Justice Reinvestment-The Urban Institute

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Radio Program available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2014/02/justice-reinvestment-urban-institute/.

[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes: From the nation’s capital this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host Leonard Sipes. Today’s program, Justice Reinvestment in America, or how I like to call it, Reinventing the American Justice System. Our guest today is Nancy La Vigne. She is the principle investigator for the Urban Institute. There was a piece of research that she was the principle investigator on, Justice Reinvestment Initiative State Assessment Report, from the Urban Institute, funded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, US Department of Justice; the website www.urban.org.

I’m going to briefly read from the executive summary. “States across the country are increasingly seeking cost-effective and evidence-based strategies to enhance public safety and manage their corrections and parole and probation populations. This model, Justice Reinvestment yielded promising results supporting cost-effective evidence-based policies projected to generate meaningful savings for states while maintaining a focus on public safety. Congress appropriated funds to launch the Justice Reinvestment Initiative in 2010 in partnership with the Pew Charitable Trusts. 17 states are participating.” Nancy, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Nancy La Vigne: Thanks. It’s great to be here.

Len Sipes: You’re back at the microphones. You’ve been here before. I absolutely adore having you. I consider you one of the chief spokespeople for Justice Reinvestment in the United States, a pretty complicated topic. Let’s start off with what is Justice Reinvestment?

Nancy La Vigne: Well, you’re right. It really is complicated. And it’s not the kind of concept that can be answered in what I call an elevator pitch. It takes more than three sentences, so bear with me here.

Len Sipes: Sure.

Nancy La Vigne: The Justice Reinvestment model is actually a seven step model. And it kind of mirrors the problem solving model. So, trying to understand the underlying causes of a problem and then using data and evidence to drive how you might change that problem and then being sure to assess is after the fact. So if you take that rather simplistic model and apply it to state criminal justice systems you have a lot of things that need to be in place. And critical to that, and this is the first step of the model, is establishing a bipartisan working group. You have to have everyone on board.

Len Sipes: Sure.

Nancy La Vigne: And in the context of the state, we’re talking about the House Majority Leader, the Senate Leader, different names in different states.

Len Sipes: Right.

Nancy La Vigne: Democrats, republicans, you want all branches of government on board, and this is usually led by the governor. So you need a governor who sees the vision and the opportunity for criminal justice reform and really wants to spearhead the effort. So that’s the first step.

Len Sipes: Right.

Nancy La Vigne: Then you need to analyze the drivers of your criminal justice populations and costs. And of course the most costly component of a criminal justice population are those who are behind bars. So who’s going to prison, for how long, how’d they get there, when are they released, what happens when they’re released, who ends up getting returned and why? These are kind of detailed questions that require very –

Len Sipes: Sure are.

Nancy La Vigne: Good data and really strong data analysis. That’s where the technical assistance provider comes in. So you do your data analysis and that leads you to a variety of policy options that are related to the drivers of your system. You have those policy options. You continue to work with the working group. All the stake holders need to be on board. And you make policy changes that are codified in the legislation that’s enacted. Do we declare victory and move on at that juncture? You passed a bill right?

Len Sipes: Right.

Nancy La Vigne: So you’re supposed to say, “No, Nancy. I don’t think you do.”

Len Sipes: I’m –

Nancy La Vigne: “There’s got to be more to it than that.”

Len Sipes: I’m just trying to follow your lead, because this is complicated. I have these discussions all the time with my peers and other reporters, Justice Reinvestment, what it means. It’s hard to encapsualize.

Nancy La Vigne: So I’m only on step four –

Len Sipes: Okay. Go ahead.

Nancy La Vigne: Right? I’ve got a few more. So the legislation is passed and enacted, but that’s still on paper, right? Then you have to go about the hard work of implementing it.

Len Sipes: Sure.

Nancy La Vigne: And that’s a big component of Justice Reinvestment, is working with the practitioners on the ground to ensure that what was passed is actually implemented with fidelity, as we call it in the research community. So here’s the catch. Do you remember the name Justice Reinvestment?

Len Sipes: Yes.

Nancy La Vigne: Have you heard me say reinvestment yet?

Len Sipes: No.

Nancy La Vigne: Right. It takes so long to the reinvestment word.

Len Sipes: Right.

Nancy La Vigne: But that’s step six, because what you do is you implement the changes that are supposed to thwart the growth in your prison population, if not reduce it, and with that reduction comes massive savings.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Nancy La Vigne: Across all of the 17 states that we studied, they are projected to save 4.6 billion dollars.

