Successful Parole and Probation Practices-DC Public Safety Television

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Nancy: Hi and welcome to DC Public Safety. I’m your host Nancy Ware. Today’s show focuses on successful supervision practices across the country. We have four directors of state parole and probation agencies attending a conference at The National Institute of Corrections in Washington, DC and they are here to discuss what works in parole and probation to prompt successful case completions and to protect public safety. My guests for the first half are, AnMarie Aylward, the Assistant Secretary for Community Corrections Division at the Washington State Department of Corrections.

She has several decades of experience in the criminal justice field in varying capacities and has expertise in the transition of offenders and the management of sex offenders. We also have Russell Marlan, the Deputy Director for Field Operations in the Michigan Department of Corrections. Deputy Director Marlan has over two decades experience in corrections including servicing as a former probation officer and working inside a correctional facility, where he served as a department’s public information officer. AnMarie and Russell, welcome to DC Public Safety.

AnMarie: Thank you Nancy.

Russ: Thank you Nancy.

Nancy: We want to start the show today, first of all talking a little bit about what is community corrections exactly and what is it that you two do? Then we go into some of the barriers, some of the successes that you’ve had. Can you tell us a little bit about what you see community corrections, how we should define it?

AnMarie: I can start by just talking that community supervision is a host of different activities whether someone is releasing from prison after a period of confinement, releasing from jail or releasing directly from the courts and in my experience in Washington State and talking to other states across the country, is that it’s a very complex system. When any of us and even today when we are talking about community supervision, we are really talking about very different pathways, very different practices from state to state and from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. It’s important that we articulate and be more specific about what we are talking about. In my case we are talking about the supervision of persons under our jurisdiction in the community across the State of Washington.

Nancy: Okay and in Michigan?

Russ: It’s pretty much the same in Michigan. We have people on parole after they leave prison transitioning back to their home communities, after they’ve served a prison sentence. We have probationers, people who are placed on probation supervision instead of prison or after a prison sentence. We have a variety of people we supervise in Michigan as well.

Nancy: In your capacity, how do you see the whole re-entry of initiatives you’ve put in place benefiting those folks who are under your supervision? We start off with you Russ.

Russ: Re-entry is something that’s key. When I started with the department, 23 years ago, we did not have a re-entry program. We had no re-entry services. The philosophy was, you’ve served your time in prison, you are out, do the right thing. Follow the rules, follow the conditions. I knew there were people that reported to me as a parole officer that I knew when they left my office they were going to do something that was not pro-social and I had no resources to address that. In the era that we are in now I think most states have prisoners re-entry programs, where we identify what the key barriers are for people who leave prison and are returning home.

We provide services to help them address those barriers. Some of those for us are housing, a safe stable home environment, transportation to get to job interviews and other scheduled treatment appointments, and to see your parole probation officer. Mentoring is something that is important, to have a mentor that helps them engage in some pro-social activities when they are not at work or doing other things. Substance abuse treatment and other kind of cognitive based programs are also very important.

Nancy: AnMarie?

AnMarie: I think Russ is absolutely right. Re-entry has been with us for a long time and there’s been a lot of fits and starts about what re-entry really is. I think in this period of time, we are really at that place where data is driving us and data is really leading us to make good decisions and good use of resources. I know Washington State is very concerned about our finite resources and how we can use them to the best effect as are other states in the country. We are at a point in time where data can really inform our practices and inform our decisions and that really translates to best use of referrals, best uses of resources that are available in the state which really improve re-entry services across the continuum.

Nancy: Given that, what are some of the barriers that you face every day in trying to work with that population?

AnMarie: The barriers are as many as there are opportunities. I think sometimes Nancy, the issue is that it’s hard and depending on what pathway the person on jurisdiction is from, it maybe fear. It maybe the fear of falling back. It maybe not really knowing what the right thing is to do and that gives community supervision officer, community corrections officer, the opportunity to really assist and to help someone be pro-social and make some good choices. In other cases you really need to be on accountability and surveillance. There is really multiple rules which make a pretty complex system a little bit more complicated, but I think at least I’m familiar with staff who really take that to a level of professionalism, are really proud of the work they do and the work hard they do every day.

Nancy: Yeah, I’ve heard great things. Russ?

Russ: Well, in Michigan, our mission statement for the Michigan Department of Corrections is to create a safer Michigan by holding the offenders accountable and promoting their success. I think for years we were very good at the holding offenders accountable part and something that has been kind of an evolving thing for us is the promoting their success part. We’ve learned, I think, from the days many years ago where it was let’s get tough on crime but that didn’t work so much and now you hear the smart on crime tag line. We also recognize the mental health issues, the substance abuse issues, the abuse that’s happened in the homes of these offenders that the encouraging their success and targeting the data and using that data to drive our decisions and programs to something that we are seeing equate to lower recidivism and safer communities.

