stations, they’re running …

Derek Nixon: That’s the gas.

Len Sipes: … convenience stores. They’re running all these different things, and so I mean they’re business people.

Jonathan Fox: And the thing …

Len Sipes: And so are drug dealers, I fully understand that.

Len Sipes: But is there a way of reaching … can a community just basically say, “Stop it.”

Derek Nixon: Like you said earlier though, the community have to get together and say, “We don’t want this in our community.” You know. Go to a store, petition it, you know, boycott a store. Just, you know, do a protest in front of the store. Cause I’ve seen that on the news before that this is a … one community, they don’t sell no K2 no more. Lady’s son … so I guess he went to the emergency room or whatever. And a lot of parents got together and said, “We don’t want this in our community.” And they forced it out. So if you can do that in certain communities, then that might be a start to get it out. But it may move somewhere else. It’s going to go somewhere else. You see what I’m saying?

Len Sipes: So is there a way of galvanising the community around K2? Is it really possible, or is everybody … don’t care? I mean, is it really possible to galvanise a large proportion of the community, to simply say that this is dangerous and, “I want it out of my community.”

Jonathan Fox: You’re going to have to start with a community. First you’re going to have to have some advocates to actually care about the youth. And, you know, know that the youth are our future. You know, so you’re going to have to have somebody with the knowledge and common sense to go into the community and explain to our citizens that, you know, this drug is definitely harmful, is hurting our kids, you know, is not good at all. You know, there’s going to have to definitely be a campaign on it.

Len Sipes: Yeah.

Jonathan Fox: You know.

Len Sipes: We’ve only got a couple of minute left. I, as I told you before the program, whenever I do a radio or television show, I have somebody that I envision talking to throughout the course of the show. And I envision … my vision is talking to the twelve-year-old, thirteen-year-old girl who I saw the other day in a wheelchair for the rest of her life, paralysed by using K2. So I’m talking to her before she made the decision to use it. She thought it was harmless. What do we say to her?

Jonathan Fox: Don’t even try, you know. Don’t fall into peer pressure, you know. Don’t do it cause you think it’s cool, because it does have the zombie effect.

Len Sipes: Yeah.

Derek Nixon: It does have the zombie effect. It kills your brain cells, you know what I’m saying … the more you know, the smarter you are, and you’ll never be smart doing K2.

Len Sipes: An opinion?

Derek Nixon: Yeah, just like you say, just don’t fall under peer pressure to try it. Well, you know, want to K2 or you want to see how it is, I just want to know what it is. But you really shouldn’t do it, that’s all. You know, that’s to the kids out there, don’t. It’s not worth it. Totally don’t use it, you know. You know, just don’t use it.

Len Sipes: And even if you have direct experience or your friends have direct experience of using it and it doesn’t have those incredibly harmful effects that we’re talking about, next time around, because they’re constantly changing the ingredients, so next time around they could have …

Jonathan Fox: Right.

Len Sipes: … those incredible effects.

Jonathan Fox: Right.

Len Sipes: What are we saying to the parents? Same thing?

Derek Nixon: Same thing

Derek Nixon: And monitor the kids more. You know, I mean, be more involved in their kids’ life, cause like kids are acting out of their age these days, you know. They’re doing stuff that shouldn’t be done. So parents should monitor their kids more and also check, you know, check on, you know, what are they putting in their system.

Len Sipes: Right.

Derek Nixon: Maybe educate their kids on the side effects and consequences of smoking K2.

Len Sipes: Well, you, what we have to do is also at the same time and from the bureaucrats, we have to get them involved, we have to get the parents involved, we have to get the community involved. I just fear that the word is not being crystal clear. I just feel that they’re going to sit back and go, “Man, I’ve done it, my friends have done it. It ain’t about what you’re saying. You’re exaggerating what the harmful effects are.”

Derek Nixon: No, you can’t exaggerate when you’ve got proof in front of you. People go by what they see, you know what I’m saying, not by what they hear. You know, if I say you, you know, something like, “Your watch is gold,” you know what I’m saying? Or, “My watch is gold,” you know what I’m saying, you’d want to see it. You wouldn’t want to hear what I’ve got to say. And that’s what society is going to turn to, hearsay, instead of more action being taken, is hearsay. Or you know if you do that you’ll get locked up? But they do. They still do it. You know, a youth will still do it, you know? Until he actually get locked up, say, “I ain’t doing it no more.” You know. So, you know, you’ve got to be educated on it.

Len Sipes: Well, they’ve got to educate the kids, they’ve got to educate everybody, that’s the bottom line, right?

Len Sipes: Well, thank you for being here, ladies and gentlemen, I want to thank you for watching today. Please take a look at the website that’s constantly being posted through the show. Please educate yourselves, please educate your family, please educate your children. Look for us next time as we look at another very important topic, in today’s criminal justice system. Have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

<Music Playing>

[Video Ends]


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Youthful Offenders – DC Public Safety

Welcome to “DC Public Safety” – Radio and television shows, blog and transcripts on crime, criminal offenders and the criminal justice system.

The portal site for “DC Public Safety” is

Television program available at…-public-safety/

[Video Begins]

Len Sipes: Hi and welcome to DC Public Safety, I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. Today’s show is on youthful offenders, and there’s a lot of research in parole and probation, and parole and probation caseloads, but two factors seem to be the most important – one, focus on the high risk offender with supervision and treatment and two, focus on youthful offenders, because the gain to public safety could be significant. Our guests today on the first half are Jim Cosby – he is the Chief Community Services Division for the National Institute of Corrections and Dr. Lisa Rawlings, a special assistant to the director of my agency, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. And to Lisa and Jim, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Lisa Rawlings: Thank you.

Jim Cosby: Thank you.

Len Sipes: I can’t think of a more important topic than youthful offenders. It seems to be where all of us are going, criminologically speaking. It seems to be where corrections and community corrections especially is going. So Lisa, we have a new initiative here, within our agency, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, focusing on youthful offenders, correct?

Lisa Rawlings: Correct. As you mentioned, we focused on high risk and really making sure that we deploy our resources to the offenders who have the highest risk and we found that the young adults, the 25 and under population really are over-represented in this high risk population, so it’s important to focus on them for that reason, because they require more supervision resources and they’re really not getting the outcomes based on all this investment. And then two, I really appreciate you mentioning the importance of the, the importance of the impact on the public good and that we really can arrest this criminality at a younger age. We really can have a long-term benefits down the road.

