Employment-Reentry and Criminal Offenders-Council of State Governments

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Radio Program available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2013/11/employment-reentry-criminal-offenders-council-state-governments/

[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes:  From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. Today’s show, ladies and gentlemen, employment and criminal offenders and reentry. We have two guests from the Justice Center and the Council of State Governments. We have Henry Rosen. He’s a policy analyst, Reentry Program, National Initiatives, Council of State Governments Justice Center; and we have Phoebe Potter, she’s a senior policy analyst, again, Reentry Program, National Initiatives, Council of State Governments Justice Center and to Henry and to Phoebe, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Henry Rosen:  Thank you very much. Thank you for having us.

Phoebe Potter:  Thank you.

Len Sipes:  Right. Now this is an extraordinarily interesting topic, because you’ve written quite a few publications explaining this whole concept of dealing with people caught up in the criminal justice system, and employment – “Integrated Reentry and Employment Strategies”. I’m gonna have a link to this document within the show notes, but for those who don’t have an opportunity to write it down, the website is www.csgjusticecenter.org; www.csgjusticecenter.org. Needless to say, one word, Council for State Government Justice Center.org. You know, this whole concept of offenders and employment is one of the most difficult topics we have within the Criminal Justice System. It is something that has been discussed for decades. It is something that has bedeviled us for decades. It all has some sort of impact on reentry. So let’s start off with, before we start off with a topic, give me a sense of the Justice Center – what it does – the Council of State Governments and what they do.

Henry Rosen:  So the Council of State Governments is a national, non-profit, membership organization providing services and support to states and elected officials that are part of the Council. As the Justice Center, we are the criminal justice arm, under the larger umbrella of the Council of State Governments and what we do is we work with state agencies, governors, counties, mayors, sheriffs, a host of people working in the criminal justice field – courts included, to help develop data driven or research supported policies that improve public safety, as well as improve the lives of folks involved in the criminal justice system, and sort of bring the evidence base on effective public safety and recidivism reduction strategies into the policy and practice sphere, all while minimizing cost to taxpayers and folks.

Len Sipes:  The Council of State Governments, I mean, it’s a wide array of issues that they deal with on a day-to-day basis.

Henry Rosen:  Certainly.

Len Sipes:  Correct?

Henry Rosen:  Correct.

Len Sipes:  So the criminal justice policy is just one of them. The Justice Center is just there to deal specifically with criminal justice policy.

Henry Rosen:  Correct.

Len Sipes:  Okay, I can’t think, also, Phoebe, I’ll throw this question over to you – I can’t think of a major issue where the Council of State Governments and the Justice Center, I can’t think of major issue in terms of offender reentry, of people coming out of the prison systems, what to do about crime and criminal justice issues; I can’t think of a major issue where the Council of State Governments and the Justice Center have not been involved. Correct?

Phoebe Potter:  That’s right. I mean, we support a wide range of programs through the Justice Center that cover a whole host of different issue areas. Employment is just one of many programs that we’ve undertaken. We address health problems, behavioral health specifically, some mental health and substance abuse issues. We have a courts program. A lot of the justice reinvestment work going on across the country – so states reforming corrections policy comes through the Justice Center. We’ve had the opportunity to partner with a number of federal agencies, foundations, to kind of pursue a wide range of work through the Justice Center.

Len Sipes:  And American Probation and Parole Association is through the Council of State Governments correct?

Henry Rosen:  Correct, good friends of ours, yeah.

Len Sipes:  Right, so you all are integrated. So that’s just one example. I mean, that is the leading national organization for those of us in Parole and Probation so it’s integrated. There’s just layer on top of layer in terms of what the Council of State Governments does and what the Justice Policy Center does.

Henry Rosen:  Correct. We’re definitely sort of corrections and courts and law enforcement and policy and APPA. They’re our go-to anything, supervision related.

Len Sipes:  Okay. Now, let’s get into this issue of employment and people coming out of the prison system and employment of people who have never been in the prison system or who are on probation. First of all, the vast majority of people on community supervision, and we’re talking about 400,000 on any given day, correct? Out of the 7,000 people under, I’m sorry, it’s 7 million people under correctional supervision, 4 million are on parole and probation and there are far more than that under pre-trial supervision. We’re not even talking about those individuals today. So the concept of employing people who are on community supervision, those 4 million people, that’s an enormous undertaking, is it not?

Henry Rosen:  Yeah. Certainly. You know, I think one of the things that we see is you know, folks involved in the criminal justice system, whether they’re returning from incarceration, or under community supervision, the supervision officers and even the people themselves are prioritizing employment as sort of the key to staying crime free.

Len Sipes:  Right, but you know, we’ve been discussing this for years. I mean, there has been a lot of major initiatives, the department of labor, lots of other organizations have tried this concept in the past, and the results have been confusing. So talk to me about that. I mean, everybody, every politician in this country will say the best way of stopping people from going back to the criminal justice system is a job, but the research doesn’t necessarily say that. Correct, or incorrect?

Henry Rosen:  That’s correct.

Phoebe Potter:  Right, so I think that one of our goals with this project was to take a more nuanced look at that relationship between recidivism or the likelihood of people reoffending when they’re back out from prison or jail, and employment. And what role does employment play in keeping people crime free? And I think one of the main myths that we want to distill through this is that just job acquisition alone, just placing somebody in a job is going to be some sort of silver bullet for reducing recidivism. And so how can we better understand what it is about employment that matters and what other things we need to deal with to promote successful reentry. And that’s one of the big goals of this project.

Len Sipes:  So, I’m assuming somewhere along the line your partners, who are your partners on this project?

Henry Rosen:  The project is funded by the Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance and Annie E. Casey Foundation and we also partner closely and get guidance from the Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration, and then Mindy Tarlow, the Chief Executive Officer from Center for Employment Opportunities was a huge partner and help in this, along with Sheila McGuire and there’s another advisory committee that we work with – folks who work in the Corrections and Reentry field as well as the Work Force Development and Policy field and some researchers, both from non-profit organizations, actually working for corrections agencies as well as social science research organizations.

Len Sipes:  Here’s my assumption. Everybody was sitting at a table several years ago and said, and took a look at the existing research regarding people coming out of the prison system, people on probation and recidivism and everybody sat there and said, “You know what, the research is confusing. These results are confusing. In some cases they work, in some cases they don’t work. In some cases where they work the rate of recidivism, the reduction just wasn’t that much. There has to be something nuanced to all of this. There has to be not just the placement of a job, but has to be more qualitative than quantitative and here, in the briefing sheet which you prepared for me, which I absolutely adore, you say there’s a much more nuanced relationship between employment and recidivism but things like job stability, satisfaction with employment, willingness to take low end jobs and to work up, and having realistic job expectations are related to recidivism. In short, it’s people’s attitudes about work that matter and if we don’t address anti-social attitudes, placing somebody in a job is not going to get us very good results. That seems to be the heart and soul behind the entire research in terms of its findings and in terms of its structure and in terms of its recommendations. Correct?

Henry Rosen:  Correct.

Len Sipes:  Okay, tell me about that.

