A National Consensus on Community Corrections-National Institute of Corrections

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Radio Program available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2013/12/national-consensus-on-community-corrections-national-institute-of-corrections/

[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes:  From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. Ladies and gentlemen, the show topic today, a national consensus on community corrections. We’re going to be talking about the Community Corrections Collaborative Network . We have two guests by our microphones. Gregory Crawford, he is a Corrections Program Specialist for the National Institute of Corrections. He’s also the Network Manager for the Community Corrections Collaborative Network. And we have Spurgeon Kennedy, he is Vice President, National Association of Pretrial Services Agencies. He’s also with Pretrial Services for the District of Colombia. Thanks to Donna Ledbetter of the National Institute of Corrections for setting up this show today. Our website’s www.nicic.gov, that’s for the National Institute of Corrections. I’ll  repeat that throughout the program. And for Spurgeon’s organization, National Association of Pretrial Services, www.napsa.org. Gentlemen, welcome to DC public safety.

Gregory Crawford:  Thanks for having us, Len.

Len Sipes:  All right, let me read very quickly the list of the very, very, very prestigious organizations in the corrections, Community Corrections Collaborative Network: The American Probation and Parole Association, the Association of Paroling Authorities International, the Federal Probation and Pretrial Officers Association, the International Community Corrections Association, the National Association of Pretrial Service Agencies and the National Association of Probation Executives. Now that is an extraordinarily large group, Greg. How, what’s your role in getting everybody on board to form this national consensus for community corrections?

Gregory Crawford:  Well, they actually came to us. The Community Corrections Collaborative Network came together on a request from one of our members, and we brought all the main associations together representing probation, pretrial and parole, and over 42,000 members, to come together and collectively to speak with one voice.

Len Sipes:  Okay.

Gregory Crawford:  Our mission is to serve as the forum to develop and work the emerging issues, activities and goals of the community corrections field, and our vision is really to create a shared message and understanding about community corrections.

Len Sipes:  Is there a shared message about community corrections? I’ve been in this business for a long time, and finding consensus between the organizations that we’re talking about here and the different other organizations that are on the perimeter, such as PEW and lots of other organizations, Urban Institute comes to mind. I mean, everybody seems to have a different take on community corrections. What, you’re telling me that what we’re doing now is coming up with a national consensus, everybody pretty much agreeing to what it is community corrections could be doing, should be doing?

Gregory Crawford:  Absolutely, Len. I think the one thing that’s becoming very clear is that mass incarceration is not working. As Attorney General Eric Holder stated earlier this year, it’s both ineffective and unsustainable. Our prison population has grown about 300% since 1980 and I think it’s time that we all come together to try and fix this problem.

Len Sipes:  Spurgeon, you know, the fast majority of people under correctional supervision are on community corrections. That’s something that very few people know, that I think it is 7 million in terms of total population, within the country, and I think that 4 million are under community corrections supervision. I’m not quite sure I have those figures correct, but I do know that the vast majority of people under correctional supervision in this country are not in prison, they’re not in jail, they are with parole and probation agencies, they are with pretrial service agencies.

Spurgeon Kennedy:  That’s true. If you look at the data that is available, about 7 out of 10 of defendants and defenders in our justice systems are under community corrections, not jails or prisons, but under the supervision of a pretrial program, a probation, a parole agency, a treatment provider in the community. That’s a huge number. Unfortunately, most of the resources that go into our system still go into the correction side.

Len Sipes:  I think 80% is it not?

Spurgeon Kennedy:  Yeah, we supervise 70% of the offenders and defendants; we get about 30% of the resources. It’s a total imbalance.

Len Sipes:  Why is that?

Spurgeon Kennedy:  Well, we are still, unfortunately, living, as Greg mentioned, we’re learning a lesson, and that is putting people in jails and prisons and leaving them there for long stretches doesn’t make us safer. And unfortunately, we’re on the tail end of that. But we are still seeing jail and prison being overused. And because of that, the resources to maintain a jail and prison are much more than it would take to operate a community corrections program. Our message, really, is simple. If you improve community corrections in this country, you improve public safety in this country. And as you mentioned, the consensus that we’re seeing, not only with our associations, but with others, is that if you strengthen the organizations that provide most supervision, and if you change the way that people see corrections and corrections resources, you will go a long way to protecting America’s communities and reducing recidivism.