Len Sipes: Well, Jim, considering that this population is most criminogenic between the ages of 15 and 25, if you can meaningfully impact the youthful offender, if you can get him off of that offending track, that drugs and crime track and get him into more productive activates, there’s the process, there’s the possibility of literally saving society from thousands upon thousands of crimes, correct?

Jim Cosby: Oh, absolutely. I think, you know, the best thing that we can do is divert those that we can safely divert from the system. You know, the research now demonstrates that, you know, first and foremost you have to assess the offender so that you know what you’re dealing with and you have to then set up your interventions, like Dr. Rawlings talked about. You have to be able to target those interventions on those high risk offenders and then you need to be able to case manage those folks and have the appropriate interventions delivered in a timely way with the correct amount of dosage.

Len Sipes: Lisa, what we’re doing in the pilot program, we’re going to eventually move all of this over to a full-fledged program for all younger offenders, but at the moment, we have a pilot program in two districts and we are trying to assist them, both in terms of supervision, providing accountability, and treatment at the same time. Correct?

Lisa Rawlings: Absolutely. And what’s been unique about this approach is we’re not just piloting an approach to supervising young adults, but we’re also looking at how we are working together as a team. And so the teams are very integrated. We have our treatment specialists and our vocation and educational staff working alongside the community supervision officers to really provide a very holistic approach, to understand this young person as an entire person. And so that we’re not just focusing on them as a case, but as an individual. And we named our pilot program “Young Adult Initiative” rather than “Youthful Offender” because we thought it was important to make sure that we did not label these young people at a very early age. That we look at them as a person, a whole person, and we focus on their potential and try to support that.

Len Sipes: Is that the key issue? Because so many individuals caught up in the criminal justice system, they were used to being round peg, round hole. They’re used to a system where they, people have low expectations, people honestly don’t care about them, and they really don’t get treatment, they really don’t get services. People are so willing to write off individuals at a very early age and I think that’s the age where we can capture them, that’s the age where we can divert them. I think the strength of our program is taking a look at these individuals as individuals rather than just a class of people.

Lisa Rawlings: Absolutely. And all of the staff have been hand-picked to work on this initiative, have been especially trained on a model that takes this approach. It’s called the “Good Lives Model”. It really focuses on a holistic approach.

Len Sipes: Well, let me go over to Jim in terms of the research, because NIC, first of all, the National Institute of Corrections is the premier agency in terms of telling the rest of us throughout the country what it is that we should do. Assessing an individual becomes extraordinarily important, making sure that you have the right person. Because, you know, we don’t want to put too many resources into lower level offenders, correct? We want to focus on higher risk offenders, and then I want to get over to either one of you as to why younger people are falling into that high risk category, but that’s the first thing, right? With no – not an overwhelming amount of resources on low risk offenders.

Jim Cosby: That’s right. I mean, agencies today are strapped financially. There’s just not enough resources to go around, so we’ve used the science to really begin to determine who we should focus our resources on. And again, it is the high risk, medium to high risk offenders, that’s where you get the biggest bang for your buck. Focusing on those individuals is going to get you a lower return of recidivism, which means fewer crimes in the community. Fewer crimes in the community means improvement in public safety.

Len Sipes: The question is, I suppose, whether or not you’re focusing on a person that you believe, through various risk assessment tools, is out there committing four or five crimes a year, versus those people who are committing 40, 50, 60 crimes a year. You want to go after those high risk offenders, target them, and bring down those rates of recidivism.

Lisa Rawlings: Absolutely. And when you talked about the high risk – you know, 85% of our population of 25 and under are screened into these highest risk categories.

Len Sipes: That’s amazing.

Lisa Rawlings: Absolutely.

Len Sipes: Think about that for a second. 85%! So that goes to my second question, why? Criminologically speaking, I think I know the answer, but I want to get your answer. Why do so many people fall into that high risk category? Does it simply come with the territory because of age?

Lisa Rawlings: Well, there are a number of things. We talked with our staff, who’ve been working with this population. We also held focus groups with some of the young adults to really learn more about their experiences on supervision and some of the drivers for this. And we also kind of did some analysis of the characteristics of this population to really understand a little bit more about what was happening. And we were finding that according to our staff, they have many specialized needs. That there’s a lot of trauma that’s been unaddressed; that they have poor experience with structure and don’t have enough role models, and that they’re often involved in many multiple systems, social services systems, and there needs to be a better sense of collaboration. But that they also, at 20, at 25 and under, haven’t really developed the maturity level to really handle all of these competing demands and also some of the trauma and emotional challenges that they have experienced.

Len Sipes: Jim, before the program we were talking about the National Institute of Corrections and other agencies developing tools and those tools were improving all the time in terms of assessing high risk, younger individuals, in terms of programs to provide assistance, and/or supervision. And that these tools are getting better, these programs are getting better and hopefully we’re going to have a better impact in terms of public safety, in terms of cost effectiveness. Some of these programs, done well – there was a recent piece of research on doing construction sort of training, occupational training within prison systems throughout the country – and they said that you can basically have a program that pays for itself with a two to three percent reduction in recidivism. So part of this is dealing with the taxpayers unwillingness to fund more programs, part of this is dealing with the taxpayers willingness to have programs to protect the public safety, and part of this is a lot of people’s concern, that we’ve got to start doing a better job of helping individuals under supervision. So clarify that for me.

Jim Cosby: Well, what you’re really talking about is the heart of the Justice Reinvestment Act. And what the Justice Reinvestment Act says is that we’re going to give you the science, we’re going to give you the implementation, we’re going to give you the tools at the state, local level, to teach you how to better manage offenders. And those reductions in recidivism, which equals public safety improvements in our view, is that simply you get a savings that should be then reinvested back into the programs, that are actually helping reduce the recidivism and the crime to begin with. So that’s the entire package behind justice reinvestment and it’s proving very successful. The assessment process, the case management process, the interventions that are made, the amount of time that the officer spends with the particular individual is key. You know, we’re no longer really – and the science today is no longer really driving us towards an adversary relationship between the officer and the individual, under supervision. What it is, it should be an engagement with that individual. It should be a piece where that officer is working to make that individual successful. Because when the offender succeeds, we improve public safety.

Len Sipes: And one of the things, one of the points that I did want to make, Lisa, through a question to you, is that virtually everything that Jim is saying we incorporate in terms of our day to day activities, correct? In terms of having that constructive relationship with the person under supervision, doing that assessment, having a pretty thorough sense as to who that person is, what their potential is, where they’re going. We do all of that. That’s the point that I want to make here, right?

