Supervising Criminal Offenders

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[Audio Begins]

Leonard Sipes: Hi, and welcome to the radio version of D.C. Public Safety. I am your host, Len Sipes. And at our microphones today is Trifari Williams, he is a Community Supervision Officer in general supervision. And Trifari, welcome to D.C. Public Safety.

Trifari Williams: Thank you.

Leonard Sipes: Now you supervise a general caseload which means that you have about 50 parolees, people coming out of the prison system, probationers where the court has said that, ‘we believe that this person can be safely supervised in the community.’ You have about 50 offenders that you supervise, correct?

Trifari Williams: Yes, about that number.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. Now supervising criminal offenders is not the easiest thing in the world. I mean, some people love it, some people aren’t so crazy about it, but it’s certainly one of the most interesting jobs that I can possibly imagine.

Trifari Williams: Yes it is. For a long time now even as youth, I had a strong interest in this field-just interested in dealing with individuals from a criminal justice aspect, so for me it’s a very interesting job. Basically keeps me on my toes 24/7.

Leonard Sipes: I find that very interesting because I also found that calling when I was younger. You know, there was a case where a bunch of kids pushed over gravestones in Baltimore City and there was like hundreds of them pushed down. And I kept asking myself, ‘why would a bunch of kids push over gravestones? What is it about their lives-what’s going on in their lives that would produce that sort of action?” I mean, that’s pretty ghastly pushing over gravestones, but that got me asking the question, ‘why are people involved in crime and why do they do the things that they do?’ Did you have that experience when you were younger?

Trifari Williams: Well I did, I was always curious even as a child, I would look at court shows and wonder why it is that a person would commit the crimes that they commit. And I find it interesting that you said that because when we we’re going through the academy class, the training class that we go through, we would find ourselves asking each other those same questions-everybody in the class had that same interest: why would an individual choose to, let’s say not be the normal citizen as we, I guess, categorize them, and be a person that would want to commit crimes? So I think that’s a general idea for everybody that’s in this field.

Leonard Sipes: That’s interesting you would say that. Next time you all get together, invite me along. Now did you ever figure out why they do what they do-to solve all the criminological riddles of the last hundred years or so?

Trifari Williams: I don’t know the answer to the question and I think if I did, there would be some study that would be conducted.

Leonard Sipes: Yeah, you’d win the Nobel Prize and you’d get to retire early. But I mean, there are connections to crime. I mean, there’s drugs, there’s coming up in dysfunctional households-in many cases, single family households. There is early age of onset of drug use, alcohol use, early onset of criminal activity, not doing well in school, antisocial personalities because of issues in the home. I mean, those are similarities to the offenders that you supervise, correct?

Trifari Williams: Correct, they are-I think that you hit that correctly on the head. No, I think one of the things that our listeners might think about is when you’re thinking about an individual who’s committing crime, the average person may say, ‘well what makes this person so different from me? I had this upbringing…’ but you really have to look at and deal with the population that we work with, if you really look at the factors, the same things you were talking about-the antisocial peers, the family histories-there’s a lot of things in these individuals’ backgrounds that cause them-I guess that develops their belief system very differently from the one that you and I may have.

Leonard Sipes: Right. And while I’ve got you here before the microphone, what do you think is the primary cause of all this is?

Trifari Williams: Lack of strong family environment. That’s one of the-

Leonard Sipes: Yeah. I agree by the way.

Trifari Williams: That’s one of the main things that I see personally-substance abuse among family members, a longstanding history of substance abuse, lack of education-

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Trifari Williams: Those things play-are just paramount in these individuals’ lives, and those are things that we try to key on and offer services that push these individuals forward.

Leonard Sipes: Right. Now the beauty of your role as a community supervision officer; noting that people are going to be listening to this program not just in the country but beyond; what most states would call a parole and probation agent; you’re a community supervision officer, your job is to supervise them as well as to try to assist them?

