Offender Reentry-Second Chance Act-USDOJ-DC Public Safety

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– Audio begins –

Len Sipes: From our studios in downtown Washington D.C, this is D.C. Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. Today’s guest is Dr. Gary Dennis. Gary is the senior policy advisor for corrections bureau of justice assistance, U.S. Department of Justice, and if you think that title was long enough, wait until you hear what Gary does! He is the administrator for the Second Chance Act. What is the Second Chance Act? Well, I’m going to let him explain that, but in essence, it is new federal funding coming down for re-entry programs, and people from throughout the country can apply for these new monies. Before we get to Dr. Dennis, always, thank you for the comments that you have provided us. We respond to every comment, feel free to get in touch with us. My email address, which is leonardsipes – Leonard dot S-I-P-E-S –, or you can follow me on twitter/lensipes, and with that introduction, Dr. Gary Dennis.

Gary Dennis: Well, Len, I’m glad that you had the opportunity to talk about the Second Chance Act. This is something that is particularly exciting to those of us who are in the corrections field, and I should say that I work now, as you indicated, for the bureau of justice assistance, but prior to that, I worked for 34 years in the Department of Corrections in Kentucky, and had a really –

Len Sipes: You’re the real deal then!

Gary Dennis: Well, you know, I had a little experience, I started as a correctional officer and retired as a deputy commissioner in my first career, and my wife refers to what I’m doing now as re-launching! [laughter] But I always said that corrections was a very good business to be in, it was a growth industry, there was a lot of job security. I never thought I’d see the day when we would be closing prisons and laying off correctional officers –

Len Sipes: Which is happening throughout the country.

Gary Dennis: It’s an effect of the current recession, and so, yeah, I think that puts responsibility on us as corrections professionals to find alternate ways of dealing with folks who are offenders. The Second Chance Act, which was signed into law in April of 2008, I think, is a cultural marker. It’s an indication that the Congress and the policy makers in the Executive Branch are aware that we need to move away from this policy of mass incarceration, that we can’t build enough prisons to house all the folks that are committing offenses, many of whom don’t need to be in prison. Substance abuse offenders who need treatment, they don’t need to be locked up. You know, for instance, of the 23,000 inmates in my state of Kentucky where I worked, 1,000 of those inmates are serving time in prison simply because they aren’t able to pay child support. So what the Second Chance Act does is create the opportunity for people to design comprehensive re-entry programs, it has actually 11 sections that were authorized by the Congress. Only two of those sections received appropriations in the Omnibus FY2009 budget. Section 101, which is the demonstration grant section, was authorized at $55 million, and we received an appropriation of $15 million, and Section 211, which is mentoring grants to non-profits, was authorized in the original legislation at $15 million, and we have received an appropriation of $10 million. The demonstration grants portion of Second Chance, we currently have a solicitation that was posted February 27th, it is due to close on April 20th, people can get a copy of that by going to the bureau of justice assistance website or a governmental website called –

Len Sipes: And what we’re going to do is we’re going to put the links to all of these websites up, so we’ll make it easy, if you go to D.C. Public Safety, if you go to and find this program under the radio section, we’ll have links to everything that Dr. Dennis is talking about today.

Gary Dennis: Very good. So I’m going to talk primarily about the section 101, the demonstration grants. The solicitation that is on the street allows for grants of up to $750,000 of federal money. Unfortunately, this particular section of the act has a relatively onerous match requirement. There is a 50% matching requirement of which 25% has to be hard cash put up by the applicant, but this will fund roughly a $1.5 million dollar project, and what –

Len Sipes: Whoa, wait a minute, back up. Now, it’s $750,000 over the course of how many years? Is that each year for several years?

Gary Dennis: Actually, very good question. The, this particular section of the act allows for 12-month grants. So the $750,000 federal and the additional matching money would be to fund a project for 12 months.

Len Sipes: For 12 months.