Lisa Rawlings: Absolutely. And that was a big part of the design of this initiative in that we wanted to do all that, but do it in an expedited fashion, because we knew that we were losing these young adults a little quicker than we were the older population and so we really focused on shortening the time frames for the assessment, streamlining and expediting the interventions and then again, working as a holistic team, so we’re not just focused on their supervision requirement. But what are some of their needs and challenges and how can we support and facilitate them in their success.

Len Sipes: One of the challenges, I think, is their age. I used to work with kids on the street in the city of Baltimore, as a gang counselor. I’ve run groups in prison systems. A challenging population. A lot of them came from backgrounds, as you mentioned a little while ago, Lisa, that aren’t the best. Disadvantaged backgrounds – a lot of them had a single parent, sometimes that single parent wasn’t available. Sometimes they come out with chips on their shoulders, very large chips on their shoulders. This is not the easiest population to deal with, but the potential for productivity and public safety is enormous.

Lisa Rawlings: Absolutely. And we really wanted to make sure that we were able to have staff who really understood that and were interested and really motivated to work with this population, because building rapport is going to be the biggest part of the success of this initiative.

Len Sipes: And that’s, we’ve trained our staff to do just that in terms of how to build rapport, how to break through the barriers, how to do cognitive, behavioral therapy, which is basically thinking for a change. And all of that, Jim, is once again backed up by the research.

Jim Cosby: It is. And the engagement that we’re talking about here really goes to the heart of the matter, about changing behavior. You know, Dr. Rawlings’ officers cannot change someone else’s behavior. I can’t make you change, you can’t make me change. What I can do is provide you with the opportunity and the treatment to help you want to change for yourself. And when that happens, you get a lot of bang for the buck and you get a lot of improvement in public safety.

Len Sipes: But too many times in the past we’ve given up. Too many times in the past we’ve said recidivism rates for younger offenders, for high risk…

Jim Cosby: Well, this is not a throw-away population, though. I mean, and that’s part of the problem that we face.

Len Sipes: That’s such a good point.

Jim Cosby: This is not a throw-away population.

Len Sipes: That’s such a good point.

Jim Cosby: These are youthful offenders, you know, these are people that are going to be our citizens and continue to be our citizens in this country. WE can’t throw this population away.

Len Sipes: So we have to bring the very best, the state of the art, we have to bring our “A” games to this particular population because of that particular reason. These individuals are our future. Either we can, they can spend the rest of their lives behind bars, or they can spend their lives being taxpayers and productive citizens, correct?

Lisa Rawlings: Absolutely. At CSOSA we’re really invested in making sure that we recognize that this is not a throw-away population and we really invest the best of what we know will work. And we did that in our pilot phase so that we could really refine it and tweak it before we roll it out to the entire population, but we have a very motivated, well experienced, well trained staff that are involved in this. They’ve been trained – again, like I said – especially on this holistic model.

Len Sipes: They volunteer for this, correct?

Lisa Rawlings: They volunteered to do this because many of them have had experience working with youth.

Len Sipes: There you go.

Lisa Rawlings: And then they’re working alongside other professionals who are treatment specialists, they have social workers and they have behavioral health backgrounds and educational backgrounds to really bring all the resources together in a very coordinated fashion, to serve these young people.

Len Sipes: We’ve got 30 seconds. Jim, do you have anything else to add?

Jim Cosby: I would just say one last thing is that I think the program that they have at CSOSA is really exciting. We have 70% of the offender population in the community and we get 30% of the resources. We’ve got to apply more resources to this population so that we don’t have a throw-away generation.

Len Sipes: Jim, I love that point of view, and you’ve got the final word for the first segment. Ladies and gentlemen, watch it for the second segment, as we have two individuals who are community supervision officers known elsewhere as parole and probation agents, who supervise this particular, young adult population. They’re going to be here, talking about their experiences, please stay with us.

[Music Playing]

Len Sipes: Hi, welcome back to DC Public Safety, I continue to be your host, Leonard Sipes, continuing our discussion on youthful offenders. We have two new guests with us who spend their day to day lives dealing with helping with supervising people in supervision – youthful offenders. Stephanie Thompson is a community supervision officer with my agency, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. And Christopher Barno is a treatment specialist, again, with my agency, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency and to Chris and to Stephanie, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Stephanie Thompson: Thank you.

Len Sipes: Stephanie, you spent 17 years in two agencies, doing community supervision work and you volunteered for this particular population, so tell me why you volunteered to work one of the toughest gigs in parole and probation?

Stephanie Thompson: Well, I have to say, prior to coming to CSOSA, when I was working with at risk youth, I was able to work with them closely and I saw a need that they weren’t getting prior to coming into the group home. And then as I left there and I applied for CSOSA and became a CSO, I was seeing some of those same kids that I cared for come through the building and it just made me realize that there was still some work needed to be done. And I actually enjoy working with the population that so many people may feel like it’s the hardest – but I actually enjoy getting through to them and helping them to succeed outside of what some people may think. There are actually a lot of success stories in reference to the young adults.

Len Sipes: I find dealing with them fascinating and Chris, the second question goes to you – as a treatment specialist, tell me, you are involved in what we call cognitive behavioral therapy, Thinking for a Change. You arrange, you do the assessments, you do referrals in terms of substance abuse, mental health. Tell me about your role?

Christopher Barno: Well, I mean in the first segment, you know, we heard about all the science that goes behind what makes this work. Well we bring the art to the science with the treatment, with the different interventions that we are able to provide to the young adults. And so with that, that’s the treatment specialist’s role.

Len Sipes: It’s interesting because we talk, at the headquarters level at our agency, and I interact with people throughout the country, and it’s all talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, because we’re not doing what you’re doing. I remember doing what you’re doing. It’s hard. It’s interesting, it’s challenging. I think, when I was a gang counselor in the streets of the city of Baltimore, I was never happier, out with the kids, on Friday night, on Saturday night, on Sunday night. But it was very volatile. At the same time, it broke my heart because I saw so many individuals who had clear potential for being a law abiding citizen, basically decided to toss that off to the side, and I always said that’s because of their upbringing, their lack of respect for themselves, their lack of respect for the world around them, and the fact that nobody ever gave them a chance. If you provide them with a real chance – not just treatment, because it has to be supervision, but if you combine the two, can we make a difference?

