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Women Offenders

DC Public Safety Radio

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Leonard: From the nation’s capital, this is D.C. Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. Back at our microphone is Marcia Davis, supervisory community supervision officer, talking about women offenders. My agency, our agency, the court services and offender supervision agency reorganized around women offenders a couple years ago. We want to talk about that and talk about upcoming events, Marcia Davis, welcome back to D.C. Public Safety.

Marcia: Thank you, Leonard.

Leonard: Marcia, you’re a veteran of these radio shows. You pretty much know what to do. We’re going to be talking about women under supervision, talking about their social characteristics. First of all, in terms of some stats, we have close to 2,000 women under our supervision services, correct?

Marcia: Yes, Leonard. We currently have 1,963 women on supervision which is about 15.5 percent of our population.

Leonard: We did reorganize around women offenders a couple years ago. We have a lot of really interesting programs that focus on the needs of women, correct?

Marcia: Yes.

Leonard: Before getting into that, I do want to remind everybody that the purpose of this program today is to support an event on Saturday, February 14th from 8:30 in the morning to 3:00 in the afternoon at the Temple of Praise, 700 Southern Avenue SE, Washington, D.C. where we will have a daylong exhibition of services and issues and support services for our women under supervision. It’s one of the most extraordinarily interesting things that I’ve ever seen in my 45 years within the criminal justice system. We do want to talk about that in a while.

First, let’s get back over to what we do in terms of the reorganization. I mean, we have a re-entry and sanction center which is, I don’t know of any other parole and probation agency in the country that operate as a center. It’s huge. We have an entire floor for women. We have developed gender-specific teams for women because we recognize that women need to be supervised/assisted in ways different from men. We have, now, a day reporting center which I think is really unique where it’s just a women’s day reporting center. We have WICA, Women in Control Again, that program. We have expanded that. We have done a lot of things in between all of that. Marcia, where do you want to begin in terms of talking about the reorganization of our agency around women offenders?

Marcia: What our agency did was, they went back and they looked at the research. What the research shows is that when women are on supervision, if you want your women to be successful, it’s important that you create programs that are gender-specific to deal with the issues relative to your females.

Leonard: Is it a given that that women offenders are different from men?

Marcia: The issues that women face are different from men. When we look at the profile for the female offender, a lot of our women, victims of childhood sexual abuse, they have low education, they’re homeless, they have low employment. Due to that victimization from their childhood, a lot of them as adults are still involved in toxic relationships, their children have been removed, they carry a lot of guilt and shame. These are issues that most of our men don’t face.

Leonard: We know that women do better under these circumstances when it’s a gender-specific program than when it’s not a gender-specific program. I think it’s safe to say … I’m not quite sure if it’s safe to say. I’ve been told that most parole and probation agencies throughout the country have not gone to a gender-specific program. We, at the court services and offender supervision agency, have. That makes all the difference in the world, correct?

Marcia: Right. The reason we have done that is because CSOSA is evidence-based. We are an agency that uses evidence-base …

Leonard: Practices.

Marcia: Right. Practices.

Leonard: The best research. The best research that unless you break it down to services specifically designed for women, the women aren’t going to be that successful. If you do that, they’re going to be more successful.

Marcia: Right. We are seeing the success with the women that we are supervising now. We are seeing the successful outcomes.

Leonard: It’s really amazing to be that we haven’t done this decades ago. I mean, every state in the country is talking about how many people are in their prison system, how difficult it is, how much it cost. If we can stabilize individuals in the community and give them the services; the mental health substance abuse, the group services, you reunite them with their kids, find housing. If we can do all that, we can reduce the load on the prison system throughout the country, plus, make safer communities.

Marcia: That’s one thing. When we look at the prison system, we can see that the population of our female offenders is growing. When you look at the prison system, the research shows that in the year 2000, the female general population had the fastest growing rate in the correctional institution. The annual rate for females, it was an increase of 3.4 percent.

Leonard: I think it was 2010 data that you’re referring to. That’s fairly a recent data. It’s the fastest growing correctional population, what they were talking about that percentage of the jail population. More and more women are coming into the criminal justice system and that can be addressed by giving them the services they need while on community supervision.

Marcia: Right. To avoid going to the prison system.

Leonard: Tell me if I’m right or wrong, we’re taking a look at national data now. Women have higher rate of substance abuse, higher rates of mental health problems, and profoundly higher rates of being sexually victimized, particularly, when they were children. The women that we have to deal with, they come out of the prison system where they’re on probation and they have to deal with all of these issues. The fact that they don’t have, in most cases, a good work history. In most cases, they don’t have a GED or a high school diploma. They’ve been battered, they’ve been beaten, they’ve been bruised by life and by those around them. Considering that most of them have children and we have a general stat that says it’s 63 percent of the people that we have under supervision, our parents, but I think that figure would be much higher for just the women population, how did they possibly succeed if they have all that to deal with when they come out of the prison system, when they come out of jail or we get them on probation. When they’ve got all that against them, how can they possibly succeed?

Marcia: Tackling those issues one at a time. In the gender-specific unit, we have programs to address all of those factors. We have programs. We have the Women in Control Again program. That’s a program that deals with women who are early in recovery. In that program, they look at things such as the self, where you’re looking at your family history, you’re starting to look at the trauma that the women have suffered. We also talk about relationships in that program. They can look at the relationships that women have with their families, the relationships that they’ve had with their partners. We look at sexuality and we talk about spirituality. Also involved with the WICA program, we’ve added a new group which is a trauma group to address some of that past and present victimization that our women deal with.

We have a daily reporting center where we have a group called, thinking for a change which deals with anti-social behavior and it deals with anti-social thinking. We have a vocational and educational program where we can refer them for an assessment and for job placement assistance. Also, where they can go back to school and they can work on getting their GED or their high school diploma. We have substance abuse treatment. We can refer them to our re-entry sanction center, where we talked about earlier, where we have a floor that is dedicated to our females. At the re-entry sanction center, our population, they can get a thorough treatment assessment and they come out with a treatment plan for a continuum of care.

Leonard: That’s a lot of services that most parole and probation agencies do not have. Now, let me ask you this. Years ago, I ran a group for males. Men caught up in criminal justice system and the Maryland prison system. I’ve sat it on groups for men in our agency and I’ve sat in with the groups for women within our agency. The women’s groups are profound. I’ve never experienced anything like it in my life. This is why I always like to talk to women under supervision that come from these groups on this radio show which we’ve done about, maybe, up to 10 times. They are profoundly honest at a certain point. Once they set me into the group and once I listened to their interactions with each other, they are profoundly, brutally honest. To sit there amongst these 15, 20 women listening to them talk to each other about their lives and about what’s going on is just the experience of a lifetime. Tell me about the group interaction.

Marcia: That was another reason why we needed to have the gender-specific groups. Because in the past, we have the co-ed groups where the women were mixed with the men. If you was to sit in that group, you would notice that the women would sit quietly. It would be a totally different group. In the gender-specific group, the first thing we let the women know that this is a safe environment where you can share. One of the main rules is that, what is said in the group stays in the group. We make it a point that anything that’s said in the group has to remain in this room and it cannot leave the room, so that they can feel safe enough to share those past stories.

Leonard: Those past stories are brutal. To sit there and one woman, basically, is struggling with getting to her appointments on time. You hear the other women basically saying, “I don’t want to hear that. This is your shot. This is your one shot to get clean, to get right, to get your children back. You can’t come in here and tell us about how difficult it was for you to make your appointments.” I thought that that was amazing.

Marcia: Although it’s a lot being said in the group, it’s also a lot of strength in the group. The women can see the resiliency from the other women. They can see, “Well, wait a minute. If she has this tragic story to share and she’s making it, hey, I can make it too. She said she was someone who share that, hey, I may have been molested, I may have been sexually abused, I may have been physically abused when I was 8 or 10, but I’m putting all that stuff in the past and I’m going to continue on. I’m not going to let that hold me back anymore. I want to get my kids back. I want to get a job. I want to get my education. I want to get a home. I want to complete supervision successfully.” That strength, it helps the other women and then they build off for that and they help each other.

Leonard: Critics of supervision, not necessarily within our agency but supervision across the board throughout the country basically say, “Look, Leonard, you’re asking way too much of individuals coming out on a criminal justice system.” I mean, here, we’re asking them to deal with substance abuse, we’re asking them to deal with mental health, we’re asking them to deal with their profound histories of abuse, we’re asking them to reunite with their children, we’re asking them to find housing, we’re asking them to find employment. We’re asking it awful lot and the new people who come into the group are saying, “There’s no way I can do this,” and then they’re sitting with their counterparts who have experienced all of that themselves and they’re doing it. They sit there and watch a new person watch everybody else. You can see the spark going off in their head saying, “Well, she is no different from I am and she is doing it. Why can’t I do it?”

Marcia: They know each other from the communities. D.C. is a small area. Some know each other from the community. They have seen the struggle that some of the other participants have been through. To see them go through that transformation and to see the new person, that gives them hope to know that they can do it too.

Leonard: Most of the women that I’ve encountered in the system, tell me if I’m right or wrong, are not necessarily coming from backgrounds of violence. A lot of it is drugs, a lot of it is theft, a lot of it is prostitution, a lot of it is creating some sort of disturbance in the community. Am I right or wrong about that?

Marcia: You’re right about that. A lot of that comes from the victimization. The past victimization that was never dealt with.

Leonard: When I flip that switch in saying, a lot of it is dealing with the men who were in their lives. When I was with the Maryland correctional system, how many women did I talk to who, basically, were in there for fairly long stretch is, under the premise that this guy says, “If you don’t take these drugs down Interstate 95, I’m going to hurt you. I’m going to hurt your children.” If I’m being stereotypical or if I’m wrong, tell me. A lot of this is due to the dysfunctional men that they keep in their lives because of their background. Am I right?

Marcia: Right. That’s the continuation of the victimization. They’re continuing in these toxic relationships.

Leonard: If they got those services that were necessary, and I always ask you and whoever else I’m dealing with and in the women under supervision themselves, what percentage of women would not go back to the correctional system if these services were offered not just in Washington, D.C. but throughout the country. What’s your percentage; the most of them would succeed, 40 percent, 30 percent?

Marcia: I would say, maybe, 40 percent. That would be 40 percent.

Leonard: Yeah. That 40 percent would not go back. We have a national recidivism rate in this country of about 50 percent. You’re talking about 40 percent not going back. That’s a huge difference. In essence, we can do a much better job if we put those services on the table. That’s the bottom line, correct?

Marcia: Yes. That’s the bottom line.

Leonard: I do want to talk more about under the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency but we’re more than halfway through the program. I want to reintroduce our guest today, Marcia Davis, supervisory community supervision officer with our agency, my agency, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, is our website. On there, you will find the information about an event coming up February 14, 2015 at the Temple of Praise where we do a women’s re-entry symposium with the theme, Family Supporting Supervision Success. It is an extraordinary event. The public is welcome. If you have an interest in this issue, we encourage your involvement. Also, we want to talk about our city-wide re-entry assembly where we celebrate the success of our faith-base mentors and that’s Thursday, February 19, 2015 at a brand new location, The Kellogg Conference Center at Gallaudet University, 800 Florida Avenue NE, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Again, you can find out information about all of this on our website,

Marcia, we have gender-specific teams, we have the day reporting center. How important was that day reporting center?

Marcia: The day reporting center is very important because this provides the outlet for our women during the day. We have programming through the day reporting center from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. It takes out a large chunk of the day for our female offenders. It gives them somewhere that they can go. They can be safe, they can discuss their issues, they can get the services that they need. Throughout the reporting center, we provide vocational services where they can go for their GED assessment, they can go for job placement assistance. We have Thinking for a Change program. That’s the program that deals with anti-social behavior and anti-social thinking. We have a relationship group in the program …

Leonard: That’s important.

Marcia: … to help women who are involved in those toxic relationships. Our DRC coordinator, Ms. [Copeland 16:48], also will make referrals to our victim services program which is another important initiative that we’ve added. The victim services program helps victims of the domestic violence, get the assistance they need if they need to get civil protection orders or if they need to get housed and they will assist them through that process. Through the daily reporting center, we also provide tokens to our offenders. Those who are not financially able to get back and forth to the supervision office. One other important thing we do for our females is that we recognize them. Once a female completes any of our groups, we always hold a graduation so that we can recognize them for the positive steps that they’re making.

Leonard: Day reporting centers are there, traditionally, for those individuals who are unemployed and those individuals who are struggling. We provide them with structure and education throughout the course of the day. The interesting thing about what you’re saying is is that the day reporting center for women provides a sense of fellowship.

Marcia: Right. Daily programming. Yes.

Leonard: We run groups. Majority of the women that we have under supervision end up in groups, correct?

Marcia: Yes.

Leonard: They end up within a group structure. This is a continuation of that group structure. When I go to the day reporting center for men, I don’t see a lot of group interaction. Once again, in terms of the day reporting center for women under our agency, there is a lot of group interaction.

Marcia: Right. There not only group interaction, they also refer to a vocational development specialist. They may go to the vocational development specialist to complete the educational or the job placement assessment. It was not just groups. They may go there individually or they may be referred to our center intervention team for substance abuse assessment.

Leonard: When I ran group a lifetime ago, people coming into the system, they were what I said they had, a chip on their shoulder, the size of the State of Montana. They were very difficult to break through. A lot of women are very mistrusting of us in the criminal justice system. How do you break through that history? How do you break through that hard shell of it so many women under supervision bring to the table? How do you break through all of that to the point where you reach their sense of humanity to the point where they would open up and share what’s happening to them now and what happened to them in the past?

