Successful Parole and Probation Practices-DC Public Safety Television

Successful Parole and Probation Practices-Transcript

DC Public Safety Television

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See the television show at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/video/2016/02/successful-parol…bation-practices/

Nancy: Hi and welcome to DC Public Safety. I’m your host Nancy Ware. Today’s show focuses on successful supervision practices across the country. We have four directors of state parole and probation agencies attending a conference at The National Institute of Corrections in Washington, DC and they are here to discuss what works in parole and probation to prompt successful case completions and to protect public safety. My guests for the first half are, AnMarie Aylward, the Assistant Secretary for Community Corrections Division at the Washington State Department of Corrections.

She has several decades of experience in the criminal justice field in varying capacities and has expertise in the transition of offenders and the management of sex offenders. We also have Russell Marlan, the Deputy Director for Field Operations in the Michigan Department of Corrections. Deputy Director Marlan has over two decades experience in corrections including servicing as a former probation officer and working inside a correctional facility, where he served as a department’s public information officer. AnMarie and Russell, welcome to DC Public Safety.

AnMarie: Thank you Nancy.

Russ: Thank you Nancy.

Nancy: We want to start the show today, first of all talking a little bit about what is community corrections exactly and what is it that you two do? Then we go into some of the barriers, some of the successes that you’ve had. Can you tell us a little bit about what you see community corrections, how we should define it?

AnMarie: I can start by just talking that community supervision is a host of different activities whether someone is releasing from prison after a period of confinement, releasing from jail or releasing directly from the courts and in my experience in Washington State and talking to other states across the country, is that it’s a very complex system. When any of us and even today when we are talking about community supervision, we are really talking about very different pathways, very different practices from state to state and from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. It’s important that we articulate and be more specific about what we are talking about. In my case we are talking about the supervision of persons under our jurisdiction in the community across the State of Washington.

Nancy: Okay and in Michigan?

Russ: It’s pretty much the same in Michigan. We have people on parole after they leave prison transitioning back to their home communities, after they’ve served a prison sentence. We have probationers, people who are placed on probation supervision instead of prison or after a prison sentence. We have a variety of people we supervise in Michigan as well.

Nancy: In your capacity, how do you see the whole re-entry of initiatives you’ve put in place benefiting those folks who are under your supervision? We start off with you Russ.

Russ: Re-entry is something that’s key. When I started with the department, 23 years ago, we did not have a re-entry program. We had no re-entry services. The philosophy was, you’ve served your time in prison, you are out, do the right thing. Follow the rules, follow the conditions. I knew there were people that reported to me as a parole officer that I knew when they left my office they were going to do something that was not pro-social and I had no resources to address that. In the era that we are in now I think most states have prisoners re-entry programs, where we identify what the key barriers are for people who leave prison and are returning home.

We provide services to help them address those barriers. Some of those for us are housing, a safe stable home environment, transportation to get to job interviews and other scheduled treatment appointments, and to see your parole probation officer. Mentoring is something that is important, to have a mentor that helps them engage in some pro-social activities when they are not at work or doing other things. Substance abuse treatment and other kind of cognitive based programs are also very important.

Nancy: AnMarie?

AnMarie: I think Russ is absolutely right. Re-entry has been with us for a long time and there’s been a lot of fits and starts about what re-entry really is. I think in this period of time, we are really at that place where data is driving us and data is really leading us to make good decisions and good use of resources. I know Washington State is very concerned about our finite resources and how we can use them to the best effect as are other states in the country. We are at a point in time where data can really inform our practices and inform our decisions and that really translates to best use of referrals, best uses of resources that are available in the state which really improve re-entry services across the continuum.

Nancy: Given that, what are some of the barriers that you face every day in trying to work with that population?

AnMarie: The barriers are as many as there are opportunities. I think sometimes Nancy, the issue is that it’s hard and depending on what pathway the person on jurisdiction is from, it maybe fear. It maybe the fear of falling back. It maybe not really knowing what the right thing is to do and that gives community supervision officer, community corrections officer, the opportunity to really assist and to help someone be pro-social and make some good choices. In other cases you really need to be on accountability and surveillance. There is really multiple rules which make a pretty complex system a little bit more complicated, but I think at least I’m familiar with staff who really take that to a level of professionalism, are really proud of the work they do and the work hard they do every day.

Nancy: Yeah, I’ve heard great things. Russ?

Russ: Well, in Michigan, our mission statement for the Michigan Department of Corrections is to create a safer Michigan by holding the offenders accountable and promoting their success. I think for years we were very good at the holding offenders accountable part and something that has been kind of an evolving thing for us is the promoting their success part. We’ve learned, I think, from the days many years ago where it was let’s get tough on crime but that didn’t work so much and now you hear the smart on crime tag line. We also recognize the mental health issues, the substance abuse issues, the abuse that’s happened in the homes of these offenders that the encouraging their success and targeting the data and using that data to drive our decisions and programs to something that we are seeing equate to lower recidivism and safer communities.

Nancy: Well, you both mentioned data. I think I’d like to hear a little bit more about how you use research and data to guide some of the work you do both for those folks that are coming out of prison but also for folks who are just under supervision, in the community already.

AnMarie: It’s a great question and one of the basic ways to do it is just to be able to instill a level of data collection across the continuum so that you can take a pulse point. You can understand how is this practice or policy being implemented in different areas so that we can learn best practices from other areas. If someone is being successful, then what are they doing specifically and how can that be shared with other entities that are really struggling with whatever the policy or practice is. At some level just having data available to line level staff as well as policy makers making that decision is useful, so it’s all kind of outcome measures as well as those demographics on how often is an offender coming in? How often are they being tested? Are you meeting your context standards? Et cetera.

Nancy: You want to add anything to that Russ?

Russ: Well, I think that that’s what is exciting about this time in the criminal justice world is that data is something that comes very quickly, and I think the conference we were at today a lot of states get together and we talk about programs that we are doing. Practices that we are doing, supervision strategies that we are using that are working and that we’ve run the data on those and as I said it’s leading to lower recidivism, safer communities and so you can get data and feedback very quickly in this era and that’s very helpful in deciding where to invest your funding because we all have limited resources and we want to make sure we apply the resources to where it works most effectively.

AnMarie: I’m sorry but there is really is a double edged sword though because staff might be really attracted or happy about a program or referral opportunity that doesn’t show best practice, that isn’t effective. You need to extinguish that opportunity which ends up being difficult and so as often as it is to use data to really bring in new resources that will really work, sometimes it’s hard because you have to stop resources that will stop showing any improvement.

Nancy: Well, but I think that’s the most useful piece because I wanted to … One of the things we’ve been talking about with NIC, the National Institute of Corrections is best practices and evidence based practices. Can you talk a little bit about some of the practices you’ve seen as successful and some of the things that you’ve had to kind of let go as you said AnMarie, to be sure that you are really getting the right formula for the clients that you are serving.

AnMarie: We could probably talk for a couple of hours on that alone, so it’s really difficult but again one of the things, and again we were just talking about it today at the conference that really we are just focusing on high risk mean and how do you do that across a state or at a line level consistently and with some fidelity to the principles, and those basic ideas are done very differently across the country and so implementing an evidence based practice is difficult to hold true. I know in Washington State, we’ve implemented a number of practices and when we look at the data and something doesn’t hold up, we’ll pull that program and start another or we’ll pile at another opportunity but again it’s a difficult change to do on data alone.

Nancy: Have you found that based on some of the practices across the country, that we’ve shared at NIC that you’ve been able to use some of those shared successes in your jurisdictions?

Russ: I believe so and I think NIC is a great resource for us and they have a whole catalog of evidence based programs that have been tested and shown to work. We tap into those but I think for states like ours, it all starts with a validated risk assessment instrument and that’s something that’s not static, something that’s dynamic that changes as apply programming and resources and we use one and have used one for nine years. We have the data to support that those that are low risk on that screen out with the lowest recidivism rate and those that are high risk on that are the ones you need to focus your resources and your programming and your resources to and your attention to because those have, through the nine years that we’ve done it, those have the highest recidivism rate and those are the persons out in the community that are causing crime and victimizing people. I think it starts with that in need of validated risk assessment instrument and states use different types. We use one and that kind of guides where our resources go.

Nancy: Are there other practices that you’ve found that you’ve implemented in Washington, for example, that you really feel excited about?

AnMarie: Yes, of course there are, one of the things we’ve done three or four years ago, we implemented swift and certain response to violations of condition, we implemented it state wide. We did it fairly quickly as it was a law and we had a target date and just recently had an independent review of our implementation and our program. It really showed not only did we decrease confinement of persons on supervision, but it also decreased the recidivism of those persons which was not what we were intending but you certainly don’t to say no to a decreased recidivism rate, so, swift and certain response to sanctions is response to sanctions is a huge win for the State of Washington.

Nancy: That’s good. Anything less that you want to add to that Russ.

Russ: When we started our re-entry program our recidivism rate in Michigan was around 50%, so around half the people we release from prison came back to prison within three years and by utilizing our re-entry program, our risk assessment instrument and some of the applying resources to these areas of need as people leave prison, we’ve dropped our recidivism rate to now 30%. We’ve had a tremendous impact on reducing crime on the State of Michigan. We’ve also looked at the swift and sure program obviously that, Hawaii’s program, it’s got a lot of attention around the country. Every state is different and we have to do some educating with our judges. The swift and sure program is about people are going to violate, they are going to violate several times and you use the sanctions that are forwarded and sometimes the judges in our state were very quick to say, “Okay, you’ve had three strikes. You are out. You are going to prison.” It’s a process of educating them on how to use programs that have been successful in other states.

Nancy: I think that’s a good point because all of us have to deal with our criminal justice partners, and judges are very much a part of that, so we always have to make sure that we are including them when we introduce new initiatives into the practice. Ladies and gentlemen it’s been my pleasure to talk to AnMarie Aylward of Washington State Department of Corrections and Russel Marlan of Michigan Department of Corrections. Stay with us for the second half as we continue our discussion on successful probation parole practices with two additional leaders of state parole and probation agencies. We’ll be right back. Thank you so much.

Hey and welcome back to DC Public Safety. I’m your host Nancy Ware. We are continuing a conversation on successful supervision practices with two additional leaders of state parole and probation agencies as they attend a national conference here in DC. This segment will focus on criminal justice reform. President Obama recently called the Criminal Justice System a profound barrier to opportunity in too many communities. He also spoke about the nation’s high prison population, saying that mass incarceration rips apart families, it hollows out neighborhoods. It perpetuates poverty.

He repeated his intention to back legislation to address unjust sentencing laws. To discuss this important topic, I’d like to introduce Gerald Washington, the Regional Operations Chief for the Western Region at the Virginia Department of Corrections. Where he has served over 40 years. He has overseen the implementation innovations guided by evidence based practices. We also have Anne Precythe, the Director of Adult Community Corrections for North Carolina Department of Public Safety. She oversees more than 2,500 employee workforce, who supervise the more than 105,000 offenders on probation parole or post release supervision. She currently serves on the National Institutes of Corrections Advisory Board. Anne and Gerald, thanks for joining us on Public Safety TV.

Anne: Thank you.

Gerald: Thank you.

Nancy: I’d like to start by talking a little bit about how these reform efforts that you heard us discuss a little bit earlier, and also that the president is going be promoting, how they affect the work that you do and how you fold in your work into those reform initiatives.

Gerald: Well, the reform work has helped us based on the evidence and the science of the work that we do. With evidence-based practices, we can examine what works and what doesn’t work and then we can provide the service, the things that we find are not working we can provide those, the attention to those services to make sure that we are tailoring the programs to individual needs.

Nancy: Right, right, Anne?

Anne: The reform overall  and what we’ve heard this week in the conference, is that it’s impacting states differently but I think collectively we would all agree that it is a major cultural shift for how we supervise the offender population. Things like using a validated risk instrument, really understanding how to categorize the offender population so we spend more time on the high risk offender and less time on the low risk offender. It presents a significant number of challenges to change the mindset of the workforce but the evidence clearly shows that if you can begin to make these changes, you will have less recidivism which is ultimately what we are all after.

Nancy: The role of the administrator in all of these changes that you described, we talked a little  bit about the size of your workforce, I don’t know how many people are older or millennium workforce and how that affects the work that you do. What is role of an administrator?

Gerald: The role of the administrator is to understand, is to insure that everyone understands the mission and the focus of the agency. Again, we always to make sure that we keep public safety first and foremost in mind but we have to make sure that we educate our staff as well as stake holders who can help us move forward with our initiatives and to make sure that the offenders or returning citizens are getting the treatment and programs, the cognitive programs that they need. Also we look at it from the standpoint that every offender that does not return to our system also does not create another victim.

We try to make sure that all of our staff understand that, but sometime it’s a little bit of a challenge with change in the culture, before we use this approach we did a lot of things just because there were programs that we thought worked and we didn’t know and didn’t have the science. Now that we do it’s sometimes harder to shift the older employees to that way of thinking. The new employees coming in seem to be or are tuned to that with newer workforce and I think you don’t have to un-educate them of what has been done in the past.

Nancy: That’s a good point, Anne?