Henry Rosen:  Well, I think, you know, in that assessment of what works to promote job readiness or connect someone to employment and reduce recidivism, the idea that those factors are important is not necessarily unique. What it actually comes from are guiding principles in the Corrections and Reentry field to help policy makers and folks working in Reentry make decisions about who to serve and what kinds of services they’re enrolled in to promote better outcomes. We call those the “risk, need, responsivity” principles. And those essentially say that there are some key variables, some criminogenic need, risk and need factors that are most associated with the likelihood to reoffend. And typically, you know, people might think that having a job or you know, a mental health need, or substance abuse need, or a housing need are the things that will help someone transition back into the community, but those principles actually suggest that it’s more along the lines of attitudes about crime, attitudes about work, you know, having pro-social relationships in the community, family ties, those sort of attitudes and behaviors are what are most closely linked to the likelihood of reoffending. And so instead, if we can work to address those attitudes and those behaviors and sort of those other stabilizing factors, then someone is more likely to be successful upon return as opposed to simply, you know, offering a job or a place to stay.

Len Sipes:  Phoebe, is sort of the whole idea here is that you know, it is a matter of that individual’s pro-social attitudes, how he or she sees a job, how he or she sees the employer, how he or she sees themselves, how he or she sees their own prospects?

Phoebe Potter:  Right, exactly, those attitudes and obviously those attitudes affect more than just work, right? And I think that’s why they’re so strongly prevalent in the research around what helps reduce recidivism. It’s just how somebody interacts in a pro-social environment and work is such a key component of that, that obviously in the employment field it really comes out that way.

Len Sipes:  Okay, so when you consider the fact that such a high number of offenders here, under Court Services and Offender Supervision, 14,000,  in any given year – in any given day, 24,000 any given year; we have a high number and so does the rest of the country, who have mental health issues. We have a high number and so does the rest of the country in terms of substance abuse issues. We have a high number with lousy job histories, bad school histories – so we’re talking about individuals who have a lot to deal with, whether they’re in prison or not, whether under community supervision or not. And so it’s just not a matter of the right attitude, it’s just not a matter of being pro-social about the job, it’s breaking through all of those barriers, all of that baggage that comes with that individual offender. Correct?

Henry Rosen:  Yeah. I don’t think we’d ever say that, you know, in that regard, we’d never say employment, in and of itself, is a silver bullet. I think what we’re sort of getting at is, you do need to address some of those other issues and barriers that makes someone likely to be unsuccessful in other settings besides just the job setting. If you can help someone become successful, you know, connect with their family, develop a strong peer support network, and rethink sort of their attitudes about crime and behavior, then they’re gonna succeed in the job environment just as they will in the family environment or in the community.

Len Sipes:  Okay. Now everybody here is looking forward to this interview in terms of my agency, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, because they want to know, we’re out there every day. I mean, on the front page of our website, our radio shows, television shows, www.csosa.gov. We have radio shows, television shows, we’ve done articles, the Washington Post has covered us with front-page coverage. I mean, we’re trying to have this conversation with employers to get them to tell us what it is that we need to do, what it is the people under supervision need to do to make themselves become more employable. We’ve had a series of conversations with lots of employers over the course of years, we have our own vocational training staff, educational staff; we work, we do anger management, we do behavioral – I’m sorry, what am I looking for? – Cognitive behavioral therapy, Thinking for a Change. We’re doing all of that, and yet at the same time, our folks are saying, “But we still have to break through the barrier of the stereotypes of people who have criminal histories; having employers who are willing to give these individuals a second chance. That – they see that as the biggest problem. The lack of employers willing to provide a second chance. So they want to know, okay, they’ve read the report, they love what you’ve written, they’re very supportive of what you’ve done, but how, their question to you guys is, how do you break through that resistance barrier on the part of employers, their reluctance to hire people under supervision?

Phoebe Potter:  Right. So, you know, the white paper was written from a service and a programmatic perspective. Helping, kind of, practitioners and providers think about how to develop programming that addresses these factors that we’ve just been talking about, that we need to address. But obviously the piece you’re just talking about is critical, you know, counterpart to that. And we touch on it in the white paper a little bit, you know, about the issues of collateral consequences, they need to break down barriers to employment, engage employers. And what we’ve done, as part of this larger project, beyond writing the white paper, is actually developed some other resources and partner with other folks around that, you know, kind of other half of the problem. Almost the, you know, kind of the supply issue of which jobs are out there. And so that is something that we’re very, you know, attuned to. And I think the work that CSOSA has done around employer engagement is kind of a model that a lot of other jurisdictions should be looking at in terms of trying to break down the stigma, talk to employers about opportunities and engage them effectively. We’ve worked in New York State and they have a Work for Success initiative that’s doing similar work to engage employers, help them understand the legal rights of people coming out in terms of access to jobs, talking about incentives that are out there for employers such as the work opportunities, hacks, credit, federal bonding –

Len Sipes:  Right, bonding programs, yes.

Phoebe Potter:  So yeah, so all of those pieces we touch on in the white paper, but you know, I think our larger strategy in addressing this problem at the Justice Center goes beyond what we’ve done in the white paper, is tackling this issue of employer engagement.

Len Sipes:  Okay, because they want the next white paper to be on breaking down the barriers. Because, you know, I’ve talked to people under supervision who have been years away from their last criminal activity, years away from their last positive test for substance abuse; they’re completely compliant. They have skills, and they have an education and yet they can’t find work.

Phoebe Potter:  Right.

Len Sipes:  So there’s, you know, there are low hanging fruit in any population and we go after those first, because they’re the easiest to place, and yet you still talk to that person six months later without a job is frustrating ‘cause – so we formally ask you guys [Laughter], that the next white paper be on that particular topic. Before we get into the second half – the show is going by like wildfire, we want to reintroduce our guests. Ladies and gentlemen, we have Henry Rosen, Policy Analyst, Reentry Program, National Initiatives, Council of State Governments, Justice Center and Phoebe Potter, again, Senior Policy Analyst for the same organization, Council of State Governments, www.csgjusticecenter.org, www.csgjusticecenter.org. We’re talking about a, what I consider to be a ground breaking piece of research. Integrated Reentry and Employment Strategies from the Justice Center. The Council of State Governments will have links to all the documents within the show notes. So where do we go to from here? Let’s talk about this.

Reentry matters because, my God, there are 700,000 people being released from state and federal prisons every year, and an awful lot of those, 40 to 50% return to the prison system. The states can’t afford this rate of return. It has real implications for public safety, criminal victimization. We do believe that done right in terms of your recommendations, we could reduce that rate of recidivism considerably, correct?

Henry Rosen:  Correct. That’s the hope, certainly.

Len Sipes:  So reentry does matter?

Henry Rosen:  Yeah, it certainly does. You know, I think that, you know, personally I’m from Montana. The state is barely a million people. When I hear stats about more than 600,000 people returning from incarceration, my God, that’s more than half my state. I can’t imagine that and I think, you know, folks are returning at such a high rate, they’re cycling in and out of jails at such a high rate, if there’s a way to sort of disrupt that cycle and provide the services and supports to make someone successful, I mean, the benefits of employment in that sense are sort of endless. You’re providing someone with a means to support their family and contribute to a tax base, and likewise keeping them out of a very costly system that ends up being you know, on average, the fourth largest line item in any state’s budget.

Len Sipes:  Fewer people being victimized, literally, the possibility of saving billions of dollars at the state level and the federal level in terms of people not coming back to the criminal justice system. So the secret sauce in all of this is what? What we talked about before, a nuanced approach to the employment issue.