Marcia: One of the things the agency did was training. They’ve trained all of the staff on cognitive, behavioral interventions, and motivational interviewing. Part of it just listening to the offender to see what their goals are and what their needs are from their point of view. Sometimes, when you just listen to see what their concerns are, that’s a lot to break down the barriers.

Leonard: You’ve got to admit, I mean, they’re not the easiest folks in the world to deal with or they’re new into the group setting.

Marcia: For women, one of the main issues is that their voice there is not heard. Once you listen and start hearing, some of the things that they say, just for them knowing that, “Hey, this person is listening. Okay. Maybe some of the goals that I’m including is being included into my case plan.” Those are things that are concerning to them.

Leonard: I’ve seen women, the new ones, it’s like, “My God, you’re asking me to do what? You’re asking me to deal with mental health, my substance abuse, my background, all of that and then you want me to go out and find work and then work with me in terms of the reunification with my kids. That’s overwhelming.”

Marcia: Now, one of the first things we do when an individual comes to a supervision, we want to do risk and needs assessment which is a comprehensive assessment so that we can determine what their risk to the community is and what their needs are. From that, we develop a case plan. From the case plan, we say, “What things you need to accomplish while you’re on supervision?” We set the plan and set target dates. Everything is not due at the same time. We will set a schedule and set a target date working with the female and realizing, “She’s not going to be able to do everything at one time especially if it’s someone with mental health needs.”

Leonard: It’s still overwhelming. I mean, that list by itself even if you stretch it out is overwhelming.

Marcia: We’re right here to work with them and that’s the most important thing. Not only that, when they’re assigned to a call service agency, we work in partnership with the call service agency. It was all of us working together for the success of the female even sometimes with their families.

Leonard: Marcia, how long have been doing this?

Marcia: For 16 years.

Leonard: 16 years. Is it 16 years with the court services or 16 years dealing with women?

Marcia: 16 years with court services, dealing with both men and women. I’ve been dealing with women for the last 6 years.

Leonard: 6 years. Do you ever go home and yell at people or kick the dog? I mean, your job is difficult.

Marcia: Yes.

Leonard: You’re taking people who can be saved, who can lead a life where they’re tax payers and not tax burdens, where they’re parents and their kids aren’t elsewhere. That’s a huge task to break through that barrier and to find the services and to make that connection with women who have had pretty difficult backgrounds.

Marcia: It can be challenging at times. I come in everyday willing to give 115 percent. I have a good staff on my team. We have a good unit. I mean, I go home everyday. It’s challenging but I go home everyday and I go to bed. The next day, I’m up and I’m ready to do it all over again. I love my job and I love working with the women.

Leonard: It is hard for people who are listening to this program now to understand that within the criminal justice system, there just don’t seem to be an awful lot of successes and you can get burned out from doing this sort of a job. Most, if not all, of our staff that I’ve talked to are pretty enthusiastic about what it is that they do. When I walk in among these people under supervision and for them to smile at me, it’s just a real interesting experience. All right. Women in Control Again, that was a program that was put together by your predecessor, Dr. Willa Butler. It’s been expanded. One of the focuses here is on high risk individuals. Tell me about that.

Marcia: Women in Control Again is a program that was developed for females with co-occurring needs. Women in Control Again, it deals with high risk offenders who have substance abuse and mental health and is developed to help them make better decisions in the future. Under Women in Control Again, we have 3 groups. The first group deals with women in early recovery. The second group goes through the 12 steps, it goes to each one of the 12 steps, and the third group is our new piece which deals with trauma. From that group, we have a psychologist that comes in a clinical person. She comes in and she works with our females. At times, we can also get our females, if needed, individual counseling.

Leonard: One of the things I do want to point out that we reorganized around women, we reorganized around younger offenders and we reorganized around high risk offenders. Within that category of young and high risk in female, you can have cross over. That’s all part of the women’s program as well.

Marcia: Yes.

Leonard: The whole idea is to prioritize the people who are at greatest risk for reoffending and to make sure that they get the services that are necessary for them not to reoffend again. We take a look at our data and our data has improved in terms of recidivism, in terms of successful completion. Obviously, you all are doing the right things.

Marcia: Thank you.

Leonard: Tell me more about that. I mean, how does it feel to make that sort of a difference?

Marcia: It feels good. I mean, I know just as having a gender-specific unit, it really means a lot to our females. If you could just see their faces when we have the graduation ceremonies, even at our re-entry event, the upcoming event. At that event, we do a dress for success makeover to help prepare those females who are re-entering society, to help prepare them to return to the working world. Just doing that dress for success makeover to see the transformation for these women. We get clothes donated from organizations within the community. To see them go through this transformation, to get the business attire, to get the makeup, to get the shoes, and to do the fashion show, I mean, it’s really exciting.

Leonard: The bottom line behind all of this in terms of having a gender-specific program and having people specifically train to deliver that gender-specific program is that we can meaningfully intervene in the lives of the people under our supervision. We can end that whole sense of the never ending rate of recidivism, people in the system, out of the system, in the system, out of the system. We can really help people overcome all of that and we can really help people overcome some very serious problems.

Marcia: Right. At least to address some of the issues, some of the things that I’ve held back in the past such as the trauma, such as the unemployment, such as the low education and the substance abuse.

Leonard: As I have experienced, when you go in the groups or when you listen to women talk to each other about these issues, it is profoundly real or profoundly stark. When you interview women at these microphones, they are about as honest as honest can possibly be. I think the biggest difference between women and men is that women were more than willing to be honest.

Marcia: Yes. They are.

Leonard: More than willing to talk about the reality of what’s happened to them in their lives.

Marcia: Right. That’s only when they feel safe and comfortable.

Leonard: I want to remind everybody that we do have 2 events that are coming up. The women’s re-entry symposium 2015 with the theme, Family Supporting Supervision Services on Saturday February 14, 2015 from 8:30 to 3:00 in the afternoon. It’s going to be at the Temple of Praise, 700 Southern Avenue SE, Washington, D.C. Behind that, we have a city-wide re-entry assembly. That is where we celebrate the success of the mentors and mentees regarding our faith-base program. That’s going to be on Thursday, February 19, 2015 at the Kellogg Conference Center at Gallaudet University, 800 Florida Avenue NE from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. You can find information about all of this on our website, Our guest today has been Marcia Davis, supervisory community supervision officer dealing specifically with women offenders. Again, the website, We’ll list all of the changes and all of the upcoming events and we encourage your participation. We appreciate you listening and we want everybody to have themselves a very very pleasant day.


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Women Offenders/Women’s Symposium on February 14

Women Offenders/Women’s Symposium on February 14

DC Public Safety Radio

Podcast available at

LEONARD SIPES: From the Nation’s Capital, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host Leonard Sipes. Ladies and Gentlemen, today we’re going to have a heck of a program on women offenders. Back at our microphones, Dr. Willa Butler, Willa is a Program Director for New Day Transitional Home for Women and Children. Willa worked for us running groups for women caught up in the criminal justice system for decades, invented those groups. Also we have by our microphones, Kelai and that’s not  her real name but she’s a woman in recovery. She’s formally on probation and she was homeless during that time with children. She’s currently a case manager for New Day and also a behavioral health specialist working in Washington, D.C., working in mental health and substance abuse treatment. To both of you, welcome to DC Public Safety.

DR. WILLA BUTLER: Thank you.

KELAI: Thank you.

LEONARD SIPES: Willa, it’s great for you to be back. You’ve ran so many groups here for women involved in the criminal justice system. So give me a sense as to what it is you did for the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, my agency, your former agency and the New Day Transitional Home for Women and Children.

DR. WILLA BUTLER: Thank you for having me back Leonard. What I did here at CSOSA, I was a supervisor and I ran the mental health women, gender specific group or team. And what we did, we had a program called WICA, Women in Control Again, which I designed and it addressed the vulnerabilities of female offenders. And I retired in 2011 and I transitioned over to New Day Transitional Home for homeless women and children. And there it’s a little different but almost the same. I work with homeless women and their children who have substance abuse and mental health occurring disorders. And the vulnerabilities are pretty much the same. We have wraparound services. In other words, we can refer the women out for GED, vocational, educational training. Like we said, substance abuse, mental health as well as permanent supporting housing. And we make sure that the women and their children, all of their needs are being met. And that’s what we do at New Day.

LEONARD SIPES: Kelai, tell me a little bit about what it is that you do.

KELAI: Thanks for having me as well.


KELAI: I also work at New Day as a case manager. And for me working at New Day I see things in both lenses because I was once a resident there. I graduated from that program. I’m a case manager there where I help others like myself try to get past their barriers and try to provide them with services and encourage them that if I can do it you can do it as well.


KELAI: And I work with a court service agency on behavioral health providing intervention within the community and providing services to individuals in need.

LEONARD SIPES: So the whole idea is that you’ve been through it, you’ve lived it, you’ve experienced it and you offer yourself as a role model to the women and children that you’re trying to assist.

KELAI: Absolutely.

LEONARD SIPES: All right, before we get to the gist of the program, I do want to remind all of our listeners that we do have a Women’s Symposium coming up on Saturday, February 14th. The Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency will host a Women’s Reentry Forum entitled Lifetime Makeover. It’s going to be at the Temple of Praise, 700 Southern Avenue, Southeast from 9:00 in the morning to 3:00 in the afternoon. Again, Saturday, February 14th. Also the Citywide Reentry Assembly where we put together all of our mentors, so the mentors, the faith-based mentors who help people under supervision, that’s going to be on Thursday, February 19th, 2015 at the St. Luke Catholic Church Center, 4923 East Capital Street, Southeast from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. But let’s get quickly back to the reason why we’re doing this program, to support the Women’s Symposium coming up on Saturday, February 14th at the Women’s, again, Women’s Reentry Forum at the Temple of Praise, 700 Southern Avenue, Southeast from 9:00 to 3:00. Willow, the reason that we’re doing this symposium, that reason we’re talking about women caught up in the criminal justice system is why?

DR. WILLA BUTLER: The reason we’re doing the program is to, I guess, to give our audience and people an understanding of the female offender. And what we’re doing is, they’re coming home and what we need – services that we provide for them and to let them know that we embrace them when they do come home and to welcome them and to help them and to assist them in their new life journey. We try to address their vulnerabilities, like I said, in every area that causes barriers. We look at, like I said, the mental health, the substance abuse and whatever other thing that they may need, especially homelessness. Housing is very important for women. They’re coming home. They don’t have anywhere to go. They’ve kind of burned their bridges when they were home and a lot of them cannot go home. They need to be reunified with their children especially, we work on areas in that as well. Those are the things that women face when they come home and not even looking at the education and you need a job and you need a job while you’re on supervision.

LEONARD SIPES: While you were with us at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, we were part; you were part of a reorganization of services to focus of high-risk individuals, younger individuals and women caught up in the criminal justice system. So we reorganized while you were here using the methodologies that you put in place. So there’s a great emphasis on women offenders that was not there before.

DR. WILLA BUTLER: Yes, and what we did, we went gender specific because we had the understanding that female offenders and men that offend, although they’re similar but there is some differences. Women, I don’t like to use the word needy, but their needs have never been met so, therefore, we have to reach out more to them. In other words, we have to spend a lot of time with them and we have more issues to address. A lot of times when women leave prison they bring their problems home with them. They don’t leave prison mentally. So that’s an aspect that we have to address. They have to worry about their children, are they going to get their children back first of all, because sometimes their children may be in foster care, they may be with a relative, they may not even know where their children are at this point. They need mental health concerns, that has to be addressed and they need also transportation and housing. And we look at transportation as something that may seem to be minute but when you’re looking at someone who has to go around to the city, a place that they haven’t been in a while because of incarceration, they don’t know how to communicate for themselves. They have — maybe a little barriers may come in life skills. So sometimes we like to take a case manager with them. We may use the word like a little parakeet to help them maneuver their way back into the system and not only the system itself but other services that’s here in the city. And that’s why it’s so important and also when women come in, come into your office you have to establish a relationship, a rapport with them because they like for you to sit down, they like for you to talk to them. They want you to know how am I doing today? You know, whereas, with me it’s different. They’ll come in, how are you, I got this, I got that, they’ll show you their paystubs, they’ll take their drug test and then they’re gone. You can’t cut or be short like that with the female.


DR. WILLA BUTLER: You have to spend a little more time with her and show her some love.

LEONARD SIPES: Well one of the things I do want to, before I talk to Kelai, is establish the idea that women under supervision have higher rates of substance abuse, have higher rates of mental health problems, they have children who they want to reunite with. So we’re not just talking about the woman herself, we’re talking the women and her children. But they also have outrageously high rates of being abused, sexually abused, physically abused, especially as children. Am I right or wrong?

DR. WILLA BUTLER: Yes, you are right. And the reason for that is, and we go back to the risk factors again, a lot of times the women as children they’ve been exposed to substance abuse. In other words, they viewed it, they’ve seen it either in the home, in their neighborhoods. They’ve been exposed to domestic violence and sexual abuse is there too. And these concerns, those three main concerns, as a child growing up they may not have been addressed and more than likely we’re finding out that they haven’t been addressed. So at a young age they start self-medicating themselves. By that meaning they use drugs out there. And then a lot of times when they do get incarcerated and they go through different type of assessments, they find out that there is a mental health problem or they have a diagnosis, Access One diagnosis of mental health, usually depression or bi-polar.

LEONARD SIPES: Kelai, one of the things I wanted to do is to establish the sense that if women got the services to address all the issues that we’re talking about, is there hope for them? Do they do well? So society is saying to itself, look, we have all of these issues, kids need school, kids who need GED classes, older people, we have lots of needs within our communities. So to give people a sense of hope as to providing the services to women who are caught up in the criminal justice system, do these things really work, the mental health, substance abuse, do they really matter?

