Probation, Parole and Community Supervision Week-Resources Available-DC Public Safety

Welcome to DC Public Safety-radio and television shows on crime, criminal offenders and the criminal justice system.

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Radio Program available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2009/07/probation-parole-and-community-supervision-week-resources-available/

We welcome your comments or suggestions at leonard.sipes@csosa.gov or at Twitter at twitter.com/lensipes.

– Audio Begins –

Len Sipes: From our microphones in downtown Washington D.C., this is D.C. Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. At our microphones is Diane Kincaid, she is an information specialist, or the information specialist for the American Probation and Parole Association. What we’re doing, ladies and gentlemen, is celebrating Probation, Parole, and Community Supervision week, which is exactly the day that we’re recording this, July 19th, it lasts from July 19th to July 25th, and we are here to talk about, not only the materiaLen Sipes available from the American Parole, Probation and Parole association, but this larger concept of what it means to be a Parole and Probation Officer, to be a Community Supervision Officer, as we call them here in Washington D.C., but before we do that, we get to our usual commercial thanking you, the listener and thanking you, the viewer, to our T.V. side, and the people who come in and take a look at our blogs and transcripts. We are beyond 140,000 requests on a monthly basis, and on a monthly basis, we get an additional 50,000 pages downloaded, that’s a record for us. We really appreciate everything that you have to say in terms of suggestions, even criticisms, you can reach me directly at Leonard, L-E-O-N-A-R-D – dot-sipes – S-I-P – and people say, “Leonard, that’s “˜T,’ it sounds like “˜T,'” no it’s ‘P’ as in “peculiar, pumpernickel,” S-I-P-E-S – @csosa.gov, or you can comment directly on the blog itself in the comments section, or you can follow me via Twitter at twitter/lensipes. So with that long introduction, back at our microphones, Diane Kincaid, information specialist for the American Probation and Parole Association, Diane, welcome to D.C. Public Safety.

Diane Kincaid: Thanks, Len, it’s a pleasure to be with you this morning.

Len Sipes: Now what we did, ladies and gentlemen, this is our second recording that Diane has done. We tried a new mixer to improve the show a little bit, and it shows you what happens when you combine technology with criminologists, we messed it up, and we tried spending a good part of the day on Thursday editing the show. We gave up and asked Diane if she would be kind enough to come back in and re-record the entire program. It was a wonderful program the first time around. I think we started off with the concept that people simply do not understand the contributions a parole and probation agents, of community supervision personnel, whether they’re on the adult side or the juvenile side. We talked about that there are approximately 100,000 individuaLen Sipes who do parole and probation work throughout the country, adult parole and probation, there’s many more who do juvenile parole and probation, and that these individuaLen Sipes are out every day in high crime communities, generally speaking, unarmed, and they are interacting with criminal offenders, they’re trying to do two things, they’re trying to get them in programs, get them involved in issues and programs that are going to lessen their rates of recidivism, and at the same time, take action to return them to the criminal justice system if they do not behave properly, and that’s an extraordinarily difficult job, Diane, correct?

Diane Kincaid: It is, and when you consider that there are over 5 million adults somehow involved in the community supervision aspect of corrections, you have to think that these officers and agents, they’re incredibly busy. They do not have stress free professions by any means, and you know, you mentioned a lot of the things about going into dangerous areas, and the thing about probation, parole, and community supervision is that there is such a varied work, the work is so different for each officer. There are many who do these home contacts, or they go out to see if an offender is working where he or she says he’s working, but there are others who do simply things like – not simply, but who only do, perhaps pre-sentence investigation. The work is incredibly varied, and I think that’s one of the difficult things to explain to people who don’t know anything about the system, and for the general public, they may know someone who works in probation or parole, and they say, “Well he just sits at a desk and he writes a report.” That report is part of an entire system, and that’s a very important part, so everything works together to keep our community safer.

Len Sipes: The amazing thing is that, now again, I’m coming from the side of law enforcement, I’ve spent six years as a law enforcement officer, and so I’m not putting down police officers by any stretch of the imagination. I have a huge degree, or a huge sense, we all do, a huge admiration for our folks on the law enforcement side, but I do feel, I guess, somewhat ill at ease that our people on the parole and probation side simply do not get the recognition. There are no television shows out there talking about the exploits of parole and probation officers, there are very few radio shows that look at what it is that they do. I mean, these people really do put their lives on the line day in day out in terms of what it is they do. Yes, there are some people, a few, that sit behind desks and write reports, but you know, we did a television show the other day about what we call accountability tours where our people, community supervision officers, go out with the Metropolitan Police Department, and they do that about 8,000 times a year. But without that police officer, in terms of doing home verifications, and in terms of going out into the field and supervising individuaLen Sipes in the field, that’s an additional 60,000 times every year. 60,000 individual contacts, and they’re by themselves. I think that people simply don’t recognize the complexity of the work, the danger of the work, the large caseloads that many of our parole and probation agents have throughout the country. This is an extraordinarily complex and difficult job.