Len Sipes:  But how do we go about doing that? I mean, this is the condition. I came into the criminal justice system in 1969. I’m sorry, yes, I am that old. I have been around for 42, 43 years. And the criminal justice system that I entered back in 1969 is essentially the criminal justice system that I see out there today in many, in many ways. I mean, parole and probation agencies have always been underfunded; the ratio between people under supervision and parole and probation agents has always been huge. There is never the training and the money and the emphasis is always going to law enforcement and it’s always going to mainline correctional institutions. So the community corrections part of it, the pretrial part of it has gotten a, not a second look, but a third, fourth and fifth look. How are we going to change that?

Gregory Crawford:  Well, I think in order for it to work, we really need to adequately staff our local and state and tribal community corrections agencies. Probation officers, parole officers, pretrial officers, cannot be burdened with large case loads. Number one. Number two, I think that we need to, as a network, as individual associations, make sure that evidence based practices are available to the officers and you know, the newest technology and shift are funding to the community corrections rather than on building expensive prisons.

Len Sipes:  Is it our proposition, Spurgeon, that we are going to save states billions of dollars by doing a better job of successfully supervising people under, on community corrections, on pretrial supervision? That we’re going to save, we have the potential of saving literally hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people, from being victimized by crime. So there is a huge payoff here. I mean, it’s a huge payoff fiscally and it’s a huge payoff criminologically. Yet, people don’t seem to buy it. And that bothers me and it bothers all three of us at our microphones. Why is it that we cannot convince people to swing in our direction?

Spurgeon Kennedy:  Not sure if that’s true. I think the public, when they are confronted with facts, when they understand what it is we do, and what we are trying to accomplish and certainly all of us are in the business of keeping America’s communities as safe as we possibly can, there is a lot of community support on what it is we are putting out there. The public buys into the idea that supervision, that effective risk assessment, that placing people on supervision levels that makes sense according to their perceived risk, is the best way to move. In fact, they believe that we’re doing this already in a lot of cases. So I don’t think that we have to sell as much as we have to present, as Greg said, some effective strategies on how to improve community corrections across the country, but also to change the way that people in the system think about resource allocations and use. CCCN has come up with several paradigm shifts that we believe should/have to occur before we can really get to the business of making community corrections better.

Len Sipes:  And tell me about those paradigm shifts. Either one of you.

Gregory Crawford:  Well, number one, we’re talking about shifting from a system that bases decisions solely on a defendant or a defender’s charges to a system that considers the individual’s risk level and treatment needs to determine sanctions, supervision level and intervention.

Len Sipes:  Okay, so we’re going to evaluate every offender that comes into our custody in terms of their individual risk level and what their treatment needs are?

Gregory Crawford:  Absolutely.

Len Sipes:  We’re going to have an individual sense as to who that person really is?

Gregory Crawford:  One size doesn’t fit all.

Len Sipes:  Okay.

Gregory Crawford:  And that’s part of the problem with, you know, the mandatory, minimum sentencing.

Spurgeon Kennedy:  Exactly.

Gregory Crawford:  And so I think that if you can take an individual’s full story into consideration, you know, we lock up a lot of folks that are non-violent and do not pose a risk to society and can be safely treated in the community, and I think that that is one of the biggest problems in the growing prison population. As I mentioned, you know, Bureau of Prisons is now at 132% capacity. We’ve had a 300% increase in the prison population in the last 30, 33 years. I think we really need to take a look at going to a system, as I mentioned, shift to a system that considers individual risk into consideration.

Spurgeon Kennedy:  That’s very important. Too many decisions in criminal justice now are being based on what you’re charged with, not who you are, the risk that you present, and whether you’re going to come back into the system. Moving from a charge base to a research driven decision based approach is essential here.

Len Sipes:  All right, what’s the next step?

Gregory Crawford:  Let the scientific data drive where we send people. Use validated risk assessments, you know, manage our resources, and you know, it doesn’t make any sense to mix high risk with low risk. In fact, it actually, research indicates that if you put low risk individuals with high-risk individuals, you actually cause more harm than good. So I think it’s really critical that we let science drive our decisions.

Len Sipes:  All right, Spurgeon, what’s the next one?

Spurgeon Kennedy:  Well, the other one, and it’s not so much a resource or a recidivism based, but it’s also just the fairness of the system. There are things, there are decisions made that are disparate. Racially disparate, disparities in incomes, the use of money, for example, in decisions, is one where great disparities racially and economically start to rear out. Not using evidence based research, but instead basing decisions on things such as charge. They build into disparities as well. One of the things that we really have to do and one of the focuses that we have as a network is making the system simply more fair and more just. The more you do that, I think, the better the returns you’ll get.