Anne: Again, Gerald is correct and there are lots of rules for the administrator in changing the culture but I think the communication aspect and communication not only with staff but also with the public and the judiciary and the legislators. Understanding why changes needed and how we go about it because you can the best legislation but if you can’t implement, well then it won’t be successful. Not only do you need to educate but you need to sustain that change and it takes constant communications, advocating for your staff. What are the tools that they need? How many additional staff do you need? An administrator can be their staff’s greatest cheerleader and that’s really what a good administrator needs to do as well as balancing that workload for the employees.

Nancy: You both made great points. One of the things we mentioned, I think Gerald mentioned, was the stakeholders and educating stakeholders that not only are your stakeholders the legislators and the other law enforcement partners but are other stakeholders that you think are very important in your work? You mentioned educating the public.

Gerald: Yes, I think other stakeholders, judges, prosecutors, not only law enforcement, the public at large as well as your community service providers because they are the ones that we look to for a lot of our support but I believe by educating especially judges and prosecutors, and showing them, based on evidence, what works and what doesn’t work and how it equates to dollars, I think you get a lot better response but they can also help develop a plan that works in conjunction with what not only our department of correction is doing but also with local probation and parole.

Anne: In addition to that you also want your treatment community, you want your employer, the business community because they are the ones we look to, to provide jobs for these offenders under supervision. Also your education community because there a lot of young kids, young adults in the school system whether it’s the high school, the community college or even the university. It takes the whole the whole community to be aware of these population and what their needs are. It’s the housing community, the transportation community, there are so many resources out there and going back to the administrator, part of their role is to tap into what is available locally and then how do they communicate that both the message to the community stakeholders as well as their staff so that they are making that connection.

Nancy: Yeah, because they really become an extension of the work that you do and, of course, your agencies can’t do it all, so you are going to have to rely on some of those other external stakeholders to help you with the success that you are looking for and the success that these reform initiatives are looking for. Those are good points. Are there methods that you use in gaining allies for change? How do you do that?

Anne: Communication, communication, communication, and the frontline officer is the officer that is out in the field more than anybody so it’s so critical for them to understand the philosophy of the department, the mission of the agency that we are about helping offenders be successful under supervision not just catching them when they are doing something wrong but using an exclamation point when they do something right. Part of that and understanding them and being able to communicate that message to the treatment providers and how do you show a peer chronological order of all that that person has been involved with, good bad or otherwise.

Nancy: That’s a good point. It’s good to hear you talk a little bit about maybe some incentives, some needs assessments because we often rely heavily on sanctions but more and more we are finding that people respond to needs assessments and to incentives. Are you seeing any changes to the population as a result to those initiatives?

Gerald: Yes, with substance abuse programs and certainly I think one of the bigger initiatives is the need for mental health services or the gap in the funding for mental health services. Often time, I think, a lot of time the offenders that come to us really have mental health needs than they have basic needs or as far as they should probably be not be imprisoned they should be in mental health programs. I think the funding for mental health programs, there is a large gap there. I think it’s a matter of educating the courts and the prosecutors of those needs and also securing resources to help support those, so that the folks are getting the right treatment that is needed as opposed to just coming to prison where we can monitor them but that hasn’t changed their behavior.

Nancy: Right, and we don’t have a lot of control over the front end of them coming into our system with criminal activities but in front end I know your rest side and some of those other parts of our system are definitely in need of a lot of education and support.Have you seen special populations that are particularly troublesome to you?

Anne: Yes, Gerald mentioned the mental health population which I think we are all struggling with especially as we begin to learn more, but I know the sex offenders returning to the communities and homelessness and the issues with that, and trying to educate the general public that housing needs to be provided for that population because if not they literally will be living under a bridge and there is no public safety in that. It is a very sensitive issue. It is a very difficult issue to talk about with people but I think at the end of the day, the regular citizen would rather know where the sex offenders are that the people are employed, that they have the basic needs that they need taken care of which can help the probation officer keep them on the right path for …

Nancy: Those are very, very challenging populations and I think often the public is not aware of all of the needs of the populations that we serve. How do you work with your legislators and your funders, the people herald your budget to get those resources. Is there a way that you found that successful in getting the resources that you need or are there barriers that you think might be making more difficult for you to do the things that you need to do?

Gerald: Well, we in Virginia, we’ve started a program where we meet with judges annually, especially new judges, but we meet all the judges annually so that we can share with them some of the results we’ve gotten from a lot of the programs we have. Also make them aware of other programs and sanctions that maybe available that may be used across the state and other jurisdictions that others may not be aware of. Basically educating the judges and prosecutors, I think, that has been of help but also again talking to the legislators and we encourage our staff not just from the agency stand point but when they are in the communities because they are part of the community that they are ambassadors for our agency. They should be asking those questions informing those legislators who they’re their constituents and making sure they are aware of what their needs are and what’s available.

Anne: I’ll say in North Carolina we are very fortunate, our legislature has been very engaged over the last few years with the passage of justice reinvestment. We as a department for adult correction and juvenile justice have benefited greatly from their involvement.

Nancy: Can you just tell us very quickly what justice reinvestment is and how it’s helped you?

Anne: Justice reinvestment was a series of legislative changes that were wrapped in one package that really helped reduce our prison population and push a lot of the population back into the community yet they gave us the tools to be able to supervise this population in a much more effective manner. To try to keep the offender population in the community rather than in the prison system. We are seeing great success with that overall and we are very, very pleased with what we are accomplishing in North Carolina.

Nancy: Ladies and gentlemen it has been my honor to talk to all today’s guests about successful parole and probation practices. I want to thank Anne and Gerald, AnMarie and Russell and thank you, our audience, for watching today’s show. Please watch for us next time as we explore another important topic in today’s Criminal Justice System. Have a great day.

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Corrections Technology-GPS-Officer Mobility-Driving Restrictions

DC Public Safety Radio

http://media.csosa.gov

Radio Show available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2014/12/corrections-technology-gps-officer-mobility-driving-restrictions/

Len Sipes: From the Nation’s Capital, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host Leonard Sipes. Back at our microphone is Joe Russo, Director of Corrections, Technology, Center of Excellence at the University of Denver, which is part of the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center, www.justnet, j-u-s-t-n-e-t.org, talking about community corrections technology. Joe, welcome back to DC Public Safety.

Joe Russo: Thank you Len, always great to be with you.

Len Sipes: Well it’s always a pleasure to be with you Joe because you’re one of the most popular programs that we have. Everybody is really interested in corrections technology, what it could be, what it really means to the rest of us. You’re on the cutting edge of it. So we have a variety of topics to talk about today. We’re talking about offender tracking and realistic expectations. We’re talking about correctional officer mobility, parole and probation agent mobility, virtual offices, the use of tablets, keeping our folks in the field and technology and driving restrictions. Those are the three topics. So why don’t you kick it off talking about GPS offender tracking, satellite tracking and realistic expectations.

Joe Russo: Absolutely. Yeah, I wanted to talk about this topic because, you know, over the last year or two there’s been a series of high profile cases across the country where offender’s tracked with GPS bracelets are committing horrific crimes. And this is very tragic and it’s set off in motion a number of investigations in California. There’s a state senator who has launched or asked the inspector general to investigate offender tracking. In New York state, a U.S. representative from New York has asked the government accountability office to investigate offender tracking, monitoring and after a heinous crime in that state. And this is all, you know, obviously appropriate scrutiny after such horrific crimes that have occurred. However, it really illustrates the importance of realistic expectations of the technology in managing those expectations with stakeholders in the public in general. When I think most of your audience understands the limitations of the technology, they’re well documented, there are inherent limitations to any technology, there are environments in which, you know, satellite tracking, GPS tracking just doesn’t work well. That’s a known. We know that these devices can be defeated, they can be cut, they can be jammed. Offenders can put aluminum foil on them and block signals or they can simply not power up their devices. So it’s, you know, fairly easy for a non-cooperative offender to get around this system. Again, these are well-known, well-documented limitations.

Len Sipes: But for the rest of us in the field, we’re fairly puzzled by the negative publicity because we understand the inherent limitations on GPS satellite tracking technology. We understand that it’s not full proof and we understand that just because the person has satellite tracking technology on doesn’t mean he can’t simply snip it off, doesn’t mean that he’ll stop committing crimes. And we’re sort of puzzled when we see the various negative stories coming out in the newspapers and TV stations because we’re saying to ourselves why doesn’t everybody else understand the limitations on this equipment. So I spoke to some reporters throughout the course of years and they said, well, you all in the community corrections fields are sort of overselling the promise of GPS. And I’m not quite sure that’s true. I mean, inherent within any technology, as you just said are limitations.

Joe Russo: That’s exactly right. I don’t know that community corrections agencies are necessarily overselling or vendors are overselling but there is a, you know, interesting kind of dynamic. Whenever an agency is looking for budgetary funds to implement a program, obviously they’re going to highlight the, you know, the positive parts of that technology and how that technology can benefit overall supervision. But as you alluded to, you know, the affects of any technology or any program are measured in the aggregate, you know, does the input, does the program or the treatment create a benefit to an aggregate population. Obviously, you know, they’re going to have individuals who are determined to continue their criminal ways. And regardless of whether it’s GPS monitoring or, you know, anger management training or any kind of high intensity supervision, it’s less of a reflection on the program as it is of the individual. So it’s, I think, you know, folks need to step back, understanding we’re dealing with a criminal element, understanding we’re dealing with, in community corrections, we’re not dealing with [PH 00:04:38.1] John Augustine’s’ Day, you know, or probationers or debtors or public drunkards.

Len Sipes: Mmm-hmm.

Joe Russo: A lot of these folks are serious offenders.

Len Sipes: Yep.

Joe Russo: And so agencies across the country are doing their best to implement technology, to implement programs to achieve positive outcomes but there will be failures.

Len Sipes: The two things that come to mind is, number one, the research from a variety of sources does indicate that GPS/satellite tracking does reduce offending, does reduce technical violations, does reduce the amount of – or the numbers or the percentage of people being returned to the correctional system. But there is a fairly strong corrective incentive in terms of GPS satellite tracking done well, correct, per research?

Joe Russo: Absolutely. There is that and even, you know, if you take the most negative view on it. You know, in those cases where offenders are determined to continue their criminal acts, GPS has been, you know, instrumental in making these offenders accountable. GPS location data is able to match the crime, you know, incident locations and the folks who ultimately are accountable for their actions. And in many cases, you know, they probably would have committed those crimes with or without tracking.

Len Sipes: Mmm-hmm.

Joe Russo: At least with tracking there’s an ability to hold these folks accountable.

Len Sipes: And we’ve been able to track down some fairly serious offenders through GPS tracking and so that is a huge plus. Number two, we train law enforcement, not just the metropolitan police department here in Washington, D.C., but we train the FBI, we train the secret service, we train a lot of law enforcement agencies in terms of the use of our GPS tracking device so they can see the offenders who they’re interested in, in real time. So there’s a lot of promise in terms of GPS satellite tracking but it is a huge drain on manpower. And I’m not quite sure people understand how difficult it is to keep – to watch all the tracking marks of an offender on a day-to-day basis and the fact that most of us in parole and probation are not 24-hours a day, 365 days a year. We’re basically Monday through Friday, 9-5. Now there are variations on that theme and there are some offenders who we do track in real time but those are problems. Take the first one. The fact that this is very – it involves a lot of intensive manpower, person power to keep track of all of the data that comes in.

Joe Russo: Absolutely and if there’s nothing else your listeners hear today is that the resource issues are paramount. Agencies need to be clear about why they’re tracking offenders, what purpose and what they hope to achieve and they need to dedicate the appropriate resources to accomplishing those goals. You know, far too many agencies compare the cost, the equipment cost of GPS to a day in jail and make cost-effective based decisions based on that. But the labor costs far exceed the equipment costs. And, you know, and that’s probably the biggest pitfall that agencies face. They don’t dedicate enough resources to maintaining programs, addressing violations, dealing with alerts and that’s where program integrity falls. And that’s where if a case goes really bad and an offender goes off and does something heinous that’s where the agency really has a difficult day explaining to the press why certain actions were not taken.

Len Sipes: Now we have here at the Court Services of Offender Supervision Agency, we use our vendor to track 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, but just because they’re tracked 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, doesn’t mean that we have personnel at the ready to respond. So that’s the case as it is in virtually every parole and probation agency in the country, correct?

Joe Russo: Oh absolutely, absolutely, even for agencies, police agencies that operate GPS programs. And you would think they theoretically are the best situated to respond to alerts and cuts. Even they can’t be everywhere at every time. So obviously probation and parole agencies, you know, have much less resources, are much less able to react in a timely manner. So, again, these are understood limitations in technology, these expectations need to be managed. I think better education needs to occur between agencies and the public and judges and the media, frankly, so that we understand what we’re dealing with.

Len Sipes: Now the Corrections Technology Center of Excellence there at the University of Denver, again, part of the National Law Enforcement Corrections Technology Center, you all came out with guidelines, rather technical guidelines, rather complete guidelines in terms of the application of GPS, correct?