Phoebe Potter:  So you know, I think we talked about kind of having a nuanced appreciation for what employment can do to help reduce recidivism and some of the takeaways from that conversation are that, one, is be part of a more kind of comprehensive strategy to adjust to the pretty complex needs of this population and we touched on the fact that there’s mental health problems and substance abuse and housing and there’s a lot of dynamic needs that all interact with each other, really. So employment is one part of the puzzle. And the other part that we talked about, right, is that employment is not just about job acquisition, it’s about understanding how employment is really kind of a tool to help people connect with pro-social, you know, associates and the community. And so it’s about people’s attitudes towards jobs, if people want to see them be successful.

Len Sipes:  But how do you get them to the point where they have the right attitudes?

Henry Rosen:  So, I think one of the things that we proposed and outlined in our paper and as an agency at the Justice Center, we are strong advocates of is enrolling people in services that like cognitive behavioral therapy, like Thinking for Change, programs that are aimed at restructuring those attitudes about you know, their peer relations, about crime, and towards the community. And so for those who are most likely to reoffend, if you’re providing them or if you’re placing them into services that offer that opportunity, that offer opportunities for social learning, to practice the skills, you know; how to interact with co0workers, how to interact with peers, how to interact with your family, that’s going to improve the likelihood that they’ll be successful, whether it’s an employment program or some other kind of service, they’ll sort of be armed with the skills to succeed in that scenario. So what we’re really trying to get the field to think about is how you identify people with the greatest need in that area, and then sequence and build services that address those needs, or address those issues.

So the highest risk folks, who are sort of, you know, the most anti-social, the hardest to work with typically, they will benefit most from intensive behavior change type services, coupled with job readiness services. Things that promote soft skills. “Why should I be to work on time? How do I interact with my coworkers?” You know? “What’s the value of doing an exceptional job versus the bare minimum?” Things that, you know, promote sort of positive workplace attitudes and behaviors. Focus on those things for the high risk folks, who are less job ready. For the individuals who are not high risk, who have strong relations with their family, have had, you know, held a job prior to their incarceration, maybe have completed some level of college education or technical vocational school, they don’t necessarily need those same kind of intensive services. They’ll likely do very well on their own, but they will need support from you know, the workforce development field or their supervision officer in terms of breaking down those barriers you mentioned earlier about “why should I hire someone with a criminal record?” They don’t need those services, they need someone to help them sort of navigate those challenges of communicating their record and finding the right job for them, as opposed to the more intensive behavior, change based services.

Len Sipes:  So Phoebe, it’s a matter of picking the right person through a needs analysis, a risk and needs analysis, to figure out who this person is, what that person needs, to give that person an appropriate level of intervention. But that appropriate level of intervention could be fairly complex. I mean, it could be a GED, which is complex unto itself. For a person who doesn’t know how to read, they’re not going to do well on the job. So it can go there. To job training, which is complex and very difficult and expensive, but all that needs to be wrapped up in a cognitive, behavioral therapy like Thinking for a Change. Basically, rearranging that person’s attitudes towards, maybe, authority figures? Right?

Phoebe Potter:  Yeah, that’s right. And these aren’t simple strategies, you know? When you’re talking about your highest risk, highest needs populations, but to Hank’s point, you know, our goal with the white paper and what we were seeing in the field and trying to address is that a lot of jurisdictions are using a one-size-fits-all model. Which means your resources are probably too intensive for a lot of people and not intensive enough for a lot of people, so you’re not getting, really, any benefits across the board. So how can we restructure the way we triage our resources in a way that, you know, we’re kind of pouring more resources into those more intensive services, but only for the population that needs it, and defining that more clearly and then reducing the number of services that go to the lower risk, lower need population. Which, you know, not only do they not necessarily need, we’ve actually seen through the research can be made worse off if they’re provided too intensive service, they’re put in programming that aren’t appropriate.  And so it’s not, you know, necessarily about needing a lot more resources, it’s about changing the way we triage our resources that we do have to get a bigger impact and that’s a big goal of the white paper.

Len Sipes:  And I think that’s what I’m hearing from American Parole, Probation and Parole Association, what I’m hearing from the Council of State Governments, what I’m hearing is, “Focus your resources on your high risk individuals and scale down for everybody else.” But that’s assuming that the criminal justice system is supple enough, sophisticated enough, to employ those sort of strategies. I mean, we are the criminal justice system. We’re not exactly known for our nuanced approach to anything. It is a great, big, moving, giant blob that has its own speed and has its own attitudes and being that precise is not necessarily our forte, but that’s what you’re saying to us. We need to be far more nuanced and use tax paid dollars in the best possible way.

Phoebe Potter:  That’s right, but I think we’ve seen a lot of advancements in the corrections field in the last, you know, five, ten years, around the use of risk assessment especially to be smarter about how we triage our resources and who we place in programs and you know, I think a big part of that has been the support the Second Chance Act has put out in the field, kind of promoting these principles for a long time now and giving a lot of jurisdictions the resources to start to invest in these investment tools and case management strategies that we’re talking about. You know, and Second Chance Act reauthorization out now, we’re really excited about the opportunity to kind of build on that progress that we’ve seen. But it’s not simple and one of the things that the white paper does that is kind of taking it a step beyond just risk assessment, we’re also kind of asking the field to be more kind of sophisticated in the use of job readiness assessment too. So not just knowing the risk level of an individual, but also better appreciating, “What are their job readiness needs as well, from a work force perspective?” And so that is a little bit new, I think, in terms of what we’re asking the field to look at and do.

Len Sipes:  I’m reading from your briefing notes. So the key takeaway from all of this is that we can’t treat all individuals in the same way. Now the criminal justice system is famous for that. I mean, every person with a substance abuse problem goes in a group, and it’s one group and there’s one formula and there’s one way. It doesn’t matter what drug of choice, how long they’ve been using, their age, their complexity, whether they’re a high risk or low risk, everybody goes to a group because that’s all we have the capacity to do. Part of this is a matter of us, in the criminal justice system, understanding the nuances. Part of it is money. Part of it is the fact that we have to have dollars to back up what it is that we do, correct? And dollars are hard to come by nowadays.

Henry Rosen:  Yeah, I think that’s a major concern of folks working in this field and you know, especially and including the workforce development field. I think a lot of work force development practitioners are very eager to learn about effective strategies they can use when working with ex-offenders and you know, the services that NIC offers to that end are phenomenal, they do great work. I know that work force investment; membership agencies out there are looking for new ways to tackle those issues. And one thing that we’re hoping to say is, you know, given the pot of money that you have, if you use a risk assessment to identify the risk and need level of individuals, the highest risk folks, the lowest risk folks, and then needs related to their recidivism, and then you layer that in with the job readiness and employability assessments that the Workforce Development Practitioners are using, you can begin to understand of that $1,000 you have to spend, you should be spending $500 on these two people, you know, $100 on these two people, and then you know, the rest of the money, whatever else you’re doing. And obviously I’m not very great at math on the fly. But the point being that essentially –

Len Sipes:  Close enough.

Henry Rosen:  You know, the people who need that $500 a day program are, those have got to be your high risk, high need folks that have the employment need as well as the job readiness need, whereas the lower risk folks, they’re not going to benefit as much from that intensive service and so it’s not necessarily important that you put a lot of money into that service for them.

Len Sipes:  Go ahead, please.