Stephanie Thompson: Yes, I believe we do. We can make a difference. I feel that if you, first of all if you’re really sincere and passionate about what you’re doing, all the other barriers won’t be a problem, you’re going to continue to try to press on and find a way to break through with the young adults. I think the fact that we have a treatment specialist on site, we have a psychologist on site, as well as our co-workers who help one another, just not with your particular caseload, but we help each other with everyone’s case load. And so it’s like a sense of family- the community. You know how they say “it takes a community to raise a child” – well, we’re like that kind of community, where it takes all of us to help this young adult and in doing so we have found, you know, quite a few turnarounds. There’s probably about seven young adults that I know of personally who are extending their education to college. They’re actually enrolled in college. Some of them didn’t think they were going to be able to get into college because of their background, their criminal background. But just to know that, you know, to tell them to try, no matter what the barriers are and actually seeing that it was, they were able to get in it is just, brightens up their day and it shows that they can still be a law abiding citizen and go to school and make a career in something that they choose.

Len Sipes: But, what I, the term that I’ve used, Chris, this question’s going to go to you – the term that I’ve used in the past is a “chip on your shoulder the size of Montana”. A lot of the individuals, younger, especially the younger individuals, they have – they’re very cynical. I’ve always said there’s nothing more cynical than reporters, street cops and young offenders. No particular group. They don’t like the world, they don’t trust the world, they don’t trust you. They don’t trust me. They don’t trust anybody. They don’t trust the clergy, they don’t trust the president, they don’t trust the Pope, they don’t trust anybody except their peers and their own family members. Am I in the ballpark, right or wrong?

Christopher Barno: 100% correct. But I think one of the things that we really try to instill in these young adults is a sense of hope. But we don’t just talk about it, we actually are providing opportunities for these young men and it’s contagious. You know, they talk amongst themselves, they talk with their peers, you know, in the lobbies of the different field sites, and you know, when one person gets an opportunity, his friend, his peer says, “I want that same opportunity.” And so it spreads. And it spreads like wildfire. And that’s what we’re beginning to really see with the young adults. As opportunities are being afforded to these young men, and they’re having success, their sense of hope, their sense of pride, their esteem is just going through the roof. And it’s making all the difference in these young men’s lives.

Len Sipes: And you know, it’s just so ridiculously important to me, when we’re talking about this particular population. Jim on the first half said, “They’re not a throw-away population.” For too many years, society has treated this population as a throw-away population. Reporters I talk to are very cynical about our chances. People that I talk to are very cynical. And not necessarily our program here, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, but all high risk, young offender programs. Because they’ve seen programs in the past that haven’t worked all that well. Jim and Lisa really hammered home the fact that we’re running a state-of-the-art program with state-of-the-art tools. Do you think we have the tools? Do you think we have the wherewithal to be successful? Can we give hope to the naysayers?

Stephanie Thompson: Yes, I believe we can give hope to the naysayers. If you really, if you were able to spend one day to kind of like see what we do, you will see that the holistic approach that we have is very helpful. For instance, when Chris was talking about the, having some type of – it’s contagious, when they find out one person’s doing one thing, they want to do it. I totally agree, because we have a Copper Cabling program that a lot of our offenders from the ages of 19 to 21, that they’re able to participate in. And they love it.

Len Sipes: What program? I’m sorry – the what?

Stephanie Thompson: The Copper Cabling program.

Len Sipes: Really? A vocational program?

Stephanie Thompson: Yes. And I actually went there, I actually was able to observe some of the young adults and they loved it. They loved the fact that we were even there to observe them in the program. And when they hear about it, then I have the other young adults, “Well, you know, this person said I’m here, can you get me in here?” I’m like, “Yes.” But we try to prepare them. “When you get in, you want to stay in. You need to focus.” And a lot of times a lot of those young adults don’t have any time management. They’re not disciplined. And we try to help them to learn about time management and being disciplined. So we hold them accountable for their actions but yet give them that guidance.

Len Sipes: Well, Christopher, I think that’s – bouncing off of what Stephanie just said, is that, again, in many cases they’re not dot your i, cross your t, very precise sort of people. They have to learn time management, they have to learn, in some cases, basic social skills. And in some cases, they’ve got to learn that when a boss jumps their derriere that they can’t react negatively or they’re going to get fired – stuff that we were all taught as children, they haven’t been taught. Am I right or wrong?

Christopher Barno: 100% correct. And that’s why the team approach is so important in what we do, because not only do we have the supervision officers, we have the treatment specialists, we have the educational specialists, we have the employment specialists all working with these young men and because the way that they’re supervised on such a more intensive level, they’re at the office more, they have more contact with all the different team members. So we’re able to really get a chance to know these guys in a more personal level and really understand what it is that they need to be successful out in the community.

Len Sipes: What is the most important thing for their success, as far as you’re concerned, when taking a look at an individual? What is the key to their success?

Stephanie Thompson: Well, we would definitely want to reduce recidivism, within the District of Columbia, but getting their GED and their high school diploma, that’s one of the major components.

Len Sipes: Okay, because that’s a bridge to help them cross to the other side.

Stephanie Thompson: Exactly. And a lot of them don’t realize that if they just get that high school diploma, GED, it will open doors for a lot of other things. And then you have those barriers where they may have some type of educational disability that they’re afraid to mention, but once you get that rapport with them and they open up, you’re able to better assist them and because we have everyone right there on site, they don’t have to go into a room of people where they’re unfamiliar with and feel like they can’t open up. They feel a little more safe and that the confidentiality is going to stay within the room.

Len Sipes: Years ago, somebody mentioned to me, and I experienced it when I was working with younger offenders, and you tell me if I’m right or wrong, so many of them were covering up for fear. So many of them were covering up bad experiences in the past and in fact, some of the toughest people that I was ever around were some of the most fearful. Is that still correct?

Christopher Barno: Still correct.

Stephanie Thompson: They’re afraid to be successful amongst their peers and we’re trying to teach them how to you know, think beyond that. And that’s part of the reason why we had the challenge to change groups, where it’s trying to help them change the way they think. And there’s different phases to that and once they complete that, if it’s some criminal thinking that they need to work on, they’ll go into that program, or if they’re actually involved in educational vocational. So we keep track of where they are and try to slowly but surely, depending on the time that they have, try to get them when they are out in the community. They can be successful. And pray and hope that they won’t return back into probation.

Len Sipes: Sure. But Chris, the treatment component, we have the resources available for this particular population?

Christopher Barno: Yes, I believe we do. And it’s more than just the substance abuse resources, it’s the educational resources, it’s the employment resources that are available and the opportunities for these young men. And that’s what’s making the difference for these young men that are beginning to succeed and excel where they haven’t had opportunities or made any real progress in the past.