Diane Kincaid: It is, and you mentioned law enforcement, and of course, law enforcement has a very important place in our society, and one of the things that occurred to us as we began looking at some branding initiatives for the field is that, when you see a police officer on duty, that officer has a uniform. They have a badge. You see their weapon. You see, you know, you have an image in your mind of what a police officer looks like, whether he or she is in a squad car, they’re on a motorcycle, they’re out in the community walking the beat, but probation and parole officers, most of the time, do not have uniforms. Many of them aren’t armed. There are a lot of departments who are arming their officers, and that’s something eLen Sipese to take into consideration, all of the training that’s necessary, many officers are trained equally as well as law enforcement, as police officers are, if they are issued a weapon. So you know, the training that goes into it, and the knowledge, and the expertise that goes into it is incredible.

Len Sipes: We are talking about, ladies and gentlemen, probation, parole, and community supervision week, which happens to be this week, the day that we’re recording this program, July 19th through the 25th. There are materiaLen Sipes available on the website of the American Probation and Parole Association. The website is appa-net.org, appa-net.org, O-R-G, Diane Kincaid, her email is diane – K-I-N-C-A-I-D – @csg.org. Diane, one of the things that I think that the field owes the American Probation and Parole Association, and you in particular, a huge vote of thanks. Whenever we within the field need to come to grips with a particular topic, whenever we in the field need to ascertain what other states are doing and what other jurisdictions are doing, we go through the American Probation and Parole Association, specifically we go through you. You’ve been in this job for 10 years.

Diane Kincaid: Yes, and it has been a tremendous learning experience for me, having come in, certainly knowing the difference between probation and parole, but really not understanding the detailed work that these professionaLen Sipes do, and one of the things about working with APPA is that I have access to some of the best in the field. You know, people that are on the cutting edge of research and technology, and that is what makes my job doable is that I can email people like you, I need to find out about what’s going on in D.C., or I need to find out about a program that you all have going on, so just being able to email or call people up like you, or anyone across the country who I think, wow, that would be somebody who has some information that I can get to someone eLen Sipese, and that’s really a good part of my job.

Len Sipes: One of the things that the Association has done is doing a media campaign, or a public relations campaign, with a concept of a force for positive change, something that can galvanize the entire parole and probation industry, community corrections industry, around a particular brand, that brand called a force for positive change, that is aLen Sipeso on our website, talking about the brand and talking about the week, so it’s just not only this particular week, you’re trying to do something throughout the course of the year.

Diane Kincaid: We are, and we worked this logo and tagline into the Probation, Parole, and Community Supervision Week celebration this year, because we really wanted to launch that, and we wanted to work those two ideas together. There are aLen Sipeso other items available through that branding initiative, so there’s a separate page that has more detailed information about that and about some of the other resources you can use for that in your agency.

Len Sipes: And again – I’m sorry, go ahead, please.

Diane Kincaid: No, go.

Len Sipes: APPA.net.org is where those materiaLen Sipes lie. Now Diane, we’ve scratched the surface just a tad in terms of the Parole and Probation Agents, what we call community supervision officers here in the District of Columbia. Again, a good part of my life was law enforcement and law enforcement support. When I started getting involved in the correctional part of it, spending time when I was with the Maryland Department of Public Safety, spending time in the prison systems, I mean we had the state police, we had other law enforcement agencies, but there on the corrections side, I spent a lot of time with correctional officers, I spent a lot of time with people who are doing community corrections, I spent a lot of time with parole and probation agents to learn their job, to understand their job, and I came away with it with an amazing appreciation for our Parole and Probation Agents, and I think that that was sort of, I said, gee, why didn’t I know this before? Why wasn’t I really appreciative of their work before? I would read their pre-sentence reports, and some of these are some of the most amazing criminological overviews of a person, of an individual, and I came away with this saying, “My heavens, these people really probably know crime and criminaLen Sipes better than any other professional that we have!” Police officers, when I was a police officer, I would roll into a scene, and 15 minutes later, I would roll out. The parole and probation agents have these individuaLen Sipes for years!