Phoebe Potter:  I do think it’s worth noting that, you know, we’re not asking for every agency that’s working with this population out there to go out and buy a risk assessment tool tomorrow. A lot of this is going to be accomplished through better collaboration with key partners and most major corrections agencies at this point are using some level of risk assessment, you know, the sophistication of the risk assessment tool might vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction but ultimately, you know, if you’re a community provider, you know, listening to this right now and kind of panicking about the need to invest in a bunch of assessment tools, chances are your corrections agency, you know, in your jurisdiction has some of that information that you can tap into if you develop those partnerships. And that’s another big thing that has been pushed with Second Chance Act, is increasing the collaboration. So from a resource perspective, you know, I think partnerships are a key way to getting this done.

Henry Rosen:  That’s exactly right. You know, it think probation and parole officers will have an offenders case plan and it may have the risk assessment information on that case plan, but if you’re a workforce development practitioner or some other reentry service provider, you’ll have no idea what those numbers mean. So it’s really sort of up to those two agencies to come together and understand what that information means, and how to use it to drive decision-making.

Len Sipes:  We only have a minute left. I want to get this message across to the aide of the mayor of Milwaukee and the aid to the governor in Oklahoma and they’re listening to this program because they’re searching for information about employment and the criminal offender population. If done well, this can work. That’s what I get from your paper. We can be far more effective if we used a nuanced approach and we couple all these different programs with programs that help that person think better, be better, perform better while on the job. So it’s the attitude that becomes the crucial component of all this.

Phoebe Potter:  That’s right.

Henry Rosen:  Definitely.

Phoebe Potter:  This is founded, you know, this framework we’ve presented is founded on years of research and we’ve seen programs that have started to take this integrated approach have significant impacts on recidivism.

Len Sipes:  Tell me about that.

Phoebe Potter:  Sure, you know, at the beginning of the show, Hank mentioned that Mindy Tarlow for the center of employment opportunities was a key partner on this project. CEO operates the Transitional Jobs Program that has done a great job of integrating, you know, the kind of those risk, need, responsivity principles we talked about. Focusing on high risk people, and addressing criminogenic needs in a wrap around approach that goes beyond just job acquisition. So really building skills and you know, we’re evaluating and found that they did have significant impacts on recidivism among that high risk population. So kind of demonstrating the importance of focusing on high risk and also the need to have that wrap around approach. So we are seeing results that this can work.

Henry Rosen:  Right? And the way they did that is they had, they placed people into work crews, where they were trained on the skills they needed. They had sort of a work crew manager, almost like a peer leader, who sort of navigated them through the work process and they provided an opportunity to sort of practice those good, workplace behaviors on the job and debrief on that afterwards, and that was really effective.

Len Sipes:  Well, we’re leaving everybody with a note of hope in terms of this and this is something that I think all of us in the criminal justice system are really looking at with great joy, because we think this provides us with a roadmap that maybe we didn’t have that clear of a roadmap before. “Integrated Reentry and Employment Strategies”, ladies and gentlemen, is the name of the research. I’ll have the notes within the show notes as to the exact address for that document, or you can go to www.csgjusticecenter.org , the Justice Center, the Council of State Governments. Our guests today have been Henry Rosen, Policy Analyst, Reentry Program, National Initiatives, Council of State Governments, and Phoebe Potter, again, Senior Policy Analyst for the same organization. Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. We appreciate your comments and we even appreciate your criticisms and we want everybody to have themselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]

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Green Corrections’ Impact on Cost Savings and Reentry-National Institute of Corrections-DC Public Safety

Welcome to “DC Public Safety” – Radio and television shows, blog and transcripts on crime, criminal offenders and the criminal justice system.

The portal site for “DC Public Safety” is http://media.csosa.gov.

Radio Program available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2013/04/green-corrections-impact-on-cost-savings-and-reentry-national-institute-of-corrections-dc-public-safety/

[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes: From the nation’s capital this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. We have a really interesting show today, ladies and gentlemen. We have a show on green corrections which is more than the concept sounds. What we’re talking about is economic development, what we’re talking about is saving millions of dollars for state correctional facilities throughout the United States. We’re also talking about inmate training today and using green corrections as a way of transitioning offenders from the prison system to the larger community. We have via Skype from the State of Washington, Washington Department of Corrections, Dan Pacholke. He is assistant secretary, www.doc.ua.gov. Also, we have Stephanie Davison. She is a senior program officer for FHI360, www.fhi360.org. Again, both Dan and Stephanie are here to talk about green corrections. Dan and Stephanie, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Dan Pacholke: Thank you.

Stephanie Davison: Thank you.

Len Sipes: All right. Good. Before we start, what is FHI360, Stephanie?

Stephanie Davison: FHI is an international development organization dedicated to improving the lives of individuals internationally.

Len Sipes: Okay and you’re under contract to the National Institute of Corrections which is the producer of today’s show, Donna Ledbetter, was kind enough to set up this show today. So you’re under contract to the National Institute of Corrections of the US Department of Justice, correct?

Stephanie Davison: Yes, we’ve coordinated several activities for green corrections through NIC for the last few years.

Len Sipes: All right. Stephanie, the first question goes to you. What in the name of heavens is green corrections?

Stephanie Davison: Green corrections is a series of programs in which correctional system can operate the prison system to be more environmentally friendly and hopefully save money and then also operate education and training programs for offenders geared toward job placement once they exit.

Len Sipes: And that’s pretty interesting because we’re talking before the program, Dan, that the State of Washington had save, what, well over $3 million by implementing green corrections?

Dan Pacholke: Yes and between the years 2005 and 2010, we saved about $3.5 million by using basically, you know, environmental greening principles.

Len Sipes: And give me a sense as to what you mean by environmentally friendly principles?

Dan Pacholke: Well, I mean – I mean some of it comes down to reducing your carbon footprint. We have zero waste garbage sorting centers, composting. We’ve done a lot on different energy packages, strategies to save water, strategies to save waste water, so just in some of those bulk areas about, you know, ways in which you spend money that aren’t wise or unproductive so we’ve reduce a lot of expenditures in those areas and ultimately we’ve asked questions about why we buy things only to throw them away and try to eliminate those items upstream also.

Len Sipes: People don’t understand, Dan, that the correctional systems are like big cities and I don’t know how many prisons that you operate there in the State of Washington but each and every one of them – when I was with the Maryland Department of Public Safety, we had 23 correctional facilities throughout the state. They all held between 2000 to 3000 individuals. I mean they were operating like little cities so there are, I would imagine, endless opportunities to go green and save any state a tremendous amount of money.

Dan Pacholke: Absolutely. I mean there’s what, 2.3 million people incarcerated in federal state and county prisons and jails across the country.

Len Sipes: Right.

Dan Pacholke: And as you look at some of these strategies that, you know, as we’ve kind of talk about it, at least a couple of them, you know, we’re giving you examples of a relatively mid-sized prison system so if you apply that you know across the country I mean there’s lots and lots of money that can be saved just in the sense of savings and on top of that you can begin to use prison as a mechanism to assist a community in meeting other needs as well.

Len Sipes: Well, it’s an amazing concept. I’m really enjoying this because in this day and age where all of us within the criminal justice system are charged with saving taxpayer dollars. I mean we would do that regardless but nevertheless. I mean this is one way of saving tax paid dollars and providing job training for people coming out of the prison systems. Stephanie Davison, why don’t you tell me a little bit about that concept of training people – training inmates for jobs in green corrections?