Len Sipes: And once we get beyond the pilot program phase, it will be young women involved in the program.

Stephanie Thompson: I hope so. I’m sure.

Len Sipes: Which we do have young female high risk offenders?

Stephanie Thompson: Yes. We do, and we’re not ignoring them, but like you said, this is a pilot phase.

Len Sipes: It’s a pilot program, we’re just starting and we’re getting our feet wet and then we’re going to be moving on to everybody else.

Stephanie Thompson: Exactly.

Len Sipes: And I think that’s the key issue with so many of the women offenders that I’ve talked to before, coming from tough backgrounds and they’re very vocal about those tough backgrounds. I mean, when I interview them for the radio show, I compare it to standing in front of a shotgun. Where the guys are reserved and don’t talk about it, the women offenders, boom, they’ve just put it on the line in terms of their own backgrounds and it’s horrific. Working through those horrific backgrounds must take a toll on you personally, I think? Does it?

Stephanie Thompson: It does, but at the same time, I try not to focus on their, the charges that they have. I try to focus on the individual in front of me and I try to leave that behind, just focus on what we’re going to do now. What’s your goals now? And try to get them to think beyond getting off supervision. The majority of them are like, “I just want to get off supervision.” So try to get them to think beyond getting off supervision. What are you going to do once you get off supervision?

Len Sipes: What’s your game plan for life?

Stephanie Thompson: Yeah, exactly. Exactly.

Len Sipes: And Chris, that’s how we have to approach this. It’s not while you’re under our supervision. What are the coping skills, what are the tools that you’re going to employ a year and a half after you get off of supervision?

Christopher Barno: And I’m always having that conversation with the young men and I tell them, you know, “One day your supervision’s going to end and you’re not going to come back to CSOSA.” You know, they smile at me. And I say, “But it’s going to be realistic, it’s going to happen. And we need to have some things in place for you so that when that day comes, you’re going to be ready.” You know, whether it’s furthering your education, gainful employment, meaningful employment, – a career. So you know, it’s really about, again, what I mentioned earlier. Instilling a sense of hope in these young men so that they can see that there’s more to life than just being on supervision.

Len Sipes: It’s a matter of reshaping young lives rather than simply incarcerating young lives.

Christopher Barno: Yes, that’s 100% correct.

Len Sipes: It is. You’re reshaping individuals . And that’s tough to do. That’s hard to do, but I would imagine if anybody can do it, we can because of our resources and smaller case loads.

Stephanie Thompson: Correct.

Len Sipes: I mean, most parole and probation agencies are not equipped to deal with what it is that we’re doing. I mean, most parole and probation agencies would throw them out into the community and say, “Go to here for your anger management and go to there in terms of substance abuse.” We pretty much provide that in-house to a large degree.

Stephanie Thompson: Yes, and that’s a significant part of the young adult program, is that when you’re in like general supervision, you have to refer them outside for these resources, but to actually be right here. And then you have issues with transportation as well. So to actually have it right in-house will help a lot and I believe that helps with the young adults to feel like they do have a chance to really succeed.

Len Sipes: And Chris, doesn’t it say to them that if we’re doing it in-house and packaging it all together and everybody else is talking to each other, then they really do have an opportunity to succeed?

Christopher Barno: 100% again, correct. I mean, it’s really – the other thing that it helps them see is that, you know, they see all of us on a regular basis. They’re not going to different field sites, they’re not going to different places in the community to get the services that they need. It’s all right there.

Len Sipes: And Chris, you’ve got the final word. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for watching this program on dealing with youthful offenders. Watch for us next time as we look at another very important topic in today’s criminal justice system. Please have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Video Ends]


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Corrections Monitoring and Re-Entry-DC Public Safety Television

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[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes:  Hi.  Welcome to DC Public Safety.  I am your host, Leonard Sipes and ladies and gentleman, today’s show is on corrections monitoring and reentry featuring the work of the Corrections Information Council of Washington DC.  This is really interesting.  They’re the only civilian body authorize to go into the institutions of the Federal Bureau of Prisons throughout the country.  So to talk about the work of monitoring what goes on inside of correctional facilities, we have two guests with us today, Michelle Bonner.  She is the chair of the Corrections Information Council and Reverend Samuel Whitaker.  He is a board member of the Corrections Information Council.  And to Michelle and Reverend Whitaker, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Rev. Samuel Whitaker:  Thank you, Leonard.

Michelle Bonner:  Thank you.

Len Sipes:  This is really an interesting concept because you have government bodies throughout the country that go into correctional institutions and they inspect and they certify but this time, Michelle, it’s a civilian body doing it.  So give me an overview of the work of the Corrections Information Council.

Michelle Bonner:  Sure.  The Corrections Information Council is a civilian body as you said with two members appointed by the Mayor and one by the City Council of the District of Columbia.  And our mission and our mandate is to inspect and monitor the prisons’ jails and halfway houses where DC residents are incarcerated.

Len Sipes:  Now, we’ll go over that a little bit because this is interesting and we have to explain this for the audience throughout the country.  The people who go from the District of Columbia, in this case, just because they are violators of the local law, they go to a federal institution and that all goes back to August of 2000, correct, in terms of the Revitalization Act?

Michelle Bonner:  Yes.  And that’s how the Corrections Information Council was actually formed back in that 1997 Revitalization Act where DC does not have a prison.  And so all of those residents who are convicted of felonies are sent to over 100 different Federal Bureau of Prison facilities throughout the country.

Len Sipes:  Right.  And this was to ostensibly take the burden off of the District of Columbia and to put it along to whether it would be ordinarily would be ostensibly a state function.  So Baltimore, Baltimore doesn’t have its own prison system.  Baltimore has the State of Maryland that takes care of corrections.  In this case, due to budget constraints within the District of Columbia, certain functions were federalized and part of that were DC code violators, people who are convicted of DC crimes, they go to federal prisons throughout the country.

Michelle Bonner:  Exactly.  And as DC is not a state, we don’t have that state system to which to send our residents who have been convicted of crimes.

Len Sipes:  Okay.

Michelle Bonner:  That’s why we have our DC residents sent to Federal Bureau of Prison facilities.  And right now, we have about 6000 DC residents who are incarcerated, and like I said, in about 100 facilities across the country.

Len Sipes:  Reverend, now, they’re spread all throughout the country.  Now, they’re supposed to be what?  Correct me if I’m wrong, 500 miles of the District of Columbia that was the original intent of placing DC offenders into the Federal Bureau of Prisons – I think within 500 miles.