Len Sipes: That’s an amazing amount of money.

Nancy La Vigne: Yeah. It really is. And some share of that gets reinvested.

Len Sipes: Into?

Nancy La Vigne: Into programs, services, evidence-based practices that help support a lot of these alternatives to incarceration.

Len Sipes: Is it too easy to say that if I save the state of Missouri a billion dollars, then half of that comes back to programs in the community that furthers the reduction and recidivism?

Nancy La Vigne: That’s safe but for the percentage. Each state has chosen to reinvest a different percentage and that varies dramatically –

Len Sipes: Right.

Nancy La Vigne: Across the 17 states we studied.

Len Sipes: The heart and soul of this is that we need to manage the criminal justice population better, more efficiently, to protect public safety and to lower the cost at the state level. That’s the bottom line behind all of this, correct?

Nancy La Vigne: That is. And I think the emphasis on cost-effectiveness is really important, and both of those words, cost and effectiveness. So this wasn’t driven by cost alone, right, although, a lot of states that did engage in Justice Reinvestment were strapped for resources and were looking at the opportunity cost of continuing to spend more and more money on incarceration. It’s the effectiveness piece, in that a lot of these states were looking and saying, “We’re just, we keep incarcerating more and more people at great expense, but we’re not getting much return on that investment, recidivism rates weren’t budging a bit.”

Len Sipes: Right.

Nancy La Vigne: “So what are we getting out of this? There’s got to be a better way. There’s got to be a way that we can invest resources, perhaps even less than we’re investing now, on evidence-based practices that will lower recidivism.” And of course that’s going to be addressing the underlying causes of criminal behavior.

Len Sipes: Sure. But my peers in the different states have all said and in the 14 years when I was with the Maryland Department of Public Safety, I mean every year the governor had a discussion with their public safety secretary about cutting back on cost. I think every governor in this country is saying to themselves, “We’re in a recession. We’re taking in fewer tax dollars. We’re in trouble. 8% to 12% of our expenditures are going into corrections.” I know it’s different for different states. Is there a way that you can bring that down, yet at the same time, maintain public safety? I would imagine a lot of this is coming out of those discussions with governors and public safety secretaries and directors of corrections.

Nancy La Vigne: Absolutely. And it’s no coincidence that Justice Reinvestment has taken off at a time where crime rates are historically low levels.

Len Sipes: Yes.

Nancy La Vigne: So it becomes a very safe space to experiment in alternatives to incarceration.

Len Sipes: Right. Almost continuous 20 year, almost, because in the last couple years it’s fluctuated in terms of crime going up according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics and some FBI data. Although, the latest FBI data says crime is going back down. But basically over the last 20 years the trend line has been less crime. So it is a safe space to have this discussion.

Nancy La Vigne: Right.

Len Sipes: Okay. So go ahead. So why, if it’s so complex, why did the 17 states decide to get involved in this?

Nancy La Vigne: Right. Well, we were just talking about the issues of not getting the return on investment of continuing incarceration and increasing incarceration rates in many, actually, most states. They look to the states that predated the work that we did. I guess I should clarify. The report that we just released focuses on 17 states under what we call the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, which was launched in 2010 by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, with appropriations from Congress. BJA had invested in Justice Reinvestment at an earlier time, as did the Pew Charitable Trusts. BJA and Pew actually partnered on the 2010 initiative. It’s a public-private partnership. It’s rather unique.

Len Sipes: Right.

Nancy La Vigne: Pew is able to dedicate resources to a lot of what we call “the ground softening” that needs to take place in states. They’ll do public opinion polls to demonstrate that the public really has more of a tolerance for alternatives to incarceration than some might think. They’ll engage in educating members of Congress in ways that government funds couldn’t go towards. And they also do their own technical assistance. So it’s been a terrific partnership, but I do want to note that these are just the 17 states since the 2010 initiative, and then much, much came before that, and that the models evolved quite a bit over time. But a lot of these 17 states looked back to those earlier examples, Texas stands out as –

Len Sipes: Sure.

Nancy La Vigne: A big one that everyone holds up. Texas engaging in this level of reform is noteworthy in and of itself.

Len Sipes: A conservative state. And one of the things that I did want to point out is that this is now a bipartisan relationship. This is now a bipartisan discussion where you have people on the conservative side taking a look at the state government and basically saying, “Okay, we are giving you 800 million dollars a year or a billion dollars a year to run your correctional system, what return am I getting for that expenditure?” That’s a very fair question.