Gary Dennis: Now, what we anticipate, the act allows for up to 2 years or two additional funding periods, so for people who are awarded funding projects, and by the way, we really hope to have decisions made in the late summer so we can have these awards made by the end of the federal fiscal year, September 30, 2009. But, so if people get one of these grants and the project is meeting its goals and being successful, they could expect supplemental awards for two additional grant periods, so we’re –

Len Sipes: Two additional grant periods meaning two additional years?

Gary Dennis: Pretty much, so we’re looking at 36-month, 3-year projects.

Len Sipes: So there is the possibility, if they handle this well, and if they show an impact, because I would imagine you’re going to request an evaluation as to whether recidivism is lowered –

Gary Dennis: And the interesting thing about the Second Chance Act, one of several interesting things is, there is a requirement that the people who are given demonstration grants money are able to reduce recidivism for their target population by 50% in 5 years.

Len Sipes: In 5 years, okay. Wow.

Gary Dennis: And that’s a really ambitious goal –

Len Sipes: Extremely! Now wait a minute, wait a minute, 50% is unheard of!

Gary Dennis: Well, it really is unheard of, and actually, the folks in Congress, the folks who wrote this bill have made it clear that this is a goal, so what we are anticipating is, if people are making satisfactory progress, defined somewhere around 10% a year reduction, then that’s going to be enough to consider –

Len Sipes: But that’s reductions that I’ve seen from research that, and I apologize to the audience for being a little high-fallutin’ here, that is methodologically correct, is 20%, and that comes from the Washington State Public Policy Institute, which seems to be the de facto leaders in terms of providing stats, unfortunately, in terms of recidivism, so the 50% is, I don’t want to scare people off, because if people hear 50%, they’re going to go, nah, excuse me, that’s just undoable.

Gary Dennis: Well, I think what we’ve tried to do, first of all, the definition that you’ll see in the solicitation for recidivism is a person who does not return to prison or jail as the result of committing a new offense or a violation of conditions of supervision within 1 year.

Len Sipes: And in terms of jail, you’re talking about, not pre-trial, but you’re talking about an incarcerative sentence.

Gary Dennis: That’s correct –

Len Sipes: Persons found guilty.

Gary Dennis: One of the good things about the Second Chance Act, under the previous administration, we had a prisoner re-entry initiative, where the Justice Department partnered with the Department of Labor, and these grants were primarily focused on allowing people to come out of prison and get some type of job placement and job readiness skills, but Second Chance provides a full wraparound –

Len Sipes: And I want to get to that, but let’s summarize again, we’re talking about $750,000 per entity. They have to provide a 50% match, so we’re talking about a $1.5 million investment per year from the Department of Justice and this local entity with the idea that it could extend up to 3 years.

Gary Dennis: That’s correct.

Len Sipes: Okay, and what part of the grant is this under?

Gary Dennis: This is under section 101, which is demonstration, adult and juvenile demonstration –

Len Sipes: Okay, demonstration.

Gary Dennis: Right.

Len Sipes: All right, and what pot of money is this?

Gary Dennis: This is actually an appropriation that we received, the department of justice, office of justice programs in our FY2009 –

Len Sipes: I’m sorry, let me back you up, is it the $15 million pot, or the $10 million pot?

Gary Dennis: Yes, the $15 million.

Len Sipes: So this is $15 million, this is not going to go very far at $750,000 per. How many are we talking about?

Gary Dennis: Well, the, you can probably do the math, we’re probably not talking more than 18-20 awards nationally, if everyone comes in for the full amount.

Len Sipes: Right.

Gary Dennis: And the kicker here is that this particular piece of federal legislation, unlike the prisoner re-entry initiative, which had to go to a state department of corrections, a city, or a county, or a state can apply directly for this money.

Len Sipes: Okay, so 20 jurisdictions throughout the United States are going to get $750,000, and they have to do it with a 50% match, $1.5 million over the course of 3 years. And they have to be able to show a reduction in recidivism.

Gary Dennis: That’s correct.

Len Sipes: Okay, and again, ladies and gentlemen, I want to remind you, all the links, in terms of applying for this money, are going to be at D.C. Public Safety, if you go to the main page, go to radio, and you will find the links there. Again, that’s D.C. Public Safety, or it is media – M-E-D-I-A – .csosa – C-S-O-S-A – .gov, our guest today is Dr. Gary Dennis from the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance, and go ahead, Gary, so I interrupted you, so that’s the demonstration grant, and you’re saying that those grants need to be in by when? April?