Joe Russo: We’re developing a standard right now for the performance of offender tracking devices. But more recently we published a guideline for agencies to think about GPS devices and GPS information as potential evidence. We thought that too many agencies don’t see these devices in that light. So the goal was to educate them to start thinking more about how they use these devices. And how potential evidence might end up in a court room if, for example, an offender who’s tracked is accused of committing a crime.

Len Sipes: Mmm-hmm. Now, the other thing that we’re talking about is not necessarily using devices that we currently provide, which are anklets strapped around the person’s ankle. We’re talking about going to a cell phone based system.

Joe Russo: Well we see that in the industry, there are vendors now who are offering basically SmartPhones with GPS chips to offenders and they can be tethered or not tethered, you know, wirelessly, and basically tracking is occurring through the phone. So there’s no device strapped to an ankle in certain applications. And this seems like it might be a trend for the future and may lead to, you know, one day where the offender brings his own device to be supervised and can bring in their own SmartPhone and the officer can install tracking software and accomplish tracking that way. Now this is a little far out thinking but it certainly seems to be a direction.

Len Sipes: Well everybody has always said that we’re looking for the day where the tracking device is not the size of a cell phone strapped to the offender’s ankle but the size of, I don’t know, a pen. And that device will automatically take blood pressure readings, will automatically take readings as to whether or not the person is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. And so is that still pie in the sky or are we moving towards something along those lines?

Joe Russo: You know what, in different areas there are certainly components of what you described that are being developed but as you envision it or as I’m interpreting how you envision it, it may be a chip, an RF chip that’s embedded in the offender and has the ability to –

Len Sipes: Well no, not in the offender himself, but the device that they’re wearing.

Joe Russo: Oh absolutely. I mean, that’s even easier to do. So yeah, as these technologies mature and are developed, you know, then we’ll definitely see that in the future. I mean, obviously right now we have devices that can track transdermal alcohol expiration from the body, that’s one device. We have devices that can track movement. There are certainly physiological devices, you know, that Fitbit movement is opening up a whole lot of doors in terms of using machines and computers to monitor physiological activity. So certainly, you know, blood pressure, respiration rates and we can match that information to where a location is. Or if a sex offender is near a school and his heart rate is pumping, you know, that obviously tells a supervision officer something. So yes, right now it’s all theoretical but there are pieces in place and they’re growing. And one day maybe we can put it all together.

Len Sipes: Well the technical podcast I listened to this week in tech, Leo Laporte, on a weekly basis, religious basis and they talk about this stuff. Not necessarily in terms of tracking people on criminal supervision but they talk about the Fitbits, they talk about other wearable devices, they talk about taking blood pressure, they talk about monitoring pulses, they’re talking about whether or not a person is under the influence of drugs or alcohol in terms of safe driving. So that conversation is taking place not within the criminal justice system, that conversation is taking place in the tech industry in general.

Joe Russo: Oh absolutely. People are fascinated with understanding their own physiology, their sleep patterns, increasing performance. And you’re right, this is well established and growing. But you’re right, there are applications for offender management there that can be tapped into.

Len Sipes: Okay. Before we go to the break and start talking about correctional officer mobility, parole and probation, agent mobility, virtual offices, office tablets and technology regarding driving restrictions, one of the things that we wanted to talk about was analytic capabilities.

Joe Russo: Yeah, absolutely. You know, in previous calls we’ve talked about the need for analytics to better analyze, understand and act upon all the data that GPS generates. And we talked about a couple of different initiatives that were going on across the country and I wanted listeners to know that since our last conversation one of the GPS providers has actually acquired a company that specializes in sophisticated analysis and interpretation of data. This company has a long track record working with intelligence agencies and defense agencies to make sense of big data. And recently they’ve been working with community corrections agencies to explore how their techniques might work with offender tracking data. This is very encouraging at least, you know, one company has taken a big step to provide their customers with this important capability and I think the trend will be that other, you know, other vendors will follow suit and provide similar support.

Len Sipes: What sort of things are we talking about tracking?

Joe Russo: Well, for example, link analysis, where offenders, who they are near, other tracked offenders, are there patterns that develop in terms of the locations that they tend to frequent, are they associating with other offenders? You know, can we establish other patterns of behavior based on other folks who are being tracked? So can we establish a drop point or a chop shop based on the time that offenders are spending in a particular location where there are patterns of movement.

Len Sipes: Interesting.

Joe Russo: So the idea is to take all of that, you know, aggregate data that GPS provides and move from the inclusion zone, exclusion zone kind of scenario to really digging deep and establishing patterns of behavior and really supporting the officer. Letting the officer know what types of information might need to be acted on.

Len Sipes: So everything that we’re hearing in terms of big data as it applies to Google, big data as it applies to IBM, big data as it applies to Wal-Mart, that same application is coming to corrections.

Joe Russo: Very much so. Very much so.

Len Sipes: Interesting.

Joe Russo: And GPS is one of the – kind of the easiest forays into this because we do acquire so much data in that area.

Len Sipes: All right Joe, we’re halfway through the program. Let me introduce you before we’re getting on to the other topics. Ladies and gentlemen, our guest today is Joe Russo, he is the Director of the Corrections Technology Center of Excellence at the University of Denver, part of the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center, www.justnet, j-u-s-t-n-e-t.org, www.justnet, j-u-s-t-n-e-t.org. Okay Joe, let’s go into the other topics that we are talking about. And I find this to be fascinating, so many companies now are moving away their own vehicles, moving, I’m sorry, moving away from offices and putting people out in vehicles all the time and it sounds like that’s what we’re talking about with parole and probation agent correctional officer mobility. Talking about virtual offices, talking about tablets, talking about giving that individual all the tech they need to stay in the field.

Joe Russo: Yeah, exactly, and this is something that’s been discussed, you know, for some time now. There’s been a movement against getting away from the ivory tower of probation and parole work, getting away from central office and headquarters, making the offender report downtown typically to the officer.

Len Sipes: Mmm-hmm.

Joe Russo: But in recent years, and in part prompted by economic issues, but a lot of agencies are looking at ways to get the officers in the field where the offenders are, where they live and work and where they exist. Georgia, perhaps, is the leader in this in terms of, you know, actually shutting down offices and requiring parole officers to maintain virtual offices out of their cars. And the agencies provide the officers with everything they need, SmartPhones and tablets and laptops so there’s really to come to a physical office. And in this way the early reports are that they’re seeing success because they’re able to make more contact with the offenders, more sustained contact in their environment and the outcome so far have been very positive.

Len Sipes: Well I remember years ago when I worked for the United States Senate, one of the folks there gave me a laptop computer and then a couple weeks later said, you know, is the use of the enhanced technology of a laptop computer changing the way that you work? And I’m going, well, no, I mean, just because you gave me a laptop doesn’t mean that I’m any more proficient. I mean, I report to the office every day and there is a desktop. How exactly is the laptop going to assist me beyond office hours? I mean, I understand beyond office hours, having a direct link to the computers but, you know, so sometimes I get the sense that we provide technology, laptops, tablets, cell phones, mobile fingerprint readers, again, sort of like with GPS, unrealistic expectations. So I would imagine this parole and probation agent, this correctional officer is well versed in terms of what mobile technology can do for them.

Joe Russo: Well that would be a necessary, you know, prerequisite obviously, you know, officers need to be somewhat tech savvy, be open and willing to learn perhaps new tools for them, you know, not everyone grew up with this technology certainly. So I’m sure there’s a learning curve for some officers. But certainly there needs to be openness. But it sounds like, you know, the agency made a decision from the top down that this is what they want and this is what they want to see. They don’t want to spend their resources paying rental space throughout this, they want to spend their resources where they can make the most direct and positive impact on outcomes and that’s the direction that they took. And, you know, just looking at it objectively, not having to come and go from an office increases efficiencies over and above the, you know, the cost savings for office space. Folks need to be in the field, officers need to be in the field where the action is. And that’s just common sense and I think that, you know, more and more agencies are coming to that realization and acting on it.

Len Sipes: Is mobile fingerprint readers involved in this, drug testing equipment, I mean, how far are they taking it?

Joe Russo: Well I think that that might be part and parcel. I’m not aware, but the primary objective is you take the office and you put it in the car.

Len Sipes: Okay. And that makes a tremendous amount of sense to me because why be in the office when you can be out in the field especially if you’re doing surprise visits. And I understand that a lot of the visits need to be scheduled because, you know, the mother or the father, the family member, the sponsor, volunteers can be there and work with the parole and probation agent and work with the offender, so I understand that. But the idea of a spontaneous visit to that person’s place of work or where that person lives or where that person socializes, especially in the evenings, makes an awful lot of sense to me.

Joe Russo: Well particularly with, you know, as GPS grows in terms of tracking offenders or if, you know, one day offenders are bringing their own device and we’re tracking offenders by their phones and, you know, phones are pretty ubiquitous at this point and it’s only going to grow more so. You know, perhaps we have the capability in the future to go where the offender is and not go necessarily to the house or the workplace.

Len Sipes: That would be interesting. So, in other words, GPS tracking, you know exactly where that person is and suddenly, voilà, you pop up and say hi.

Joe Russo: Well and that’s part of the larger, you know, internet of things, movement that’s going on in society is that, you know, we have all these sensors that are out there. We have all these machines that can be connected to the internet. They all can be networked and provide useful information. So, you know, if a GPS tracking device is linked to an officer’s GPS tracking or a GPS system in their car, which tells them what route to take to get to the offender’s location, if these systems link up and communicate and tell the officer, you know, don’t bother making that home visit because the offender is not home.

Len Sipes: Interesting, very, very interesting. I mean, so we’re talking about really moving community corrections well into the 21st century and really bringing a sense of the internet of things, of big data, of mobility, of tracking, of, you know, as some people have hoped for, the mobile ability to say, hey, this person is now using drugs, this person is now using alcohol. I mean, it does bring us into contact with the people on supervision to a much more powerful degree than we have in the past, which, you know, when I was in the state of Maryland any sense of intensive contact or intensive supervision was two face-to-face contacts a month. Now we’re talking about almost continuous contacts if we choose to do it and if we have the software through big data to analyze what’s going on.

Joe Russo: Yeah, absolutely and within that capability obviously comes challenges, right. We have somewhat privacy issues although those are mitigated because of the status of our offenders but you have the information overload issues and we’re already seeing that with just GPS technology and the need to manage that data. So obviously, you know, the more sensors we try to tap into, the more connection of machines we try to leverage, the natural result is we have exponentially more data to sift through and figure out what’s important and what’s actionable and what’s not.

Len Sipes: And that’s why I’m hoping whoever’s developing all of this develops the algorithms to allow us to make sense of the data because there’s no way an individual parole and probation agent, I would imagine the average caseload in this country is somewhere in the ballpark of 150 individuals per parole and probation agent, if you had half of those under these enhanced sensors, so you’re talking about, what, 75 individuals where data is coming in on a day-to-day basis. That would easily overwhelm that human being, that parole and probation agent, that correctional officer. That person could never keep up with all that data. So somehow, some way, somebody’s got to figure out a way of making sense of that data.

Joe Russo: Well exactly, there’s no question about it. And then the worst possible scenario is you’re overloaded with so much of this data and we don’t know which of this data is important and which is not, that the officer doesn’t have time to do the direct contact interventions that we know are so important.

Len Sipes: Exactly. So we have to plow through the invention of new data and we have to plow through the invention of new algorithms to make sense of all that data.

Joe Russo: Absolutely.

Len Sipes: Okay. Technology and driving restrictions, we have say in the final five minutes of the program. Once again, everybody has hoped for that piece of technology to the point where the car simply would not start for those on drinking and driving programs, that the car simply would not start. Now there are cars out there with locking devices that they do blow into the tube and if they blow over a certain level that car will not start. So that exists now, right?

Joe Russo: That exists now and that works, you know, quite well. One of the biggest ways or the most common ways for an offender to work around that type of a scenario is to simply install Interlock on a car and meet the judge’s requirement and then drive another car.

Len Sipes: Yeah, drive another car.

Joe Russo: So that – it’s pretty simple to get around. One of the Interlock providers has recently bought a patent on technology that’s been around for a while but is only now being seriously evaluated for viability. And this technology basically looks to identify driving behaviors. And so what we’re looking at are ankle bracelets that can detect the movements that are consistent with driving a car. So essentially there’s a unique physiological signature that’s associated with driving. So if you think about the foot movements that you do without thinking, your acceleration, your braking, sensors can determine your speed. And all of these things put together, you know, you mentioned algorithms just before, these algorithms are designed to identify those signals that are consistent with a driving episode and then alert officers that this is occurring.

Len Sipes: Sort of like a black box for automobiles or a black box for human beings?

Joe Russo: Well it would be for human beings because, again, with the Interlock system we don’t want to monitor the car. We want to monitor the offender. So these as envisioned, these would be ankle device, ankle bracelets that detect the movements of the foot.
Len Sipes: Oh, that’s interesting. So all of that is not necessarily biologically based, it is foot based.

Joe Russo: Yeah, it’s more mechanically based.

Len Sipes: Oh.

Joe Russo: It’s based on the physiology of what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. So if you think about it, there are very few actions or movements that you would make that are consistent with driving that are not related to driving. So you’re not necessarily pressing down, for example, on an accelerator.