Nancy: Well, you both mentioned data. I think I’d like to hear a little bit more about how you use research and data to guide some of the work you do both for those folks that are coming out of prison but also for folks who are just under supervision, in the community already.

AnMarie: It’s a great question and one of the basic ways to do it is just to be able to instill a level of data collection across the continuum so that you can take a pulse point. You can understand how is this practice or policy being implemented in different areas so that we can learn best practices from other areas. If someone is being successful, then what are they doing specifically and how can that be shared with other entities that are really struggling with whatever the policy or practice is. At some level just having data available to line level staff as well as policy makers making that decision is useful, so it’s all kind of outcome measures as well as those demographics on how often is an offender coming in? How often are they being tested? Are you meeting your context standards? Et cetera.

Nancy: You want to add anything to that Russ?

Russ: Well, I think that that’s what is exciting about this time in the criminal justice world is that data is something that comes very quickly, and I think the conference we were at today a lot of states get together and we talk about programs that we are doing. Practices that we are doing, supervision strategies that we are using that are working and that we’ve run the data on those and as I said it’s leading to lower recidivism, safer communities and so you can get data and feedback very quickly in this era and that’s very helpful in deciding where to invest your funding because we all have limited resources and we want to make sure we apply the resources to where it works most effectively.

AnMarie: I’m sorry but there is really is a double edged sword though because staff might be really attracted or happy about a program or referral opportunity that doesn’t show best practice, that isn’t effective. You need to extinguish that opportunity which ends up being difficult and so as often as it is to use data to really bring in new resources that will really work, sometimes it’s hard because you have to stop resources that will stop showing any improvement.

Nancy: Well, but I think that’s the most useful piece because I wanted to … One of the things we’ve been talking about with NIC, the National Institute of Corrections is best practices and evidence based practices. Can you talk a little bit about some of the practices you’ve seen as successful and some of the things that you’ve had to kind of let go as you said AnMarie, to be sure that you are really getting the right formula for the clients that you are serving.

AnMarie: We could probably talk for a couple of hours on that alone, so it’s really difficult but again one of the things, and again we were just talking about it today at the conference that really we are just focusing on high risk mean and how do you do that across a state or at a line level consistently and with some fidelity to the principles, and those basic ideas are done very differently across the country and so implementing an evidence based practice is difficult to hold true. I know in Washington State, we’ve implemented a number of practices and when we look at the data and something doesn’t hold up, we’ll pull that program and start another or we’ll pile at another opportunity but again it’s a difficult change to do on data alone.

Nancy: Have you found that based on some of the practices across the country, that we’ve shared at NIC that you’ve been able to use some of those shared successes in your jurisdictions?

Russ: I believe so and I think NIC is a great resource for us and they have a whole catalog of evidence based programs that have been tested and shown to work. We tap into those but I think for states like ours, it all starts with a validated risk assessment instrument and that’s something that’s not static, something that’s dynamic that changes as apply programming and resources and we use one and have used one for nine years. We have the data to support that those that are low risk on that screen out with the lowest recidivism rate and those that are high risk on that are the ones you need to focus your resources and your programming and your resources to and your attention to because those have, through the nine years that we’ve done it, those have the highest recidivism rate and those are the persons out in the community that are causing crime and victimizing people. I think it starts with that in need of validated risk assessment instrument and states use different types. We use one and that kind of guides where our resources go.

Nancy: Are there other practices that you’ve found that you’ve implemented in Washington, for example, that you really feel excited about?

AnMarie: Yes, of course there are, one of the things we’ve done three or four years ago, we implemented swift and certain response to violations of condition, we implemented it state wide. We did it fairly quickly as it was a law and we had a target date and just recently had an independent review of our implementation and our program. It really showed not only did we decrease confinement of persons on supervision, but it also decreased the recidivism of those persons which was not what we were intending but you certainly don’t to say no to a decreased recidivism rate, so, swift and certain response to sanctions is response to sanctions is a huge win for the State of Washington.

Nancy: That’s good. Anything less that you want to add to that Russ.

Russ: When we started our re-entry program our recidivism rate in Michigan was around 50%, so around half the people we release from prison came back to prison within three years and by utilizing our re-entry program, our risk assessment instrument and some of the applying resources to these areas of need as people leave prison, we’ve dropped our recidivism rate to now 30%. We’ve had a tremendous impact on reducing crime on the State of Michigan. We’ve also looked at the swift and sure program obviously that, Hawaii’s program, it’s got a lot of attention around the country. Every state is different and we have to do some educating with our judges. The swift and sure program is about people are going to violate, they are going to violate several times and you use the sanctions that are forwarded and sometimes the judges in our state were very quick to say, “Okay, you’ve had three strikes. You are out. You are going to prison.” It’s a process of educating them on how to use programs that have been successful in other states.