Diane Kincaid: Oftentimes, they do, and they, more often than not, really get to know this person, and when you are supervising an offender who perhaps has done something that they may well have committed a violent act, if it’s tremendously violent, they’re probably going to be in prison, but you know, depending on what they’ve done, a probation and parole officer can get to know this person and can see cues if there is something going wrong, if an offender has a job, loses it, seems to be struggling with substance abuse, you can see these warning signaLen Sipes coming up, and you can help divert the offender away from those things. You know, we’re talking about people who are adept at motivational interviewing, cognitive development, change, behavior change, so they really are, often times, are very well versed in counseling, and just really getting to know people and helping them.

Len Sipes: And picking up those cues, I think, is the most important thing, getting to know the family, getting to know the mother, getting to know the children, getting to know the wife, getting to know the neighbors, getting to know the employers. It’s just not supervising an offender. It is coming into contact with just about every aspect of his life, where he lives, how he conducts himself, is he standing on the corner at night bothering people, is he violating the law, is he going to drug treatment, is he completing his community service work, that’s an immense challenge, especially considering the fact that many parole and probation people throughout the country have very large caseloads, and when I say very large, 100, 150, 200 cases are not unusual.

Diane Kincaid: That’s not unusual at all, and when you consider all of the talent that goes into it and the professionalism, and the strength that they bring to their job, you aLen Sipeso have to think about how the funding stream has, you know, in our economy right now, many agencies are looking at serious cuts to their budgets. All the while, we are expecting these people to protect the public safety, so the economic times are always difficult for probation and parole, but even now, more than ever, it’s become even more serious.

Len Sipes: But there seems to be a paradox, Diane, because both of us read the newspapers throughout the country through various electronic services, and we see that many jurisdictions are saying, okay, we’re going to depend – and this is all due to the crisis, budget crisis that is affecting most states throughout the country, and what they’re saying is that we want parole and probation to do more. We want to incarcerate fewer people, not from a philosophical point of view, simply from a budget point of view, we want to incarcerate less and depend more on community supervision. Wow! That’s, we’re struggling to do what we do within the confines of our current budgets, let alone taking on significant additional people. California at one time was talking about releasing upwards of 30,000 offenders from their prison system, and that would be absorbed by their parole and probation system, so in essence, I hear more calLen Sipes for parole and probation to do more and a greater emphasis for parole and probation to do more, but some states are calling the parole and probation.

Diane Kincaid: They are, and that’s part of the reason why we sort of initiated this branding project, because probation and parole is such a difficult field to understand, not only for the public, but for the policy makers. You know, when they’re going to make their budget decisions, when they’re initiating legislation, when they are proposing bilLen Sipes that are going to affect corrections in general, they don’t see far down the road to see what it’s going to do to probation and parole, but part of what we’ve done is put together these resources that will allow agencies to go out and project that positive image –

Len Sipes: And I think most of us within the field think that that is crucial. We’re halfway through the program already. Diane Kincaid, information specialist with the American Probation and Parole Association. We’re talking about Probation/Parole and Community Supervision week, which is this week of July 19th through July 25th, our programs seem to live years afterwards, so we do do these things, and we do celebrate this around this time of year, celebrate parole and probation agents, people who work in community supervision, the address is appa-net – dash net – .org, for information on this week, probation and parole, and community supervision week, and materiaLen Sipes to help promote the week. Diane, one of the reasons, one of the things I think there’s a problem in terms of understanding what it is that we do, that one side of us are law enforcement officers, we carry badges, we are very well trained, in many cases, some of us do carry firearms, some of us across the country do have arrest authority, but I think that’s only a minority of people in parole and probation, but we’re tasked to do two different things. We’re tasked to a) enforce the law, ensure public safety, that means that the person is posing a threat to public safety, if the local law enforcement telLen Sipes us that he’s out in the corner bothering people, and that he’s doing things he should not be doing, or violating drug tests or not going to drug treatment, we have the option, and in many cases exercise that option of putting that person back in prison, either through the parole commission, or through the courts. The other seems to be our dedication to getting the person into drug treatment, getting the person into mental health treatment, getting the person into employment services, and that these are things that are clearly in the best interests of society. I know of nobody out there who would object to an offender who was a mental health problem of getting mental health treatment, so we have two roles. One is an enforcement role, and one, to try to help this individual achieve what this individual needs to achieve to lower the rate of recidivism, to protect public safety, and at the same time, to help him live a life where he can pay taxes and take care of his kids.

