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

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Radio Program available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2013/05/national-conference-on-offender-reentry-national-institute-of-corrections-dc-public-safety/

[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes: From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host Leonard Sipes. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a show today. The National Institute of Corrections Conference on Offender Re-entry, www.nicic.gov/go/vc2013. We’ll be giving out that web address all throughout the program and throughout the show notes.  We have two guests with us today. We have Bernie Izler, she is a Correctional Programs Specialist for the National Institute of Corrections at the Academy in Aurora, Colorado; and we have Captain Attila Denes. Yes, indeed, I did say Attila Denes. He is with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office there in Colorado. – And to Bernie and Attila, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Bernie Izler: Thank you.

Captain Attila Denes: Thank you.

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

Bernie Izler: Yes, we are.

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

Bernie Izler: Correct.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bernie Izler: Yes. Correct.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Captain Attila Denes: Oh, exactly.

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

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

Len Sipes: But you, being that you’ve done it and you’ve done it successfully, that’s why the National Institute of Corrections wants you to present at the National Conference on Offender Re-entry, and it’s a different name. That’s the name that I gave it. www.nicic.gov/go/vc2013. The VC stands for Virtual Conference. That’s one of the reasons why the National Institute of Corrections wants you to present because you have cynical idiots like me who can’t get together with the program versus somebody who has done what you’ve done. You’ve done it successfully. So you have lessons for me and for everybody else in terms of the fact that a) it can be done, b) how to do it successfully.

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

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

Captain Attila Denes: Yeah, exactly. Exactly.

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

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

Len Sipes: I want to reintroduce our guests today and the topic. Ladies and gentlemen, the National Institute of Corrections is holding a National Conference on Offender Re-Entry. Everybody should go to this website, and it’ll be in the show notes: www.nicic.gov/go/vc2013. www.nicic.gov/go/vc2013. V is for Virtual Conference VC. This will all take place on June 12th, coming up real soon, 9 AM Mountain Time and the rest of you can figure it out in terms of what applies to you, from about 9:00 in the morning to 2:00 in the afternoon.  It is for everybody. It’s not just for those of us within the criminal justice system. Whether it be a preacher, whether it be a community leader, whether it be the aide to the mayor of Milwaukee, whether it is the aide to the governor of the state of California, everybody is welcome in terms of this national virtual conference. You can watch – it’s just not listen mode. You can watch what’s going on; you can listen in, and you can ask questions, and you can make contacts with everybody else at the conference. Did I summarize it correctly, Bernie?

Bernie Izler: Yes, you did, thank you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Captain Attila Denes: Absolutely.

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

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

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

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

Len Sipes: Oh, that’s so cool.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bernie Izler: Just that we welcome everybody to the conference. We’re very excited about it. We think it’s a very timely topic. Please, come and register for the updates. Our agenda came out today so people can look at that and just go to www.nicic.gov/go/vc2013.

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

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

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

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

Len Sipes: Got it. Okay. Ladies and gentlemen, the National Institute of Corrections Conference on Offender Re-entry: www.nicic.gov/go/vc2013, June 12th from 9 A.M. Mountain to 2:00 in the afternoon. Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. We appreciate your calls, we even appreciate your criticisms, and we want everybody to have yourselves a very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]

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