Nancy: I think that’s a good point because all of us have to deal with our criminal justice partners, and judges are very much a part of that, so we always have to make sure that we are including them when we introduce new initiatives into the practice. Ladies and gentlemen it’s been my pleasure to talk to AnMarie Aylward of Washington State Department of Corrections and Russel Marlan of Michigan Department of Corrections. Stay with us for the second half as we continue our discussion on successful probation parole practices with two additional leaders of state parole and probation agencies. We’ll be right back. Thank you so much.

Hey and welcome back to DC Public Safety. I’m your host Nancy Ware. We are continuing a conversation on successful supervision practices with two additional leaders of state parole and probation agencies as they attend a national conference here in DC. This segment will focus on criminal justice reform. President Obama recently called the Criminal Justice System a profound barrier to opportunity in too many communities. He also spoke about the nation’s high prison population, saying that mass incarceration rips apart families, it hollows out neighborhoods. It perpetuates poverty.

He repeated his intention to back legislation to address unjust sentencing laws. To discuss this important topic, I’d like to introduce Gerald Washington, the Regional Operations Chief for the Western Region at the Virginia Department of Corrections. Where he has served over 40 years. He has overseen the implementation innovations guided by evidence based practices. We also have Anne Precythe, the Director of Adult Community Corrections for North Carolina Department of Public Safety. She oversees more than 2,500 employee workforce, who supervise the more than 105,000 offenders on probation parole or post release supervision. She currently serves on the National Institutes of Corrections Advisory Board. Anne and Gerald, thanks for joining us on Public Safety TV.

Anne: Thank you.

Gerald: Thank you.

Nancy: I’d like to start by talking a little bit about how these reform efforts that you heard us discuss a little bit earlier, and also that the president is going be promoting, how they affect the work that you do and how you fold in your work into those reform initiatives.

Gerald: Well, the reform work has helped us based on the evidence and the science of the work that we do. With evidence-based practices, we can examine what works and what doesn’t work and then we can provide the service, the things that we find are not working we can provide those, the attention to those services to make sure that we are tailoring the programs to individual needs.

Nancy: Right, right, Anne?

Anne: The reform overall  and what we’ve heard this week in the conference, is that it’s impacting states differently but I think collectively we would all agree that it is a major cultural shift for how we supervise the offender population. Things like using a validated risk instrument, really understanding how to categorize the offender population so we spend more time on the high risk offender and less time on the low risk offender. It presents a significant number of challenges to change the mindset of the workforce but the evidence clearly shows that if you can begin to make these changes, you will have less recidivism which is ultimately what we are all after.

Nancy: The role of the administrator in all of these changes that you described, we talked a little  bit about the size of your workforce, I don’t know how many people are older or millennium workforce and how that affects the work that you do. What is role of an administrator?

Gerald: The role of the administrator is to understand, is to insure that everyone understands the mission and the focus of the agency. Again, we always to make sure that we keep public safety first and foremost in mind but we have to make sure that we educate our staff as well as stake holders who can help us move forward with our initiatives and to make sure that the offenders or returning citizens are getting the treatment and programs, the cognitive programs that they need. Also we look at it from the standpoint that every offender that does not return to our system also does not create another victim.

We try to make sure that all of our staff understand that, but sometime it’s a little bit of a challenge with change in the culture, before we use this approach we did a lot of things just because there were programs that we thought worked and we didn’t know and didn’t have the science. Now that we do it’s sometimes harder to shift the older employees to that way of thinking. The new employees coming in seem to be or are tuned to that with newer workforce and I think you don’t have to un-educate them of what has been done in the past.

Nancy: That’s a good point, Anne?

Anne: Again, Gerald is correct and there are lots of rules for the administrator in changing the culture but I think the communication aspect and communication not only with staff but also with the public and the judiciary and the legislators. Understanding why changes needed and how we go about it because you can the best legislation but if you can’t implement, well then it won’t be successful. Not only do you need to educate but you need to sustain that change and it takes constant communications, advocating for your staff. What are the tools that they need? How many additional staff do you need? An administrator can be their staff’s greatest cheerleader and that’s really what a good administrator needs to do as well as balancing that workload for the employees.

Nancy: You both made great points. One of the things we mentioned, I think Gerald mentioned, was the stakeholders and educating stakeholders that not only are your stakeholders the legislators and the other law enforcement partners but are other stakeholders that you think are very important in your work? You mentioned educating the public.

Gerald: Yes, I think other stakeholders, judges, prosecutors, not only law enforcement, the public at large as well as your community service providers because they are the ones that we look to for a lot of our support but I believe by educating especially judges and prosecutors, and showing them, based on evidence, what works and what doesn’t work and how it equates to dollars, I think you get a lot better response but they can also help develop a plan that works in conjunction with what not only our department of correction is doing but also with local probation and parole.