Len Sipes: That is interesting. That is really interesting. So the bottom line is that, you know, right now we have breathalyzers, right now we have blood tests in terms of substance abuse, but you’re actually talking about something that actually measures the movement of the foot. I would love to be in court to establish that – to establish the legal basis of that. I would imagine that’s going to be a fight from the very beginning. But if you could introduce that it would be revolutionary.

Joe Russo: Well exactly. I mean, any new technology obviously faces those legal hurdles. And certainly that would just be one piece of evidence against an offender and our standards of evidence are much lower than a new criminal case. But if you have indication that this offender is driving when he shouldn’t be driving or he’s driving a car that’s not – that doesn’t have Interlock installed in it, then that provides an investigative lead for officers to go and find other information. So it wouldn’t necessarily be the nail in the coffin but it would be one piece of evidence.

Len Sipes: Being it’s not physiologically based, that could also apply to drugs as well.

Joe Russo: You know, the same thinking and theory. Another example that comes to mind is folks have developed handwriting analysis as a method of determining impairment. And so what they’ve looked at is, you know, the way that you sign your name physiologically is altered if you’re impaired. Now it may look exactly like your signature sober but the movements, the signals from your brain to your hand create very distinct and minute differences in the signature. So if we capture a computerized signature of an impaired person, there’s research that suggests that you can tell if someone is impaired simply by the way they’re writing their name versus how the name looks.

Len Sipes: I’ll tell you Joe, it’s always a fascinating conversation when you and I talk about corrections technology. That’s one of the reasons why this program is one of the more popular programs that we do. Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve been talking today to Joe Russo, the Director of the Corrections Technology Center of Excellence at the University of Denver, part of the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center, www.justnet, j-u-s-t-n-e-t.org, www.justnet.org. Ladies and gentlemen, this is talking DC Public Safety. We appreciate your comments. We even appreciate your criticisms. And we want everybody to have themselves a very, very pleasant day.

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Criminal Justice Information Sharing-NCJA

Criminal Justice Information Sharing-NCJA

DC Public Safety Radio

http://media.csosa.gov

Radio Show available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2014/11/criminal-justice-information-sharing-ncja/

Len Sipes: From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety; I’m your host Leonard Sipes. Ladies and gentlemen today we’re doing a show on the Mid-Atlantic Information Sharing Initiative, brought to us by the National Criminal Justice Association, the voice of the nation’s public safety community at www.ncja.org. In essence what we’re going to be talking about today is information sharing between states, to improve public safety, to improve officer safety. By our microphones today we have Tammy Woodhams, she is a senior staff associate with the National Criminal Justice Association, we have Mannone Butler Executive Director of the DC Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, and we have Ed Parker, Deputy Director of Operations for the Maryland Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention. To Tammy, and Mannone and Ed, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Tammy Woodhams: Thank you.

Mannone Butler: Thank you.

Ed Parker: Hi.

Len Sipes: I really appreciate you guys being here, because information sharing is one of the hardest things that we within the criminal justice system do, brings immense difficulties, and I’m going to read very quickly from a report sent by the National Criminal Justice Association.

Over the past few years leaders from Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia have been working the share information on offenders who move freely across jurisdictional boundaries to this end. These four jurisdictions form the Mid Atlantic Regional Information Consortium to secure justice information systems. These four jurisdictions as well as Virginia, New York, now exchange arrest information with Maryland to identify offenders who are on parole and probation who are arrested outside of that jurisdiction. Given the density and mobility of the offender populations in these jurisdictions, the sharing of justice information was deemed critical to the Administration of Justice and Public Safety, in this multi-state region.

The average person I think, and I’m going to start off with you Tammy, would believe that this is something that we do all the time. They watch a lot of television, and they see a lot of criminal justice people, on television shows, fictional television shows, sharing an immense amount of information with everybody. Is that the way it really works?

Tammy Woodhams: No it doesn’t, we fondly call this the CSI Effect. We wish it were that way, and we wish we could share information, and solve crimes as quickly as they’re able to in a 45 minute television show, but in reality it just doesn’t happen like that. The states that we work with have various information sharing at many, many levels, and we through NCJA have a grant to help advance information sharing with the states. That’s what we’ve done over the course of the last couple of years, to work with the nearest states as they move forward with their efforts.

Len Sipes: Well the National Criminal Justice Association, and again they’ve been around as long as I’ve been around in the criminal justice system, which is 45 years. You basically bring the states and jurisdictions, and county, and cities together to share information with each other. You’re essentially the information sharing experts within the criminal justice system, within the United States correct?

Tammy Woodhams: Right and we do that, we convene stakeholders from all across the country, justice leaders, practitioners and researchers, to advance information sharing and best practices. One of the specific areas that we’re working on is in the justice information sharing field. Specific to public safety.

Len Sipes: But we’re going to start off with one example, and that is, in, you know, I represent a parole and probation, federal parole and probation agency here in Washington DC. You go across the line in Maryland, you go across Southern Avenue, it’s right there, I mean it’s just walking across the street, and you’re in an entirely different jurisdiction. At one point, you know, people who were arrested in Maryland may not necessarily show up on our radar screen, what we do, is go in as a parole and probation agency, we do go in periodically and take a look at the National Crime Information Center system to see if somebody has been arrested. We now have a protocol in place where if the person’s arrested in Maryland, a person’s arrested in Virginia, we’re immediately notified. Ed Parker, Deputy Director of Operations for the Maryland Governor’s Office in Crime Control and Prevention, essentially that’s what is flowing through your state, the surrounding states feed information to you about parolees and probationers who have been arrested, and you disseminate it to everybody else?

Ed Parker: Yes Len that’s absolutely correct, and just to go back briefly and touch on a point that you made earlier. I think that there is, you know, a widespread belief and assumption that this type of information is seamlessly shared and coordinated, on a routine basis. It really is not, unfortunately there are a lot of information silos that need to be broken down. If, at least in my opinion, we are to be as effective as we can be in reducing crime, and supervising violent offenders. That’s a challenge both inside your own state, and it becomes even more problematic, as you can well imagine, when we’re talking about sharing information across jurisdictional boundaries, but to get back to your question about the arrests. One of the things that we learned, starting back in 2007, in conversations with our counterparts in Washington, is that a lot of offenders under supervision here in Maryland, were being arrested in Washington DC. And a lot of offenders under community based supervision, in DC, were being arrested here in Maryland. The problem was that offenders were essentially on the honor system to tell us about those new arrests and obviously it wasn’t working out very well for us. So we needed to come up with another tool. The solution that we came up with, was to initially exchange a daily arrest feed with our counterparts in Washington DC, and to match that arrest data against our parole and probation supervision files. If there’s a match between an arrest in Washington and somebody under parole or probation supervision in Maryland, an email alert is automatically sent out to the supervising agent, so that appropriate action can be taken. To just real quickly put this into some kind of context or perspective, since we started this process with, initially with Washington DC and now with Virginia, New York, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, we’ve been able to identify over 15,000 offenders under parole and probation supervision in Maryland, that were arrested outside the jurisdiction.

Len Sipes: Now that’s amazing, that is absolutely amazing. 15,000 individuals arrested outside of the state of Maryland that you would have been under the honor system, before this information sharing exchange was in place. If they had lied to you, you wouldn’t know unless the parole and probation agent in the state of Maryland ran a National Crime Information Center check?

Ed Parker: That’s exactly correct, I mean theoretically yes it would have been possible to run a record check each and every morning, on every supervisee. But Len as you know through your own experience, that’s a practical impossibility.

Len Sipes: Yes you can’t do that. I understand that, but I mean this is the heart and soul in terms of protecting public safety, because you could have, I mean it’s a stereotypical example. But you could have a sex offender who basically says, you know, I’m pretty well supervised in Washington DC, I think I’ll do my crimes in Maryland, and with the idea that if he comes into contact with the criminal justice system or gets arrested. He thinks that he may get away with it, because his crimes were in Baltimore and not in the District of Columbia. But now what we’re saying is that he can’t, if he comes into contact with the criminal justice system, if he’s arrested, everybody else knows about it instantaneously.

Ed Parker: Yes correct.

Len Sipes: Right, Mannone Butler, Executive Director of the DC Criminal Justice Coordinating Council. Mannone you and I have known each other for quite some time. Your point is, has always been that we have to share information beyond the District of Columbia, we’re a city in essence. We I know, within the District of Columbia feel that we are a state, but we are a city, and at the same time we’re surrounded by Virginia, we’re surrounded by Maryland, Pennsylvania is a hop skip and jump away. We’ve got people commuting every day from West Virginia into Washington DC. So offenders being mobile, they can go any place, information sharing is a really important goal of the DC Criminal Justice Coordinating Council.

Mannone Butler: Absolutely critical Len, as you know working with our partners here in the district, it’s been one of our priorities, we are unique in that we’re working with both federal and local partners. So our partners have come to the table understanding, and also acknowledging that the fact that we have to work through as Ed put it, you know, through information sharing silo. So justice, our justice information system was really designed with that in mind. So locally the goal is to share information and work towards breaking through information sharing silos, but with MARIS this is really the opportunity to cross borders. We are a hop skip and a jump across, away from Maryland. Pennsylvania is right down the 95 Corridor, so it’s critical for us to really figure out how to more effectively and efficiently share information, in as real time as possible, so that we can address these Criminal Justice issues that are right in front of us. So working with our partners in Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Maryland, who all really recognize the importance of the issue, we really do think that we’re making a lot of headway. But we also are real clear about some of the challenges that are not uncommon within a jurisdiction. We are now facing those things, the policy issues and the like, that have come up when we’re talking about trying to address information sharing, outside of our jurisdictions as well.

Len Sipes: I do want to remind our listeners that I think Mannone and the other people who have been in charge of the DC Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, are probably best suited for the State Department, after they have done their gig here in the District of Columbia. Because Mannone has to deal with my agency, which is a federal agency and the courts have been federalized, the prosecuting attorney has been federalized, the Public Offenders Office has been federalized. You combine that with a local DC police department, a local juvenile initiative, again at the DC level, and the jail which is the District of Columbia. So you have this combination of federal agencies and District of Columbia agencies, and now, you bring into the mix, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, the other states, and that becomes extraordinarily complex in terms of keeping everybody happy, and keeping information systems up and running. So Mannone you’ve got a real task on your hands.

Mannone Butler: Yes but you know I think at the end of the day, there’s some real common goals, and it really is to make sure that we’re focusing on public safety. That’s really our north star, so appreciating the fact that we have different audiences and I share this with our partners in Pennsylvania, in Maryland, and in Delaware, and we’ve been meeting. So folks understand that, you know, DC we have our unique, our composition is unique, but the reality is that at the end of the day we want to make sure that the public is safe. Information sharing is critical to get us there, so there are some real nuances to the information sharing realities that we’ve embarked upon with this project specifically. So we can’t be deterred by the jurisdictional issues that come up, internally or externally to be certain.

Len Sipes: I think Mannone you’re being wonderfully diplomatic and — but I’ll go over to Tammy Woodhams of the National Criminal Justice Association. Something before we hit the record button, Ed mentioned, Ed Parker from the state of Maryland, mentioned that look, you know, we’re the Criminal Justice system, we’ve been pretty secretive and we’ve been criticized after the events of 9/11 for not sharing information. We have basically kept all this information to ourselves, so I do, in the second half of the show want to get onto to the other parts of information sharing in terms of the Mid-Atlantic Information Sharing Initiative, but that’s true correct Tammy? That we traditionally have not been embracing of each other?

Tammy Woodhams: Oh definitely and you have the separation of powers that are involved in that. You have turf issues and traditionally in the criminal justice system, a sheriff did not want to necessarily share his information with the prosecuting attorney’s office, or the courts didn’t want to share that information. I think that, they’ve been very protective of that information, so the fact that Mannone has been able to pull off, getting all her partners together and willing to share information, really bodes well for Washington DC and with Maryland, and Delaware, and Pennsylvania and all of their stakeholders, who are willing to share. A lot of it really boils back down to traditional turf issues that have been invited [PH 00:14:29] in the criminal justice system for years.

Len Sipes: Well also there are information sharing issues in terms of the technology that everybody can embrace, and everybody can share information on. So it’s just not a matter of turf it’s a matter of implanting the right technology, the right information sharing technology, so everybody is not just onboard philosophically, but onboard technologically, correct?

Tammy Woodhams: Right and for many years the technology wasn’t there to be able to share, and in recent years, the Federal Government has been making a big push to encourage the adoption of the National Justice Information Caring Standards and Tools for their global advisory committee and they have come up with information caring standards, such as the National Information Exchange Model, Global Reference Architecture, Global Federated ID and Privileged Management. In essence a lot of acronyms and basically they boil down to the ability to be able to guide, and provide tools to allow that information sharing to occur. Promote cross boundary information sharing as well.

Len Sipes: Let me reintroduce everybody, because we’re right at the halfway point, and I’ll get back to you just momentarily. Ladies and gentlemen we’re doing a show today on the Mid-Atlantic Information Sharing Initiative, but we’re really talking about information sharing within the criminal justice system. The show is produced today by the National Criminal Justice Association, www.ncja.org our guests today are Tammy Woodhams, senior staff associate for the National Criminal Justice Association, Mannone Butler, Executive Director, DC Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, Ed Parker, Deputy Director of Operations for the Maryland Office, Maryland Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention, Ed go ahead with your point please.