KELAI: Absolutely. It really does because if it wasn’t provided to me I would probably be still using or probably dead. My needs were met this time around. I was on probation. Fortunately I had a good probation officer. She was caring and that matters too. She was very caring. And first, I just want to say, when I came out of prison, when I came out of jail, I had burnt all my bridges by then. So my mother didn’t want to be bothered with me. I was locked up during the whole pregnancy. So coming home now with a baby, I delivered my baby the day before I got out of jail.


KELAI: And during the time I was in jail I was really worried because I thought my baby was going to be in the system because who’s going to take my baby.


KELAI: Nobody knows I’m pregnant. I haven’t been home. You know, my family don’t know where I am and I’m ashamed, I feel guilty, I feel worthless, hopeless. And so I remember like it was yesterday, they called my mother and asked could I come back home and she said no. I don’t want her here.


KELAI: Because she’s going to come home and do the same thing again.


KELAI: So it so happens that I was able to go home. And I went home and, of course, I went home and she was nagging cause she didn’t have the understanding of the addiction. So she was very nagging and I said, you know what, I’m not going to let you drive me crazy. So I went to my probation officer and I explained to her, I said, if I stay there I’m going to use. And I remember she said, okay, have you been to a shelter before. I’ve never been into a shelter, so I went to the shelter with my baby and when I got to the shelter that’s how I ended up at New Day Transitional Home.


KELAI: I was in a shelter for 60 days and then I ended up at New Day Transitional Home for Women and Children. When I got to New Day Transitional Home for Children, I’ve never, even my own mother, ever had anyone to tell me they loved me.

LEONARD SIPES: Yeah. And I think that, what you’re describing, is typical, Willa, is it not? What you’re describing, what Kelai is describing to us right now is so typical. Women get caught up in the criminal justice system because of all the things that they’re saddled with, they don’t see hope.


LEONARD SIPES: They don’t see a bridge.


LEONARD SIPES: They see themselves as, this is it, I’m going to die, my child’s going to die. I’m going to put a needle in my arm, I’m going to medicate, the child’s not going to be mine, they don’t see any hope beyond their current circumstances. Am I right or wrong?

KELAI: You’re right. And when you’re getting high your feelings are medicated, like you don’t care.


KELAI: Like, but when you stop getting high you have to face that reality.

LEONARD SIPES: Which is the scariest thing on the face of the earth.

KELAI: Absolutely. So all in all, if my needs weren’t met, if I didn’t have a place to go with my baby, that would have been another baby in the system. Not to mention my other child that’s now in college and she’s with me, we reunited at New Day Transitional Home, that I did not even know during that time I was out there drugging and locked up that she was trying to commit suicide several times.

LEONARD SIPES: Your daughter.

KELAI: Because, yes, because I wasn’t there for her. And she didn’t understand why I wasn’t there for her.

LEONARD SIPES: Now there are literally hundreds of thousands of women caught up in the criminal justice system all throughout the United States and if they were listening to this program, if we had these hundreds of thousands, if they were all mandated to listen to this program they would sit there and go, Kelai, I know exactly what you’re talking about. I’ve been there and I didn’t see any hope or I don’t see any hope now. How do you provide women under these circumstances with a sense of hope that they can overcome all the different things? I mean, they’ve got to overcome mental health, substance abuse, a terrible job history, the process or reuniting with their children, finding a place to live, I mean, those are almost insurmountable barriers.

KELAI: Yes, because they need the services, they need a lot of places like New Day Transition and they need more Dr. Butler. And even women like myself today because actually when I got to New Day I did not even have a high school diploma. I didn’t have that. When I got to New Day I know that someone loved me and they care, I was encouraged to go back to school. I went back to school and got my high school diploma. I went back to school and got my CAC and some other certificates that I received while I was there and established my own credit all over again so I was able to get an apartment for myself and it was just awesome, you know. I never knew that people could – when I first got there and they was giving me a hug and I love you, it was so uncomfortable to me because I never got treated that way, you know, so it does matter and women do need love, you know.

LEONARD SIPES: We’re more than halfway through the program. Our guests today are Dr. Willa Butler, Program Director for New Day Transitional Home for Women and Children and Kelai, not her real name, she’s a woman in recovery, formerly on probation and homeless with a child. She’s now a case manager for New Day and a Behavioral Health Specialist working in Washington, D.C. We have a variety of events coming up. If you take a look at our website,,, Court Services and Offender’s Supervision Agency, the Women’s Symposium on Saturday, February 14th, 2015. We will have a forum called Lifetime Makeover. It’ll take place at the Temple of Praise, 700 Southern Avenue, Southeast from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. where there are going to be hundreds of women talking about the very issues that we’re talking about today. Also the Citywide Reentry Assembly coming up on Thursday, February 19th at St. Luke Catholic Church, where we have mentors who mentor to people on supervision from 6:30 in the evening to 8:30 in the evening. Both are extraordinarily powerful events. Again, you can get information about these and all the other activities for what we call Reentry Reflections 2015 at our website, All right, Kelai, this is so important because there are all sorts of people out there who are saying to themselves once again, we have got kids to take care of, we have the elderly to take care of, we have the unemployed to take care of. Women who just have made their own bed need to lay in it. If you’ve done the crime you do the time. Why should I invest money, time and effort in women who are caught up in the criminal justice system? Nobody forced them to take drugs. Nobody forced them to sell drugs. Nobody forced them to take a beer bottle and beat somebody over the head. I have other things to worry about. I’m not quite sure that I care that much about women caught up in the criminal justice system. That’s harsh but that’s real. Talk to me about that.

KELAI: Well, I kind of disagree with that because for me, I’m one of those people that was out there and would do anything to get the drugs.


KELAI: So if I did not get the help that I need then I would be out there still doing it.


KELAI: You know, stealing –


KELAI: Probably robbing –


KELAI: You know, selling drugs.


KELAI: So people like me we do need help. That’s important. So we won’t get back in the system again, you know.

LEONARD SIPES: Right. Right. And then you become a taxpayer instead of a tax burden and your children are taken care of.

KELAI: Right.

LEONARD SIPES: But Willa talk to me about that. You know, one of the things, if you take a look at research, most people caught up in the criminal justice system really don’t get the assistance they need. Only tiny percentages get substance abuse and mental health treatment. Only a tiny percentage of women out there involved in the criminal justice system are getting gender specific types of programming. Nobody’s, very few people are talking to them about their histories of sexual abuse or violence. If women got the assistance they needed, out of every hundred women involved in the criminal justice system, how many people do you think that we could reach to the point where they become productive citizens.

DR. WILLA BUTLER: I think we could reach almost all of them, maybe 80% or more, because it starts with love. You have to have the understanding of women in the criminal justice system and what they’ve gone through and what they need. When, like I say, you give them love, you let them know, first of all, that they are worthy. Their self-esteem is so low. You have to build them up. Build up their self-esteem, build up their self-worth and let them know that we’re here to help you, we’re here to assist you and we’re here to move you forward and to give them love and understanding of that. And it starts within, we have to teach the person how to work from the inside out. I tell all of my women at least spend at least ten minutes a day with yourself getting to know yourself, getting to understand, understand why I did this, why this happened to me. We don’t always know why this happened to us and we’ll never know why it happened to us, it just did. But God gave us something, God gave us the innate strength and we can build on our residual strength and that we can go forward as long as we have someone there to help us and to assist us to get where we need to be. And I just want to say earlier you said maybe I have something special and I believe I do have something, I care. I care and I love on these women because I see who they really are. I see the queen in them that God has made them to be. And all we have to do is let them see themselves, you know, is let me see me the way you do, you know, the way God sees me, the way you see me, the way my parole officer actually sees me. If I can see me for the me who I am I can go forward. And that’s what we do, we bring that out of them and we teach them how to love themselves, you know, love yourself first and then you can move forward and have that understanding. And sometimes women reach for love on the outside through their mates, their children or whatever, but we have to also have the understanding that that love comes from us as well within the inside. Once you start loving yourself and taking care of yourself you can move forward, you know.

LEONARD SIPES: I’ve sat in on your groups before and I’ve done a variety of radio shows with you. These are very powerful exchanges between women.


KELAI: Absolutely, yes.

LEONARD SIPES: To sit there and to sit in the group with 20 women and have them talk to each other about what it is that they’ve been through, it’s scary. I’m sorry, I mean, this is so profound and so real and so unbelievably overwhelming to hear what they’ve been through and what their backgrounds are. Yet those 20-25 women are sitting there helping each other, building each other up, pulling each other up, encouraging each other, that you sit there and go, my God, why haven’t we done this a long time ago.

KELAI: And just imagine if they get the support that they need. They can help each other and pull each other up, you know, and this will be great just to think of how many people that you have helped or became clean and sober that’s reaching back and helping other people.

LEONARD SIPES: But the woman is sitting there going I’m a drug addict, I’ve been a drug addict for 25 years. Nobody cares about me. I have two kids. I was abused as a child. I have no education. And to sit there with 20 other women and say, yeah, okay, well so was I and here’s where I am today. I mean, and to sit there and watch her face as they’re saying that, it’s overwhelming.

DR. WILLA BUTLER: Yes, it is overwhelming. And that lets them know that they can move forward no matter what age they are. You know, some women think I’m 40-50 cause sometimes women have spent a lot of time in prison. Then they’re going to come out and they’re older now and they seem like I’m just useless, I’m hopeless. And we’ll say no you’re not useless.

KELAI: Yeah.

DR. WILLA BUTLER: You still have some good years in you. You still can turn this thing around, you know. And just teach them to know how can we do it differently this time and work that way. You know, just do a blueprint of confidence and encouraging each other and building each other up all the time and make sure that you center yourself around positive people. You know, people that’s going to be in your parade, help build you up and that’s another barrier that the women face when they come home. A lot of times they may go back to that same environment and the people are doing the same thing, you know, we’re going to have to move them from that environment and that’s where the transitional homes come in and it plays a big part in that. We move them out of that old environment and put them in a more productive and constructive environment that’s going to help them move forward and become more pro social within our system today, you know.

LEONARD SIPES: This is a real controversial issue but I’ve heard it in your groups a dozen times of men in the life of the women under supervision, not very supportive. In fact, in many cases the reason why they’re caught up in the criminal justice system. How many women have I talked to who have said that I got a large bit, which is a jail term, prison term, because he told me I had to transport those drugs up interstate 95 or he’s going to hurt me or hurt my child. I mean, is that part of the reality we’re talking about, the men in the lives of the women that we have under supervision?

DR. WILLA BUTLER: Well yeah, that’s part of it too Leonard, but actually it’s not as big a part as we may think it is.


DR. WILLA BUTLER: A lot of times the women do it because they have to do it. A lot of times when a woman is young, they had their children at a young age, they drop out of school, they don’t have any education, they’re really homeless, they’re even living with their parents or their significant other who they had their child by and they need, in order to take care of their child they start stealing, you know.


DR. WILLA BUTLER: And they begin to boost, I mean, that’s the only way they know how to take care of themselves or fend for themselves is to steal. I guess go outside the norms of society, not saying that it’s right, but when you look at the female offender crimes it’s really, I’m at a loss for words, but what we call paper crimes, you know, in a sense, stealing, crimes on persons I mean, right.

LEONARD SIPES: They’re not ordinarily the violent crimes that most of the men are involved in.

DR. WILLA BUTLER: Right, they’re not violent crimes.

LEONARD SIPES: I’ve heard somebody say to me that if we provided the services that were necessary, truly necessary, we could empty women’s prisons by a third, maybe even up to a half.




LEONARD SIPES: Now could you image all the millions, hundreds of millions of dollars that would save.

KELAI: I agree.


LEONARD SIPES: I mean, but the services need to be there. How do we convince people to support programs for women caught up in the criminal justice system? How do we do that?

KELAI: Well Dr. Butler made a good point just now. This, I just did not stop using drugs one time. You know, it took me three times before I stopped and the reason that I realize now – because I kept going back to the same place. I had no place to go so all I know was the same people that I get high with.


KELAI: And thinking okay, well I been clean for 30 days or 60 days, I can go around them now and I’m not going to use, but that was a setup.


KELAI: So it does make a difference when you remove yourself from people, places and things and go into a different area and form different friends in different areas where you can focus more on you.

LEONARD SIPES: Or guys say kick the corner.

KELAI: Right. Absolutely.

DR. WILLA BUTLER: Right. Right.

LEONARD SIPES: Get away from all the associates that are leading you into all that sort of bad behavior.

KELAI: Yes, that is very, very critical. That is very important.

LEONARD SIPES: The bottom line in all of this, because we only have a couple minutes to close, to talk about the different programs that we have coming up once again, is that there is hope. I mean, people need to understand that there is hope. If women got the services, the gender specific services that they need, we could dramatically reduce their involvement in the criminal justice system.

KELAI: Absolutely.

DR. WILLA BUTLER: Mmm-hmm, yes.

KELAI: Absolutely. No doubt.

LEONARD SIPES: And how we can convince people of that is something that I think all of us need to work on, right?

KELAI: Well I’m one.


KELAI: I’m one of them.


KELAI: Now I’m giving back. I’m reaching back and helping others. I’m one of them. I’m the prime example.

LEONARD SIPES: Do want to remind everybody that we’re doing this program in support of a Women’s Symposium on Saturday, February 14th at the, what we call Lifetime Makover. It’ll take place at Temple of Praise, 7007 Southern Avenue, Southeast from 9:00 in the morning on to 3:00 in the afternoon. It is really an extraordinary event. Again, Saturday, February 14th. On Thursday, February 19th, we will have our Citywide Reentry Assembly where we talk or deal with our mentors and the people under supervision. That’s also extraordinarily interesting. Thursday, February 19th at St. Luke Catholic Church, 4923 East Capital Street, Southeast from 6:30 to 8:30 in the evening. Ladies and gentlemen, our guests today have been Dr. Willa Butler, she is the Program Director for New Day Transitional Home for Women and Children. And we’ve had Kelai and I really do appreciate Kelai you being here and testifying and telling us what it is that we really need to hear.