Nancy La Vigne: Yeah. It’s quite powerful, and then looking at other examples and saying, “Why aren’t we doing this?”

Len Sipes: Right.

Nancy La Vigne: So that was a big, big driver for states getting onboard with it. And you need that, because it’s a complicated process. It’s both complex and complicated.

Len Sipes: Well, but again, I think every person that I’ve talked to representing states throughout the country has said that their governor has had that conversation. Every state is tweaking their criminal justice system. Every state out there, whether their part of this study or not, are trying to figure out different ways of holding down on expenditures, and at the same time, getting a bigger, stronger, more powerful return on tax pay dollars. Every state is doing this to one degree or another.

Nancy La Vigne: That’s right.

Len Sipes: At least the people that I’ve talked to.

Nancy La Vigne: That’s right.

Len Sipes: All right, so this has many ramifications for parole and probation. I represent a parole and probation agency. Most of the people I talk to are involved in community corrections. This really does. Because I remember sitting down and doing an analysis in the state of Maryland. 70% of the people coming into the prison system in one particular year, 70% were revocations from parole or probation, 70%. And the public safety secretary would look at me, and he goes, “Leonard, we can’t maintain 70% returns. I mean are all the people coming back really, do they all really need to return to the prison system?” And again, I think that conversation is going on in every state.

Nancy La Vigne: Right. Well, it’s interesting that you mentioned revocations, because across the 17 states that was one of the biggest drivers of all of their prison populations, probation and parole revocations on average feeding about 50% of the growth in the prison population.

Len Sipes: And I’ve seen it much higher –

Nancy La Vigne: Yeah.

Len Sipes: From other research reports.

Nancy La Vigne: Yeah. And this is just on average across the states. So, yes, that was one key policy response was thinking differently about what to do with revocations. The solutions included graduated sanctions, so a lot of other responses to violations of conditions of probation or parole, short of incarceration; kind of ramping up supervision; adding electronic monitoring; so on and so forth.

Len Sipes: Project HOPE in Hawaii.

Nancy La Vigne: Absolutely. Yeah. Several states included Project HOPE in part of their policy initiatives –

Len Sipes: That’s great.

Nancy La Vigne: Because it held such promise, those short-term stays over the weekend in jail that don’t disrupt one’s employment and –

Len Sipes: Right.

Nancy La Vigne: Enable them. But they feel it. It’s got teeth.

Len Sipes: It’s got teeth.

Nancy La Vigne: And it’s swift and certain.

Len Sipes: And they’re off the street quickly and it did dramatically, dramatically reduce recidivism. It dramatically reduced technical violations, it certainly did get the attention of the people in supervision.

Nancy La Vigne: Yeah. Another thing they looked at in terms of reducing revocations is, well, certainly the technical violations are huge and need not result in a return to prison per se, even some low-level offenses, does that really merit a return to incarceration? Or what is the length of stay of any kind of term for revocation, can that be narrowed?

Len Sipes: The question I hear oftentimes is by re-incarcerating so many lower level offenders; we don’t have the room for the truly serious violent people who pose a risk to public safety, who pose a danger to public safety. That’s the discussion that I’ve heard.

Nancy La Vigne: Yeah. That’s absolutely right and it remains true today, although, I think that increasingly you’re seeing that people behind bars in state prisons have done some pretty serious crimes, because states have over time tried to divert folks from incarceration. The revocation piece is the one piece where I think there’s still room for reform.

Len Sipes: But the idea here is to, again, lower rates of recidivism – follow the research, I’m sorry. It really is a focus now in the last ten years of taking a look at evidence-based practices. A body of research has come out that has provided us with best practices and it’s asking those of us in the criminal justice system to employ those best practices. And through that we can figure out who needs services, who needs supervision, the people who don’t need intensive supervision or services, we do not do that much with them, but the services and the supervision really goes to those who pose a clear and present danger to public safety

Nancy La Vigne: Absolutely. And you actually just hit on the number one policy response across the 17 states. 16 of the 17 states implemented, expanded, and/or validated risk and needs assessments to make decisions –

Len Sipes: Right.

Nancy La Vigne: On who needs to go in, who need to be supervised, who needs treatment, etc. etc.

Len Sipes: What we’re saying is we have a pretty good sense now after, I say the last ten years. We’re actually talking the last 30, 40, 50 years of research. We have a pretty good sense now as to how community corrections, how parole and probation agencies can operate, should operate. And if we operate in that way, we lower the risks of recidivism and we save tax paid dollars all at the same time. There is enough evidence at this stage of the game that indicates that that’s the way to go.