Ed Parker: Well Len I was just going to point out, we were talking before about some of the barriers to establishing effective information sharing protocols. One of the issues that came up was technology. I just wanted to point out, that it’s always been my experience that the technology barriers are the easiest ones to overcome. There’s always some very smart, you know, IT person out there who can work out a technological solution to almost any problem. But the policy issues in my opinion are far more challenging to overcome when you’re doing something like we’ve been trying to do over the last several years. Again, breaking down that culture of secrecy, addressing the policy and potential legal issues involved. Who can access what, and under what circumstances for example. The security concerns, controlling access to make sure that the inappropriate people don’t have access to sensitive information. Making sure that audit trails are built in, so if something does go wrong, we can track back and figure out who accessed what and when. Then the privacy issues to try to make sure that we are protecting the privacy of citizens so that no sensitive information is shared inappropriately with anybody, including law enforcement.

Mannone Butler: And Ed has actually just, I’m sorry, Ed really just has outlined I think critical areas for us as we again, we focus within your jurisdictions on issues around information sharing, those are hallmark issues for us. Now you’re talking about policy and jurisdictional lines, they are then, they become even more critical because we’re talking about policy issues that have implications that, here before, they may not even have been mapped out. So I think that we really, the technology piece oftentimes heard from our IT folks in my office, in the district, we can take care of the technology, it really is making sure we have the business, the privacy, the policy, issues mapped out. That’s really where the rubber meets the road.

Len Sipes: Well that’s difficult, and it’s fairly complex, I guess I just keep going back, you know, what I always try to phone a couple of people before doing shows. One person was, telling me, he said, you know you want NCIS, you watch all these television shows and you have the sense that there’s information flowing. There’s information sharing, a portion of it is free flowing, it happens every day, it’s seamless and there really are no issues. In reality we’re just beginning to set up these technological and legal, and ethical protocols between states, we’re just starting this movement to be sure that the right information is shared, and that it’s ethical, and legal, and that we have the technical pieces in place. We’re just beginning this process, am I right or wrong?

Ed Parker: I think you’re absolutely right Len.

Mannone Butler: Yes.

Len Sipes: Let’s talk about some of the things that we are talking about because somebody listening to this program is going to go, okay I get it, the offender, A who is being supervised in Washington DC, goes to the state of Maryland, goes to Pennsylvania, goes to Virginia, goes to Delaware and then DC wants to know whether or not he’s been arrested. Fine I’ll give you that, but in this day and age of privacy concerns, I just want to give people a sense as to what else that we’re talking about. There’s law enforcement data, there’s intelligence data, in some cases a license plate recognition, fusion centers, where law enforcement and correctional people get together and share information, and make sure that the right information is being transferred from one jurisdiction to another. Scrap metal, pawn and secondary property databases, I mean these are all some of the things that I’m reading from in terms of the executive summary of the report on the Mid-Atlantic Information Sharing Initiative. So something as simple as, somebody steals a tremendous amount of metal, and crosses the state line to sell it, it would be nice for that police department in Pennsylvania to be able to say, ah it went into Virginia, and that’s where they sold it, and now we can follow up. I mean that’s pretty commonsensical stuff.

Ed Parker: Absolutely Len, I mean it would be critical to know that someone with a Pennsylvania address is pawning materials in another jurisdiction. It would also be interesting to note frequent pawners, if people are going to multiple pawn shops in a relative short period of time, which maybe innocent, but then again it could be indicative of criminal activity. So it’s a perfect example of why we should share yes.

Len Sipes: You know offenders float, people involved in crime, are going to float from one jurisdiction to another. Especially when you’ve got — you know you can go from the state of Maryland to the District of Columbia, into the state of Virginia and what, Mannone, 15, 20 minutes?

Mannone Butler: That’s right.

Len Sipes: So there has to be information sharing.

Mannone Butler: Yes there has to be information sharing, and so we talked about some of the challenges, but I also want to just highlight that as we’re going through this process for the Mid-Atlantic Regional Information Sharing Project, we also are really in the process of identifying, so what does it mean, what are the policies that you have within your own jurisdiction? That’s really critical and we want, we can’t lose sight of, you know, Ed mentioned privacy. We can’t lose sight of some real practical issues, the goal is to ensure public safety, right?

Len Sipes: Right.

Mannone Butler: But we also need to be real clear about what it means when we’re talking about sharing information. So each of our respective portals, our IT systems have rules of the road if you will. So part of the work here is mapping our systems so that the rules of each jurisdiction, can be followed in a way that really is appropriate. So that is no small feat, we’re not going to be deterred by that, but we want to make sure that folks really understand, that that work is something that also has to be done. You’re balancing our public safety with privacy, the information sharing piece is something that we can’t lose in this conversation.

Len Sipes: And the Federal Law to remind everybody, we being a federal agency, in terms of medical information, psychological information, that is protected, it’s protected by the Federal Privacy Act, which means that I can sit down with the police department in the metropolitan police department in Washington DC. Or the Maryland State Police, or the Virginia State Police, and discuss this offender, and what he’s doing right, and what he’s doing wrong. But there are certain things by Federal Law we cannot violate, and there’s certain information that we cannot transmit. So that’s what you’re talking about Mannone correct?

Mannone Butler: Absolutely.

Len Sipes: And whether people like it or not, that is the Federal Privacy Act is something, I mean we’re a law enforcement agencies, we’re supposed to uphold the law. So for those people out there listening to this, and saying well gee this is just another example of big government sharing information on individuals. We take those privacy concerns very seriously, Ed?

Mannone Butler: And it really does —

Ed Parker: Yes?

Mannone Butler: — I’m sorry it just goes to the purpose of this really for us is to figure out, and it’s kind of you’re threading that needle. How do we get to sharing information as we started this conversation in a way, that really makes sense for all our jurisdictions. So we can address the information that’s out there, and so that we can again protect the public. But in the same token there are basic policy and privacy considerations that are federal in nature, but there are also some local jurisdictions, or local laws that we also have to be mindful of, and that’s a process that we have to navigate as well.

Len Sipes: But if you’ve got somebody who is considering an act of terrorism, you want that information shared with the state that it happens to be right next door to you. So there are all sorts of benefits to making sure that Maryland, Virginia, the District of Columbia, and all the other states involved in the Mid-Atlantic Information Sharing Initiative, that we are sure to share the right information with the right people.

Ed Parker: Len, you’re absolutely right Len, I mean in this day and age, we have more information available to law enforcement and public safety agencies, than we’ve ever had in history. You’ve been in this business a long time, and so have I, and the technological advances that we’ve made recently are just phenomenal. I mean, to give you an example, we have our law enforcement, or criminal justice dashboard in Maryland. It’s a web based data consolidation tool that’s accessible to anyone with a valid NCIC user ID and password. It enables a person with the appropriate credentials to search information from over 115 different data sources, but Pennsylvania has a similar system, Delaware has a similar system, their Deljis System. The district has a similar system, their Justice System, but linking all these systems together to share information in a seamless way, is challenging and Mannone just pointed out, one of the big challenges that there are legal differences between the laws that govern DC, and the laws that govern Maryland, and the laws that govern Pennsylvania and Delaware for example. So when we first started embarking down this road, we finally came to the realization that we were not going to be able to share everything with everybody. Instead each jurisdiction was just going to have to make available the information that it could make available, pursuant to their own policies and laws. That’s fine, it’s a start, and we can build on that.

Len Sipes: Now somebody has to coordinate all this, somebody has to bring everybody together, and again Tammy that would be the role of the National Criminal Justice Association. I’m assuming that somewhere along the line, the Department of Justice, through probably the Bureau of Justice Assistance is involved in this correct?

Tammy Woodhams: Yes correct. DJA funded, NCJA to serve as a convener, and advance the information sharing efforts throughout the country. We’re working closely with MARIS, to staff the meetings, bring them together, track what’s going on, we have bi-weekly calls with the technical team for MARIS. Document all of that and track the decisions that are made along the way. So we’ll be hosting a MARIS meeting in the near future in Baltimore to sign up a government structure for MARIS. We provide that guidance, we also bring in other training and technical assistants provided to help us move this along, and ensure the implementation and standards along the way.

Len Sipes: Well we’ve got just about a minute left, anybody want to add in on this, because we could — just license plate recognition, if there is a license tag wanted by Pennsylvania, and they’ve just abducted a child, and they’re found in Virginia, again that’s yet another example, when I’m taking a look at your executive summary, as to the power of information sharing. Of getting that information back to the state of Pennsylvania immediately.

Ed Parker: Len you just hit the nail on the head, it’s immediate access to the information. If the detective working that case that you just described in Pennsylvania, has to wait until nine o’clock the next morning to pick up the telephone and call somebody in Maryland, or the District or Delaware to get the information. It’s not very effective, but instead if a search, an automated search can be launched, a federated search against all of our jurisdictional databases, to pull back that information instantaneously. Then that’s a real accomplishment for all of us that are involved in trying to reduce crime and improve public safety.

Len Sipes: The state of Pennsylvania could say to the state of Virginia, don’t stop that car, follow them, and lead us to where we believe that other children are held. So that information flow could be just operational, it could be conclusion or it could be ongoing.

Ed Parker: Yes.

Len Sipes: Alright so, I really do appreciate all three of you being here by our microphones today, because I think this whole concept of information sharing is so important to the criminal justice system. Tammy Woodhams, senior staff associate National Criminal Justice Association, Mannone Butler, Executive Director of DC Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, and Ed Parker, Deputy Director of Operations for the Maryland Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention, ladies and gentlemen this is DC Public Safety. We appreciate your compliments, we even appreciate your criticisms, and we want everybody to have yourselves a very pleasant day.

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Domestic Violence in Washington, DC, Superior Court

Domestic Violence in Washington, DC, Superior Court

DC Public Safety Radio

http://media.csosa.gov

Radio show at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2014/09/domestic-violence-washington-dc-superior-court/

LEONARD SIPES: From the Nation’s capital this is DC Public Safety. I am your host Leonard Sips. Ladies and gentleman today’s show is on Domestic Violence it’s a hot topic in the news. We wanted to explore what is happening here in the nation’s capital. We have three principals sitting before our microphones today. Jose Lopez is a Judge he is the Judge, the presiding Judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, the Superior Courts Domestic Violence Unit a position that he has for several years now. We have William Agosto he is the Director of the Superior Courts Domestic Violence Unit which means he supervises all staff within the unit and we have Natalia Otero, she is with DC Safe and Advocacy group, one of the partners in the two Domestic Violence Intake Centers and we want to thank you all for being here. Judge Lopez, William Agosto, Natalia Otero welcome to DC Public Safety.

JOSE LOPEZ: Pleased to be here.

WILLIAM AGOSTO: I’m pleased to be here.

LEONARD SIPES: Alright, I’m really happy for you gentlemen and Natalia for you to be here today because you know domestic violence is a hot topic in the news, it is something that is of extreme concern but before we get into the gist of the show Judge Lopez just give me a sense of the Domestic Violence Court within the Superior Court here in the District of Columbia.

JOSE LOPEZ: Well it’s a specialized unit with four judge’s handling cases. The civil, restraining orders and the criminal cases and we have fantastic staff, well organized and we do about five thousand criminal civil restraining order cases a year and about three thousand criminal cases a year.

LEONARD SIPES: Five thousand restraining orders and three thousand criminal cases that is eight thousand cases in one city for domestic violence and those are just the cases that are reported to law enforcement.

JOSE LOPEZ: That is correct. I mean the DC police department gets about 90 calls a day for domestic violence.

LEONARD SIPES: 90 calls a day that is an amazing amount of calls.

JOSE LOPEZ: It’s tremendous.

LEONARD SIPES: So domestic violence is an issue here for us within the District of Columbia.

JOSE LOPEZ: It is a big issue.

LEONARD SIPES: Alright and you have been presiding over this court for how long Judge Lopez?

JOSE LOPEZ: It’s been about seven years.

LEONARD SIPES: That’s a long time and that has got to take its toll on you after hearing at this point thousands of cases.

JOSE LOPEZ: Well it doesn’t take a toll in a negative sense I guess it shows me the challenge that we are presented and the difficulty that we have with domestic violence and the need for further education of the community.

LEONARD SIPES: And this is one of the reasons why we are doing the program. William Agosto the director of the Superior Courts Domestic Violence Unit. Give me a sense William as to what it is that you do in terms of the Superior Court as as it pertains to domestic violence.

WILLIAM AGOSTO: In the DV Unit we process the cases. We create the calendars for the Judges. We schedule people to be able to get before the court and that happens when somebody comes in with an emergency request to see a Judge that same day and a couple of weeks later when they return to get an order that would last for an extended period of time.

LEONARD SIPES: So in terms of the protective orders your, it is up to you to handle the administrative structure to quickly get that protective order and that is a huge responsibility.

JOSE LOPEZ: Correct. It is one that we take very seriously.

LEONARD SIPES: So if that request for a protective order comes in at 4’o clock in the afternoon you guys have got to scramble to make sure that it happens.