Rev. Samuel Whitaker:  To my understanding that was their original intent…

Len Sipes:  Right.

Rev. Samuel Whitaker:  …but since then it just sort of grew and mushroomed and they sent them out at least 33 states.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Rev. Samuel Whitaker:  All over the place, like Michelle said, over 100 institutions.

Len Sipes:  Now, that’s impossible for the families to connect with the person who is incarcerated and makes it extraordinarily difficult to keep the family and community ties when your hundreds of miles away from the District of Columbia.

Rev. Samuel Whitaker:  You’re right.  It is impossible, henceforth, the Corrections Information Council because that’s what we do.  We will go visit where families can’t visit and we will oversee where the families – nor our government could oversee.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Rev. Samuel Whitaker:  We have a small board that we are working with.  Preferably we’ll grow more but we are just instituted it this past summer and I think we are making good headway as of beginning.

Len Sipes:  And Michelle, that gets to the larger point of the mission of Corrections Information Council because as Reverend Whitaker just mentioned, they represent the families.  If the families can’t make it down there, somebody from the District of Columbia who goes into all of these different prisons to make sure that the prisons are operating with.  I mean, first of all, there is a security issue and that’s got to be taken care of.  I mean they are there because they’ve committed a crime but, nevertheless, there are programmatic issues to be taken care of.  There are family issues to be taken care of and that’s I think hints at the work of this civilian body, the Corrections Information Council, in terms of what you do.

Michelle Bonner:  That’s exactly it.  And we consider ourselves the eyes and ears of the DC residents, of the citizenry of the District of Columbia to go into the facilities to ensure that the constitutional and the human rights are protected and beyond that, we do look at beyond the bricks and mortar or the standard policies of the institutions to look at some of the programming and how DC residents connect back to the District of Columbia prior to coming home.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Michelle Bonner:  Because, as you know, reentry starts on the day that you enter prison not on the day that you –

Len Sipes:  And that is something the Federal Bureau of Prisons makes very plain.  That’s their goal is that reentry starts the day you walk into the door.

Michelle Bonner:  And so we provide that perspective for the DC citizens, the average DC citizen and although there are government inspections, there are others, you know, corrections accreditation agencies that go in and inspect.  There are actually may be lawyers who go in and inspect and legal cases, we provide that perspective from the ordinary citizen on what would we want our relative to have if, unfortunately, they were incarcerated understanding that it is incarceration.  We are not expecting Club Med, but just that the basic needs are met and beyond that that people are prepared to come home when they do return home.

Len Sipes:  And Reverend, I think that that’s a very important part of all of these because programs do play such a role.  I mean, I’ve taken a look at a variety of pieces of research that said that programs, whether they be GED or plumbing certificate or welding certificate, learning how to read, focusing on substance abuse or focusing on mental health issues, all of those are extraordinarily important to keep that person out of the criminal justice system when they come out of that Federal Bureau of Prison facilities in Arkansas or North Carolina, that they come back prepared and that’s one of the things that you go into those institutions to look at.

Rev. Samuel Whitaker:  Yes, and that’s one of the things we do look at because when we talk to returning citizens, we ask them are they meeting your needs or are they giving you any skills or vocational skills to help you when you leave this place.  And sometimes, they will say yes, but sometimes they would say no.  And if the answer is no, we would shed light on why isn’t this person getting the vocational skills he needs that’s going to help him when he gets outside of these facilities.  So that’s a very important question and it has been answered in positive and negative.

Len Sipes:  But I just find this so unique because it’s a civilian body.  I mean, when I came from the Maryland Department of Public Safety, we had tax paid employees from the state that would go out and inspect the correctional institutions of the counties I mean.  So the idea of people going into correctional facilities and taking a look at them and taking a look at how they operate is not unusual but you guys, it’s a civilian body, so are you welcomed with open arms?

Rev. Samuel Whitaker:  Let me share this.  Recently, I was in Houston, Texas on a business – church business and I have called out program analysts and I let the chair know that since I was close enough, I was going to visit Beaumont, Texas where USP Beaumont is.  And in two days, I’m calling the BOP office, my program analyst got me accessed to go visit Beaumont which I got to see some of our inmates that were in there.  So they do respect our authority and they know what we’re about when we come in because through Charles Samuels and his office, they gave us access and they were very pleased to have – our inmates, the DC inmates were very pleased to have somebody from Washington DC to come visit them.  I mean after they got over the shock, they started giving me their attention.

Len Sipes:  It’s that connection, isn’t it?  It’s a connection with whom the research seems to indicate that connection with home is very important in terms of that person either continuing a life of criminal activity or the person becoming a tax payer instead of a tax burden, having those home connections.

Michelle Bonner:  And I think that it’s a public safety issue.  The DC Corrections Information Council, we are under the Deputy Mayor’s Office For Public Safety And Justice and we take that very seriously in that the preparation that people get while they are incarcerated from when they come back home, we know that it’s important to obtain employment and obtain housing and to have those stable job and stable housing so that it does reduce recidivism.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Michelle Bonner:  And that decreases the number of people who go back to prisons.  That decrease the costs of further incarcerations of people who go back to prison and also by reducing recidivism, it makes our community safer.  And so we all, the families of those incarcerated as well as the rest of the community, find it very important to see and make sure that people who are incarcerated come back to a more stable situation when they do come home.

Len Sipes:  Sure.  Now, you also inspect not only the institutions of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, you also inspect the DC jails.

Michelle Bonner:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  Can you tell me a little bit about that?

Michelle Bonner:  We have two jails in the Department of Corrections here in DC and we are mandated to inspect both of those facilities as well as the halfway houses and we have had a few meetings with the Director of the DC Department of Corrections and have gained access and have been on tours of the facilities and also have monitored the video visitation and we will be issuing a report on that shortly and so, yes, we are mandated to do that and as those facilities are local, we will be doing that on a regular basis.

Len Sipes:  Here’s a question.  I spent 30 years in corrections.  I started off at law enforcement and I’ve spent 30 years in corrections mostly community corrections, but when I was at the State of Maryland, we had a variety of prison systems.  Now, you guys are not part of the formal criminal justice system as I have been over the course of the last 30-40 years, what’s your impression as to what you see?