Stephanie Davison: Right. So training individuals for green jobs is very similar to training individuals for regular jobs. You’re just tweaking what you’ve done.

Len Sipes: Right.

Stephanie Davison: For example, FHI has worked with the State of Minnesota to green their programs in which we worked with their teachers to think about how to use green products and green training concepts…

Len Sipes: Okay.

Stephanie Davison: …to connect inmates to jobs in green fields after exiting.

Len Sipes: But give me a sense as to what sort of jobs are we talking about.

Stephanie Davison: Sure [PH] jobs. So almost any job can be made green.

Len Sipes: Right.

Stephanie Davison: A common one would be carpentry. You may be using green cleaning products green finishing materials. You’ll also learn how to produce your products where you create less waste.

Len Sipes: Okay. But are there specific training like an electrician, like a plumber, like any other person involved in hard skills. I mean is there green corrections that would lead to a career path?

Stephanie Davison: It can, yes. There are a lot of green certifications. They’re valued in different ways within different communities throughout the US. For example the US Green Building Council has a lead certificate to do construction in green manners.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Stephanie Davison: That can be great. It requires some time so it’s not necessarily valued in every community.

Len Sipes: Right. But I mean there are hard and fast jobs where that inmate can come out into the community and find himself or herself employed as a result of being involved in green corrections.

Stephanie Davison: Yes. Some of the solid ones would be landscaping.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Stephanie Davison: That’s considered a green job. It’s something you can be trained within the correctional facility especially states like Washington have gardens that could be used to train offenders.

Len Sipes: Right.

Stephanie Davison: And then they can be – enter those sorts of jobs once they exit.

Len Sipes: Okay, Stephanie. Dan is not light up. So you’re going to have to answer this question. Why would the National Institute of Corrections, which is part of the bureau – Federal Bureau of Prisons, part of the US Department of Justice, why would the National Institute of Corrections care about green corrections? Why would they’d be involved?

Stephanie Davison: I think there are two reasons. One is it can save the taxpayer’s money…

Len Sipes: Right.

Stephanie Davison: …and, two, it can have benefits to the offender upon reentry.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Stephanie Davison: There are jobs. There are also some behavioral aspects that we can talk about different programs that can benefit an offender when they leave.

Len Sipes: Okay. Talk to me about the behavioral aspects.

Stephanie Davison: So there are some programs and I’ll let Dan jump into this little bit more such as dog training programs that they’ve learned or from experience can find that offenders within the yard are calmer. There’s less incidence of violence and then when they exit, reentry is often smoother.

Len Sipes: Dan, you mentioned in the pre-show about this concept of making safer correctional facilities. In the 14 years that I spent with Maryland Department of Public Safety, our philosophy was anything that made that day productive for that inmate created a safer prison facility. I would imagine you will go along with that thought?

Dan Pacholke: Absolutely and I believe that’s one of the reasons why NIC is interested. In addition to cost containment and cost savings for reentry, on top of that what you want to do is make for a safe operating environment in the prison both for the staff that work there and the offenders that live there as well. So part of what can be done, I supposed, in the greening effort is to create opportunities for an inmate to contribute and I use that word opportunity to contribute because it’s meaningful activity in the sense – from the sense of an inmate. So whether it’s dog restoration or training dogs or whether it’s working with endangered species, both plants and animals, or whether or not it’s contributing to scientific research, what the inmates gain from that is the sense that they’re contributing to a broader social need. It’s something your family can benefit from. It’s something the community can benefit from and what we’ve found is that inmates that are involved in those kinds of activities tend to be less likely to violate rules. It makes them more – a more therapeutic environment in that regard. So it does enhance institutional safety and ultimately begins to change the nature of prisons so that community partners and organization see a prison as a benefit to someone that can contribute to local geographic community needs and there are several states that are doing environmental restoration today.

Len Sipes: How many states are involved in green corrections, either one of you?

Stephanie Davison: I would say a large proportion of states are involved to one degree or another.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Stephanie Davison: For example, many states are involved just because the governor has set forward executive orders that reduce the set goals for energy reduction over time.

Len Sipes: Right and, Dan, give me an honest answer here. I’ve been in the criminal justice system for over 40 years and somebody came to me and said, Leonard, you’re now going to be doing green corrections. I would have sat there and went, eh? What is green corrections? Because the order came down on high from the governor’s office to reduce expenditures but when – after talking with you and talking with Stephanie, I get the sense that this has major payoffs economically, major payoffs in terms of the safety of the institution, and major payoffs in terms of reentry upon release.

Dan Pacholke: It does. I mean when you think of corrections, the center of the plate is always like evidence-based practices, doing things that reduce the likelihood that inmates reoffend upon release. Over the last five years, we’ve been in extremely lean economic times nationally…

Len Sipes: Yes.

Dan Pacholke: …and so we tend to engage in issues that are more on the margin that are complimentary to an evidence-based framework. So on the one hand, its low cost opportunities to program offenders, to get offenders involved in meaningful activity. Engage more offenders to make the prison safer. There is the environmental economics to it. They’re going to reduce the operating cost over a long period of time, over life cycles, and then, of course, you know there is the benefit to the community that kind of goes along with that, the reentry, the job training, the skills upon release. So it’s really complimentary to that framework and it begins to broaden kind of the scope of corrections in a way that we wouldn’t have done in good economic times. I think it is the product of tougher economic times where partners are reaching out for each other in order to accomplish a goal.

Len Sipes: All right. It’s taking lemons and making lemonade.

Dan Pacholke: Correct.

Len Sipes: Yeah, yeah I like that. Now, but help me with this sense and a lot of people that are going to be listening to this program today may not be familiar with the inside of prison systems. I have always maintained that you can walk inside of a prison and either feel that lack of tension or feel the tension almost instantaneously as soon as you walk in through the front door. Feel free to correct me, feel free to disagree, but a lot of the institutions that I’ve walked into in the past that have been based upon a therapeutic environment, based upon the inmates involved in lots of different things, their days are filled with different issues where – that they find humanizing. You can walk inside of that prison and immediately feel it. You can immediately feel the lack of tension because the inmates there are – again, they’re involved in constructive activities. I’m getting the sense that some of the things that we’re talking about with green correction fills that bill. Am I right or wrong?

Dan Pacholke: No, you’re absolutely right and you can certainly, you know, feel the difference in institutions that have a lot of activity than those that don’t in such attention. So, yes, you know green corrections are the philosophy of a sustainable prison. Certainly aids to a much calmer operating tone, a much more pro-social environment, you know, in area that has greater humanity which really is an environment that’s more conducive to the educational, vocational training, or cognitive behavior change…

Len Sipes: Right.

Dan Pacholke: … is that the context to prisons begins to change in a humanizing sort of way.

Len Sipes: If all the states of the United States employed green corrections and I am going to come back to you guys for more – for a larger number of specific examples as to what green corrections is because I’m still a bit confused. I understand landscaping, I understand dealing with animals, I understand mulching, I understand that sort of thing, but I’m getting a sense that it does go a little bit beyond that. I may be missing that but in essence what we’re dealing with here is stakeholder buy in. We’re talking about is that you don’t do this on your own. I would imagine the state of Washington and other states have to reach out to other people to help them implement a green corrections program. Either one of you can talk to me about that?