Gary Dennis: April 20th, and they have to be submitted electronically through

Len Sipes:

Gary Dennis:

Len Sipes: Okay. Okay, so those are the demonstration grants, so that’s a $15 million pot. What’s the $10 million pot?

Gary Dennis: The $10 million pot is for section 211 of the act, and this is mentoring grants to non-profits. Section 101, the applicants have to be a unit of state or local government, but Section 211 is exclusively targeted to non-profits, and it allows for projects, we have not published the solicitation yet, it’s in the final stages of preparation, but –

Len Sipes: And the solicitation, you mean basically the language that enables you to give out the money.

Gary Dennis: That’s exactly right. This is what will be posted which is online now for the 101 grants, but this will probably be posted in the next 2-3 weeks, and right now, it looks like it’s going to allow for grants of up to $300,000. These grants can be made for up to 24 months as opposed to 12, there is the possibility of supplemental awards for an additional 2 award periods.

Len Sipes: Is there a match?

Gary Dennis: There is no match!

Len Sipes: No match!?

Gary Dennis: That’s what I was getting to –

Len Sipes: Wow!

Gary Dennis: Non-profits, no match!

Len Sipes: Boy, you’re going to be the most popular person in town, let me tell you!

Gary Dennis: Well, and what you hear what these grants can be used for, they can be used to provide mentoring services, they can also be used in conjunction with mentoring to provide a whole variety of transitional services like supportive housing, employment, substance abuse counseling, mental health counseling, as well as treatment and training on victims issues. So this is going to be a very broad solicitation, and we’re anticipating a lot of applications from the non-profit sector.

Len Sipes: When do you expect the application process to begin?

Gary Dennis: Well, probably within the next 3 weeks, it will be posted, and we’re hoping to allow people at least 45 days to respond to those.

Len Sipes: Okay, and will they be as well as[sic]?

Gary Dennis: That’s correct, and then their solicitation will also be posted for informational purposes on the BJS website.

Len Sipes: Okay, for the Bureau of Justice Statistics of the Office of Justice Programs of the Office of the United States Department of Justice – boy we just love our titles here in D.C.!

Gary Dennis: Yes we do! And actually, if you just Google BJA, you’re going to be led to our website or –

Len Sipes: BJA, Bureau of Justice Assistance? Not the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the Bureau of Justice Assistance! There you go, there we go. But that’s interesting, because I did not know that there was a centralized point, c-o-m?

Gary Dennis: dot-gov.

Len Sipes: dot-gov! I thought so! Okay, now wait a minute, everybody. www. – G-R-A-N-T-S – .gov. Not dot-com, dot-gov. All right, so we’re going to repeat that several times throughout the programs, and again, in the show notes, I’ll do the links. Dr. Dennis will give me the links, and I’ll put them in the show notes to make it as easy as possible for you to pull this off. And so, wow, this is interesting, so we’re talking about a total of $25 million.

Gary Dennis: That’s correct, but keep in mind that the act, when it was written, was authorized at a level of roughly $170 million –

Len Sipes: Yeah, but authorized and funded are two different things.

Gary Dennis: Two different things. One of the things I learned very quickly when I started working for the federal government is the difference between an authorization and an appropriation, but let me say that, you know, these are tough economic times, and we are very, very pleased that Congress gave us the $25 million, we are anticipating in 2010, the budget that will be coming up soon, that we’ll have additional funding, and Pres. Obama is requesting in his budget upwards to $75 million to support Second Chance re-entry efforts.

Len Sipes: Okay, so that’s $75 million that the President is proposing, comes when, so we’re talking about next federal fiscal year.

Gary Dennis: That’s correct. The federal fiscal year that would start October 1, 2009.

Len Sipes: October 1, so this October 9, there is the possibility of an additional $75 million more.