Michelle Bonner:  We come from different backgrounds.  Our third board member, Catherine Huffman, has a legal background and she is a consultant and she does consulting work on legislative affairs, some involvement of criminal justice system, so she does have some experience there.  And Reverend Whitaker can of course share his connection and I have had experiences as a criminal defense attorney and have done criminal defense work in my past. So I come to it from a perspective of an attorney in doing legal visits but it’s very different going in as an independent civilian monitoring persons who goes in and is looking at all aspects of the facilities, not just the legal visiting hall, but looking at the kitchens and looking at the medical facilities and looking at the programming.  It is very different.

Len Sipes:  You just gave me a lawyer’s answer, Michelle.  What is your gut sense?  Reverend, I’m going to give you a shot at this call.

Rev. Samuel Whitaker:  Well, being a native Washingtonian as I was younger; I was running from law enforcement most of my time.  Okay.  But you know, as I started pastoring and go in ward 7 and a whole lot of the incarcerated come back to ward 7.   My impression of law enforcement is that they are really trying to help.  They are really trying to help those that need help.  They are really trying to help them once they do come back from incarceration because they know who they are.  So when they see them on the street, they would stop and they would have conversations with them and let them know they don’t want to go back to where they’ve been so they help try not to have them return to the same lifestyles that got them in there in the first place.

Len Sipes:  That I understand but I’m talking about your impression of the correctional facilities and we have only a couple of minutes left.  When you toured these institutions, what is your gut reaction?

Rev. Samuel Whitaker:  My gut reaction is that those law enforcement officers are doing the best they can to help those inmates that are incarcerated.  That’s my gut reaction.

Len Sipes:  All right.  Michelle?

Michelle Bonner:  Well, my impression is that when we come, so far we’ve only had announced visits and announced tours.  The staff has been very accommodating and we had the opportunity to speak to DC inmates at the facilities and I think that’s very important.  I understand that there is some cleaning up that’s done before we arrive.  But to be able to speak to DC residents one-on-one and we’ve been given the opportunity to do so when we do the tours is just that we’re able to do that, just that we are able to enter the facilities to conduct the work of the CIC, I’ve been very impressed by the access and accommodations.

Len Sipes:  And Michelle, you’ve got the final word.  Ladies and gentleman, stay with us as we go with another round of experts on the second half as we discuss this very interesting concept of civilians doing corrections monitoring and looking at the focus on the reentry in correctional facilities throughout the country.  We will be right back.

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Len Sipes:  Hi and welcome back to DC Public Safety.  I continue to be your host, Leonard Sipes, and we continue to discuss corrections monitoring and re-entry in the United States, the work of the Corrections Information Council here in Washington DC and, again, I find this so unique, it’s a civilian body throughout the rest of country, they have government employees that go and inspect correctional facilities here at the District of Columbia and throughout the country where we have District of Columbia offenders housed by various institutions within the Federal Bureau of Prisons.  They go throughout the country and they visit these institutions, they visit the DC jail and they interact with the community and that’s supposed to be the conversation we will have on the second half.  Cara Compani, she is a program analyst for the Corrections Information Council and we also have Courtney Stewart, he is the chair of the reentry network for returning citizens.  And to Cara and to Courtney, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Cara Compani:  Thank you.

Cortney Stewart:  Thank you.

Len Sipes:  All right.  Cara, work at the community, I mean we have this civilian body that goes into correctional institutions that’s so unique and so different in the United States and we talked to Michelle and Reverend Whitaker on the first half about this but the community component, working with the community is very important, correct?

Cara Compani:  Correct.  Yeah and I think that’s one of the things that makes our body so unique is that the community, their experiences, and their concerns are of the utmost importance to this body.  Our job is to inspect and monitor conditions of confinement and it is – we are unable to do so without hearing from formerly incarcerated individuals, returning citizens to their families, their loved ones, and also advocates in the DC community to tell us really, hey, this is what’s going in certain facilities and you need to look at these issues.

Len Sipes:  And that’s difficult though because somehow someway you’ve got to explain what these correctional facilities are capable of from a budget point of view and what the expectations of the community are so that I can see there being quite a gap between those expectations and what correctional facilities are capable of doing.

Cara Compani:  Yes.  And so an independent body, we look at all those concerns.  We hear from citizens.  We also talk to people at correctional facilities, at the Federal Bureau of Prisons or DC Department of Corrections and we take all that into account and make the recommendations that are best suited to serve our residents across the country and here in the district.

Len Sipes:  All right.  Courtney, now you represent a re-entry community.  And so you’ve been doing this for quite some time.

Cortney Stewart:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  You have impressions.  You’re a part of the council.  You work with the council.  You probably bring a more authentic point of view that anybody sitting in this room because you’ve experienced and you’ve lived it and you worked with people coming out of the prison system every day.  What’s your impression of the work of the CIC and what’s your impression about the correctional facilities that people are coming from?

Cortney Stewart:  Well, my impression of the CIC is that it’s a need especially now and the community, they are concerned with people returning that are unemployed, for instance, or are walking around the neighborhood with nothing to do or they can’t get housing and the shelters are all crowded.  So the community is very concerned about this because they are the last line of defense, so to speak.  So the CIC’s mandate is very important to the community, actually the community needs to know more about the CIC so that they can be involved and help to support the things that they are going to be doing.

Len Sipes:  But the question goes either to one of you, again, like the question I asked Cara, you live between two worlds.  I mean there are the people coming back out of the prison system who are re-entering into the District of Columbia, but they are going re-entering into every city of the United States.  They all have the same issues.  We want programs.  We want substance abuse programs, mental health programs, training for jobs within the prison system.  They want reentry programming but these prison systems, not just the Federal Bureau of Prisons, any prison system, I mean we’re all taking budget cuts.  It’s very difficult to provide that programming.  That was not their mission 10 years ago.  Their mission was to constitutionally incarcerate.  Now, suddenly we are coming along and saying reentry, preparing individuals in the prison system for their successful transformation from tax burden to tax payers.  That’s now important.  That’s a brand new mission for them.  Isn’t that difficult in terms of explaining that to the community?

Cortney Stewart:  Well, we made changes from reentry to humanity because DC specifically, these individuals are all over the country and in some instances and so family members, people even their lawyers, people who are supporting them cannot get to them.  So a lot of times when they do return back to the community, they haven’t had any contact, any connection with anyone so this is critical specifically to the District of Columbia.  And it’s an issue.  It’s an issue of when you have a loved one that you have not seen or been in contact with it’s almost like out of sight, out of mind.  So when these individuals return, a lot of them are unskilled.  A lot of them are trauma, you know, they’re dealing with different types of emotions and disabilities or mental relapses or whatever you want to call them and so the support system wasn’t there.  So you can see the disconnection.  They come back, they’re a lot of the property and a lot of changes have been made throughout the cities so to re-integrate is almost – you know, where do they start?  So I think that when you look at the District of Columbia, it’s a little different from other jurisdictions.