Trifari Williams: Correct. We try to develop a plan for this individual upon his placement either on supervision or their release from custody. We try to sit down with the individual first, talk-find out what factors have been involved in their life previously, what types of services that this individual is in need of-if it’s educational, drug treatment, employment-and we try to set down things, a plan actually, in place for this individual to try to attain those goals because our ultimate goal is public safety, reducing recidivism. The only way that you can possibly do that is changing the mindset of the individual that is committing those crimes-giving that person that doesn’t have their education an education; giving that person that’s unemployed a job, getting them to feel some self-confidence about themselves then you can effectively-or at least have an effect on change in the community.

Leonard Sipes: Now we also supervise the dickens out of them, you have a lot of contact with your offenders, we drug test them at very, very high rates.

Trifari Williams: Yes we do. I think we have probably one of the most strenuous drug testing policies with this agency. We just enacted a new drug testing policy. Previously we were doing twice-a-week testing on every individual. Most recently we are still doing twice-a-week testings, but that is on individuals who have a previous history of drug use.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Trifari Williams: We are doing once-a-week testing for all individuals that are placed upon supervision, and based upon their drug testing, after that they might go down to a once-a-month or a random status. We also have a lot of contacts, especially community contacts, I think that’s the biggest thing about us being called a community supervision officer versus a probation or parole officer because there’s an emphasis on our parts into interacting with this person in the community.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Trifari Williams: Interacting in the home, interacting with the employer-because all of those things are contributing factors of this person becoming successful while they’re on supervision. So we try our best to reach into that aspect of the individual’s life and then we can try to effectively make some change.

Leonard Sipes: Now it’s mandated by policy that half of our contacts are community contacts, right, either going to the home, going to the community, going to the job?

Trifari Williams: Correct. That is correct. If an individual say is placed on maximum supervision based upon our assessment tool that we use, that individual will be seen at approximately once a week. Two of those contacts will be in the office, the other two will be out in the community whether that’s with the individual in the home, at their place of employment, at another venue in the community-and we try to do that because we want to make constant contact with that family member. We want to make sure that that family member is aware of what’s going on with this individual; we want to make sure that this person is actually residing at the place that they say that they reside.

Leonard Sipes: Sometimes the family members are our best allies.

Trifari Williams: They can be. In my experience, even just last week, I had an individual come in with his mother and sit down and talk to him about the noncompliance issues that were going on with her son-because they are concerned. Because you don’t want to-because with these individuals the end all is jail, and jail is what they know.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Trifari Williams: And we can preach jail all day.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Trifari Williams: But that’s not going effectively make change.

Leonard Sipes: It hasn’t yet. [Laughs]

Trifari Williams: Yeah. So in situations like that, you want to talk to the family member because you’re going to be the person that’s going to go before that judge, that’s going to go before that parole commission and make that recommendation for that person pulled off the streets. So you want to make sure that you made attempts to show the family, ‘look, these are the things that we’re trying to do, these are the things that we’re trying to facilitate in your individual’s lives to make some change before we have to go to the end of the road.’

Leonard Sipes: And also at the same time where we have that strong supervision as you mentioned at the beginning of the program, we have the services-educational services, vocational services, substance abuse, anger management-I mean, it goes on and on and on in terms of the services that we have.

Trifari Williams: Yes. We have our central intervention team that does our drug assessments, they do our recommendations for our drug treatment programs, they partner with vendors to send our offenders out to drug treatment programs, we have learning labs at several of our sites that have computer labs that are for our offenders to use free of charge, we have a Day Reporting Center up at my facility which is out on Taylor Street which is very good in helping young men and young women to develop skills planning, they do resume writing, investment classes-all types of things that these individuals would need to actively acclimate into society and it’s a great thing.

Leonard Sipes: Trifari, thank you for being at our microphones today.

Trifari Williams: Thank you.

[Audio Ends]

Information about crime, criminal offenders and the criminal justice system.

Meta terms: crime, criminals, criminal justice, parole, probation, prison, drug treatment, reentry, sex offenders.

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