Gary Dennis: That’s right, we are cautiously optimistic and confident that there will be additional funding for Second Chance, and we’re also hopeful that some of the other nine sections of the act will be able to be funded in addition to these demonstration acts.

Len Sipes: So at least what we have now is $25 million on the table that we know we have, the possibility of $75 million in terms of the President’s proposal for the next federal fiscal year, October 1, 2009, and we’re talking about other aspects of the Second Chance Act if Congress decides to fund them, there would be even more money, but at the moment, we’re talking about $25 million on the table with a possibility of $75 million more.

Gary Dennis: That’s correct.

Len Sipes: That’s $100 million.

Gary Dennis: Well, it is, and it’s enough money to make a significant impact, particularly if you look at focusing that on particular counties or states where, and one thing I didn’t mention when, the projects, in terms of the recidivism rate, the general universe of people who are eligible are any who is 18 years of age or older who’s currently incarcerated in a prison or a jail, but we’re asking people to narrow down a target population. For instance, they might say all female offenders who are coming back into the District of Columbia, or all female offenders who might be coming back into a particular county –

Len Sipes: Bear with me for a second, because now that we have the basics of the program down, I’m going to repeat your name for the people out there, they can copy down your telephone number. Ladies and gentlemen, we’re talking to Dr. Gary Dennis. He is a senior policy advisor for corrections, Bureau of Justice Assistance, Office of Justice Programs, this will be in our show notes, so don’t worry if you can’t get all that down. His telephone number: (202)305-9059. I’m going to repeat that now and at the end of the program: (202)305-9059, and his email address is gary – G-A-R-Y – .dennis – D-E-N-N-I-S –, and we’re going to be putting the links into the show notes at media – M-E-D-I-A –, or D.C. Public Safety, look at the radio programs. Okay, Dr. Gary Dennis. Now we have the outline in terms of the funding, and you started getting into the particulars in terms of what it is that you’re looking for, so second half of the show, let’s do that. 15 minutes. What are the particulars of what it is that organizations can do with all this money?

Gary Dennis: Well the, the allowable uses for the money are very broad. In the 101 demonstration grants project proposals, we are asking that they have a strategic plan which talks about their, how they plan to affect a re-entry program, we also are requiring, or the act requires that they establish a re-entry task force comprised of people who have a stake in the community, this could be people from non-profits who are providing services, it could be people from the law enforcement community, someone representing victims, so they need to have been thinking about an effective strategy to help people transition from prison and jail and back to the community.

Len Sipes: Okay, so there’s going to be collaborative efforts on the part of the larger community, but you were just talking before about women offenders, there’s no way that this money can encompass every offender coming out of the prison system.

Gary Dennis: That’s correct. That’s why we’re, these projects need to target specific subsets of the population.

Len Sipes: What could those subsets be? You’ve mentioned women offenders –

Gary Dennis: Women offenders, it could be, it could be violent offenders, or people who have committed a violent offense, it could be sex offenders, for instance, who have committed a sex offense –

Len Sipes: Is this a reflection of the research that basically says that whatever moneys you have should be focusing on the higher risk offenders and not so much on the lower risk offenders?

Gary Dennis: That’s exactly right. In other words, we’ve made efforts to divert the lower end offenders out of the system. One of the problems that correctional systems has, primarily state prison systems, is now they have a whole lot of very serious offenders there, and I mentioned sex offenders. We all know from reading the paper and watching TV that everyone that’s convicted of a sex offense probably is going to have to register under Megan’s Law, they’re very seriously stereotyped, and it’s almost impossible for them to find places to live, and so they are very difficult to place, and we’re hoping that this money can be targeted, in some cases, to help folks like sex offenders provide a transition back into the community, and let me say that we look at re-entry, offender re-entry as an evidence based process. In other words, some folks would say that re-entry actually starts on the very first day that a person comes into prison or jail, and what second chance requires in the proposals is that once a applicant has identified the target population, and let’s just simply say it’s female offenders that are coming back into the District of Columbia, that they use a validated assessment instrument to determine what the individual needs of these women might be when they come back into the community.