Stephanie Davison: So when we worked with several states, they find external partners both from other state agencies and then community-based organizations are critical.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Stephanie Davison: For example, in Maryland, they used the Department of National – Natural Resources…

Len Sipes: Right.

Stephanie Davison: …to give inmate opportunities to do restoration projects within their community. That’s critical.

Len Sipes: Okay. So they take the prelease offenders and they go out and they do restoration projects.

Stephanie Davison: Yes.

Len Sipes: Okay. Okay. So, again, help me with the cynical side of spending 40 years in the criminal justice system. Okay. So they go out and dig holes and put in trees. I mean but we are talking about the possibility of jobs upon release. So anybody can go out and dig a hole put in a tree.

Stephanie Davison: Right.

Len Sipes: So help me understand that.

Stephanie Davison: So they’re learning how to maintain the tree and either an urban forest or a traditional forest over the long term.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Stephanie Davison: So that’s an important skill. Another example in Maryland is right to know they were leaning how to deconstruct an old prison and then they’ll build signs made out of the old bricks.

Len Sipes: Really?

Stephanie Davison: It’s an interesting project.

Len Sipes: And that’s – and that’s the Maryland Correctional Institute at Jessup?

Stephanie Davison: Yes.

Len Sipes: Yes. That’s the prison you’re talking about.

Stephanie Davison: Yes, I am.

Len Sipes: I’ve been in there a thousand times under – under nasty circumstances.

Stephanie Davison: Yes.

Len Sipes: And I’m so happy when they closed the prison down. So they’re taking the – their dismantling the prison and they’re doing what with it?

Stephanie Davison: And they will be using the bricks from the prison to create signs within the community.

Len Sipes: That is neat.

Stephanie Davison: It’s a cool project and it’s great because the old building won’t be going into the waste stream.

Len Sipes: Right.

Stephanie Davison: And all of those products will be in a very visible way contributing to their community.

Len Sipes: Well that’s neat. Maryland should start a buy-a-brick program. This is an authentic brick. You know what we used to call that institution?

Stephanie Davison: No, I don’t.

Len Sipes: The cut.

Stephanie Davison: Oh.

Len Sipes: Yes and it has a world famous because it was an old prison it was called the cut, some people say he was named after the railroad cut that ran by it and the other people say it was nicknamed the cut because of the all the stabbings at the place. So it has a very, very – just in case the listeners are remotely interested, it has a very unique background. Ladies and gentlemen we’re doing a show today on green corrections and I find this really interesting. Dan Pacholke, he’s the assistant secretary of the State of Washington Department of Corrections, www.doc.wa.gov. Stephanie Davison, she is a senior program officer with FHI360. It’s www.fhi360.org. They are a contractor to the National Institute of Corrections of the Federal Bureau of Prisons of the US Department of Justice and they’re trying to implement this concept of green corrections throughout the United States. There is a website that I do want to say which is a website at the National Institute of Corrections specifically focusing on green corrections, www.nicic.gov/greencorrections. I’ll give that one more time now and at the end of the program, www.nicic.gov/greencorrections. Donna, I hope I got that correct, okay. I’m getting a thumbs up. All right. Where do you we go to with all of this? I mean are states really buying into this? Are states really – I mean you said the bulk of the states, Stephanie. Is this is something that they’re enthusiastically pursuing or they’re saying, oh, my gosh, here’s another mandate from the governor, another mandate from the federal government although I don’t think it’s a mandate. I think they’re simply guiding. So as you go out and talk to hard bitten state correctional administrators when you talk to them about green corrections, what sort of reception do you get?

Stephanie Davison: It really varies on the state and it depends on who you’re talking to. If you’re talking to someone who needs to save money…

Len Sipes: Right.

Stephanie Davison: …then they buy into it right away.

Len Sipes: There you go.

Stephanie Davison: They understand it. If it’s an officer working the yard, it’s a little different.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Stephanie Davison: And we found that buy in is really important with those individuals.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Stephanie Davison: So – and I’ll let Dan speak to this a little bit more but we found it’s important to have an understanding of why green is important when you’re trying to do it at a grassroots level. When you’re trying to get the officer to get on board that they have to understand the why.

Len Sipes: Right. But they do see the obvious. I mean look, I’ve been in, as I said before, some prisons where there are a lot of programming and the officers within the prisons with lots of programming are much happier human beings because the level of violence goes down and, Dan, quickly correct me if I’m overselling this concept but in those institutions where there are lots of programs where they are meaningfully engaged in doing pro-social things throughout the course of the day, either GED programs or substance abuse or they’re doing work-related programs, because I think this is part of correctional industries. Dan, is this part of correctional industries in the State of Washington?

Dan Pacholke: No, it’s actually – well, it is but I mean it’s part of the Department of Corrections as a whole and certainly correctional industries is involved in sustainability activities also.

Len Sipes: Right and we should explain what the correctional industry is. It’s job programs within prisons.

Dan Pacholke: Correct. I mean it really does two or three things. It mimics real world business activity inside the prison.

Len Sipes: Right.

Dan Pacholke: So they create real world jobs. On top of that they provide, you know, job training and then ultimately they produce products that are useful to state governments and certainly our department as well.

Len Sipes: Right. But to Stephanie’s point of some of the correctional staff – I mean they may not get it, they may not understand it at the very beginning but if it calms the institution and makes their day more productive and makes their day safer, I would imagine there is a certain point where they say, oh, okay, now I get this.

Dan Pacholke: I think in the last five years that a lot of correctional staff that have been sold on the cost containment aspect of it.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Dan Pacholke: It does save money and it takes it out of areas where stuff like garbage or energy and it allows us to buy equipment or training or whatever the case maybe for line level staff. So on the one hand, I think they get the cost containment. On the other hand, as you’ve indicated, correctional officers know that meaningful activity to an offender gets them out of the housing unit, gets them involved in something and in most cases, with few exceptions, they are less prone to act out, less prone to violate rules.

Len Sipes: Now, the other thing that comes to mind is that all – most of the prisons that I’ve been in, either in the State of Maryland or beyond the State of Maryland, are pretty stark places. I mean it’s barbwired, it’s concrete buildings, it’s not designed to look nice. It’s designed to keep inmates in the prison. The first rule of corrections is I shall not escape. So we’re talking about a pretty stark environment here and I would imagine if you start using the common areas of the prison system and start landscaping them and start doing things with them that brings an environment. I mean, look, the average correctional officer has got a tough job. They are in there for 20 or 30 years. The average inmate could be in there for 10 or 20 years or longer. So they’re all in this very confined area. It’s stark. It’s not the prettiest of areas. I’m guessing that if you green up these areas and teach inmates how to sustain them being green, I would imagine that cannot transform but it can certainly add to the pleasantness of the interactions of inmates and staff throughout the course of the day. It makes simply – makes a nicer environment.

Dan Pacholke: Well, it certainly changes the culture or context of incarceration. Even in high security facilities, you can find places to create green space or you can do organic gardening or you can co-locate dog training areas next to housing units and certainly bringing dogs into living unit adds an element to it that is not typically there and will bring a calming aspect. You’ll see them laughing or smiling which is not always the case. So you know part of what you’re doing in bringing nature inside prison is you’re creating more of therapeutic environment and it’s not missed by the offender population and certainly, it creates a better environment for staff as well. So there’s great examples out there how you can do it in very high security prisons and you know all the way down to low security prisons. There are some model 2000 prisons out there today that are doing everything in the areas of gardening and garbage sorting and composting and raising tilapia, dog training, and bicycle restoration that have highly programmatic routines you know, 100 inmates involved in activities that would be greening activities.