KELAI: My pleasure.

LEONARD SIPES: She is a woman in recovery, formerly under probation and homeless with children. And my heart goes out to you and I hope the relationship that you have with your daughter has greatly improved. She’s currently a Case Manager with New Day and a Behavioral Health Specialist working in Washington, D.C. Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. We appreciate your comments. We even appreciate your criticisms. And we want everybody to have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.


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Woman Offenders-Upcoming Events-From Violence to Reentry-Interview With Lashonia Etheridge-Bey

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Len Sipes: From the nation’s capital this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host Leonard Sipes. Ladies and gentlemen the program today is Women Offenders. We have an interview with Lashonia Etheridge-Bey; she is with the Mayor’s office on Returning Citizens here in the District of Columbia, www.oc, I’m sorry, Let me give you a bit of background about this extraordinary woman and I think you’ll understand what we’re interviewing her today. Lashonia is a 40-year old Washingtonian who was born and raised in southeast DC. As a youth she made a series of bad decisions that landed her in prison for a violent crime where she spent almost half her life. Lashonia was a teen mom, a high school drop out where she was unemployed and addicted to marijuana. During her 18 years in prison she set out to rehabilitate and reform herself. She received her GED and began pursuing a college degree. She has been employed on a full-time basis, like I said; she’s enrolled in college. Last April she was hired as the Staff Assistant for the Mayor’s office on returning citizens, and like I said before, she’s in the process of completing her second year at Trinity University where she’s pursuing her Bachelor’s Degree in Human Relations. We have Lashonia here for a specific reason. Every year we’d have a series of reentry events and three this year. We’re focusing on women caught up in the criminal justice system and I’ll have the information about all three in the show notes. Lashonia is responsible for two, she will be speaking at the other on Tuesday, February 4th, the gender specific reentry conference at One Judiciary Square. That will be in the show notes, 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. And then we have women’s reentry forum done by my agency, Court Services, a super efficient agency. I can’t—Lashonia, I screwed up the name of my own agency, Court Services, an offender supervision agency on Saturday, February 8th from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. And then on Thursday, February 27th, the reentry forum, The Breakdown of the Black Family as a Result of Incarcerated Mothers. Lashonia, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Lashonia Ethridge-Bey: Thank you for having me.

Len Sipes: All right. That’s a huge introduction. You’ve spent half your life in prison. You came out. There was a film about Lashonia that I thought was extraordinary. And that will also be in the show notes, done by a person who’s been at this microphone before. A film, about a 15-minute film on your life and it struck me that your life has been a profoundly painful, profoundly difficult; you have heaped a tremendous amount of blame on yourself in the past. You have had to deal with animosity from your own children when you came out, you have two. The process of coming back out, reestablishing yourself, it was very, very honest, honest portrayal of who you are and what you are. Tell me about who you are and what you are.

Lashonia Ethridge-Bey: Well, first and foremost, I’m a resilient woman who has had to overcome a lot of difficulties in my past, mainly my own challenges have been being destructive, being angry, being violent, being addicted to drugs. So I’m a woman who has had to face all of those obstacles and overcome them and I’m also a woman who’s continuously working to progress in terms of rebuilding my life. I’ve only been home for two years now. So pursuing my degree, I’m building my career, seeking to reestablish myself within my family unit and just taking it one day at a time.

Len Sipes: When I watched the video two things came at me pretty clearly. One was the level of self-blame that you have heaped on yourself and number two, you’re involvement in physical fitness activities. You are very fit and so exercise is part of your rehabilitative process.

Lashonia Ethridge-Bey: Yes, definitely. I always say that when I became incarcerated I attacked myself physically, mentally, spiritually and psychologically because I engaged in a lot of therapeutic programs. I was in a residential trauma program. I exercised. I pursued academic endeavors. I did everything that I could to rebuild myself in every aspect. So exercise has definitely been a huge coping skill for me and a way for me to deal with the challenges that I face whether it be challenges in school, challenges in my personal life. I love to run; I love to do strength training and all those things to help me get through those challenges.

Len Sipes: The crime that you were involved in, in Southeast DC was a very violent crime.

Lashonia Ethridge-Bey: Yes.

Len Sipes: So you went to prison for that. You spent half of your life in prison for that very violent crime but, again, I go back to how your own self-perception, the video is stark, the reality is certainly abundant in terms of how you felt about yourself. So where did all those feelings come from?

Lashonia Ethridge-Bey: I mean, you called it self-blame but the fact of the matter is that despite the fact that I was responding to my circumstances and I pretty much built an image and a reputation and started to display behavior that I thought I had to display in order to survive in my environment. The fact of the matter is that I’m still responsible for the choices that I made. So even the violent acts that I brought on other people and in addition to the violent acts that was brought on myself, I put myself in those positions by the choices that I made, the people that I chose to be around, how I chose to respond to potential danger in my neighborhood. So I was never—I’ve always been one to just be responsible for my actions because I know at the end of the day everybody has a choice regardless of what situation they find themselves in. There are a lot of people that grew up where I grew up at who didn’t choose to become violent and commit crimes as a result of their environment and I did.

Len Sipes: But let me ask you a series of basic questions, substance abuse?

Lashonia Ethridge-Bey: Yes, I was addicted to marijuana and I had just began to smoke PCP around the time when I was convicted of this crime.
Len Sipes: When did you start doing drugs?

Lashonia Ethridge-Bey: I started doing drugs I guess when I was about maybe 15, 16.

Len Sipes: Okay. How was your family life?

Lashonia Ethridge-Bey: My family life, I was pretty much raised by a single parent mom. My dad was always in my life, but my parents weren’t together. And I had a host of older siblings who were in and out of prison on drugs. I didn’t really have a lot of positive role models. My mom, obviously working and trying to take care of us, didn’t get an opportunity to really raise us and teach us the way I’m sure she would have liked to been able to. But I pretty much was drawn to the street as a result of that. And I grew up in a really tough neighborhood. I went to Hart Junior High, so all of the projects were surrounded by that school, that school was surrounded by all of the projects in that area, so—

Len Sipes: But the self-directed anger that I saw on the video, which again, we’re going to put the address of the video in the show notes, that came from where? I mean, there’s a certain point where it shows you coming out of prison. And it shows you reuniting with your kids, the difficulties of reuniting, the difficulties of getting out, the difficulties of going through all the things that you’ve gone through, but one of the things, the stark things, not to beat a point to death, was the self-directed anger. That you really had a lot of anger inside of you that you expressed to others when you were on the street and that you’re, you know, were expressing towards yourself when you got out. Where did all that anger come from?

Lashonia Ethridge-Bey: I don’t know if it was necessarily anger that I was expressing. I just pretty much built an image because I had to respond to the violence in my neighborhood. So it was either you’re going to fight back or you’re going to get beat up.

Len Sipes: Right.

Lashonia Ethridge-Bey: You’re either going to fight back or you’re going to run and I wasn’t raised in a family that allowed me to run home and run in the house and lock the door when somebody’s chasing me.

Len Sipes: All right. So what you’re saying is violence and the street culture was of a very logical process, a very logical decision based upon what was happening around you.

Lashonia Ethridge-Bey: Definitely. It was what I was taught. It was what I was prone to do because for me it was a survival mechanism.
Len Sipes: For so many women that I’ve talked to before these microphones, they have been sexually violated, they came up in single-family households. I’m not asking whether you were or whether you weren’t. Substance abuse was very common. Most of the women that I’ve talked to who have been caught up in the criminal justice system, it is a real struggle in terms of who they were at the time of that crime and can you talk to me about that. Am I right or wrong?

Lashonia Ethridge-Bey: Yes, fortunately for me I haven’t had that experience of sexual abuse and physical abuse in my family and growing up, but I did notice when I was incarcerated that the vast majority of the women that I was incarcerated with had that issue and had that trauma that they was dealing that lead them down that path of drugs and crime. With me, my trauma was violence. You know, violence inside my home, violence outside of my home and mainly the violence in my community. It was kind of like survival of the fittest. And like I said, I built that image to protect myself and at some point I had to live up to that image. And I was put in a position where I did something that cost someone dearly and I had to pay for it.

Len Sipes: But the process of—I’ve been to more than a couple women’s groups and I hear two things. I hear, again, just a lot of, you know, anger at the world, anger at themselves, anger at their families, anger at their friends. But, you know; now they have to deal with all of this coming out of the prison system. And there’s a certain point where I find that, and the research backs this up, that women do better than men coming out of the prison system. They do better in terms of rehabilitative programs. They do better in terms of recidivism than men because a lot of women come out and say to themselves, all right, this is my one shot. I have no other choice. I’ve got to make this work. I’ve got kids. I’ve got to reunite with my kids. I’ve got to establish a life for myself. Women have a tendency of making it work at higher numbers, better numbers, greater numbers than males caught up in the criminal justice system. But there’s still an unrelenting anger towards themselves and towards the world around them that they have to deal with before they get into prison, what brought them into the prison system and afterwards, right or wrong? Be honest.

Lashonia Ethridge-Bey: Again, for me anger has not necessarily –

Len Sipes: Not necessarily for you, but for everybody.

Lashonia Ethridge-Bey: Well I can’t speak for those other women. All I can say is that for me the thing that motivated me to get caught up in the life of crime that I was caught up in was more so pain and fear.

Len Sipes: Okay. All right. Most women coming out of the prison system have kids, correct?

Lashonia Ethridge-Bey: Yeah.

Len Sipes: And it’s very difficult, I mean, the average person coming out of the prison system has a very nasty background. They don’t have a lot of skills in terms of going out and getting a job. They have to deal with all of the issues that they have to struggle with personally. Mental health amongst women coming out of the criminal justice system is very high, mental health problems, higher than any other group. Substance abuse problems very high. They come out and they’re being reunited with their kids. They come out and they’re trying to find employment and they’re trying to find a way of sustaining themselves. It’s almost impossible to put all that together, is it not?

Lashonia Ethridge-Bey: It’s definitely a huge challenge. It makes me think about Zora Neale Hurston when she said that women are the mules of the world because in addition to trying to find your place as the matriarch of your family and rebuild your family unit, you’re also trying to rebuild your personal life and gain employment and maybe pursue your academic goals. And women, I think one of the biggest differences with men and women is the need to be safe. I’d like to think that men coming out of prison regardless of how much time they served are not struggling with whether or not they feel safe in an environment that has left them vulnerable and allowed them to be so severely hurt and afraid in the past. Then going in to a system that has further damaged them and further degraded them and coming home, I think that the need to be safe, the need to be a mother, the need to be, like I said, the matriarch of their family, the need to become independent but yet still establish healthy relationships. I don’t think that men, who are returning from incarceration experience that personal trauma that women experience.

Len Sipes: Most women coming out of the prison system have looked at me and said it’s almost impossible to do all this. It is almost impossible to do all this and people need to understand that regardless of how motivated I am not to go back, it is almost impossible to pull all of this off.

Lashonia Ethridge-Bey: I would agree.

Len Sipes: And, statistically speaking, it’s correct.

Lashonia Ethridge-Bey: I would agree and I’m one of those people who believe that I can do anything. I’m really convinced that if I put my mind to it I can do it. However, I would have to agree that in terms of me rebuilding my life and, you know, pursuing my academic goals and pursuing my career goals, those things have come easy for me, but the challenge has been rebuilding my personal life and my relationships. I mean, you’re only one person and there’s no way you can spread yourself that thin and put the necessary energy into all those different areas and be successful in every one of them.

Len Sipes: But isn’t it amazing where, two things, and they’re contradictions, almost impossible versus women do better than men coming out of the prison system. So almost impossible turns into possible turns into success for literally hundreds of thousands of women coming out of the prison system every year. How do you come—how do I or you or anybody else come to grips with that, almost impossible yet most women seem to find it in themselves to create a successful life after prison.

Lashonia Ethridge-Bey: Resiliency. And I think the women that do become successful at reentry are the women that find a healthy balance between being a mother and being a nurturer and having healthy relationships and building a healthy personal life and doing those other things in terms of career and education. My director always says, and I’m always glad when he says it so that I don’t have to say it, as a man he always says that when women come home the first thing they think about is their children, but when men come home the last thing they think about is their children. And obviously that’s a blanket statement, maybe it’s a stereotype, who knows, but the fact of the matter is that men don’t necessarily have to allow that—don’t necessarily have that challenge of how am I going to rebuild my family, how am I going to regain my position in my family. Men don’t necessarily face that challenge, they can do all that other stuff, whereas, women they try to do it all.

Len Sipes: When I talk to my wife about it she simply says, well it’s simple, Leonard, women are better—smart than men. We have, ladies and gentlemen, Lashonia Etheridge-Bey. She is with the Mayor’s office on Returning Citizen Affairs here in the District of Columbia, She and we are doing three events dealing with women caught up in the criminal justice system. Tuesday, February 4th, Gender Specific Reentry Conference, One Judiciary Square from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00. And then my organization, Court Services, an Offender Supervision Agency, and this time I said it without screwing it up Lashonia. Women’s Reentry Forum at the Temple of Praise, 700 7th Avenue from 9:00 to 3:00 in the afternoon, always what I consider to be an extraordinary event. And Thursday, February 27th, Reentry Forum, the Breakdown of the Black Family as a Result of Incarcerated Mothers, Union Temple Baptist Church, 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. I’ll have all of these issues in our show notes. And, you know, Lashonia, this is just an amazing transformation for you, but it’s not just an amazing transformation for you, it’s an amazing transformation for literally tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of women coming out of the prison system every year. Seven hundred thousand people leave the prison system every year. Heaven knows three to four times that number come out of jails. So, and the research is clear, that the women do better if though they carry greater burdens. And both of us, I think, suggest that it’s because they come out having to take care of kids, 80% of people coming out of the prison system have kids, correct?