Len Sipes: Okay, let me stop you right there. What it is that you’re saying is that, at this moment, and we can agree to disagree in terms of how strong the evidence is, and how precise the evidence is, but there is enough evidence out there from good solid research that indicates that you can take individuals coming out of prison, providing them with comprehensive services, and by that, we’re talking about drug, substance abuse, mental health, job, finding a place to live, those sort of things, interacting with the family, and you can lower the rate of recidivism according to the Washington State Public Policy Institute, which seems to be the leader in terms of providing these stats for recidivism and re-entry. You can lower the rates of recidivism 10-20%, possibly even more, so when you’re talking about evidence base, you’re saying that there’s enough there that leads us to believe that these programs will reduce recidivism.

Gary Dennis: That’s exactly right! I think I need to take you back to the office to be my spokesperson here! But you’ve summed it all up in a nutshell! That’s exactly right!

Len Sipes: But people hear evidence base, and they say, what does that mean? But, at the same time, you know, in terms of areas of substance abuse, it’s laid out from point A to point Z! It is very comprehensive, we know exactly what to do in terms of substance abuse, but in other areas of re-entry, we’re not quite sure as to what the ratios of the parole and probation agents should be to be effective, we’re not quite sure when you begin the re-entry process, when it ends, how much of an intervention is necessary, I mean all of that is still a great unknown. We know that the projects reduce recidivism, but we’re still struggling with the particulars.

Gary Dennis: That’s right, there are some things that we know, from history, do work, and I think one of the benefits of the Second Chance act, with these demonstration projects, it’s going to allow us to continue to accumulate that research and that evidence to support those particular interventions that really do have an impact on recidivism.

Len Sipes: And that’s the exciting thing, Gary, because we need more data. We need more precision in terms of what it is that we do, and in what methods and how, what case loads and when do you start mental health treatment, and is medication, or does it have to be medication as well as therapy, depending upon the diagnosis, I mean there’s a whole lot, I mean job treatment, or job placement, you can find a person a job, but do you expect, like substance abuse, problems along the way with this individual that you may have to re-place this person 2-3 times, do you fund it 2-3 times, or do you basically say, eh, we gave you your chance, sorry it didn’t work out for you, we’re going to move on to the next person. I mean, all of those things are, in essence, unknowns when it comes to dealing with offenders and re-entry, so I’m very excited to hear that for many of us, this is a great learning opportunity in terms of how to do re-entry right.

Gary Dennis: That’s exactly correct, and one of the things that we’re going to require the applicants to do, is there’s a list of performance measures, and they will be asked to keep particular metric data about what happens to the people that are involved in the project, and what we anticipate at the end of probably two years is selecting various sites and asking the National Institute of Justice to come in and do in depth evaluations –

Len Sipes: Which is yet another organization under the Office of Justice [overlapping voices] U.S. Department of Justice, and they do the research –

Gary Dennis: Another part of the alphabet soup –

Len Sipes: Another part of the alphabet soup.

Gary Dennis: But they’ll come in and take a really researched look at using control groups to determine again, and document through evidence, well through research what these practices are so we can have a little bit better idea when we say evidence based, that we have actually a body of evidence.

Len Sipes: Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. www.grants – G-R-A-N-T-S – .gov – G-O-V – not .com, as I said before, .gov, and we have Gary Dennis contact points, and I’ll mention them right at the end of the show, (202)305-9059, that’s Gary’s telephone number. Boy, I’ll tell you, I’d be scared to death to give out my cell phone number to the re-entry community of the United States, or my desk number! Your phone must be ringing non-stop. His email is garydennis – D-E-N-N-I-S – Now Gary, you’re not getting a lot of additional staff to pull this off, I mean, we’ve been struggling, when I say we, in terms of the Office of Justice Programs community, and they have all these agencies under the Office of Justice Programs, they haven’t been getting, OJP has not been getting a lot of money, and now OJP is getting scads of money, and this is just one piece of the pie. Did a radio show a little while ago about the stuff that’s coming down in terms of, which also could be applied to re-entry, as far as I know, in terms of grants coming out of certain, a million dollars to hire more police officers, and $2 million going to the states to plan criminal justice programs, so there are other pots of money, but you’re just dealing with the re-entry part of it, thank god, as far as you’re concerned.