Nancy La Vigne: I think there is, but speaking as a researcher, there’s always opportunity to analyze those policies more carefully.

Len Sipes: I’ve never talked to a researcher in my life who didn’t say, “Well, we’ve found this out, but we need to do this and this and this.” Well, we’re more than halfway through the program. I do want to reintroduce Nancy La Vigne. She is the principle investigator for this particular piece of research at the Urban Institute. It is Justice Reinvestment Initiative State Assessment Report. It was done by the Urban Institute, funded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance. You can get the copy of the report from the website at the Urban Institute, www.urban.org. Okay. So we’re talking about parole and probation. And we’re talking about also sentencing practices and policies. We’re talking about at the very beginning what judges do and what decisions they make in terms of who goes to prison, who goes to the jail, and who goes to community supervision, and if they go to prison, for how long.

Nancy La Vigne: Exactly.

Len Sipes: And tell me about that, talk to me.

Nancy La Vigne: Right. Well, we were just talking about risk and needs assessments, and those apply to every step in the criminal justice process when you think about it, and starting with pretrial, does one need to detained or not. And a couple of the states that we assessed they have unified systems, so pretrial populations are important to states, not just to localities. So using actual risk assessment to better understand who can safely remain in the community pending the sentencing process is important. Using risk and assessment tools to guide sentencing decisions, the in/out decision need to be in prison –

Len Sipes: Isn’t that unique? So judges are going to be using risk and needs assessment tools to figure who should go and who shouldn’t.

Nancy La Vigne: Well, we surely hope so.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Nancy La Vigne: I mean that’s I like to say that the devil’s in the details of implementation when it comes to Justice Reinvestment.

Len Sipes: Yes.

Nancy La Vigne: And I mentioned it earlier. It’s a critical piece. We can’t assume, especially in the case of judges and prosecutors, that they’re going to do, they’re going to change their behaviors in any way, shape, or form, really, when it comes to changes in sentencing policy or anything that expands discretion. You hope that things will change. I mean looking at the federal level and there’s a lot of talk about reducing or even removing entirely mandatory minimums. That doesn’t guarantee that judges are going to behave differently.

Len Sipes: Sure.

Nancy La Vigne: You need training.

Len Sipes: Right.

Nancy La Vigne: So a lot of the implementation piece of Justice Reinvestment, what we call phase two of the process, involves training of judges, training of probation officers on how to use risk tools, a lot of training that involves almost cultural shifts in how people think about their jobs and interacting with clients.

Len Sipes: Well, I love listening to tech podcasts. And one of the things that was brought up in a tech podcast the other day was the fact that you take a look at certain companies, Kodak, they saw the digital revolution coming, they were one of the first inventors of the digital camera, but yet, at the same time, they went under, they went belly up, the company went out of existence, because everybody switched over from film to digital, even though they saw it coming and even though they were one of the first inventors of the digital camera. Sometimes organizational DNA gets in the way of meaningful change, correct?

Nancy La Vigne: It does. It does. But we talked about some of the bottom line outcomes of Justice Reinvestment coming from our assessment report and earlier in the show I was saying that across the 17 states they’re looking at projected savings of 4.6 billion dollars.

Len Sipes: And that’s an amazing amount of money.

Nancy La Vigne: It is. And also I did want to mention that those states also are planning to reinvest 398 million dollars, okay, which is a fair chunk of change.

Len Sipes: But what the research says that we have to have the programs. So this is one way of getting the programs.

Nancy La Vigne: That’s exactly right.

Len Sipes: If we going to lower rates of recidivism, if we’re going to reduce crime, the programs have to be there. That’s one way of getting the dollars for the programs.

Nancy La Vigne: That’s right. But those are I guess what I’d call the hard metrics, the quantifiable outcomes. But we’re talking about cultural change. And I wanted to mention that there’s some softer outcomes that we measured as well, through interviews with stakeholders and so forth. And we’ve observed a huge cultural change in these states that are engaged in Justice Reinvestment, first of all, just embracing data to make decisions. If you think about going in a state house and imagining someone saying, “Should we pass this new crime?” right, and a legislator saying, “Well, what does the data say?”

Len Sipes: Right.

Nancy La Vigne: It actually is happening now. It’s stunning.

Len Sipes: That’s amazing.