Lashonia Ethridge-Bey: Yes.

Len Sipes: Okay. When you came home and after watching your extraordinarily honest video, your kids were not kind. Even though you had a real good relationship with them and even though they visited you in prison, there’s a certain point—you said that you thought you were going to escape the dilemma of the kids dumping on you for being in prison. And even though they weren’t—they didn’t do it when they visited you, when you came back out it was a different set of circumstances, right?

Lashonia Ethridge-Bey: Yes. And I think that maybe to some extent they were empathetic towards my situation. So they were just nice to me when I was incarcerated. They never expressed anger or were ornery towards me. And in my son’s defense, he is just the most optimistic person I know and he has not expressed any harsh feelings towards me or been, you know, mean to me since I’ve been home. And I think that that has a lot to do with the gender dynamics as well because boys just love their moms for the most part. The biggest challenges have been with my daughter. She’s the older of the two and she has her own children, her own family, and her own challenges.

Len Sipes: She felt abandoned by you.

Lashonia Ethridge-Bey: Yeah, she felt abandoned.

Len Sipes: And she told you as much.

Lashonia Ethridge-Bey: Mmm-mmm. She felt abandoned and we had one incident where she expressed some really harsh things to me and it was difficult. I got through it, I guess. I wasn’t really expecting it, but when it happened I just—I took it and I kept it moving.

Len Sipes: A woman coming out of the prison system has got to say to herself, you know, I’ve got to deal with mental health issues, not unusual, substance abuse issues, not unusual. We talked about it before in terms of sexual violence or violence in general in your case. So we have to deal with all that and then we’ve got to figure out how am I going to find work and I’ve got to figure out how I’m going to reunite with my kids and I’ve got to figure out a place to stay and I’ve got to deal with a lot of legal issues. And there’s a certain point where this is just too frickin overwhelming to comprehend.

Lashonia Ethridge-Bey: And so I run.

Len Sipes: So what?

Lashonia Ethridge-Bey: I run.

Len Sipes: You run. You do run. How many miles a day?

Lashonia Ethridge-Bey: I just run three miles a day only in summer and spring though.

Len Sipes: Just.

Lashonia Ethridge-Bey: Cause I don’t run in the winter time, it’s too cold.

Len Sipes: The video shows you doing pull-ups and everything else. I mean, that’s your—that’s how you deal with it, how do women when they sit down after the first week or two or three and it really—all of this really sets in—how does a woman get up and go.

Lashonia Ethridge-Bey: And I have to admit to having a strong support system. I think I’ve really been blessed to be living in the District of Columbia, born and raised. And I thought when I came home I was going to relocate cause at the time my daughter was living in Richmond. But they say if you want to get a good laugh tell God your plans because my relocation was denied and my daughter ended up back home in DC and I’m back home in DC and I’ve had a phenomenal support system from Reverend Cooper, the people I met at the Reentry Sanction Center, even Nancy Ware, Cedric, you know, everybody has just always—

Len Sipes: The Director of CSOSA and the Associate Director of CSOSA.

Lashonia Ethridge-Bey: Yes, supported me in all of my endeavors and Director Thornton, giving me the opportunity to be the Staff Assistant at ORCA.

Len Sipes: The Mayor’s Office of Returning Citizens, yeah.

Lashonia Ethridge-Bey: Yes. Everything that I have been, you know, my support system and I have to admit, you know, even I have some family members who are there for me, but my support system has been community leaders and that’s been my rock.

Len Sipes: What does that mean to you to have the support of everybody?

Lashonia Ethridge-Bey: It’s meant everything to me. It’s the reason why I’ve made it, you know. You asked me how do you get up every day, you get up every day cause you know you’ve got people that believe in you, people that call on you and people that expect you to show up. And, you know, being spiritually grounded, being a member of the  [indiscernible] of America and being able to, you know, when I first came home I was so busy trying to get my life in order I might have went to the Temple a handful of times. And since 2014 has come in, you know, I’ve been attending my meetings more regularly and just getting the nourishment that I need to face this daily drama that I’m living.

Len Sipes: So it’s faith in the fact that significant others have come to your rescue and have been your mentors and who have encouraged you to stay on the path.

Lashonia Ethridge-Bey: Yes.

Len Sipes: Okay. Is that available to every woman coming out of the prison system?

Lashonia Ethridge-Bey: I’d like to say yes if they’re open to it.

Len Sipes: We do have a faith based reentry program here under the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency and lots of churches, even and Mosques and Synagogues beyond that, participate in program for people coming out of the prison system. So it’s there but I’m not quite sure the average woman coming out of the prison system feels that. I’m not quite sure they share that experience with you, am I wrong?

Lashonia Ethridge-Bey: There are some—there’s a chance that some women may not be aware of the resources that are available to them and there’s also a chance that some women may not be open to that support. They have to be open to it. You know, I met Our Place DC staff members when they first opened up back in who knows what year it was, 2000 maybe, 2001, 1999, I don’t know. But some of those staff members who are no longer with Our Place.

Len Sipes: It’s a tragedy that Our Place is closed.

Lashonia Ethridge-Bey: Are still in my support system.

Len Sipes: That’s one of the things that bothers me very deeply. Cause not only did I give money to Our Place DC and for people living outside of Washington, DC, Our Place DC was a comprehensive soup to nuts agency that dealt with every conceivable need a woman could have coming out of the prison system legal, being reunited with the kids, healthcare, substance abuse, mental health, sexual violence, it didn’t matter, they took care of it and they’re no longer here. And I don’t want to say that everybody else has picked up their pace, but, you know, there’s a lot of agencies here in the District of Columbia that really do support the reentry processes, are they not?

Lashonia Ethridge-Bey: There are a lot of agencies. Our agency, obviously, is a District Government agency that’s responsible for men and women returning from incarceration. And I think that we have developed a really—we’re spearheading a really great effort to do more for women returning from incarceration as a result of the void that has been left by Our Place. My director has allowed me and supported me as I have developed The Wire, which is Women Involved in Reentry Effort and that’s a network of women who have successfully reintegrated into the community who have pledged their support to women who are currently incarcerated and women who are returning from incarceration. And we want to be mentors, we want to establish family reunification activities, we want to help raise awareness within the community about the needs of the women returning from incarceration. And we want to work with children who have mothers in prison who are facing the difficult task of just existing, striving, building life skills and things of that nature. So a lot is happening despite the fact that Our Place has closed and I just love the way you put it because, I mean, Michelle Bonner, the Our Place attorney was there with me at my initial hearing. Our Place was the reason why I was able to see my children once a year when I did see them, when they would come up to Danbury, Connecticut or they would come to Hazleton, West Virginia. And like I said the Our Place staff, even those who no longer work for Our Place are still a huge part of my support system. So that organization was just awesome in the support that they provided for women.

Len Sipes: We only have three minutes left. If these programs did not exist, if the faith based mentors, if the offices like yours in terms of all the other volunteer organizations did not exist, if there was no support mechanism at all for women coming out of the prison system, what would happen?

Lashonia Ethridge-Bey: It would be tragic because recidivism would rise. Children would be further traumatized by the fact that their moms would come home and very likely go back. I mean, not only would it just drain the system itself, but so many women would be hurting and suffering so much without the support services that we have right now.

Len Sipes: When you’re talking through this program, and I always like to use the term Mayor of Milwaukee, I don’t know, it just rolls off the tongue nicely, or the aide to the Governor of Hawaii, when you’re talking to them about women reentry, what must they think about, what must they keep in mind?

Lashonia Ethridge-Bey: The children. I think that if everybody in America could keep in mind that when women are incarcerated they’re not just incarcerated women, they’re incarcerated mothers. Most of them are the primary caregivers for their children when they become incarcerated. So the children are then abandoned and pretty much left on their own to raise themselves. Even when they have a caregiver it’s not like having your mother, it’s not, you know, I have one young man, his mom is serving 30 years in prison, he hasn’t seen his mom in seven years and he was raised by an uncle who loves him dearly. And he said to me, I asked him how does he feel and he told me he couldn’t name—I gave him a piece of paper with a bunch of feelings on it, I said pick one. He said I feel all of them. I said well just pick—just tell me, pick one or two of them. He said I feel miserable. Fifteen years old. You know, it’s like he feels like his life is over. His life is just beginning. You know, and he’s suffering and paying for what his mom did. So I think that if people remember the children, support the children and support the women when they come home then we can help break that cycle of crime and incarceration.

Len Sipes: So the bottom line if we want to end the crime problem that we have, if we want to deal with the pain, I mean, I’m not making excuses for women being caught up in the criminal justice system –

Lashonia Ethridge-Bey: Right. Right.

Len Sipes: But there’s real pain, there are real backgrounds in terms of substance abuse, in terms of mental health, in terms of sexual violence and there are real kids associated with these women. If we want to put a stop to all of that and help everybody gain a good footing in life then they have to support reentry programs for women.

Lashonia Ethridge-Bey: Yes. You said it.

Len Sipes: That’s the bottom line, is it not?

Lashonia Ethridge-Bey: You said it.

Len Sipes: All right. I’m going to give a long close to the program, ladies and gentlemen. I have just been just really pleased with Lashonia’s performance today and her willingness to be so honest. I really appreciate it Lashonia Etheridge-Bey, Mayor’s Office on Returning Citizens, Again, the three events, Thursday—Tuesday rather, February 4th, Gender Specific Reentry Conference, One Judiciary Square, 10:00 to 3:00. Saturday, February 8th, Women’s Reentry Forum Lifetime Makeover, Temple of Praise, 700 7th Avenue, 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and Thursday, February 27th, Reentry Forum, The Breakdown of the Black Family as a Result of Incarcerated Mothers. All of these will be in the show notes. Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. We want everybody to have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]


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Serious-Violent Offender Reentry Research-Research Triangle Institute-DC Public Safety

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[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes: From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host Leonard Sipes. Ladies and gentlemen, I think this is going to be one of the most important radio shows that I have ever done throughout my career. Serious and Violent Offender Re-entry Initiative – the research. We have at our microphone today Dr. Pam Lattimore. She is the principal scientist, Research Triangle Institute. She is from the Crime and Violence and Justice Research program. There was a piece of research, a very significant piece of research again called the Serious and Violent Offender Re-entry Initiative. 12 states did adult programs. 4 states did juvenile programs. It was evaluated twice. Once at the 3-year level and once at the 5-year level and I think you’re going to be surprised at the findings between the 3 and the 5-year level. To Pam Lattimore, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Pam Lattimore: Thank you Len, glad to be here.

Len Sipes: I find this piece of research fascinating. I think that this may be the most important piece of research on offender re-entry in this country’s history. There has been lots of wonderful stuff out there in terms of substance abuse, in terms of GPS, in terms of Project Hope and specialized courts and their findings are encouraging but this is main stream re-entry as we call it today. In terms of providing programs to people coming out of the prison system, services coming out of the prison system. So give me your quick summation as to the Serious and Violent Offender Re-entry Initiative.

Pam Lattimore: Okay, the initiative was actually funded by congress in about 2000 and $100 million roughly was given to 69 State agencies to do programs, re-entry programs for adults and juveniles and an evaluation was commissioned to study those programs, we looked at all 69 grantees, identified what they were doing and from those grantees, selected 16 programs – 12 adult, 4 juvenile to evaluate.

Len Sipes: But there were many more beyond this so these 16 programs are sort of illustrative and indicative of the experience that happened throughout the country.

Pam Lattimore: That’s right.

Len Sipes: And correct me if I’m wrong, it was funded by the Office of Justice programs.

Pam Lattimore: That’s correct.

Len Sipes: Or the US Department of Justice and so this is significant because it involves – you evaluated and there are far more programs than this, 12 States with adult programs, 4 States with juvenile programs. They provided services, an array of services as they came out. They were guidelines, general guidelines in terms of what it was that these jurisdictions were supposed to provide. Give me a sense at the 3-year level what the findings were in terms of the research?

Pam Lattimore: The findings and they were supposed to provide an array of services but there were core services and it’s the core that I think has sort of been the landmark/hallmark of re-entry programming. It’s a needs assessment, re-entry planning, a re-entry plan, case management to get people into services and the idea was that with any re-entry program the programming begins in prison and then transitions out into the community. The findings were that individuals that were in the programs received more services than those who were not. So that’s always a positive thing.

Len Sipes: Yes.

Pam Lattimore: You don’t want to be studying people who got the same thing and then see if there’s any differences in outcomes.

Len Sipes: Right.

Pam Lattimore: And that we saw modest improvements across a variety of domain areas. The initial results at 3 years, basically a 2-year followup post prison release was that although the numbers were in the right directions. There were slightly fewer arrests for the people that were in program. The differences weren’t large enough for them to qualify as what researchers call statistically significant.

Len Sipes: Right, which means that it’s not due to chance.

Pam Lattimore: Right.

Len Sipes: It’s due to program initiatives.

Pam Lattimore: That’s right, that’s right.

Len Sipes: You had a control group, correct?

Pam Lattimore: That’s right. We had a comparison group that was carefully matched with the treatment groups.

Len Sipes: Okay. And so there’s a certain point within the 3-year program where people sat back and said you know, where there were reductions and we were moving in the right direction, we’re not overly enthused about the results at the 3-year level. Am I in the ballpark?