Len Sipes:  A hot topic throughout the country. Any more?

Gregory Crawford:  Yeah, I think another thing that we need to take a look at is limiting those folks and offenders who cannot be safely supervised in the community, and noting that there are alternatives to incarceration. Not just, you know, probation or pretrial or parole, there’s, you know, alternatives to incarceration in the local community. Work crews, day reporting programs, all sorts of programs along those lines that save local jail beds, keep people employed, keep them paying taxes connected to their families. We don’t need to make prison or jail the first option. I think that we need to look at other options for those that can be safely supervised in the community.

Len Sipes:  Next?

Spurgeon Kennedy:  Well, the big one, and the one that ties everything together, it’s the improvement of community corrections programs across the country. We – the reason that my association, the National Association of Pretrial Services Agencies and the other involved in CCCN got together is because we believe that putting our voices together strengthens our central message. And that is, if we’re going to use community corrections as a central way of providing services, support to defendants and defenders, and keeping our communities safe, and we are, with 70% of those persons under our supervision, you have got to improve the way that these programs operate. You have to reinforce evidence-based practices, both in risk assessment and supervision. You have to provide the resources necessary to effectively supervise defendants and defenders. As Greg mentioned, you have to make sure that caseloads are not so large that you can’t do an effective job in keeping recidivism rates down. And you have to focus on what you want these agencies to accomplish. The biggest thing that CCCN really wants to do is to make sure that when it comes to discussions of resources and what is effective and what works, that community corrections programs aren’t forgotten and certainly the emphasis is placed on making good programs even better.

Len Sipes:  We’ve got a minute before the break, before I reintroduce both of you. If we did all of this, gentlemen, if we did all of this, what would the impact be?

Gregory Crawford:  It would be huge, I think.

Len Sipes:  Talk to me about what would happen?

Gregory Crawford:  Well, I think, number one is you make your community stronger. You reduce victimization. You promote keeping families together. You promote, you know, right now we currently have a system set up that enables this cycle of incarceration to continue. You have one person, a parent, going into prison or jail, and that increases the likelihood, in and of itself, of the children in the family to become, have behavioral problems. And it’s not a direct correlation, but it does increase the chance.

Len Sipes:  Okay, but sell this to the larger society. For the larger society, Gregory, you mentioned less crime.

Gregory Crawford:  Yeah.

Len Sipes:  Okay, for the larger society, Spurgeon, it means what?

Spurgeon Kennedy:  We know what causes recidivism. There is a bunch of research out there over the last decade or so that have identified the factors most associated with people coming back into the system. The one thing that we know doesn’t reduce recidivism is locking you up and keeping you there until we’re tired of seeing you and letting you out. The thing that works is supervision, services, and things that are based on risk and need. And you only get that from community corrections programs.

Len Sipes:  But as Greg said, the impact could be huge, the potential could be huge in terms of saving tax paid dollars and in terms of saving victimization and creating a better system.

Spurgeon Kennedy:  Yeah, you get a smarter system, you get a system that hopefully costs you much less, and you get a system with the outcome, the expressed outcome of keeping communities safer. And if you follow what we know works, and if we’re able to incorporate that into most community corrections programs out there, we think that’s a much better result.

Len Sipes:  Ladies and gentlemen, we’re talking about a national consensus on community corrections, we’re talking about the Community Corrections Collaborative Network . Gregory Crawford is our guest today, he is a Corrections Program Specialist with the National Institute of Corrections. He’s also the Network Manager for the Community Corrections Collaborative Network and also at our microphones is Spurgeon Kennedy. Spurgeon is Vice President, National Association of Pretrial Service Agencies, and I’m proud to say, he’s with a sister agency of mine here at Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. He’s with Pretrial Services for the District of Columbia. www.nicic.gov; www.nicic.gov for National Institute of Corrections, and www.napsa.org for the National Association of Pretrial Service Agencies.