WILLIAM AGOSTO: Yes sir.

LEONARD SIPES: Alright and that is an amazing responsibility.

LEONARD SIPES: Natalia Otero your DC Safe give me a sense as to what DC Safe does and your part in this partnership.

NATALIA OTERO: Yes of course DC Safe is the 24 hour crisis intervention agency here in the District of Columbia and we are charged with being available to domestic violence that person and to any first responder and to the court. We have a program that is called The Legality Assessment Program that allows us to try to find the percent of the population that is more at risk for homicide or re-assault and once we identify this percentage of the population we attempt to partner with government and non government agencies to provide expedited services so we go ride-alongs with the Metropolitan Police Department. We have a response line for people to call in. We are able to provide emergency assistance with the Courts with filing either emergency orders or civil protections orders. We attend Court every single day with clients. We are also able to actually house people within an hour of a violent incident and crisis shelter which is another important aspect of safety along with the court and the criminal justice piece of it.

LEONARD SIPES: You know it is so common throughout the United States to have domestic violence cases fall through the cracks and I am not being patronizing because you are sitting in front of me and because I am part of the DC Criminal Justice System but in the District of Columbia ordinarily and especially as it applies to the Superior Court again I am not simply being complementary, I want people out there to know that ordinarily the Superior Court does it well. It doesn’t matter what topic it is, whether its drug court other specialty courts, the domestic violence court it sounds as if between yourself, Judge Lopez and William and Natalia you have got it pretty much figured out in terms of how to process a massive number of domestic violence cases that come to the courts attention.

JOSE LOPEZ: We put significant emphasis on client’s service and we are constantly struggling to make sure that every case that comes in that door for an emergency order will be seen by a judge that very same day for safety reasons.

LEONARD SIPES: And that is important and that doesn’t happen throughout the rest of the country. So what we do in the District of Columbia we take for granted but I think we do set a bit of a standard for what is happening throughout the country in terms of Domestic Violence am I right or wrong William.

WILLIAM AGOSTO: You are correct particularly the development of partnerships that we have created with different stake holders in the community and other agencies making sure that we all work together to have a coordinated response to domestic violence.

LEONARD SIPES: Now I want to get into our personal perceptions on this just for a second. You know a lifetime ago when I was with the Maryland State Police I went to, well it was my first exposure to a domestic violence case, went to a domestic violence case and the woman opened the door and her head was twice its size. There was blood running down her. A neighbor had called and the victim insisted that we not take her husband, not remove her husband from that house and it was obvious battery and as far as I was concerned it was an aggravated assault with is a felony. I was so affected by that. I never saw my parents fight, let alone hit each other and I remembered that from hence forth every domestic violence case that I would ever go on and one of them involved a shooting, an attempted shooting. These are terrible tragic events in the lives of human beings. We say the words domestic violence and I am not quite sure it really carries the true impact as to how destructive this act is. So I just wanted, for three people who have been involved with the issue of domestic violence for years, and years, and years, give me Judge Lopez I am going to start off with you, how does it affect you after all these years on the bench.

JOSE LOPEZ: Well I have learned a lot about what domestic violence is and you know what those cases with the bloody head, those are minimal compared to those that you don’t see any blood and there is a lot of human suffering, there are a lot of destroyed families, there are a lot of depressed children and depressed family members and go out onto the street every day and just don’t have a solution to their problem. And like that lady who would not her husband arrested, we have the complexity that there is a certain attachment and its difficult for them to just get him out of the house or to have his arrested because they are interdependent with each other so that creates a greater complexity in those cases.

LEONARD SIPES: This is something that has an enormous impact not just on the victim but the victim’s family, the larger community. It is not unusual at all to have kids involved. William let me ask you the same question. You have been working this beat for quite some time do you every just get frustrated at the larger issue of why people batter other people.

WILLIAM AGOSTO: Of course it can be frustrating but we have to keep in mind domestic violence cases are crimes committed against a vulnerable individual. A crime is a crime. We need to make sure that we do not forget domestic violence is not a different action but we have to make sure that we look at them as crimes. That people don’t forget that. These individuals are related the act that is committed needs to be treated and handled as a crime.

LEONARD SIPES: Natalia okay you’re with DC Safe you specialize in domestic violence cases certainly you have an opinion on all of this.

NATALIA OTERO: Yes I think what is important really and I think something that Judge Lopez said kind of when you speak about this and that is in addition to the complexities to the relationship there is also a complexities and how many systems a victim may have to access in order to make herself safe and we have to be sure that we are keeping our word and like William said this is a crime ultimately and the important thing is to make sure that we have the appropriate multidisciplinary response to it because what happens when a victim reaches out and she finally is ready but the abuser might be knocking on her door the next day because he was released or it has to be dealt with on multiple levels not only through the courts but through the Criminal Justice System and to all organizations that provide supportive services and housing for these victims and the children.

LEONARD SIPES: But this is a process oftentimes and I am going to be stereotypical here but I believe it to be true, mostly male perpetrators against female victims although I do know that women can and do batter men, that this is something that’s ordinarily taken place over a course of months or years. This is something that she ordinarily has had to suffer through for a long time until the point where somebody actually calls the police whether it be a neighbor, whether it be a friend or whether it be herself. This is something that is filled with emotion a long term event and something that again, once again is really devastating not only to generally speaking the female victim but the kids involved and it is not unusual for kids to be involved. Natalia I am going to let you continue with that answer.

NATALIA OTERO: Yes I definitely think that that is something that feeds into the response that a victim has about their own abuse but also their own perception of risk and that is really important because we are not in the relationship and I think it is also kind of crucial to understand that there are factors there that are creating a situation where the victim is thinking that they need to, that they are mitigating the situation and a lot of times that has to do with not involving the police. We are acquiescing to certain things with you know keeping, maybe like walking on egg shells so to speak but they are mitigating their risk with their responses and sometimes the way that the mitigate the risk does not make sense to an outside person.

LEONARD SIPES: This is a very overwhelming event in the life of that victim. I mean this is something that is almost paralyzing people always ask me why doesn’t she leave. This is a very paralyzing event. There are kids involved, there are economics involved, th her own safety involved and so I want to take some of the pressure off a victims a tad to say that often at times again its paralyzing and generally speaking the female victim just doesn’t know what to do. Your honor did you want to take a crack at that?

JOSE LOPEZ: well that is just the most significant point of it all. The victim, especially the female victim usually is not so much that she doesn’t know what to do it is that she is juggling all these things and trying to balance the safety of herself, the economics of her situation, the safety of her children and she is making the best decision she can under those heavy duty emotional circumstances and it takes a very long time to finally get a clear head to say I must leave this relationship.

LEONARD SIPES: The bottom line and the question goes out to all three of you. The bottom line is that we want anybody who has any information about domestic violence to get involved in reporting it to law enforcement so then the Superior Court and any court throughout the United States can take appropriate action right. We desperately want people to report acts of domestic violence.

JOSE LOPEZ: Appropriate action is correct.

LEONARD SIPES: Okay I hear you, hear you loud and clear. Alright within the District of Columbia I complemented you all before. You have two Domestic Violence Intake Centers how do they work, what happens William?

WILLIAM AGOSTO: We have one at the Superior Court it is a conglomerate of agencies, Community Agencies and Government Agencies that provide services to the individual when they come to Court. Particularly those in intimate partner relationships and they get assistance with preparing their paper work, talking to the police, talking to the prosecutor, requesting support, they get services from the advocacy group that Ms. Otero belongs or they will conduct a lethality assessment try to determine how lightly this person is to eventually be harmed further by the respondent. We will also talk to them about safety planning, give them referrals for different agencies that provide either counseling, legal assistance, housing and lately some new partners have joined in who will help with doing a forensic medical examination getting some photographs and preparing the evidence for future hearing and another agencies working with victims that have problems of mental health when they come to visit us.

LEONARD SIPES: So you have specialists in all different areas whether it be forensic, mental health, assistance with child related issues, you have those specialists there to immediately provide assistance to the victim when he or she comes into the Domestic Violence Court.

JOSE LOPEZ: Yes.

LEONARD SIPES: That’s amazing; I mean, again most jurisdictions throughout the United States don’t have those resources and the process in the Court room do all cases go before a Judge or do all cases go to trial.

JOSE LOPEZ: No, not all cases go to trial. We have what is called attorney negotiators so when the parties come to court for the first time we attempt to negotiate a civil protection order by agreement and in many cases we will go into an agreement for a civil protection for 12 months. Some few cases will need to go to trial and the judges are prepared to take them to trial.

LEONARD SIPES: Okay, now the civil protection order says what to the perpetrator?

JOSE LOPEZ: Well the civil Protection Order which is in effect a restraining order it tells the perpetrator that you may not assault, threaten or harass or stalk the petitioner and you shall stay about from the petitioner at least 100 feet away from her home, work place and also if he needs drug treatment or any mental health treatment that also is in there. If in fact a shared residence we also say to him that he must vacate the residence for safety reasons.

LEONARD SIPES: Okay so there is mental health treatment involved, substance abuse treatment involved, we very specifically say what you can do and what you can’t do and those orders I think are supported by my agency Court Service and Offenders Supervision Agency as well as the Court itself.

JOSE LOPEZ: Yes your agency is extremely helpful in this respect because they monitor the compliance with a civil protection order which is one of the few jurisdictions that has that luxury and so they even have vocational training for some of the people that need it and if they don’t go to the mental health or the drug treatment CSOSA the Court Services Agency will inform us about it so we can bring the case to court to try to correct the issue.

LEONARD SIPES: And if necessary we can put that person on GPS monitoring and monitor that persons whereabouts 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and figure out whether or not he is violating that order.

JOSE LOPEZ: Correct.

LEONARD SIPES: And if he violates that order we immediately bring that case to the attention of the Court.

NATALIA OTERO: Right I think, oh sorry. There is another step that CSOSA is actually working on directly with DC Safe it is part of the lethality assessment project. Let’s say that a victim calls the police or somebody calls the police. The police comes out realizes that it’s a domestic case; they call us immediately we send somebody out to meet with the client and provide immediate services and lethality assessment. We then are providing information with the clients request to CSOSA and saying this is a high lethality case. They can then turn around and say o well that particular person is already under supervision and we have certain that then they can respond to so we are talking care of working with the client and providing those expedited services and they are on the other end dealing with the person that is supervising in terms of not only holding them accountable but also in some cases making them aware that they know and creating kind of an intervention plan for the perpetrator in the hope that that will create a broader safety net for the victim.

LEONARD SIPES: We are more than half way through the program Ladies and Gentleman. We are doing a program today on Domestic Violence here in the nation’s capital in Washington DC. We have three people before our microphones Judge Jose Lopez he is the presiding Judge at the Superior Courts Domestic Violence Unit. He has been there for seven years. William Agosto he is the Director of the Superior Courts Domestic Violence Unit which means he makes sure that all things happen at all times and we have Natalia Otero and she is with DC Safe and Advocacy Group that is one of the partners in the domestic violence program. If you are interested in the work of the Superior Court in the District of Columbia probably one of the better court systems in the United States and after 45 years in the criminal justice system I can think I can say that with authority www.dccourts.gov. We want to thank the Superior Court for setting up this program specifically Leah Gurowitz. Okay ladies and gentlemen where do we need to take this discussion now the civil protection order has been issued? We are talking about all the different agencies that are involved. We are talking about my agency Court Services and Offender Supervision Agencies, lots of other agencies. In essence what we are trying to do is provide a comprehensive resource for again I am being stereotypical here; men are victimized by domestic violence but generally speaking, its female victims. What we are trying to do is provide a comprehensive array of programs for the victim and for the perpetrator at the same time correct.

JOSE LOPEZ: Correct because one of the things that we need to do is to get that education to the perpetrator to avoid recidivism from the Domestic Violence Intervention Program, family training, parenting classes and so forth.

LEONARD SIPES: You know we have individuals within our community and in any community throughout the United States so it is not just an issue for Washington DC who feels that they have a perfect right to strike their victim, to strike either their child or their wife or their husband. That this is something, for whatever reason, I’m not going to say with cultural, I’m not going to say anything. I simply know that there are men who feel that they have the right to strike a woman and sometimes this is maybe the first time in their lives where they are facing authority figures who are saying you can’t do that and a lot of times there are drugs involved and a lot of times there is alcohol involved.

JOSE LOPEZ: Oh yes and it’s a generational thing, it is an educational thing. You know one generation after another generation educating each other that violence is correct, the violence upon the children and violence upon the women is correct and so it is extremely difficult to get that out of their head. That is destroying the family, not only the victim but also the perpetrator.

LEONARD SIPES: There is a lot of people suggesting that domestic violence or getting into child abuse and neglect is the heart and soul of many of the problems that we have within the criminal justice system if that nine-year-old is raised and sees him mother being beaten that almost leaves an indelible mark upon his psyche for the rest of his life.

JOSE LOPEZ: That becomes normal for that child.

LEONARD SIPES: Yes William did you want to.

WILLIAM AGOSTO: And it seems to all be rooted in the sense that this is different, that if you hit your partner it is different than you hit somebody on the street and culturally we must make sure that people understand an assault to one of your loved ones is as problematic and is as wrong as an assault to a stranger.