Pam Lattimore: You are in the ballpark. I mean the actual followup that we had for everyone was in the 2-year range and the thing that is important about that is that 2 years as been considered the gold standard for studies of recidivism.

Len Sipes: Right.

Pam Lattimore: So often times people lament, well this program was evaluated but they only looked at the first six months or they only looked at the first year and so 2 years has sort of obtained, sort of a golden hue that you know, it’s like the magic alpha 0.05 in statistics that you know, it’s like, well we need 2 years and that’s what we want to aim for and so that’s what we did here, is we got 2 years. As I say, the results were suggestive and even at 2 years we could see that people who were participating in the program, the further out we went and we’re talking about arrest as an outcome, the people that had been in the programs did seem, the further out we went to be doing a little bit more better.

Len Sipes: Okay, so let’s segway into that. The 5-year study?

Pam Lattimore: The 5-year study we found actually ironically…

Len Sipes: Of the same groups.

Pam Lattimore: Of the same groups with the same people, we found that ironically, shortly after we had stopped looking the first time that the results were statistically significant. The differences in outcomes had become large enough between our comparison subjects and the people who had been in SAVORI programs, a horrible acronym on paper, but that’s what it was called, the SAVORI – Serious and Violent Offender Re-entry Initiative – the people who had been in SAVORI programs, actually the further out you went, the better they were doing. So by the time we got to the end of roughly the 5 years we were following them, there was a pretty substantial difference.

Len Sipes: Now let’s talk about those differences. The differences were better for women and then juveniles and then men.

Pam Lattimore: In terms of, well let’s back up and you and I talked about this earlier. I mean the arrest-recidivism rate for all of the subjects was very, very high and that’s not surprising. I don’t think anyone who understands, this initiative was supposed to focus on serious and violent offenders and what that basically at minimum is these were frequent flyers. They were people that had been you know, they started young and they had been very, you know, consistent in the number of arrests that they had. They had long arrest histories and so, when they were released post release I mean we were talking about 75 to 90% re-arrest rates overall. If you just looked, any arrest within five years of release, basically for the men it was almost all of them.

Len Sipes: Now, at the same time researchers and people within the re-entry community over the course of the last five years have really emphasized this particular group, that we should not be wasting our time, not be wasting our efforts and here yet, as we sit in Washington DC we are looking at some significant budget cuts. People are saying we shouldn’t be wasting our time with lower level offenders, that we are going to get the biggest bang for our buck in terms of these higher risk offenders, the very people that you all evaluated. So you all did what it was that you were supposed to do in terms of looking at this particular group.

Pam Lattimore: That’s right and so, you know, like I say for the men and to a lesser extent, but certainly at a very high level, everybody got re-arrested at least once basically, but you know, when we started looking at the time to the first arrest. When we started looking at the number of arrests, we saw substantial and meaningful differences. I mean for the women, as you said, it was about half.

Len Sipes: Right

Pam Lattimore: The women who had been in the SAVORI program had about half the number of arrests as the women who were comparisons.

Len Sipes: To their comparison group.

Pam Lattimore: Right. And…

Len Sipes: So we’re talking about not individual instances of arrests but we’re talking about total arrests.

Pam Lattimore: Total numbers of arrests post release. Yeah, so in the followup period that we were interested in and for the men, we saw a half, 0.7 arrests. Now you might say that’s not…

Len Sipes: What percentage?

Pam Lattimore: It’s like, it was about… I don’t know, 20% or so, I don’t know I’d need to look but the comparison group was about 3.5 arrests on average in the followup period and the treatment group was about 3. So you’re talking about a half an arrest per person. Well you know, you think about the cost associated with the arrest and subsequent prosecution and you know, whatever the punishment is and that’s not trivial.

Len Sipes: So there’s still enormous implications so if you’re talking about a 20% reduction for men in terms of total arrests. If you’re talking about a 45 to 50% reduction in total arrest for women and then you’re talking about a smaller amount for juveniles.

Pam Lattimore: Right, and the juveniles, we were only able to follow them for the original study period. So the smaller number for juveniles was really only within the original study period. There are some research-related reasons for that we don’t need to go into here but there was a difference and it was meaningful and yeah, I’m looking at the numbers now and it was 3.75 for the comparison group, 3.25 arrests for the treatment group.

Len Sipes: Okay, but give me percentages because that’s the difficulty in terms of a lot of people within our audience, they’re not going to be quite sure as to what that means, so if memory serves me correctly, it was about 45% reduction for women I think, and about a 20% reduction for men.

Pam Lattimore: That’s right, that’s right. That’s right.

Len Sipes: Okay, we’ll go with that.

Pam Lattimore: Yeah, that’s close enough.

Len Sipes: And this is, we’re talking about total arrests and in terms of incarcerations across the board because you look at arrests and you took a look at incarcerations, generally speaking, about 50% went back to prison.

Pam Lattimore: That’s correct.

Len Sipes: So first of all, a variety of observations. There was a piece of research which still remains the gold standard in terms of recidivism to this day done using a cohort back in 1994, the bureau of justice statistics, of the Office of Justice programs, of the US Department of Justice. Basically they gave rates of somewhere in the ballpark of two-thirds rearrested and 50% reincarcerated and those reincarcerations also included new crimes as well as violations that they committed while out. So in some ways your particular piece of research tracks that 1994 study which followed offenders for three years. So basically, what we’re saying is that across the board, this is going to be a pretty tough group to deal with and considering that you dealt with specifically Serious and Violent Offenders, not offenders across the board, but serious and violent offenders, the fact that you had higher rates of re-arrest but basically the same rates of reincarceration is not surprising. I mean your group was more difficult to deal with.

Pam Lattimore: Yeah and clearly, and we have a number of reports that describe the… you know, as you have pointed out, they’re probably, we’ve got a foot of reports and that’s probably too many pieces of paper to go through but this was clearly, the target population was serious and violent – they clearly and that has implications for what you might expect to see.

Len Sipes: Heavens, I would have a list of implications about as long as this room because what this is saying to me is that, and what its saying to media and what it is saying to policy makers and what it is saying to practitioners is we have got to be in this for the long game. It may not show results at two years, it may not show results at three years. You’ve got to take a look at longitudinal data, long range data. You may have to take a look at five years worth of data before you get a sense as to the impact of the programs that you put in place and most people don’t have the patience for that.

Pam Lattimore: That’s right and I’m sympathetic to that. I’ve not been well-known for my patience. So I think you need to look along at how the results are. Our hypothesis with respect to what is going on here, the thinking has always been, well if you do an intervention, if it is going to have an impact, it will have an impact immediately and then it may diminish over time. So that is sort of the thinking that people have and in fact what we found was the opposite. It had a little effect at first and then over time it had a greater effect.

Len Sipes: But what that does is, here’s the drill though. Okay, I represent a federal criminal justice agency; we could have a program in place. Year 1, the results aren’t very good, year 2 the results aren’t very good. So somebody comes along and says, Mr. Sipes, we would like to see the results of your research, we provide those results and somebody declares the program a failure. The program could be a success but we have to extend it and learn from it and get better at it and then after multiple years beyond 2 years, that’s when you have your impact. That’s a tough hoe to row.

Pam Lattimore: And so maybe there are some policy implications here that, you know, things that we need to mindful of.

Len Sipes: row the hoe? I’m sorry I messed that statement up entirely but go ahead.

Pam Lattimore: Yeah, but anyway, I mean I think that there are things that we need to be mindful of here and what we… you know, my colleagues who worked with me and there were many who worked with me on the study have speculated is that what we were seeing is sort of post-release, the likelihood that people who have been in prison for 2, 3, 4, 5 years, they get out and they are on supervision so they may violate. They want to go out and hang around with their friends again, they get themselves in trouble and really don’t have time to get themselves sorted out and so if you can think about criminal behavior, recidivism is like a relapsing behavior

Len Sipes: Yes.

Pam Lattimore: And sometimes it can take, you know the treatment community says it can take a while for the treatment to take.

Len Sipes: Multiple interventions before you finally get the person on the right road.

Pam Lattimore: And so, you provide services to people that they may not use right away but that in the end, when they finally make it up in their minds that they want to try to do something about their behavior they have got the tools that they need to move forward.

Len Sipes: We are more than half way through the program and this very, very, very fascinating discussion with Dr. Pam Lattimore. She is the principal scientist with the Research Triangle Institute. By the way ladies and gentlemen, the Research Triangle Institute has been around for decades. When I left the police department decades ago and started my criminological studies, wow, the first thing I think I read was a piece of research from Research Triangle Institute. They have been around for a long time, Crime and Violence and Justice Research program – that’s what she represents. and we are also going to be placing a link in the show notes to the report that we are talking about. Serious and Violent Offender Re-entry Initiative. A 2-year study and a 5-year study and it took 5 years to show the true effects of the program. And Pam, in the second half of the show, so people are sitting, listening to this program and they are saying to themselves, okay fine, if we have got to take the program out for that many years, that has real fiscal implications for us, that has real political implications for us, it has policy implications for us. So first of all, there is that basic understanding that results may not be immediate and that is lesson number 1. Lesson number 2 seems to be that you did discrete variables. In other words, you isolated certain things, services that had more impact than others within your report. So that is the second thing that I want to get into because this has once again real policy implications for those of us in the criminal justice system. So you found some interventions that were more powerful than others – correct?

Pam Lattimore: That is correct and I would like to go if you don’t mind.

Len Sipes: Please, please. Feel free.

Pam Lattimore: To finish up on what we were talking about before the break and that is, I think one of the implications of, if the relapsing hypothesis is correct and if the idea is that people may have difficulty adjusting post release from prison – it points and this study is not the only one, a lot of folks have talked about the importance of that first 90 days post release. Now these programs were supposed to provide pre-release services and post-release services and there was supposed to be a sort of a reasonable hand-off. The report that we are talking about primarily today is based primarily on the services that people received while they were in prison and there’s two reasons for that but the most important is probably, our results suggested that people by and large did not receive a lot of services post release.

Len Sipes: Ah, no wait a minute, wait a minute – let’s back up now.

Pam Lattimore: That’s right.

Len Sipes: So the bulk of these services came within the incarcerated setting

Pam Lattimore: That’s right

Len Sipes: … and then, and this is a very important point and then the services that were supposed to ease the transition into the community in many cases, those services were not there.

Pam Lattimore: That’s right. That’s right.

Len Sipes: Well how can you do one and not the other? I mean taking a look at all the research that I have looked at, it’s crucial that when you come out of the prison system that it be a seamless continuum of services. So if you’re getting substance abuse treatment within the incarcerative setting then you’ve got to continue it in some way, shape or form whether it’s AA or NA, at least you’ve got to continue that when you come out into the community.

Pam Lattimore: Right and the short answer to your “why” is, because it’s hard to do and there was large variation across the sites in terms of post release – the amount of post release programming and our original report dealt with that more than the new – the 5-year study did and so I mean I think one lesson though from that is that there needs to be continued attention paid to how to make that transition. If you think about this organizationally, re-entry programming is extremely hard to do.

Len Sipes: Yes.

Pam Lattimore: Extremely hard to do because of the geography of it. So if you establish a program in a state prison and so you have 200 offenders in that program

Len Sipes: And if they are in Kansas they could be hundreds of miles away from that prison.

Pam Lattimore: They could be hundreds of miles away from that prison and so you have these 200 people and they get… and say you’ve got sort of a cohort type of program. So everybody comes in and everybody spends three months or six months or whatever in some core set of services. You let them go and they… and this is all, let’s just say hard as you would know, and everybody – a lot of folks listening would understand how hard it is to know exactly when people are going to get out and to gauge all that. But let’s say you could do that, then these individuals get out in Kansas and you know, 20 of them go to Kansas City and the other 80 of them go…

Len Sipes: It’s hard to coordinate services over a large geographic area.

Pam Lattimore: Geographic area.

Len Sipes: What percent of the offenders that you studied in terms of your 16 states, what percent did receive adequate post-release services in your estimation?

Pam Lattimore: I’m not sure how to define adequate.

Len Sipes: Less than 50% it sounds like.

Pam Lattimore: Oh way less than 50%.

Len Sipes: Okay, so we’re talking about way less than 50% and that is certainly going to have an impact in terms of program findings.

Pam Lattimore: Right. Right. Oh way less than 50%. I haven’t looked at those numbers in a while but yeah, way less than 50%.

Len Sipes: So a crucial ingredient was missing.

Pam Lattimore: Right and I think… and I’ll just say it again. This is hard. If this were easy, it would have been done before. And so, but that’s a very hard thing to say to policy makers, I have tried, Lord knows I’ve tried but you know, I mean I think that until we come to grips with the reality of the fact that this is hard, you know, we’re not, we don’t stand very much of a chance of making it succeed and so I think we need to learn from you know, each iteration of this. If cancer treatment were held and funding were held to the same standard that criminal justice research and evaluation were held to, we would have no cancer research.

Len Sipes: Or drug treatment across the board.

Pam Lattimore: Or drug treatment across the board – that’s correct.

Len Sipes: It’s because there are very defined guidelines in terms of what constitutes good drug treatment. All right, we only have about six minutes left in the program and I do want to get back to that very important variable. Some parts of these program seem to have a greater impact than others. Talk to me about that.

Pam Lattimore: Right. The 5-year study was supposed to be a follow-on to the original study in a couple of ways, one is the longer followup but the other was we wanted to look, not just whether or not people had been in a SAVORI program but at the impact in terms of numbers of services people received and so forth. Well we initially tried to that we were just going to make a scale, a score basically, okay this person got 12 services or 20 or whatever number we were using and this person got 2 and did the person who got 20 do better than the person who got 2 and the results were no. And we thought, hmmm, okay and we started looking at the data. And then we sort of back-tracked and said, well let’s look at the effect of individual services. And once we did that, we found that in a few instances, not only were the services not effective, they were actually having a criminogenic effect.