Okay, help me deal with this. In the law enforcement side, there are billions of dollars flowing towards law enforcement. And there are billions of dollars flowing towards correctional institutions, mainline correctional institutions. And I mentioned this and we can debate this, at the end of the system is us. We, in community corrections, and I believe that you’re right, I believe that we can have an enormous impact in terms of saving states and the federal government millions, billions of dollars. We can really create a system with the fewer criminal victimizations, we can do it all the way across the board, but we’ve been saying this now for the four decades that I’ve been in the criminal justice system, and I don’t see an enormous amount of change. The community corrections collaborative network, the idea of all these mainline community corrections organizations coming together with one voice, speaking in one voice, to me I think it’s a fantastic idea. But what does it take to convince people that we are the real deal?

Gregory Crawford:  Well, I think, and one of the things that we’re trying to do is build partnerships within the criminal justice community, and expand beyond just the CCCN and the six associations associated with the CCCN. You know? Reach out to the Bureau of Justice, reach out to folks like the PEW, reach out to the Urban Institute or the National Criminal Justice Association, and start building those, fostering those relationships and putting together our ideas and coming together with more than just one voice from the CCCN. A voice from the criminal justice community – and I think that that can make a difference.

Len Sipes:  I think if a governor of a state, who is looking at his or her ratio between parole and probation agents and people under supervision, if he or she sees this long list of national organizations coming together with the National Institute of Corrections and they’re making specific recommendations, I would imagine that the governor of that state’s going to be impressed by that, but that’s where the battle is fought, is it not? It’s not with the organizations that already support these issues, it’s not with PEW, it’s not with Urban, it’s within the general assemblies of the 50 states and the governor’s mansions, correct?

Spurgeon Kennedy:  Yes. Absolutely right, and as we’ve mentioned and as Greg put out, the paradigm shifts, the things that we have to do to change behaviors, not only within the community corrections and the corrections fields, but as you said, among people who have to open their pocketbooks and pay the criminal justice systems, that is really the big focus of CCCN. We want to be able to have a message that resonates with local policy makers, with state policy makers, with federal policy makers, and funders – so that they understand the importance of a well financed, well resourced community corrections component. We’re new, and you know, that is something that we’re just beginning to focus on. We’ve had discussions with other partner agencies about it. We do want to put out an effective message that can be used across the country, and that’s really going to be our focus, really, for the first few months.

Len Sipes:  But you know, we’re really different here in the District of Columbia. We have money for programs. And we have a lot of partner agencies in terms of mental health, in terms of substance abuse, in terms of employment. The average parole and probation agency in this country doesn’t possess a dime for drug treatment, doesn’t possess a dime for mental health treatment, doesn’t possess a dime for vocational programs. That’s always puzzled me. Because we know that these programs can have a significant impact in terms of recidivism, correct?

Gregory Crawford:  I think traditionally that’s been the case, across the country. I think, however, though, I’m hopeful, with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act that folks that come in the criminal justice system will have an opportunity to be linked to services and rehabbed through their medical benefits. We have about 10 million people that cycle through the local jail system each year. I would say 80, I think I heard about 80% of those do not have insurance, and I want Kennedy to talk here in a minute about pretrial, but I think that the impact of the Affordable Care Act will be huge for the criminal justice population.

Len Sipes:  And the Second Chance Act. I mean, there are partners and they are beginning to thro money towards those of us in the criminal justice system to better handle the individuals that we have on day-to-day supervision. So changes seem to be coming. But they’re at the federal level.

Spurgeon Kennedy:  Well, this is a watershed. I think it’s a watershed not only for the federal level, but also for the local jurisdictions as well. As you mentioned, there are these tremendous potentials, with funding sources, that are dressed as reinvestment. The Affordable Care Act, the Second Chance Act, but there’s also that intersection of knowledge – of the research built over the last decade that have shown that if you do these things, if you fund these things, these programs, these services, this is the expected benefit. We’ve had money before, frankly. There have been times during the past decades when we’ve thrown money into corrections and said, “Okay, get better.” We haven’t really had the knowledge on what best to do with those resources. I think now we know more now than we ever have about what effective supervision, treatment and services are. And with that available money, especially the Affordable Care Act, we ought to be able now to target those services and those supervision types that are the most effective to reduce recidivism. To do that, though, we have to have a message that we are the professionals, we know how to take care of this population and we are the best, you know, use of your resources if you’re point is to reduce future recidivism.

Len Sipes:  Is there a consensus building on all of this that’s shifting towards the side of community corrections? Every program that I do, whether it’s researchers or people from PEW or National Institute of Corrections or Urban Institute or Office and Justice Programs, there just seems to be an emerging consensus on the part of the academic community, the practitioner community, and now this league of organizations that you’re talking about, and also folks within the national institute of corrections that this is changing, that this is swinging towards our side; that the evidence is building, that the state of the art is getting better, that we really do know what we’re doing. We need to be given a green light. And through the Second Chance Act, and through the Affordable Care Act and through other programs, we are being given that green light at the federal level. Am I in the ballpark?