LEONARD SIPES: Absolutely, alright we have crime victim’s compensation program. We have the Court Supervised Visitation Center; these are all components of the Superior Court in terms of Domestic Violence. Tell me what those mean.

JOSE LOPEZ: The supervised Visitation Center is using those cases where parties share children and the victim would not feel safe having the respondent, the abuser come into their presence, either pick up the children at their home or a mutually agreed location. So the court provides a neutral location where the victim can drop off the children. The respondent can come by and see the children in the presence of a social worker for a few hours a week so that relationship between the child and the other parent continues or in cases where maybe it is not necessary to keep that parent from keeping the child with them. They can take the child but they can use that location for pick up and drop off of those children.

LEONARD SIPES: Alright and what is the other program the Crime Victims Compensation Program. There is the possibility that because they are a victim of a violent crime they can be compensated for some of the expenses they had going into that victimization correct?

JOSE LOPEZ: Often you have a victim of domestic violence by leaving a relationship they are going to leave behind their positions and their resources and other times there is also concern that the respondent is going to come back to the location where they know where they can be found. The Crime Victims Compensation program can provide temporary housing at locations that are confidential. The can provide assistance with medical expenses. They can provide assistance with counseling for the victim. They can also help with getting yourself set up in a new place eventually after you have gone through this process and for those that want to remain at their own home they may be able to help you, for example the door was broken down by the respondent. They may be able to replace that door; to make sure that you place is secure.

LEONARD SIPES: I realize that I may have over played my hand in terms of my praise of the Superior Courts Program because there are going to be people listening to this program throughout the United States and beyond the United States. These services in one way shape or form are available throughout the United States generally speaking, so I do the message to domestic violence victims in Utah, in Montana, in California is to still find out what is available to you by contacting your prosecutors office, contacting law enforcement or contacting your local domestic violence center. Natalia saying all that what is the biggest hurdle for getting victims to come forward and seek help.

NATALIA OTERO: Wow, I think obviously every case is different and I think both the Judge Lopez and William can vouch for the fact that they can be radically different because things might be going on. I think the biggest hurdle really is information and I really think coordination of services. We find that when the victim is provided immediate tangible assistance within the first 24 hours they are more likely to move forward with criminal cases. They are more likely to move forward with the protection order hearing because at least within those first 24 hours those tangible needs about shelter and safety are being met.

LEONARD SIPES: By, I’m sorry go ahead please.

NATALIA OTERO: I think the next big hurdle is then kind of thinking about how do I get myself in a stable situation in the aftermath of this. What does that mean for me? Am I now being connected to other agencies in the City like the Department of Housing or am I having, you know there is a lot of things that go into becoming stable and there is so many different government entities that are sometimes involved in this.

LEONARD SIPES: But the bottom line is a lot of people out there take a look at those of us in government and they don’t have the highest opinion of us. I have taken a look at some of the surveys and I think the point is, is that I think especially when it comes to victim services, especially when it comes to victim services, especially when it comes to domestic violence but in all other cases I would say but especially in these two cases we do care. There are people within DCC. There are people at the highest level within the Superior Courts. There are people at the highest level throughout this country who want women and those men who are victims but particularly women especially with children to come forward and they are going to receive a caring response, not a bureaucratic response, not a harsh response but they are going to be embraced by the Criminal Justice System. Judge Lopez.

JOSE LOPEZ: Oh yes and one of the things that we try very hard is training our judges, training our staff to understand it. To understand when an angry person comes to you don’t let it be contagious because they are not angry at you they are angry at their situation and we are prepared to deal with it and work with them and show them that we care.

LEONARD SIPES: Natalia we have got only about a minute left in the program. Again I would imagine the people there at DC Safe are not there to get rich, they are there because they are passionate about serving victims of domestic violence and victims of crime.

NATALIA OTERO: Yes that is correct. We are a non-profit agency and we have over 25 employees that are very committed to the work all from different fields, from law to criminal justice, to women studies and I think the most important thing that we are trying to accomplish really is to be able to create kind of an all encompassing safety net for victims and creating a situation where when a victim does reach out that they get the assistance that they need the first time around and that it is something that is coordinated and responsive to not only the needs of herself and the children but also the friend or accountability on the other piece and it takes an entire system of people and an entire continuum to be able to provide these services.

LEONARD SIPES: Okay Natalia you have got the final word. I think the bottom line between everybody in this room and you via Skype Natalia is that there is hope for that person who is being abused and the criminal justice system is really geared up to help that individual. So I want to thank everybody who has been on our microphones today, Judge Jose Lopez, William Agosto and Natalia Otero. Thank you all for being here ladies and gentlemen thank you for listening to us. This is DC Public Safety we want everybody to have themselves a very pleasant day.

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The Challenges of Justice Reinvestment-William Burrell

The Challenges of Justice Reinvestment-William Burrell

DC Public Safety Radio

http://media.csosa.gov

Radio show at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2014/08/challenges-justice-reinvestment-william-burrell/

LEONARD SIPES: From the nation’s capital this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host Leonard Sipes. Back at our microphones, ladies and gentlemen, Bill Burrell. Bill is an independent corrections management consultant and author of a book that I find very interesting. He can be reached at william.burrell, B-U-R-R-E-L-L, at comcast.net. The topic of today’s program is the challenge of justice reinvestment; what’s happening in parole and probation throughout the United States in terms of new ways of doing things, new ways of coping with the criminal justice system. Bill, welcome back to DC Public Safety.

BILL BURRELL: Thank you, Len. It’s great to be with you.

LEONARD SIPES: Bill, before we started the program we were talking about the corollary of mental health back in the 60s and 70s. We did have a massive undertaking throughout the country, where we sort of recognized that these large mental hospitals in virtually every state in the Unites States, and it probably was not a good idea to keep mentally incapacitated people in these large hospitals, these large structures. They probably could be a better treated, better dealt with out in the community. Yet we never did develop the community infrastructure to handle all those people coming out of all of those state mental hospitals and the disparaging fact is that it now seems that the criminal justice system is the principal provider of mental health treatment. Comment on that. Am I right or wrong?

BILL BURRELL: Yes. You’re right on the money there, Len. The idea was a good one. You think about those hospitals. You think about the movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. They were pretty horrible places. And once these new psychotropic drugs were developed back in the 50s and 60s they were able to stabilize the symptoms and consider the release of these to the community, which made a whole lot of sense, it’s a lot cheaper, much more humane, and more effective. But, as you mentioned, the community infrastructure, the group homes, residential facilities to house these folks in the community were never built. So we ended up with a good idea that went pretty horribly wrong. And now some 20, 30 years later we’re looking at the jails and prisons being populated largely by some of the socially released with mental problems.

LEONARD SIPES: But what we’re talking about here is that we had a great idea and we implemented it and they went into the community. Without community infrastructure to take care of the mentally ill they end up with us in the criminal justice system. And there’s a lot of people out there who would say that somehow, someway there became a big difference between what was conceptualized and what actually happened.

BILL BURRELL: Well, that’s exactly the problem. We had a great idea, but it was implemented poorly, and that seems to be a very common story in the criminal justice system and maybe in government in general, that a good idea is developed, researchers come up with it, they test it, they evaluate it, and they put it out there, and then once it’s turned over to folks in agencies, for a variety of reasons, some of which relates to the fact that folks are really not trained in large scale organizational change and implementation, the execution of a good idea is flawed and the results that we expected don’t happen, because we really didn’t do the program as it was designed. And that was the lesson I guess we have to learn from the institutionalization of the mentally ill. It was one of the stools on the, one of the legs on the stool, so to speak, was the capacity in the community to have, supervise, and oversee the people released, and that never was completed, and we lost those folks in the community, in the boarding houses and the single room occupancy hotels in cities and they just disappeared.

LEONARD SIPES: Now, our program is called today the Challenges of Justice Reinvestment: The Impact on Parole and Probation because we see the possibility of a connection between that experience, the idea in terms of the institutionalization, dealing with mentally ill, the fact that there was not a sufficient infrastructure created to deal with all these people coming out. So we’re saying today that there’s the possibility that with justice reinvestment or reorganizing the way that we conduct business within the criminal justice system in terms of evidence based practices, in terms, again, of justice reinvestment, that there’s the possibility that the same thing may happen with parole and probation agencies that are not given sufficient staffing, money, resources, to deal with an increasing parole and probation population. Is that the connection?

BILL BURRELL: Yeah. That’s kind of the nub of the problem. Again, we have a situation with our prisons in the United States, they’re massively overcrowded, they’re not good places to house people with addiction problems, lack of education, and a whole variety of other problems. So the justice reinvestment model is saying we need to reduce those prison populations, get people out or don’t send them in, in the first place who are lower risk, nonviolent, less serious offenders, and handle them in a different way, thereby reducing prison populations, and if you can reduce those by enough you can actually close institutions and save money. And the second part of that logic is that a portion of that money would be reallocated or reinvested in community corrections to build the capacity to handle these folks. Now, and that’s a great idea, and where it has happened it has worked pretty well, if we look at the state of Texas and their experience. But part of the challenge is that the probation and parole system in this country is so overwhelmed. We have 70% of the correctional, adult correctional population is under the supervision of probation and parole, which surprises some people though, because they think we’ve locked everybody up over the last 30 years. Well, we have, but we’ve also put a lot more people under community control on probation and parole.

LEONARD SIPES: I think in the seven million, the correctional population between prisons and jails, it’s two million in community supervision, it’s five million. Am I in the ballpark?

BILL BURRELL: That’s right. And what’s interesting is if you look at the historical numbers, you go back to the early 1980s when the Bureau of Justice Statistics starting reporting on probation on parole populations, we have had 70% of the population ever since that time. So it’s been consistent over decades. When you look at the impact of the war on drugs in the 80s probation actually absorbed a greater amount of the results of that war on drugs than did the prison system. So we are, in my experience, when I was with probation in New Jersey, our individual caseloads went from 110 per officer in 1981 to 189 per officer in 1988, which was directly the result of changes in our laws and enforcement practices around drugs. So we have to remember that the base that we’re looking to focus on for these justice reinvestment efforts is pretty resource poor, pretty lacking the capacity to really do the work for the population they have right now, not to mention any increased number of people coming in. And one of the challenges is when you look at diverting people out of prison these could be higher risk people with more needs and problems and demands on a system. It is currently unable to really effectively address the population that it has.

LEONARD SIPES: Now, we at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency here in Washington DC we do have caseloads of 50 or less per parole and probation agent, what we call community supervision officers. But my experience in talking to people from throughout the country, as a result of the radio and television shows that we’ve done and when I go out and do training, it’s no usual they tell for there to be a ratio of 150 or more for every parole and probation agent out there. Now, I do know there are some jurisdictions where it is fairly close to 50 to 1, but my guess, and this is nothing more than a guess, is that the overwhelming majority of the people that I talk to that’s not their experience, the overwhelming majority of the people that I talk to are operating 125, 150 cases per parole and probation agent or more. So when you have caseloads of that size it’s awfully hard to do cognitive behavioral therapy, it’s awfully hard to really get into the lives of these individuals, encourage them to do better, encourage them to look at a different way of doing things, encouraging them to get drug treatment, mental health treatment, vocational programs, encourage them to find jobs and help them find jobs to do the home visits. All of these things are very labor-intensive and very difficult to do when you have caseloads of 150 to 1.

BILL BURRELL: Yeah. Well, you said it very well and my experience echoes yours. When I go to the American Probation and Parole Association conferences twice a year and other conferences and through my consulting and work with APPA I talk to a lot of folks around the country. And the ideal caseload or the optimal caseload of 50 to 1 is a very rare occurrence, unfortunately. And we do see lots of departments, particularly where you have states with county-based probation departments, these caseloads tend to be much higher than recommended, in some cases, as you said, 150 or more. And it’s hard to even keep track of the activities of those folks, no less spend the quality time you need to with them to get to know them, get to know their problems, connect them with resources, follow up, and so on. It’s just it can’t be done with those large caseloads.

LEONARD SIPES: All right, I’m hearing the same thing. When I do the radio shows I would imagine the most popular response to the radio shows is, “Len, I listen to you talk about justice reinvestment, I listen to you talk about evidence-based practices, I’m 100% behind you. That’s what we’re trying to do. That’s what we want to do. We want to have a good relationship with the people under supervision. We want to encourage them to do better. We want to get them involved in programs. We want to work with their families. We want to work with the faith based community. We want to do all of these things. We simply don’t have the resources to do them.” So if that’s true, why is there such a disconnect between the lofty sense of what I hear from my very good friends at the Department of Justice or Pew or Urban or Vera or lots of other organizations, American Probation and Parole Association, Council of State Governments, all of us are solidly behind justice reinvestment, all of us are solidly behind evidence-based practices, so why is there such a disconnect between what all of us want and what the reality is?