Len Sipes:  It is different from other jurisdictions but I think there are far more commonalities and then there are differences in this.  What you’re describing applies to just about every correctional facility in the country.  Go ahead, Cara.

Cara Compani:  The real difference is this – it’s the distance.  We have DC residents in California and Texas, Washington state, all over the country, they don’t have the same connections to services that returning citizens need to employment services, to their families, to their loved ones.  I get letters from people and they say, I haven’t seen my kids in five years.  That same problem does not exist around the country in the same way it does because DC residents are transferred to Federal Bureau of Prison custody.

Len Sipes:  Okay and so everybody who is watching – who is watching this program is now saying given themselves passionate answer, Cara.  Does the work of the CIC, is it effective?  Does it transcend that distance?  That 500-mile distance between the District of Columbia and that prison?  And I’ll disagree with you a little bit.  When I was with the Maryland System, if you have somebody in Baltimore and they are incarcerated in Cumberland, that’s like the other side of the moon.  I mean even 200 miles is 200 miles versus 500 miles.  So this is – I still think this is common – a common discussion throughout the country to a large degree but what’s the impact of the Corrections Information Council?  Why is it important?  And how does it transcend those boundaries?

Cara Compani:  Well, our goal is to make recommendations so there can be a bridge there.  So there can be a bridge to services that people need when they return to the district and also so that their family members and loved ones and the government of the district can know what’s going on at these facilities.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Cara Compani:  So concerns as medical care.  Just really basic human concerns, we need to make sure that those are being met in addition to programming and everything else because we’re so far away, we don’t have the ability to do so as a state would.  So that’s why the Corrections Information Council is so important.

Len Sipes:  Courtney, do you agree with that?  Do you think that it’s powerful enough to have that connection?

Cortney Stewart:  Absolutely, when you think about the community, the community feels like they have been dealt a bad deal you know what I mean.  Especially within the last five years with the r-entry being highlighted in all of these different areas of concern especially since you talk about budget cuts and the city does not have the safety net that it used to so the community is almost – you know this has dropped in their lap of families and community organizations and CBOs and things of that nature.  So it’s a big concern.  The CIC helps bridge that concern, helps support, you know, put these individuals at ease, so to speak, when it comes to their families.

Len Sipes:  But I think that that may be the best summation of the CIC is work and the larger message for people watching this from throughout the United States and beyond the United States, it is the community.  The community is that entity impacted by people coming out of the prison systems unprepared.  So you are that bridge.  You are representing the community.  So you’re not just representing the District of Columbia, you are representing the community and that’s something that anybody can identify with.  Cara.

Cara Compani:  Yes.  As I started out with the DC community is of the utmost importance to us and that’s who we looked in for information.

Len Sipes:  But that’s the impact.  They’re the recipients of people coming out of the prison system.  We are all the recipients of people coming out of the prison system.  So you are actually the representative, the direct representative of the citizens of the District of Columbia or for that matter, the citizens of any city throughout the county through this conception.  You’re the representative of the citizens.

Cortney Stewart:  Absolutely.  Reintegration, I mean right now, I heard you mentioned programming.  You know reintegration for the DC residents in particular, I mean, we need reform.  A lot of these individuals, if you think about someone post incarceration, for instance, the CIC getting involved with someone after they have been sentenced and then finding out what their destination is, a prerelease – a prerelease plan.  Because right now, you have individuals who are coming back to the city, they don’t have the skill set because they might have been mopping floors in one of these federal institutions and they come home and they cannot get a job as a janitorial or they may have been doing hair, you know, a bob [PH] or, you know, something that requires a license.  You could not get that license based on having a felony, for instance, so we could – you know these individuals are going to need some help.  They’re going to need some additional support so it would do us great to understand going to these facilities and finding out whether or not our residents are receiving the proper –

Len Sipes:  So now people watching this program is saying, well, are you having an impact?

Cara Compani:  I believe we are.  And what I hear from the community is that we are, too.

Len Sipes:  Okay.

Cara Compani:  We’ve already been to several facilities and Federal Bureau of Prison facilities, halfway houses here in DC, and also DC Department of Correction Facilities.  We’re writing up our recommendations and serving our residents here and I do believe we are having an impact.

Len Sipes:  Is there any commonality in terms of the recommendations as you go from one facility to the other.

Cara Compani:  That’s something that we can’t report on yet because we haven’t been to enough facilities.  As Michelle stated, we are in over 116 facilities in 31 states.  So we haven’t reached a large enough portion of those facilities yet to make that determination.

Len Sipes:  All right.  And in the final two minutes, I’m going to stick you guys with the same questions I had to Reverend Whitaker and to Michelle.  What is your impression as you walk – I mean I can remember the first time I walked to a prison.  And I’ve been in prisons hundreds of times.  And I always have a certain impression when I’m in and out of a correctional facility.  What is yours?

Cara Compani:  Well, I really enjoy speaking with our DC residents wherever we are.  So that’s actually my favorite part of our visits is talking to them and seeing what’s going on.  But I really enjoy it.  We’ve had really great visits so far and just to see what our residents are up to.

Len Sipes:  Courtney, what’s your thoughts about – well, you’ve been in there before so what’s your impression about going back?

Cortney Stewart:  Well, you know, I’m not going back but my impression is that they’re very clean, that’s for sure.  The Federal Bureau of Prisons, they do a very good job of keeping them nice and clean.  I think that they need more improvements though.  We are in the 21st century and so a lot of things -you know when you talk about budget cuts and I don’t think that that is a good substitute for someone who could end up in the prison industrial system the rest of their life, you know what I mean.  And so these institutions, they could do – reform to me is the key.  You know when I went to prison, I studied, I did went to Control Data Institute.  I was in UDC and various other programs.  Yes, the University of District of Columbia.

Len Sipes:  And those were important to you.  We have to close.

Cortney Stewart:  Sure.

Len Sipes:  Right?

Cortney Stewart:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  And the whole idea of the programs meant something to you and meant something to your successful life.

Cortney Stewart:  Absolutely.

Len Sipes:  All right.  Ladies and gentlemen, you’ve been watching DC Public Safety as we discuss the work of corrections monitoring and reentry of the Corrections Information Council here in the District of Columbia.  Watch for us next time as we explore another very important topic in today’s criminal justice system and please have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

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