Len Sipes: A detrimental effect.

Pam Lattimore: A detrimental effect and it’s like, okay, if you add up something that is having a bad effect with something that is having a good effect, it’s not surprising you find no effect.

Len Sipes: What worked?

Pam Lattimore: Education.

Len Sipes: Education. What kind of education?

Pam Lattimore: You know, our education variable was sort of a sum of…

Len Sipes: An eighth grade certificate, high school, GED

Pam Lattimore: eighth grade certificate, high school, GED, you know vocational training as opposed to….

Len Sipes: Plumbing, electrical…

Pam Lattimore: Right, right, vocational training, you know, those kinds of things.

Len Sipes: And there’s good hard research that backs it up outside of your study.

Pam Lattimore: There is, yes, there is some.

Len Sipes: Okay, so what else?

Pam Lattimore: We found that services by and large that were directed at improving the individual as a person and maybe helping that individual learn not to do drugs, to change their criminal thinking, that those services had positive impacts.

Len Sipes: Okay, what we call within the field, cognitive behavioral therapy we’re talking about thinking for change, we’re talking about helping that person come to grips with their behavior and making better decisions which a lot of people think is very common place and very simple because that’s what we were taught by our parents. In many cases, the individuals caught up within the prison system did not have that education.

Pam Lattimore: That’s exactly right, that’s exactly right and then we found that to a large extent that the services that didn’t have any effect or maybe had slightly detrimental effects were the practical services, housing, well not housing in this case, but re-entry planning, that was a surprise. Now we think that the re-entry planning variable may have been because people had re-entry planning but then there was, you know, there was either no transition post release or they didn’t have other things.

Len Sipes: Right, the lack of followup in the community.

Pam Lattimore: The lack of followup in the community.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Pam Lattimore: And so people were disappointed and so therefore maybe they were doing better. It certainly for us, really raised the question of something I don’t think we know…psychologist have begun… the field has started to drift. I mean we have to remember that these programs were established in 2003 and so we are 10 years then

Len Sipes: And we have come a long way since then

Pam Lattimore: We have come a long way since then

Len Sipes: In terms of the research and in terms of our understanding as to what works.

Pam Lattimore: That’s right, but clearly there is evidence here to support the CBT

Len Sipes: CBT?

Pam Lattimore: The cognitive behavioral therapy

Len Sipes: Okay, thank you.

Pam Lattimore: And you know thinking for change and those kinds of things.

Len Sipes: We have to go after the core, the individual in terms of how he or she seems themselves as a functioning human being and maybe that is, and that plus occupational training, those two variables may be the most important ingredients in terms of good re-entry.

Pam Lattimore: Right and so, you know, with practical services, helping people do resumes and job skills and yeah so interviewing skills and all that, are those going to be helpful? They may be helpful after people have had, you know, sort of come to terms with themselves in terms of changing their criminal identity.

Len Sipes: Stabilizing the core of the individual and that is one of the reasons by the way, why we at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, I mean with the serious offenders and women offenders, why we put them in groups with the philosophy of changing the core. Of having that person change the core as to who they are and before they move to on to other services that we could provide. We only have three minutes left and I need a minute to close. Are there any other over-arching lessons that people need to know when they are talking about this piece of research on Serious and Violent Offenders?

Pam Lattimore: Well I want to say, just to follow on what I was saying about the important about sort of criminal identity and change and all of that, we are about to commence on what will be a 9 to 10-year followup on a subset of the individuals who were in the original study and it is a desistant study that is going to look, we are going to reinterview individuals, men and women in two states that participated – about 750 of them who participated in the original study and some of them will be in prison. I fully expect at least half of them will be in prison and we’re going to try to find the other half out in the community and we want to know two things. This study that we have just concluded was really interested in the factors that were associated with recidivism. The new study will look at that but it is also going to look at factors related to individual change, identification of self and those kinds of things, with respect to why people desisted from crime.

Len Sipes: Is there a way of ferreting out those people who did get good after-care services once they were released from prison and look at their recidivism rates?

Pam Lattimore: We have done some of that and it is not really – well obviously it is not in the report. It wasn’t anything that we felt was useful. I mean I think what we need to understand is that the things that may cause people to stop crime are different from the things that may keep people continuing crime. And that we know a good bit about the things that cause continuation, that causes recidivism, drug use and those kinds – hanging out with the wrong people. We don’t know very much about the reasons, the factors that are associated with why people decide to quit and we think that those are associated with an individual’s identity as well as their commitment maybe to family and children and we need to learn more about that.

Len Sipes: You know, I think this is one of the most fascinating studies that has come out of the US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs and I really want to commend you all for this 5-year commitment to guiding the rest of us within the Criminal Justice System. Ladies and gentlemen, the show today was on Serious and Violent Offenders a 5-year analysis, a Serious and Violent Offender Re-entry Initiative. Our guest today is Dr. Pam Lattimore, she is a principal scientist at the Research Triangle Institute. She is with the Crime, Violence and Justice Research Program – And a direct link to the research that we have been talking about today will be in the show notes. This is DC Public Safety and we really do appreciate all the comments that you give back to us and criticisms and suggestions for new shows. We really do appreciate the feedback and we want everybody to have themselves a pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]



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Faith Based Mentoring-DC Public Safety Radio

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[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes:  From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host Leonard Sipes. Ladies and gentlemen, today the issue is Faith-Based Mentoring. The fact that we have individuals in Washington DC and throughout the country, they’re coming out of the prison system and the question becomes, who is there to help them? Is anybody there to help them? Sometimes it’s the family, sometimes it’s friends and sometimes it’s nobody at all. But what is happening in Washington DC and throughout the country is that the faith-based community, the churches, the Mosques, the Synagogues, they’re stepping up, what they are doing is they are providing volunteers to help individuals come out of the prison, come out of the prison system and to make a successful transformation into the community. We have two guests with us today to discuss this issue. We have Natasha Freeman, she is a cluster coordinator. She is with Israel Manor Incorporated and she is also with Israel Baptist Church in North East Washington DC and we have La Juana Clark. She used to be an individual under our supervision and thank God she is out and she is doing perfectly fine. She has been through a couple of programs. She was in Project Empowerment and the 13-Step program but she was a mentee for two years. So to talk about this whole issue of faith-based individuals, faith-based programs, people coming out of the prison system. Natasha and La Juana, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Natasha Freeman:  Thank you Len, thank you for having us.

La Juana Clark:  Thank you.

Len Sipes:  I appreciate you both being here. Now I do want to emphasize that this is in support of our yearly event that we have in Washington DC. It’s probably our biggest event. So on Thursday, February 21st, 2013 from 7 to 9 pm at St. Luke Church Center, 4923 East Capital Street in South East Washington DC, Thursday, February 21st – it will be on our website where we bring hundreds of people involved in the mentoring process and hundreds of people coming out of the prison system who have been mentored to involve them in the celebration of this whole concept of faith-based mentoring. Natasha Freeman, first of all, you’re the Cluster Coordinator, one of the three Cluster Coordinators for my organization, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency – what does the faith-based community do for people coming out of the prison system in Washington DC.

Natasha Freeman:  Well Len, the faith-based community does a lot of things for people on parole and probation in Washington DC. One of the major things that we do is we go out to different churches, synagogues and mosques as you mentioned earlier and we recruit volunteer mentors to kind of help them navigate successfully through supervision. We also offer a number of special emphasis programs that help with issues like employment, relapse prevention and parenting.

Len Sipes:  Mm hmm. You have a lot of different programs throughout the city. That’s the thing that really does impress me; the fact that it is just not a church, or a mosque or a synagogue involved. It’s just not the mentoring process involved. You all provide a lot of services, it’s AA, NA, clothing, baby sitting, connections to jobs, food – it just goes on and on and on. I mean it’s a very impressive program.

Natasha Freeman:  That is correct. We actually are also responsible for partnering with different organizations in the community to provide the services that the faith-based community cannot.

Len Sipes:  And one of the things that the faith-based program here at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency really is trying to do is to expand on those partnerships, expand upon those services so people coming out of the prison system do have access to the different services they need.

Natasha Freeman:  Yes, that is correct because it is critical to have services in order to make that successful transition from prison to home and successfully entering into the community.

Len Sipes:  La Juana, the thing that strikes me more than anything else is that you come out of the prison system and you come into community. Sometimes you have support. Sometimes family is there, sometimes friends are there, but in a lot of cases, there is no support and on a lot of cases, it’s the church, the mosques, the synagogue that surrounds you and embraces you and says, “Welcome back home – you can do this, we’re here to help”. How does that make you feel?

La Juana Clark:  It makes me feel great. When I first came home and I just got with my church. My church is over in South West and I decided to join the faith-based organization and I got with the 13-Step program which shows you life skills, how to do interviews and how to basically, you know, give you job leads and how to get out there and you know, start working.

Len Sipes:  What religious body were you associated with out there?

La Juana Clark:  Covenant Baptist Church.

Len Sipes:  Covenant Baptist and Covenant’s got a huge reputation in Washington DC.

La Juana Clark:  Yes they do.

Len Sipes:  So Covenant Baptist, did they approach you? Did you approach them?  How did you come together?

La Juana Clark:  Well in the edifice they had some information about the 13-Step program and I just went, I signed up.

Len Sipes:  And it’s just a matter of signing up and walking in?

La Juana Clark:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  And how were you treated?

La Juana Clark:  Very well. I was treated very well. The facilitator he was very knowledgeable and he had a lot of information and I just utilized it. You know, I was like well I guess a natural leader in the program so I was helping him to get the information out to the other people in the program and so it’s a wonderful program.

Len Sipes:  As a woman caught up in the criminal justice system, do people stereotype you as being a person caught up in the criminal justice system?

La Juana Clark:  Absolutely. Absolutely.

Len Sipes:  And did you get that stereotype in terms of Covenant Baptist Church?

La Juana Clark:  No, not at all.

Len Sipes:  Okay.

La Juana Clark:  Not at all.

Len Sipes:  And why do you think that is? I mean this is what people tell me. They get the stereotype all the time and it really is an impediment in terms of crossing that bridge from being a tax burden to tax payer. Crossing that bridge from being caught up in the system and not caught up in the system and that embracing aspect of the faith-based community, so many men and women have told me it’s made a huge difference in their lives simply to be accepted for who you are.

La Juana Clark:  Yes, absolutely.

Len Sipes:  Tell me about that.

La Juana Clark:  Well, first of all I joined Covenant in 2010 and once they found out what happened to me, my situation happened in 2009 and I was open, I told them about it – what happened and I was open to whatever you know they had to offer and they embraced me and so they had the 13-Steps and I joined it and anything else that was available, the resources that they had, I utilized it and it has been a tremendous help.

Len Sipes:  People have told me… people say, a lot of people come back out of the prison system and they go back out into the community and the join a gang because they need people around them, they need people to support them. It may be dysfunctional. It may lead them back to the prison system but they need people in their lives to support them and as one person of the faith-based community once told me, “We’re a gang for good. We’re an embracing gang. We’re exactly the kind of gang structure you need only we’re going to help you, we’re going to lead you down the right path”. Am I… that person’s comments, are they accurate?

La Juana Clark:  The gang, if it’s a good gang – yes. More likely, I believe in the faith-base and for me and I could probably speak for several other people that that’s all that we need, is some help and if there’s help there, you know, something to get us out there, to do positive things. It’s not necessary, even if it’s just finding a job, yes it’s cool to find a job – that’s good to find a job but we need programs, more programs like faith-based programs or you know, just more programs out there to help us get back on our feet to get us where we need to be, to point us in the right direction so that way we won’t go back into the prison system.

Len Sipes:  If the support is there it lessens the likelihood considerably of you going back.

La Juana Clark:  Absolutely.

Len Sipes:  And it lessens the burden on tax payers, it lessens the burden on the criminal justice system and you become an example for everybody also.

La Juana Clark:  Absolutely.

Len Sipes:  So going back to you Natasha, is this a common experience of men and women coming out of the prison system and reaching out to the churches or the mosques or the synagogues? And being embraced and having that successful transformation?

Natasha Freeman:  Yes, I would say so and I would like to commend CSOSA because what they have done here in Washington DC is they have actually allowed the faith-based community to kind of band together so that the resources are a wrap-around services that we can offer people in the community so it’s not just one church doing one thing and someone else doing something else. Because we are networked together, we can actually offer that push that’s really needed to help someone transition back into the community and I would like to commend people like La Juana who have come back into the community and have really through the help of the faith-base, stepped up and are now able to help other people make that transition and we see a lot of that where people have successfully completed their supervision and then they come back to be a part of the faith-base in the capacity of a mentor or a facilitator or a helper just to add to that network of people pushing for people to come home and stay home.

Len Sipes:  But so many people in any community, I won’t say necessarily the faith community, they say to themselves, you know, there are so many issues that need our attention. There’s the elderly, there’s the unemployed, there are kids in schools and I have heard this directly and it may sound offensive to either one of you, and I don’t mean it to be offensive but it’s like Leonard, I don’t have time for criminals, I want to help fill in the blank. School kids, I want to help the elderly, I want to help unemployed – I don’t have time for people who have done harm to other human beings. So that’s a stereotype and an issue that all of us need to deal with – correct?  Not everybody is cut out to be a mentor to somebody coming out of the prison system is the point.