BILL BURRELL: Well, that’s probably the 64,000 dollar question. I think some of it has to do with a disconnect between community corrections and policymakers, legislators, governors, officers and so on. We’re kind of a stepchild of the justice system, despite the fact that we own 70% of the workload. You don’t, you can’t go to a probation department and see caseload crowding like you can go to a prison or jail and look at the tiers and see people crowded, double, triple bunked and things like that. We tend to be seen as a, what I would say, a magical expanding resource, that more cases you give us we just expand and we take them in. Well, we put them on the books, but we really are not capable of keeping up with the workload demands. So as you add more bodies to this system the amount of time spent with each one goes down, the quality of that time generally goes down. So you’re diminishing the capacity of the system to do what it needs to do, but it’s very hard to see that physically. And we also don’t do a very good job as a field in terms of communicating performance information, outcomes, results, process measures and so on. We don’t really do a very good job of that.

So it’s hard to convince people of the nature of our problem and the extents of our problem, because we tend to be out of sight, out of mind, we don’t communicate well, we tend to in the field have a sense that we don’t have political and public support for the work that we do. And, fortunately, the research and the polling work that I’ve seen suggests exactly the opposite, that we do things that are valued by the community, and I think that is becoming more and more clear over the last few years, that we create public value for the community and we need to connect that value to the need for support, political support, community support, resource support and so on, to make that case that we do need the resources. We can do a lot better if we’ve got the capacity, the number of officers and staff we need to supervise in cases, and what I also like to say is the capability, the skills, the knowledge, the training, the resources for treatment and so on that will enable to effectively supervise those folks that we’ve already got in our caseloads. And if you want to do justice reinvestment, which everybody seems to be on board with, I just was reading that I think the 27th state just signed up for it, Utah, so better than half the country has signed onto this. And we need to figure out a way to communicate that we could be creating another deinstitutionalization type of situation if we begin pushing people out of prisons and jails into probation and parole caseloads without the capacity to provide effective supervision.

LEONARD SIPES: And what would that do, Bill? Before the program we were talking about the danger of what?

BILL BURRELL: Well, if you put more people and potentially higher risk people into probation caseloads the amount and the quality of supervision is going to decline and the inevitable result of that will be more crime in the community committed by people under the supervision of probation and parole officers. And what keeps me up at night is that the blame will then be placed on the probation and parole agencies, “Well, you didn’t supervise these people effectively.” Well, part of the problem is we have a caseload of 150 and no one, I don’t care who you are, can supervise that size caseload effectively.

LEONARD SIPES: Our guest –

BILL BURRELL: So this…. Go ahead.

LEONARD SIPES: Let me reintroduce you, Bill. We’re more than halfway through the program. Our guest today is Bill Burrell. He’s been at our microphones multiple times before. He’s an independent corrections management consultant and author of a pretty interesting book. – oh, I’m sorry at william.burrell, B-U-R-R-E-L-L at comcast.net, william.B-U-R-R-E-L-L at comcast.net. Bill, you’ve been dealing with parole and probation agencies throughout the country in terms of your consultant role. You spent years with the New Jersey I think Department of Parole and Probation, is that correct?

BILL BURRELL: The Jersey court system, yeah, probation.

LEONARD SIPES: The Jersey court system, probation. So you have decades of experience in this, you’re out and about, you talk to people from throughout the country, you’re very well integrated with our friends at the American Probation and Parole Association, you go to their conferences, so you’re hearing this from more than a couple people.

BILL BURRELL: Yes, yes. And then this is kind of the theme I hear from almost everybody. There’s a frustration because they’ve read about and been trained on evidence-based practices, which is a pretty powerful vehicle for improving the results of what we do, but then they look at the, their organization, their department, and they look at their caseloads and they look at their lack of training resources and so on and they say, “We can’t do it. We don’t have the ability to move up to this new level of performance that we believe in, we think it’s a good idea, we’d like to do.” But it’s the ability to implement EBP, which is a much abused term these days, I think people throw it around very loosely, but really we’re talking about a set of practices that if they are implemented will reduce the risk of recidivism by the population that we supervise, reliably anywhere between 10% to 15%, 20% reductions in recidivism, which is significant. So people are looking at that and saying, “Gee, we’d like to be able to that, we would like to do our job better, we just don’t see how we can do it.”

And some of that relates to another issue that really hasn’t hit the radar screen of too many people yet. We’ve talked a lot about mass incarceration in this country. Some people are now starting to talk about mass supervision, those five million people that are under probation and parole supervision, how many of them really need to be on probation? Are there low-risk offenders there? Are there minor drug offenders? Are there people – there’re lots of people in my experience that’ll get placed on probation just to enable the court to collect fines and restitution fees and so on. So how much of that five million people is the chaff, so to speak, of the caseload that could be handled in some other fashion?

LEONARD SIPES: But I think that’s the point that most of the folks, again, that I just mentioned, from Pew, from Urban, and, again, are good friends and people who were completely supportive of, from Department of Justice and from other organizations will simply say you take those lower level individuals and you do, quote, unquote, “something else with them”. Their supervised by kiosks, they’re supervised administratively, that we have little contact with people at the lower end of the spectrum so we have the resources to devote towards people who do pose a clear and present danger or a risk to public safety. And you do that through objective risk and needs instruments and properly validated for local conditions and there you go, voila, the problem is solved.

BILL BURRELL: Yeah. In fact, Vince Schiraldi, who was the Commissioner of Probation in New York City up until recently, and Mike Jacobson, who you may have encountered, who was also the Commissioner of Probation for a while, they just wrote a piece called “Could Less Be More When it Comes to Probation Supervision?”, and talking about reducing the amount of people, low-risk people on supervision, and those that are there, reducing the amount of resources that they devote to them. And New York was one of the, I think the first, or the most prominent department to do kiosk supervision. And they had at one point almost two thirds of their population was reporting on kiosks and the re-arrest rate was like 1.5%. It was no different than the general citywide re-arrest rate. So we have lots of folks that did stupid things, were in the wrong place at the wrong time, whatever the scenario you want to present, are really not a risk. These are people that we should have the minimum amount to do with, collect whatever financial obligations we want from them, or whatever else we need to do, and then get them out of the system as quickly as possible, because we’re learning that we can actually make things worse by supervising those people, having them hang out with high-risk offenders in the waiting room in the probation department. Well, guess what. It’s usually the bad guys who make the good guys bad, not the other way around.

LEONARD SIPES: Well, we’re also told that trying to help individuals at the lower end of the continuum also poses a problem, because if you have a person who is a lower risk offender, the judge orders drug treatment for that individual, well, that’s just money that’s taken up that could be reallocated towards a higher risk individual. And if he or she doesn’t complete that treatment or they’re going half the time or they’re creating a problem within the group, bam, they’re revoked and out in a prison.

BILL BURRELL: Yeah. And we have lots of places where judges and prosecutors almost reflexively give probation, and they put on lots of conditions, special conditions of supervision, most of which they have no intention of enforcing, but it makes them feel good, makes them feel like we’re being tough on crime. Well, you got to realize that every one of those people you place on probation has a set of conditions that a probation has to enforce, and, ultimately, they can be brought back into court for failure to do that, to live up to those conditions, and potentially go to jail.

LEONARD SIPES: But help me, because I’m struggling with this, because if we did that then are the folks who at the national level are right? What they’re saying is, is that take that good percentage of your caseload – you just said that two thirds of the probation caseload in New York City was being supervised by kiosk and they had the same re-arrest rate as the general population. Then the question now becomes, is why aren’t we taking that I don’t know what percentage, two third, one third, one half, whatever that is of the lower risk offenders and doing something else with them besides regular and parole, then why aren’t we doing that? That’s what the people at the national level would say. It’s that it’s not a capacity issue; it’s the lack of a willingness on our part to do, quote, unquote, “something else with lower level offenders”.

BILL BURRELL: Well, that’s the I think the new breaking issue right now is focusing on the sentencing decision and the plea bargaining decision and introducing risk assessment into that. And there were just a series of things in the paper; Attorney General Holder came out apparently against using risk assessment in sentencing, which is kind of going against the tide of where the field seems to be going in terms of evidence-based decision-making. But the sentencing decision usually focuses on the seriousness of the crime and the extent of the offender’s prior involvement, prior record, and that’s pretty much it. And that really doesn’t get to the question of risk. To some extent prior record is a driver of risk, but there’re a lot of other factors that are involved. So we have people sentencing offenders for lots of reasons that have little or nothing to do with their risk of reoffending. Now, there may be other objectives of sentencing you want to accomplish, deterrents and punishment and so on, and we have to accomplish, accommodate those. But until we can figure out a way to help judges and defense attorneys and public defenders and DAs get a sense of the level of risk and sentence accordingly, we’re not going to get a reduction in the number of low-risk offenders that are going into probation.

LEONARD SIPES: But they could say the onus is on us. They could say that, “Okay, fine. We imposed all these restrictions. You do with them what you think is permissible.” Again, going back to the example of New York City probation where two thirds are in kiosks. They’re simply going to say, “Hey. We did what we think is proper, now you make the decision in terms of how you handle them.” And all we have to do is shift massive amounts of people into these lower level categories and suddenly we have the resources for the higher level people. What they’re going to say is that’s our job not theirs.

BILL BURRELL: Well, yes, there’s a good deal of truth to that, but one of the problems we see is judges will impose a probation sentence, sometimes three, four, five years, with lots of conditions, and send it over to probation, and probation is obligated to enforce those conditions, and sometimes that’s not possible by putting them on a kiosk kind of reporting. So some of this has to do with the use of probation in terms of the length of time, the number of conditions, even beyond the question of whether they should be on probation at all, because each one of those cases consumes probation resources.

LEONARD SIPES: Sure.

BILL BURRELL: I had a discussion with one of our judges in New Jersey years ago and his favorite sentence was to put somebody on probation until the restitution is collected. So all he wanted was the money. He wanted to get the money to the victim of the crime.

LEONARD SIPES: Right.

BILL BURRELL: He really didn’t want the person being supervised by a probation officer.

LEONARD SIPES: Right.

BILL BURRELL: But I, and I suggested to him there was another mechanism in our criminal code that enabled us in probation to collect that money for him and hold that person accountable without me having to devote a professional probation officer to that case. He said, “Gee, I had no idea.” Well, so shame on me too, you know, that we weren’t really educating folks about the implications of those probation sentences and then also that there were other mechanisms within the criminal code to accomplish the objective that he was looking to accomplish.

LEONARD SIPES: So in the final four minutes, basically what you’re saying, Bill, is that we, within the criminal justice system throughout the country, need to have a very powerful examination as to how we conduct business, how we do what we do, and if we’re unwilling to do something else with lower level individuals then at least give us the resources, the caseloads, the treatment resources, the training, the money to do it well.

BILL BURRELL: Yes. But I would first argue that we need to look at the front end of the system, the whole criminal processing up to the point of sentencing, diversion of low-risk offenders, presentencing into treatment programs if they need them, really begin to sort through that pile of offenders coming into the system and figure out who’s really dangerous, who are we really scared of, who really needs to be punished by going to prison, who are those people with serious problems that need to be supervised by probation officers to get them into treatment and so on. And that group that I call the chaff, the low-risk, minor offenders that we’re just mad at, we’re not scared of, we’re just mad at them, let’s not push them father into the system. Let’s find other ways of dealing with them in the community so that the caseload of a probation department is really moderate and high-risk people. The low-risk people for the most part never get there.

And that means a much more systematic, disciplined sorting process in the presentencing arena so that we’ve taken them out as much as we can so that what we’re left with is the people who really do need supervision. And then when you begin to think about the justice reinvestment side of things, because you go back a couple years, the Pew Public Safety Performance Project published a report, it talked about the amount of money, how the corrections dollar is allocated, and 12% of the corrections dollar was going to probation and parole, even though we have 70% of the population. Most expensive parole supervision was 7,000 dollars a year. And the average prison

BILL BURRELL: Prison cost –

LEONARD SIPES: Yeah.

BILL BURRELL: Was six or seven times that. I said, “I don’t –”

LEONARD SIPES: Yes.

BILL BURRELL: “I don’t even want all of that difference. Just give me, just double what I’m getting and I could do amazing things.”

LEONARD SIPES: The bottom line between it, the bottom line is that our people within parole and probation throughout the country want to do a good job, they’re dedicated to what they’re doing, they’re very important to our public safety, they’re very important to limiting the expenditures of tax paid dollars, they’re dedicated to justice reinvestment, they’re dedicated to evidence-based practices, they simply want a decent shot of doing that job well. That’s the bottom line, correct?

BILL BURRELL: Absolutely. You don’t stay in the field of probation and parole for very long if you’re not interested in helping people. And what we’ve found out from the research on burnout, for example, is that it’s not working with the offenders that burns out probation and parole officers; it’s impossible policies and procedures and organizational structures, which includes very large caseloads, that effectively prohibit them from doing the job that they came in to do.

LEONARD SIPES: Bill, it’s a fascinating conversation. As always, I invite you back to the microphones any time, because you provide a sense of clarity from the field that sometimes we don’t hear from the national organizations. Ladies and gentlemen, our guest today has been Bill Burrell, independent corrections management consultant and author. You can reach at William, W-I-L-L-I-A-M.B-U-R-R-E-L-L at comcast.net. Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. We appreciate your comments, we even appreciate your criticisms, and we want everybody to have themselves a very, very pleasant day.

 

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