Len Sipes: Bicycle restoration, that didn’t even cross my mind and as a fairly avid bike rider, that intrigues me. Tell me more about bicycle restoration?

Dan Pacholke: Well, once again, I mean once you adopt a green principle or sustainable principle in your mind that you want to do things that are sustainable and also that you wanted to contribute to the community, I mean, you start outreaching a little bit. We probably have four prisons that receive bicycles either from police departments or from special interest groups in the community. They bring them in. They often times contribute money. We set up an area where offenders will do bicycle restoration and then typically, they’re turned back over to community and they give them to children in need. So once again, it’s an opportunity to contribute to something larger than themselves. It’s an opportunity to give back to children. It’s an opportunity to work with community partners that are interested in the outcome that you’re going to achieve. So essentially a community begins to see you as a resource rather than a black hole behind a big wall that we just throw money into.

Len Sipes: That’s an interesting concept. I mean that is – I’ve never heard of that. I mean I’ve been in part of this system for – again, for decades and bicycle restoration, what a great idea. How long has that been going on in the State of Washington?

Dan Pacholke: Oh, you know, I think we started the first one probably 6 or 7 years ago.

Len Sipes: Wow.

Dan Pacholke: We probably have half a dozen prisons that are doing it today but along those same lines, it’s the same thing we’re going canine rescue. We have canine rescue in 12 different prisons across the state and, of course, there are many, many dog advocates and training everything up to assistance dogs. Once again, a community has a need, it’s tough environmental times, they need help. They provide training to the inmates. It is a therapeutic activity and then in the end, of course, the community, you know, gets the animal and we have 100% adoption rate. So as you start going down this line about a being a good community partner, I mean there are several states and we’re one of them that are doing environmental restoration projects whether it’s raising the endangered Oregon spotted frog or the Taylor checkerspot butterfly or endangered puri [PH] plants that there are community partners, scientists, biologists, US Department of Fish and Wildlife that need assistance in taking care of or nurturing or growing these creatures or plants. They lack funding and, of course, prisons are full of people that have nothing but time.

Len Sipes: Right.

Dan Pacholke: Many times they are pretty talented as well so – once again, it’s another way to bridge and to give inmates an opportunity to contribute and certainly give a community partner a different view inside the prison where they begin to see you as a resource that can help solve local problems.

Len Sipes: You know the more I talk to the two of you about this the more encouraged – the more enthusiastic I become because when you first hear the term green corrections, Dan, you’re not quite sure what it means and where we’re going with this but that’s true. I mean if you’re doing a lot of community restoration for inmates at the pre-release level who can safely go out, if you’re doing things like repairing bikes or taking care of wounded animals or training dogs, I mean, my heavens, how many millions of dogs are there in this country that needs some sort of intervention or they’re simply going to be put down. So it sounds as if the State of Washington is being really innovative in terms of coming up with not just pro-social things for the inmate population to do but a way for the prison to contribute to the betterment of the larger community.

Dan Pacholke: Yeah. I think that is part of what you’ll find across the country. I mean Maryland is doing steps around Chesapeake Bay, you know and Ohio is doing stuff with the Cincinnati Zoo and I think they’re about ready to start a restoration project on an endangered salamander called the hellbender and so there are different examples out there where people are beginning to engage community partners in a way that provides opportunities for inmates that are therapeutic, they teach empathy, compassion, and responsibility. At the same time, you’ll have scientists or biologists or both that are interested in these projects and ultimately, you know, we have a controlled environment where we can develop protocols around some of these science restoration project so you begin to expand the kind of agenda of greening a corrections. I mean you start with something simple like cost containment, certainly moving areas to training and jobs and then, of course, you bridge into more local geographic community needs and we’re certainly in need of many, many more environmental restoration projects across this country.

Len Sipes: It’s an amazing thought. Okay, we’re in the final couple of minutes of the programs Stephanie. Well, tell me more about – I’m hearing all these wonderful things coming out of the State of Washington and so you’re telling me that other – and Dan did mention that Maryland is doing some stuff, Ohio is doing some stuff, does everybody get green corrections?

Stephanie Davison: Not everybody…

Len Sipes: Do they understand it?

Stephanie Davison: … gets green corrections but they could.

Len Sipes: They could.

Stephanie Davison: I would encourage people to go the NIC website…

Len Sipes: Okay.

Stephanie Davison: …and look an example of – and look at a guidebook called the Greening of Corrections: Creating a Sustainable System.

Len Sipes: Right. Okay.

Stephanie Davison: We have examples from all over the country from the deep south to the progressive west and you can see how it can be done anywhere.

Len Sipes: Okay and we are talking about, as Dan said, $3.5 million worth of savings. So if you do it for no other reason besides saving taxpayers – you know, 50 times, 50 states, and seven territories x $3.5 million that’s a lot of money and I’m going to give the website out one more time before the close that will give greater time for the close, www.nicic.gov/greencorrections, www.nicic.gov/greencorrections. Okay. We’re in our final minute of the program, who wants it? Stephanie, any final wrap up?

Stephanie Davison: One final word, I’d like to say in the next few months, we’ll be releasing a challenge on challenge.gov so that…

Len Sipes: Really?

Stephanie Davison: …State Departments of Correction can share their activities with us and then we’ll be able to broadcast them and share them with a larger community.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Stephanie Davison: So keep your eyes peeled for that.

Len Sipes: So you’re going to pit one state against the other and see who’s doing the best, right?

Stephanie Davison: A little bit. We want the examples of the best work that’s being done.

Len Sipes: And, obviously, some of the best work that’s being done is being done by the Washington Department of Corrections. So, Dan, how’s it feel to be known for something else besides the day-to-day grind of corrections? I mean the people come to you and say, hey, tell me more about green corrections in the State of Washington.

Dan Pacholke: Well, I think it’s – on one hand, it’s fun. I mean it is in activity that started kind of on the margin and has worked its way more to the center of the plate. It’s really encouraging for us, I supposed all of us, just to see more growth in the area of people like Stephanie, you know NIC, other states like Maryland, Ohio, and Oregon and California. I mean there’s lots of people doing different activities out there so, you know, one of these days, we’re going to see a new prison design that’s based on sustainable principles that articulates or identifies everything that we’re talking about here. So I’m just interested in seeing more best practice come of it and learning from others and hopefully continuing to push this in a way that’s both economically beneficial as well as humanizing corrections and making the operations of prison safer.

Len Sipes: Dan, you’ve got the final word. Ladies and gentlemen, we’re doing a show today- have done a show today on green corrections produced by the National Institute of Corrections. Our guests today have been Dan Pacholke, assistant secretary of the State of Washington Department of Corrections; Stephanie Davison, she is a senior program officer with FHI360, www.fhi360.org. Ladies and gentlemen this is DC Public Safety. We appreciate your calls, letters, concepts, criticisms, and please yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]

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Jobs in Corrections-Discover Corrections Website–DC Public Safety Radio

Welcome to “DC Public Safety” – Radio and television shows, blog and transcripts on crime, criminal offenders and the criminal justice system.