Nancy La Vigne: Because they’ve become to learn the value of the data in understanding what’s driving cost, right. And that’s through the support of technical assistance providers. I did want to acknowledge those providers, Council of State Governments Justice Center, is one, and the Vera Institute of Justice, and then I already referenced that the public-private partnership involves Pew, the Pew Charitable Trusts, and they also do their own technical assistance. So these folks come in and really work with the data and help demonstrate how the data can drive decision making. And we’ve also seen a real embracement in evidence in terms of what does the research say what really is effective.

Len Sipes: Right. So the states are going through meaningful change. I mean when we started this process there was pushback. When we started this process there was immense amount of discussion at the state level in terms of what proper, what are we doing, why are we doing it, how are we doing it. Different people were saying, “No, wait a minute. This just, we feel very uncomfortable about making these changes.” What we’re having in these 17 states and other states throughout the country is a very intense policy discussion in terms of what the criminal justice system is doing and how it should be doing it. And now they’re going to data to answer those questions, which is wonderful.

Nancy La Vigne: It is.

Len Sipes: And that really didn’t happen, that data driven assessment didn’t happen until Urban and Pew and the Council of State Governments and Vera and the Department of Justice came along and asked states to take a look at their systems.

Nancy La Vigne: I don’t know that that’s fair to say, because I know that in individual states they have engaged in this kind of data analysis for at least a few decades. I think the challenge is that it takes a lot of work to get the data. The data aren’t necessarily in a good shape out of the box to do these types of analyses in a lot of states, especially in the budget cuts that we’ve witnessed have shrunk their research staff not expanded them, and some have no real research support whatsoever. So having that TA is really critical.

Len Sipes: I’m guessing I’m referring to the intensity of the discussion. I mean this discussion is now taking place at the county level, at the state level –

Nancy La Vigne: It is.

Len Sipes: Within corrections, within the governor’s office, within law enforcement, within parole and probation. I’ve never seen in my career the intensity of the discussion about what works, what doesn’t work, and what the data has to say. That I think is new, even though states have always used data to some degree.

Nancy La Vigne: Right.

Len Sipes: So it’s the intensity of the discussion.

Nancy La Vigne: I think that’s right.

Len Sipes: Okay. And then so I think that, again, Urban, Pew, Council of State Governments, Vera, the Department of Justice, has pretty much led that discussion throughout the country. And we’re coming up with a premise that basically says, “You can do it quicker, you can do it better, you can do it smarter, we can save you money, you can reinvest part of those savings back into state government, and you can protect public safety all at the same time.” That’s a huge undertaking.

Nancy La Vigne: You just summarized that so much better than I did earlier in this show.

Len Sipes: Well, no, no, but –

Nancy La Vigne: Can I just take you around with me when I’m talking about Justice Reinvestment?

Len Sipes: No. I mean but this is. This is a discussion, this is a level of intensity.

Nancy La Vigne: Yes. It is.

Len Sipes: Correct?

Nancy La Vigne: Uh huh.

Len Sipes: I mean we’ve always had, I mean in the 14 years I was with the state of Maryland, we always sat down with our budget and with our researchers and we have always had these discussions, but lately the level of intensity and the degree of discussion has just multiplied tenfold. People are saying, “What does the evidence have to say?”

Nancy La Vigne: It’s true. It warms a researcher’s heart. I mean let me tell you.

Len Sipes: It’s the return of the prominence of the criminologist.

Nancy La Vigne: Right.

Len Sipes: The criminological community, which in some cases people have somewhat joked their being ignored over a certain period of time, well, that’s not true anymore.

Nancy La Vigne: I think that’s changing.

Len Sipes: I think it is changing. Okay. So we get in the problem solving courts. This is just one example of a program that consistently reduces recidivism. If you take a look at problem solving courts, drug courts, mental health courts, other kinds of courts, they consistently come in on the plus side of the research; they consistently reduce recidivism to the point now where problem solving courts, drug courts, are in every state in the United States.

Nancy La Vigne: They are. And, yeah, I think you’re aware Urban studied the drug courts –

Len Sipes: Yes.

Nancy La Vigne: It’s a pretty massive undertaking. And one thing that I think about with drug courts is, you know, they’re pretty expensive. We found that they were cost-beneficial. But it’s almost like you don’t have enough to go around when you look at the extent of the population who could benefit from them. And I’ve been thinking a lot about the training of judges when it comes to implementation of Justice Reinvestment Initiatives and in problem solving courts. And one thing we found in our study of drug courts was that judge demeanor is really critical and independently critical. So the degree to which the judge remembers the client’s name and aspects of the case, treats the client with respect, kind of engages in problem solving with them, rather than just kind of issuing orders or directives or reprimands –

Len Sipes: They may ignore the rest of us in the criminal justice system, but they do not ignore a judge.