Diane Kincaid: True, and you have to weigh public safety. Obviously, someone who is violent should not be out in the community. Someone who is known, who has those tendencies, and assessment tooLen Sipes are of great use to probation and parole, because they give those cues to the officer, or they let that person know that this offender, they might be having a problem here. They might be going back into these problem behaviors, and you know, knowing all that and doing all that is just amazing to me. You know, learning more, I’ve learned something new every day about the field, even after having worked here for several years, and you know, part of what we really want people to understand is that the work these professionaLen Sipes do cannot be done away with. Our society cannot live without these people, so we really do need to thank them whenever we meet one of these.

Len Sipes: Yeah, I make it a personal point of telling everybody that I meet in community supervision how I feel they’ve contributed to public safety. I mean, we do that for police officers, we do it for firefighters. Obviously, we do it for our military, but in terms of parole and probation people, an extraordinarily difficult job. I was at a conference one time where, dealing with women offenders in the District of Columbia, and a woman offender got up and addressed the entire conference and basically said, “Last night, my roommate, and I have my two children and I living in this person’s house, and this person pulled a knife on me, so I grabbed a knife back to protect myself and my children. Now, what are you going to do for me? I no longer have a place to live.” So in the context of all of the complexities of dealing with a large caseload and all of the complexities of dealing with offenders and the issues that they bring to the table, there is a parole and probation agent who has to spend a good part of the day finding housing for this mother and two kids. That is just a tip of the iceberg in terms of the complexity of parole and probation work.

Diane Kincaid: It is, and when you think about the kinds of lives that many offenders have lived, and perhaps difficult childhoods, getting to the root of that, we talked about how probation and parole officers can make recommendations to have supervision revoked, but if someone is a substance abuser, and they’re put back in jail or prison, that’s not treating the root of the problem. You’re treating a symptom, but you’re not treating the actual problem, so probation and parole officers are trained to, you know, as much as they can, as much as their budgets and resources in their community will allow, is to treat that root problem.

Len Sipes: And everybody needs to understand, who is listening to this program who is not part of the parole and probation system, that every offender, virtually every offender brings these sorts of problems to the table. It’s not unusual for the person to be working, it’s not unusual for the person to be going to drug treatment, and who, for all intents and purposes, is doing well in every aspect of their community supervision, to pull drug positives. If we put everybody in prison that pulled those drug positives, we would double the capacity of prisons overnight. It’s our job to see if we can manage this individual, assess this individual, discuss this individual with our fellow parole and probation agents, and to see what we can do to get this person to stop pulling drug positives and continue, in essence, a reasonable readjustment after prison with everything eLen Sipese. That’s hard to do, because the question becomes, at what point do you violate the person and send the person back to prison, or at what point do you try to maintain the person in the community, and with the budget cuts all throughout the country, governor’s offices more and more and more are asking us to do whatever we can not to violate a person unless they pose a clear and present danger to public safety.

Diane Kincaid: That’s true, and when you weigh the cost and benefit, there’s no question that when community supervision is done correctly with sufficient resources, it can absolutely reduce recidivism, and it can create citizens who are paying their taxes, they’re paying their child support, they are working in the community. Oftentimes, offenders before citizens just like people who have never committed a crime, and probation and parole is not easy for offenders. People seem to think, oh, it’s just a slap on the wrist. Well, oftentimes, it’s not. It’s very difficult. You’re talking about people who, if they have some sort of conviction, it’s difficult for them to find a job. It’s oftentimes difficult to find someone to rent an apartment to them. So they’re struggling with that as well as perhaps a substance abuse problem, you know, their schedules are crazy where they have to perhaps meet with an officer twice a week, they are struggling to get a job, they’re trying to find someplace to live, they might be taking care of the children, so their lives are very complex, and just because they’re wrapped up with this supervision.

Len Sipes: Yeah, and on top of it, they really don’t trust us, so they don’t trust anybody within the criminal justice system, so to get them to open up, when I do ride-alongs with community supervision officers here in the District of Columbia, and I did them in the state of Maryland, I’m amazed when that parole and probation person goes into the home, talks to the family, and they’re talking back, and they’re having a good solid conversation in terms of how do we get 19 year old Johnny back into the programs that he needs to be in, and this parole and probation agent is enlisting the entire family’s assistance, so they tackle this issue as a family. Now considering that people really don’t trust us within the criminal justice system, the offender really doesn’t trust us, to see the offender and the parole and probation person having, what I consider to be a meaningful conversation. I’m sitting back and saying, wow, now that takes a lot of talent and a lot of perseverance, and a lot of talent, let me say that word twice, to be able to get the family to be allies and be able to really communicate on a personal basis with that offender, considering very few of them, especially the offender, trust us at the beginning. It takes time to build that trust, and it takes time to convince that individual to do what they should be doing.