Natasha Freeman:  Right, and I agree with that and what I would say to… you know, not every church in Washington DC is involved in the faith-based program. It would be nice if we could get that much support but the reality of it is, like you said, it’s not for everyone but what I would say is that if we don’t do what we can now, the problem will only grow and those children or the elderly people that you think need your help more than a person who is coming home on parole and probation could easily turn into that person because we’re not offering the right support services and the right foundation. We are not only helping the person who is on parole or probation, we are also helping their family members who need their support. So by helping this person, we are actually really strengthening the family, hopefully helping young people not follow in the same footsteps as their parents and then hopefully helping that person on parole and probation become a support system for their elderly parent or family member who needs them.

Len Sipes:  Well most individuals who come out of the prison system have kids.

Natasha Freeman:  That is correct.

Len Sipes:  So when you are dealing with an individual coming out of the prison system it is just not about them. It’s about their kids. I mean I think National Research that in terms of women caught up in the criminal justice system La Juana that 7 in 10 have kids, so it’s just not about that individual, it’s about her family, it’s about her kids. So if you can save one, you’re saving three or four others.

La Juana Clark:  That’s correct, we are.

Len Sipes:  So I mean, what about that? Does everybody clearly seem to understand that?

La Juana Clark:  Well not everybody seems to understand it. The women that we have, you know people have kids and like as you said, people stereotype or what have you but I believe that you know, if you… just like I said before, we need those programs. Even in the system, they are taking the programs away from the system because now you have this thing where they are building more prisons and it’s not like it used to be where you could go in and get your education in the system and come out and be a productive citizen any more. It is more so, build a prison, we’re going to lock you up and you will stay there basically.

Len Sipes:  Right.

La Juana Clark:  And it doesn’t matter whether you have kids or not, or what have you – your kids will grow up and if nobody is there to nurture them and to show them the way, they will be a product of a horrible society. They will follow in their parents’ footsteps to do the wrong thing and they will be in that same prison.

Len Sipes:  Well I just did a show on women offenders a little while ago and the thing is, I don’t understand how women coming out of the prison system do make it. Most have higher rates of mental health problems than men. Most have higher rates of HIV. Most have higher rates of substance abuse problems. 7 out of 10 have kids. Now that’s stacking the deck pretty considerably against that person successfully coming out and not going back to a life of crime and not going back to a life of drugs. I mean those are impossible odds it strikes me to overcome. So it strikes me that the faith community – if the faith community is there for that person, that dramatically increases whether or not they are going to be successful.

La Juana Clark:  Well you know, thank God for faith-based community. Where I stay at, which brings me to my point, where I stay, I was looking around, I was actually still on probation and my probation officer asked me to come down to CSOSA and check out some jobs and places to stay and stuff like that and one of the places where I stay at – it’s called End Street Village and that place is awesome. It is a shelter as well as recovery housing and there are women there that are in recovery and have kids and also across the street is the night shelter which is Luther Place night shelter. So I stayed there for a year and now I have my own place. I’m in a…

Len Sipes:  Oh? Congratulations.

La Juana Clark:  Yeah, I’m in an SRO. And it’s wonderful.

Len Sipes:  What’s an SRO?

La Juana Clark:  SRO is a Single Residency Occupancy.

Len Sipes:  Okay, cool.

La Juana Clark:  So I have a roommate but this is what we need. This is something that helped me to get through. I don’t have any kids but I know there are ladies there that do have kids and we help one another and if we have programs like End Street Village, Luther Place Night Shelter. Some, any places like that, the faith-based communities. I wish there were more faith-based communities because we can get through. Not just women, men too.

Len Sipes:  And it’s not, it’s just not the matter of programs, it’s a matter of being embraced.

La Juana Clark:  It’s a matter… exactly.

Len Sipes:  It’s a matter of having the respect that you feel that you need to make that transformation.

La Juana Clark:  I tell you one thing, if I was not embraced by my church and by a faith-based community, I don’t think I would have made it out here.

Len Sipes:  That is one of the questions I do want…

La Juana Clark:  I don’t think I would have made it.

Len Sipes:  That’s one of the questions I did want to ask you but we’re more than half way through the program, I want to reintroduce our guest today. Natasha Freeman is a Cluster Coordinator; she is with Israel Manor Incorporated. She is with Israel Baptist Church in North East and also we have an individual who used to be under supervision and she used to be part of our mentoring program and that’s La Juana Clark and she has been through a variety of program and she has now been out for two years and has been a Mentee for two years. She has been part of this faith-based program for two years. So again, I say congratulations and La Juana let me just go right back to you with that th… oh, I do want to remind everybody that this is in support of our annual city-wide faith-based mentors and mentees of the year on February 21st. It will be at St. Luke Church Center, 4923 East Capital Street, South East Washington DC from 7 o’clock to 9 o’clock in the evening. If you need additional information we are at La Juana, the question again goes back to you. You mentioned if you didn’t have these programs, what would happen to you. Where would you be?

La Juana Clark:  I would be out street doing the same thing that I used to do and there would be no support because my family is all gone. My family, my mom, parents are dead – grandmother, everybody is gone. I have two brothers. One is, you know, I have brothers. One is a product… he was in and out of the system and he did well. He would do well for a moment and then he would go back in and it’s like you do need that support. You need the support.

Len Sipes:  Virtually every woman I have ever talked to who has come out of the prison system who is back into the community has told me that again, without these programs they would be back inside the system. Without these programs they would either be dead or back in the game or back doing what they were doing or back harming society and they are not and they are reunited with their kids and they are doing well. Not all of them by any stretch of the imagination but a pretty significant number.

La Juana Clark:  Yes, that’s correct.

Len Sipes:  That’s what impresses me. Natasha, now we have well over 100 faith-based organizations here at Washington DC. We have well over 200 people who are mentors. I think that is just phenomenal. I think well over 700 people have been through the program and we only started tracking these numbers back in 2007. The program started in 2002, but since 2007 when we started actually keeping track, over 700 people caught up in the criminal justice system have been through, have successfully completed the program. The early indications are that the longer they stay with the program, the better off they do and the less they recidivate. I mean that shows the power of the faith community.

Natasha Freeman:  That’s correct and just touching on your point the longer they stay with the program… it’s about developing relationships when it comes to the mentoring program. Even beyond people completing supervision they still keep in contact with their mentors because it is really a long term journey and so once we give them the programming, we give them the resources, the whole idea behind the faith based mentoring program is to help them successfully navigate through supervision but then once they complete supervision we still have to make sure that they have the relationships and the support from the community in order to stay home and that is really our biggest goal is to keep them here and becoming productive tax paying members of society and we can’t do that without the support and the relationships developed through the faith-based community and I think that’s why the people who complete supervision through the program are a lot more successful because those brick and mortar 100 year old organizations and foundations on every other corner here in Washington DC, they can always go there and say you know what, I’m having trouble with this or I need that and you always have that objective person to talk to, that can talk you through the situation so that you don’t have to turn back to drugs or violence or whatever your vice was that got you into trouble in the first place.

Len Sipes:  Right, but coming out of the system, coming out of the system, coming out of prison you’ve got a chip on your shoulder the size of Montana and there’s a lot of individuals and people always say that I make excuses for bad behavior when I say this but again, you take a look – a little while ago when you were talking about women offenders, the degree of sexual violence directed towards women caught up in the criminal justice system when they were minors is astounding. It is literally astounding. It is much higher than the males, but if you talk to the males I mean the problems that they had in terms of their household, so many of them getting up at 6 and 7 and 8 years old, pouring their own cereal, taking themselves to school, raising themselves essentially or you know, 9 year olds raising 7 year olds, it’s a very difficult problem. They end up in the prison system in many cases. They come out and again they have the chip on their shoulder the size of Montana. How do you break through that wall, that barrier that so many people coming out of the prison system present to you when they show up at your institution and say okay, I’m not sure as to who you really are. I’m not sure as to what your game is. I’m not sure as to what you truly are trying to offer me but I’m standing here – go, convince me! What do you say to them?

Natasha Freeman:  You know, one of the first things that I tell them is that you know, we are no different. One of the biggest differences between us you got caught for doing something wrong and a lot of people in the faith community just never got caught and I think that’s why there is a level of compassion for people, for some people, for those who are coming in to the faith institution with those types of situations and then the other thing is that you just have to love on the person and when it is genuine, they know. Not right away is everyone going to tell you everything. You know, they are not going to pour it all out on the table right away but once they come around and you show them the services, you show them that it is real, if they need clothing; you take them to the clothing closet. If they need help with food, you take them to the food pantry. Once you start to offer them some of those services that we have, then they start to see that these people are really here for me and one of the big differences with the faith-based being attached to CSOSA is they kind of come with that kind of “oh well, my CSO sent me” thing and then they get there and they see, okay, well this is not like going to see my CSO. This is somebody else who kind of really cares. Not to say that the CSO doesn’t care but you know, when you go to see your CSO you go with that oh, “they’re just going to tell me to do this and do that” type of chip on your shoulder. When you come to the faith base, you see that this person is really here trying to help you kind of be in good standing with your CSO, help you navigate through some things, solve some problems so that you don’t have that chip on your shoulder.

Len Sipes:  And CSO for people outside of the Washington DC metropolitan area, we stand for Community Supervision Officer what most of the country calls parole and probation agents. La Juana, the person that I described coming out of the prisons again, with the chip on their shoulder the size of Montana – am I exaggerating or am I accurate?

La Juana Clark:  No you’re not because I was one of those people and because even though I didn’t have a long term time in jail, I was one of those people and I was like you know…

Len Sipes:  What’s your game?

La Juana Clark:  Yeah, what is your game and I don’t need all of this stuff. I just want to get back to work?

Len Sipes:  What’s in it for you, why are you here? What are you trying to do to me?

La Juana Clark:  Exactly.

Len Sipes:  Because so many people coming out of prison just see other people as just gaming them. As just, they are just there to exploit them.

La Juana Clark:  Yeah, but you know, you have to be open and so I was open. Because I was open, nothing else was working. All of my cards read zero and so I was like, you know I have to be open to this and in order for me to not get back in trouble, I have to do something and I’m too old also. So I was open and I had to own up to what I had done so, that card, I was owning up to my responsibility. The part that I played in it and I was open to whatever services that CSOSA and the faith-based community offered.

Len Sipes:  How long did it take you to trust the people in the faith community to the point where you were ready to open up and talk about your real experiences?

La Juana Clark:  It took a while.

Len Sipes:  How long?

La Juana Clark:  It was like six months.

Len Sipes:  Yeah. And that’s not unusual Natasha?

La Juana Clark:  It takes a while.

Len Sipes:  That’s not a first day process, a second day process – it ordinarily takes months for that relationship to build to the point where the two trust each other. Correct?

Natasha Freeman:  That is correct and that is why in our program we make it so that the person has a mandatory minimum of six months left on their supervision so that way we can make sure that the relationship is cultivated in such a way that they can trust and we can really get down to the nitty gritty of what their real needs are and kind of touch on some of the real issues that they have, so that they can again be a successful member of society. Because if we don’t touch on those issues, it’s so easy for something bad to happen in your life and you turn right back around and start doing the things that made you comfortable.

Len Sipes:  Right and the beauty – and this is, I’ve talked to several people who have been through our faith-based program and tell me if I’m right or wrong – the beauty is that you could be two years out. You could be two years away from the faith-based program, you’re doing fine, you’ve got a job, you’re off of drugs. Everything is going okay but suddenly everything is not and they reinsert themselves and the faith community embraces them once again. I mean, am I right or wrong?

Natasha Freeman:  That is correct and that is the true beauty of the program because we are the faith community at the same time that we work with CSOSA, we are the faith community so they can always come back and receive the services and the support just as if they never left and some cases people don’t leave because we become their surrogate family, their second family so they come to us and they become members of the faith institutions, of course we don’t [PH] prosthetise or we don’t force anyone…

Len Sipes:  Right and I do want to get that point across very clearly that they do not have to belong to the Muslim religion, the Baptist religion, the catholic religion, the Jewish – they don’t have to… they can just come and be mentored.

Natasha Freeman:  That is correct and they never have to join a faith institution at all but some people do. They choose to and like I said, they become active members of that congregation and I’d like to point out that La Juana at her faith institution, Covenant – she joined. She is a member of their choir. She sings very beautifully.

Len Sipes:  Wonderful. Wonderful. Congratulations.

Natasha Freeman:  And she’ll be modest – she has a very wonderful talent in singing and she has performed at the Kennedy Center so that is something

Len Sipes:  Now that’s quite a transformation going from the system to the Kennedy Center La Juana.

La Juana Clark:  Yes. I performed at the Kennedy Center three times as a matter of fact. Once was for … in 2011 – I was still on probation mind you, and I performed at the Kennedy Center, we had a celebration of Let Freedom Ring, it was for Martin Luther King’s birthday and we performed under the director of Nolan Williams and we backed up Patti LaBelle. It was a wonderful show.

Len Sipes:  WOW – that’s an amazing experience all right. Well first of all, thank you so much both of you for being on the program. Ladies and gentlemen we’re going to close. Natasha Freeman, she’s a Cluster Coordinator with Israel Manor Incorporated. She is with Israel Baptist Church in North East. La Juana Clark used to be under our supervision. She used to be a part of the program – actually you still are right?

La Juana Clark:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  You still are part of the program and that is one of the wonderful things about what we do. You’re over there at Covenant and congratulations La Juana to all the successes that you’ve had and I do want once again to take an opportunity to remind everybody that our big yearly faith-based mentoring program is going to be at St. Luke’s Catholic Church. St. Luke’s Church Center, 4923 East Capital Street, South East Washington DC on February 21st and there is plenty of parking. It is a very large operation. We have hundreds of people from all over the city involved in the Mentor and Mentoring program that come together to celebrate the success and the challenges of the Mentoring program. If you need additional information, go to our website,  Thank you for your cards, your letters, for your emails, for your feedback in terms of what we do and have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

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