Gary Dennis: Well, that’s going to be true until a couple more days, and I’ll be the lead person on some corrections elements of solicitations that’ll be going out with the new Recovery Act monies, there will be, there is the allowance in some of those for additional staff to be hired, obviously the aim of the recovery act is to create jobs and preserve jobs, but we’re going to be able to hire additional probation and parole officers, community corrections staff, jurisdictions will be able to hire additional jail and detention officers to support increased law enforcement efforts as a result of the recovery act, so yes, and you mentioned $2 billion, the Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Assistance administers burn money, this is money that comes through the Edward Burn Memorial Program, and there are two parts of that. There is some discretionary money, but the largest portion of that are formula grants to the states, and we have roughly $2 billion under the Recovery Act – I guess I shouldn’t say this, but I guess pushing out to the states, but grants are being made to states, 60% of which they have to pass through to locals, and that’s based on crime statistics, UCR statistics that they report, metropolitan, size of population –

Len Sipes: Are they on as well?

Gary Dennis: Actually, the formula grants are not, they go directly to the states –

Len Sipes: The state agencies.

Gary Dennis: And 40% will go to specific units of government, so that portion of it, the formula grants, we refer to those as JAG grants, Justice Assistance Grants –

Len Sipes: Okay, and they go, and 60% is reserved for pass-through monies to in terms of state and local entities, so you would have to go to your governor’s office of criminal justice services and apply through there, but again, that’s additional possibilities in terms of re-entry dollars, but that would be discretionary on the part of the state criminal justice planning agencies.

Gary Dennis: That’s correct, and in the state authorizing agency, it could be a crime commission, it could be an office –

Len Sipes: But if you go to the website of the National Criminal Justice Association, because I did a radio show with them on that part of it, – I hope it’s dot-org! –, I’m pretty sure you can get information about those grants. All right, so Gary, we’re going to summarize, because we only have a couple minutes left in the program. Gary Dennis, Dr. Gary Dennis, and oh, by the way, I want to say something that Gary probably wouldn’t say, being, he’s taking on so much of this, and being, I’ve worked for this structure in my past, the grant applications that you use, please make them as good as humanly possible, because that’ll make you shine, and it’ll be easy to give you the money if you present a really good grant application, so do the very best you can on that, his telephone number, (202)305-9059, (202)305-9059, email gary-dot – D-E-N-N-I-S –, the monies in terms of the $25 million for the demonstration grants and the other grants that I can’t remember the name of them, they will be at www.grants – G-R-A-N-T-S – .gov – G-O-V, so we have, I think, a unique opportunity everybody in terms of the re-entry folks out there to get money to do these demonstrations, there’s a possibility of an additional $75 million coming through the Obama administration that possibly could be here, that’s what he’s asking for, that possibly could be here at the beginning of the federal fiscal year, October 1, 2009. Did I summarize it?

Gary Dennis: You did quite a good job.

Len Sipes: All right. Final words, you have one minute.

Gary Dennis: Well, I just appreciate the opportunity to share this information. As I said earlier, those of us in the field who’ve worked in corrections know that re-entry is absolutely critical, and the people that are in our prisons and jails are our mothers and brothers and fathers and relatives, and they’re just like us, they’ve just, unfortunately, gotten on the wrong side of the law, and if we’re going to help them become productive citizens and taxpaying citizens and back to their families, we’ve got to provide them with the resources in the community to support that, whether it’s employment or housing, substance abuse counseling, mental health counseling, family reunification, and Second Chance provides money to do that.

Len Sipes: Dr. Gary Dennis of the Bureau of Justice Assistance of the U.S. Department of Justice, thank you. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for being with us at D.C. public safety. Again, we take all of your comments, all of your concerns, feel free to get in touch with us, my direct email address is Leonard – L-E-O-N-A-R-D – .sipes – S-I-P-E-S – @csosa or follow me on Twitter at twitter/lensipes, please have yourselves a very pleasant day.

– Audio ends –

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