Diane Kincaid: It does, and we’ve talked a little bit about partnerships with law enforcement. Probation and parole officers must work with partnerships with all leveLen Sipes of the community. They oftentimes have good working relationships with law enforcement, oftentimes in some agencies, when an officer goes out for a home contact or for any type of contact with an offender, that they might take a law enforcement officer with them, knowing how to get resources to an offender, how to, where do you go to find a job, who do you talk to about getting substance abuse treatment, knowing those things about the community makes them a tremendous resource for offenders.

Len Sipes: And aLen Sipeso at the same time to providing the wherewithal of basically saying, look, you’ve got a court order, this is not an option. You have to go to drug treatment, you have to repay your victim, you have to do community service work, and by the way, John, we feel that you have a bit of a mental health problem through your assessment, and we now need to get mental health treatment. That’s a big plate of things to do, especially with a person who is resisting your efforts to do it.

Diane Kincaid: A lot of times, they are, and when you talk about mental illness, that is just a whole nother tremendous issue faced by these officers, just realizing that someone does have that problem, and you know, you can’t really express how important assessment tooLen Sipes are to a probation and parole officer.

Len Sipes: Yeah, the fact that we, again, know these individuaLen Sipes, in many cases, better than they know themselves, and we uncover issues, I mean, a lot of these offenders, and people always send me emaiLen Sipes, or tell me that I’m making excuses for offenders, and it’s really not, it really is just basically stating the facts as they are, they’re coming from very difficult backgrounds, many offenders have raised themselves since the age of 8, they have dropped out of school, they don’t know who the father is, they’ve had a bad relationship with their mother, they feel abandoned, and in many cases, they have what I call a chip on their shoulder the size of Montana. We’re not talking about people who are easily drawn into these services, and breaking through that barrier to get that offender, and the entire family, for that matter, to become allies. That is a skill that we should be celebrating.

Diane Kincaid: Right, and just as you said, a difficult childhood or a difficult life is no excuse for breaking the law, but we have to, as a society, recognize that there are some things that are difficult for people, and we’re talking about individual psyches and individual brains, and we all react differently to things that we encounter. Some people can sort of get over things, and others can’t, and we have to accommodate them.

Len Sipes: And to do that with large caseloads, to do that with limited resources, I know of parole and probation agents who give a lot of evening time, who give a lot of weekend time to both enforcing the roles of parole or probation, and at the same time, trying to help these offenders cross that bridge into a tax paying lifestyle instead of a tax burden, and they do that on weekends and the evenings. I think, once again, we as a society owe a debt of gratitude, and we should be expressing that freely in terms, I think all of us feel that way, that we owe a debt of gratitude towards our people who are parole and probation agents, who are, generally speaking, carry bachelor’s degrees and advanced degrees, and generally speaking very dedicated to what they do.

Diane Kincaid: They are, and that’s, the emphasis behind this week, and we celebrate this week, and we do a website every year. It’s always the third week in July. We have a new poster design, there are brochures, there’s the new PowerPoint presentation on our resource kit that you can take into a school or take into a community group and do a presentation about your job and what it means and how it’s important, and then on another aspect of what we’re trying to branch out into is some of these newer technologies to keep informed and to reach out into the field is we have a facebook page now, and we’ll be launching a twitter page in the next few weeks, so we’re really excited about that.

Len Sipes: Getting involved in social media to do a better job of informing everybody what it is that the Parole and Probation Agents do. Our guest today has been Diane Kincaid. She is an information specialist for 10 years, for a full decade with the Parole and Probation Association. We’re celebrating Probation, Parole, and Community Supervision Week, as of today, July 19th through July 25th, you can go to the website of the American Probation and Parole Association, appa-net – appa-net – N-E-T – .org, Diane Kincaid, her email is D-K-I-N-C-A-I-D – @csg.org. Ladies and gentlemen, this is D.C. Public Safety, once again, we really thank you profusely for all the letters, phone calLen Sipes, emaiLen Sipes, and you can again follow me on twitter at twitter/lensipes, or via email, which seems to be popular, Leonard – L-E-O-N-A-R-D – dot-sipes – S-I-P – not “˜T’ – E-S – @csosa.gov, or you can simply comment within the show notes, and I want everybody to have themselves a very, very pleasant day.

– Audio Ends –

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  1. Sundresses says

    Diane Kincaid makes an excellent point on rehabilitation vs. punishment. We have the opportunity to build a viable workforce with the manpower available in prisons yet we fail to do so. I think of the recitivism rates, and I cannot help but see a much-needed resource (trained manpower) gone to waste.

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