Nancy La Vigne: Right, right, but feeling that your judge really cares about your case. So that’s another way, that’s an evidence-based practice that could be used to spread further reform and impact on crime.

Len Sipes: But I am right in terms of the research where it says that it’s just not a matter of supervision. Supervision doesn’t reduce recidivism. You have to couple that with programs.

Nancy La Vigne: Uh huh.

Len Sipes: And those programs could be across the board, they could be drug treatment, mental health treatment, they could be vocational, they could be thinking for a change, they could be a lot of different programs, but we have to have the programs to do all this, correct?

Nancy La Vigne: Yes. You do. And importantly, that is also very expensive. So you want to make sure that the programs are going to the people who need the most –

Len Sipes: Right.

Nancy La Vigne: And that programs are scarce resources like everything else. So –

Len Sipes: Right.

Nancy La Vigne: That brings back the importance of using risk and needs assessments.

Len Sipes: Right. Because the judge may say, “Well, gee! I don’t know you don’t have a history of substance abuse.” then again, everybody does, 80% of our population. I’ve seen other national studies where 70% have histories of substance abuse. Not everybody needs substance abuse treatment. So you do the analysis to figure out who needs that treatment and you apply it to them, not everybody.

Nancy La Vigne: Exactly.

Len Sipes: And that’s where you get your biggest return for your dollar and that’s where we get into needs and risk assessments at the judiciary level.

Nancy La Vigne: Uh huh.

Len Sipes: Okay. So tell me more about this. The problem solving courts, we’re talking about mandatory supervision requirements, sentencing changes, community based treatments, accountability measures. We’re not talking about letting people off the hook, we’re talking about accountability. In some cases I’ve seen drug treatment as being not a free a ride. Sometimes I see drug treatment as being one of the hardest things that that person under supervision will ever face in their entire lives.

Nancy La Vigne: That’s true. And when it comes to supervision there’s some people who don’t need to be supervised and there’s some research that suggests that supervising low-level offenders can actually be more harmful than helpful. And what we’ve seen across the Justice Reinvestment states is that in some cases they’re choosing not to supervise certain people and in other cases they’re choosing to supervise people who wouldn’t normally be supervised, and those I’m talking about the max-outs, right, who when people max-out it means they’re usually in for some pretty serious crimes.

Len Sipes: Yes.

Nancy La Vigne: They probably pose the greatest risk to public safety –

Len Sipes: Right, right.

Nancy La Vigne: When they get out, and yet they get zero upon release.

Len Sipes: Another interesting thing is that I remember the Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics from years ago where they did year after year after year analysis of who recidivated the most. The ones on parole always had a 15% to 20% less rate of recidivism than those mandatorily released. So now parole is being rethought, correct?

Nancy La Vigne: Yes. I mean I think there’s much still to be learned about parole and what works. And a lot of it is hard to study, because in a lot of places it’s hard to disentangle revocations for technical violations versus new crimes in that there may some share of technicals that actually are new crimes, but are just not being reported that way, because no one bothers to do the charging. So it’s complicated, but I do agree that you need to be focusing your supervision resources on the most high-risk people.

Len Sipes: But all I’m suggesting is that 20 years ago parole was a dirty word. Now parole is starting to be rethought.

Nancy La Vigne: Yes, absolutely.

Len Sipes: And the whole idea is taking a look at that long-range data and saying, “Well, wait a minute. If they’re doing so much better than those mandatorily released in terms of coming back to the criminal justice system, why aren’t we doing it?” Isn’t that an evidence-based practice?

Nancy La Vigne: Uh huh.

Len Sipes: Yeah.

Nancy La Vigne: Yeah.

Len Sipes: So the whole idea is to protect public safety, the whole idea is to reduce recidivism. And what we’re talking about are fewer people being victimized by crime.

Nancy La Vigne: That’s right. That’s the goal.

Len Sipes: Fewer people being victimized by crime and savings across the board.

Nancy La Vigne: Uh huh.

Len Sipes: All right, Nancy La Vigne. She has been the principle researcher of a wonderful piece of research, Justice Reinvestment Initiative State Assessment Report, again, done by the Urban Institute, funded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, the US Department of Justice. You can get the research at www.org, I’m sorry, www.urban.org. 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 pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]

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