Gregory Crawford:  You are in the ballpark. I think at this point we just need an opportunity and that’s what we’re trying to do, is build these collaborative relationships with folks and be prepared throughout the system for when we can get the funding shifted to community corrections, because we really do need to build capacity in our community corrections system and we do need that opportunity because clearly, you know, with the overcrowding in prison and the fact that about 44% of those that release from prison are right back in there after about three years. You know? So I think we’ve seen that it’s not working.

Len Sipes:  And there’s data that’s saying it’s higher, up to 50%.

Gregory Crawford:  My numbers come from BJS, and so that to me speaks volumes.

Len Sipes:  Okay. I mean, you know, we’re talking about two-thirds rearrested between, I’m going to say between 40 and 50% re-incarcerated and I’m going by BJS data and you know, we’re talking about an enormous amount of people returning to the system. Well, then people would say one side of the continuum, people would say, “Well, good. Bad guys are going back to prison.” The other side is, is that it’s busting the bank at the state level. It’s certainly almost unsustainable at the federal level and it’s doing very little in terms of keeping these people out of the criminal justice system when they are released.

Spurgeon Kennedy:  Yeah, definitely. And I’ll give my, I’ll give Washington DC as an example. It costs hundreds of dollars a day to keep a person in our local jail. It costs a fraction of that to have them on supervised release; either pretrial or probation or parole. The same is true across the country. Not only does it cost less money, you get a better result. If you look at recidivism and public safety as the outcomes you’re trying to get here, you get those much more effectively with much less money, by using community corrections as your option. As Greg mentioned, we tried prisons for everybody, it didn’t work. There’s a huge rethinking now about the kind of offender who belongs in our jails and prisons. The move just to make that reserved for those who are truly violent and truly cannot benefit …

Len Sipes:  Right, and part of this is to build the capacity to make sure that prison beds are available for the truly violent and the truly dangerous. That’s another big part of what it is that we’re trying to do here, correct?

Spurgeon Kennedy:  But also to build capacity within community corrections so that those that you are no longer incarcerating have a place to go. And being able to say to your probation, parole, pretrial agencies, “You’re adequately staffed, you’re adequately resourced to handle the majority of defendants and defenders that are going to come through the system.”

Len Sipes:  What do you think the message is going to be? I mean, look at me and think that I’m the governor of Nebraska. What do you say to me? What’s the sound bite?

Gregory Crawford:  Well, the elevator speech, I think.

Len Sipes:  The elevator speech?

Gregory Crawford:  I think you have to look at the past and say, “Hey, this isn’t working.” But here’s what will work: you know, if we can properly staff our local, state, tribal, you know, community corrections agencies, we can make a difference. We can reduce recidivism. We can make communities safer. I think if you take a look at the untold potential for all these folks that get shipped away to prison, you know, and come back out and within three years they recidivate, you know, clearly that system isn’t working. So I think what we need to do is really come together and get these community corrections agencies properly staffed, but also inform the front end of the system. Because in my mind, that has the biggest potential to impact the entire criminal justice system and I really would like Kennedy to talk about what can be done in terms of the pretrial and the front end.

Len Sipes:  Kennedy, you’ve got about 30 seconds.

Spurgeon Kennedy:  Okay. If you look at counties, and this is where the message resonates the loudest, and I think the strongest, most counties are going to have corrections as one of their top three costs. Most people in jail are pretrial defendants, awaiting trial. Most of those are low to medium risk defendants who could be safely released into the community. If you use community corrections resources more effectively and more efficiently at the pretrial stage, not only will you keep your public safe, but you would reduce the cost of corrections enormously. I think the local jurisdictions are the ones who really need to hear this message.

Len Sipes:  Our guests today have been Gregory Crawford, Correctional Programs Specialist with the National Institute of Corrections and network manager of the Community Corrections Collaborative Network. We’ve had Spurgeon Kennedy, Vice President, National Association of Pretrial Service Agencies. The website for the National Institute of Corrections is www.nicic.gov. The website for the National Association of Pretrial Service Agencies is www.napsa.org. Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. We appreciate your comments, we even appreciate your criticism and we want everybody to have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]

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