Anne: In addition to that you also want your treatment community, you want your employer, the business community because they are the ones we look to, to provide jobs for these offenders under supervision. Also your education community because there a lot of young kids, young adults in the school system whether it’s the high school, the community college or even the university. It takes the whole the whole community to be aware of these population and what their needs are. It’s the housing community, the transportation community, there are so many resources out there and going back to the administrator, part of their role is to tap into what is available locally and then how do they communicate that both the message to the community stakeholders as well as their staff so that they are making that connection.

Nancy: Yeah, because they really become an extension of the work that you do and, of course, your agencies can’t do it all, so you are going to have to rely on some of those other external stakeholders to help you with the success that you are looking for and the success that these reform initiatives are looking for. Those are good points. Are there methods that you use in gaining allies for change? How do you do that?

Anne: Communication, communication, communication, and the frontline officer is the officer that is out in the field more than anybody so it’s so critical for them to understand the philosophy of the department, the mission of the agency that we are about helping offenders be successful under supervision not just catching them when they are doing something wrong but using an exclamation point when they do something right. Part of that and understanding them and being able to communicate that message to the treatment providers and how do you show a peer chronological order of all that that person has been involved with, good bad or otherwise.

Nancy: That’s a good point. It’s good to hear you talk a little bit about maybe some incentives, some needs assessments because we often rely heavily on sanctions but more and more we are finding that people respond to needs assessments and to incentives. Are you seeing any changes to the population as a result to those initiatives?

Gerald: Yes, with substance abuse programs and certainly I think one of the bigger initiatives is the need for mental health services or the gap in the funding for mental health services. Often time, I think, a lot of time the offenders that come to us really have mental health needs than they have basic needs or as far as they should probably be not be imprisoned they should be in mental health programs. I think the funding for mental health programs, there is a large gap there. I think it’s a matter of educating the courts and the prosecutors of those needs and also securing resources to help support those, so that the folks are getting the right treatment that is needed as opposed to just coming to prison where we can monitor them but that hasn’t changed their behavior.

Nancy: Right, and we don’t have a lot of control over the front end of them coming into our system with criminal activities but in front end I know your rest side and some of those other parts of our system are definitely in need of a lot of education and support.Have you seen special populations that are particularly troublesome to you?

Anne: Yes, Gerald mentioned the mental health population which I think we are all struggling with especially as we begin to learn more, but I know the sex offenders returning to the communities and homelessness and the issues with that, and trying to educate the general public that housing needs to be provided for that population because if not they literally will be living under a bridge and there is no public safety in that. It is a very sensitive issue. It is a very difficult issue to talk about with people but I think at the end of the day, the regular citizen would rather know where the sex offenders are that the people are employed, that they have the basic needs that they need taken care of which can help the probation officer keep them on the right path for …

Nancy: Those are very, very challenging populations and I think often the public is not aware of all of the needs of the populations that we serve. How do you work with your legislators and your funders, the people herald your budget to get those resources. Is there a way that you found that successful in getting the resources that you need or are there barriers that you think might be making more difficult for you to do the things that you need to do?

Gerald: Well, we in Virginia, we’ve started a program where we meet with judges annually, especially new judges, but we meet all the judges annually so that we can share with them some of the results we’ve gotten from a lot of the programs we have. Also make them aware of other programs and sanctions that maybe available that may be used across the state and other jurisdictions that others may not be aware of. Basically educating the judges and prosecutors, I think, that has been of help but also again talking to the legislators and we encourage our staff not just from the agency stand point but when they are in the communities because they are part of the community that they are ambassadors for our agency. They should be asking those questions informing those legislators who they’re their constituents and making sure they are aware of what their needs are and what’s available.

Anne: I’ll say in North Carolina we are very fortunate, our legislature has been very engaged over the last few years with the passage of justice reinvestment. We as a department for adult correction and juvenile justice have benefited greatly from their involvement.

Nancy: Can you just tell us very quickly what justice reinvestment is and how it’s helped you?

Anne: Justice reinvestment was a series of legislative changes that were wrapped in one package that really helped reduce our prison population and push a lot of the population back into the community yet they gave us the tools to be able to supervise this population in a much more effective manner. To try to keep the offender population in the community rather than in the prison system. We are seeing great success with that overall and we are very, very pleased with what we are accomplishing in North Carolina.

Nancy: Ladies and gentlemen it has been my honor to talk to all today’s guests about successful parole and probation practices. I want to thank Anne and Gerald, AnMarie and Russell and thank you, our audience, for watching today’s show. Please watch for us next time as we explore another important topic in today’s Criminal Justice System. Have a great day.

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