The portal site for “DC Public Safety” is http://media.csosa.gov.

Radio Program available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2012/11/jobs-in-corrections-discover-corrections-website-dc-public-safety-radio/

[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes: From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes, and ladies and gentlemen, today we’re going to be talking about jobs in Corrections. It’s an issue of great importance because the vast majority of people in this country who the criminal justice system supervises are supervised by Corrections personnel. They’re supervised by parole and probation agents or they’re supervised within prisons, they’re supervised within jails, but the overwhelming majority are again, in the community being supervised by parole and probation agents.  We thought we’d do a radio program about jobs in Corrections. We have a new website that is created by the American Probation and Parole Association called “Discover Corrections,” and “Discover Corrections,” there’s a league of agencies involved in this with the American Probation and Parole Association taking the lead. Our guest today is Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt. She is a Research Associate for the or with the American Probation and Parole Association., and Mary Ann, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Thank you, and good afternoon.

Len Sipes: Yep. I’m looking forward to this conversation because, you know, this is a very important topic. The quality of our criminal justice personnel means the quality of justice. It correlates exactly with the quality of justice that we end up providing, correct?

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Oh, exactly, exactly, and this website offers career-based resources for students and graduates as well as our military veterans and other individuals who are seeking their first job in this career, and for those individuals who may be trying to look at Corrections as a second career.

Len Sipes: You know, and one area during this recession that has always been hiring, and that’s Corrections.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Yes, and not only individuals who are seeking positions as parole officers and probation officer but positions that you may not always think of as positions that are in the career field, like registered nurses.

Len Sipes: Oh, absolutely. I mean, there’s an endless number of individuals with individual specialties that corrections agencies throughout the United States whether they be federal, whether they be state, whether they be local, they need a wide array of people to staff these positions.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Yes, exactly.

Len Sipes: Okay. The website for “Discover Corrections” is www.discovercorrections.com – www.discovercorrections.com. Mary Ann, give me a sense as to all the different agencies that are involved in the “Discovery Corrections” website project.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Okay. Just to give you a little history, the Bureau of Justice Assistance, in an effort to address workforce development issues in Corrections – community Corrections, jails, and detention centers, as well as prisons and institutions – provided funds to the Counsel of State Government, the American Probation and Parole Association, to develop and implement this exciting website. So this innovative project is a collaborative effort overseen by APPA, and our partners are the American Correctional Association, the American Jail Association, and the Center for Innovative Public Policies.

Len Sipes: So you’ve got a lot of people involved in this and it’s funded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance of the Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice, so you’ve got federal funding and you’ve got the biggest and best correctional agencies, and very well-respected correctional incremental justice agencies deeply involved in the project, and the American Probation and Parole Association is taking the lead.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Yes. Yes. You know, I can’t say enough regarding our partners and the tremendous amount of work that they put into this project as well, and they really should be commended for all of the material they provided and expertise.

Len Sipes: This will be the first time in the 40-or-so years that I’ve been in the criminal justice system that if you were interested in a career in Corrections, regardless as to where you are in the United States, I mean, you could be sitting in American Samoa and access the website and say, “Son of a gun, that’s something I would like to do in New Mexico” and go for that job.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Yes, yes, and I think when you look at the website, there are four components or key sections to the website. The first one is “Why Corrections”; the second one is “Explore the Field”; the third is “Career Resources”; and then finally you come to “Post your Job and Find your Job.” When you’re looking at the jobs that are available across the country, you’ll find that they’re in Bismarck, North Dakota, Pine City, Minnesota, East Baton Rouge, Idaho. So no matter where you’re looking, there are jobs that are being posted.

Len Sipes: And one of the things that I do want to say, Mary Ann, about the folks who are in Corrections – again, I’ve been in the criminal justice system for over 40 years, started off as a police officer, and I’ve done a lot of different things both on the correctional side and the law enforcement side, and I want to give a shout-out, I suppose, or recognition to people in Corrections. I don’t think there’s any more difficult and exciting job than being a main-stream correctional officer. I’ve been in and out of literally hundreds of prisons, or prisons hundreds of times, and I understand how difficult and how challenging and how exciting that job is; and people, I don’t think correctional officers get the respect that they deserve. I think as far as I’m concerned, as far as a lot of people are concerned in the criminal justice system, correctional officers deserve a huge amount of respect. Parole and probation agents, what we here in Washington D.C. call community supervision officers, again, that is an extraordinarily difficult job. They’re out in high-crime neighborhoods dealing sometimes with people presenting really unique challenges. These are exciting jobs. These are really interesting jobs. These are not boring jobs at all. They pay well in many instances and they have good government benefits behind them so people looking around and they’re uncertain about a career in Corrections, I’m not quite sure they need to be uncertain. I think a life in Corrections is a life of, you know, not just pure excitement from the law enforcement point of view but I think they’re very exciting, very challenging jobs. They’re never boring.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Yeah, I agree. My first job – I was in the field for approximately 28 years based out of Minnesota – and my first job was at the Women’s Facility here in Shakopee. I believe that my first job as a Corrections officer gave me the foundation that I needed for a career in Corrections.

Len Sipes: Well, I have first-hand experience inside of prisons. I have first-hand experience riding along with parole and probation agents, and they have my endless, endless admiration in terms of their ability to protect public safety and their ability to try to help the individuals caught up in the criminal justice system. Okay, so we have a website, “Discover Corrections” – www.discovercorrections.com – and you’ve got the mainstream criminal justice agencies, correctional agencies involved in it. It’s both on the jail side, the prison side, and the community Corrections side. We’ve said it’s funded by the BJA, the Bureau of Justice Assistance of the U.S. Department of Justice. So how has it been? I mean, have you been successful? Has it placed a lot of people? Do you think that you’re getting the interaction that you’re looking for?

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: We’re beginning to analyze some of those key outcomes that you’re pointing out. We believe that people are beginning to go to the “Discover Corrections.” It’s a fairly new website. We are marketing through Facebook and other avenues but we do have close to 200 agencies that have listed jobs on the website.

Len Sipes: That’s great.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: And that also then, you know, when you post jobs, then it brings job candidates, and you see more and more people then accessing the website. But based on our initial surveys, both the job-seekers as well as the employers have provided us with very positive feedback.

Len Sipes: And you said before that there were four primary sections to the website. I’m not quite sure that I gave you full time to explain what they are. Could you give them to me again, please?

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Oh, certainly. “Why Corrections” is the first section when you’re looking at the website.

Len Sipes: What is that designed to do, “Why Corrections,” because people are confused about a career in Corrections possibly?

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Well, possibly confused or maybe wondering, “Is this the direction should I take and really what does it involve?” It explains the three components. It talks about Corrections as a critical component of the criminal justice system, and that it requires dedication, integrity, and commitment to working with individuals who come into the criminal justice system; and that also that there are rewards and that it can be highly gratifying to work in this field and help people make real life changes.

Len Sipes: Well, I’ve seen it firsthand. I have seen especially on the community correction side with parole and probation agencies, with the treatment side, within prisons, I’ve seen people turn the lives around of people caught up in the criminal justice system. It doesn’t happen every time but certainly it is just amazing to see people go from tax burdens to tax payers, and we owe, again, a debt of gratitude towards the people in community Corrections and mainstream Corrections who helped that person get there.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Um-hum, um-hum.

Len Sipes: Now you also have personal stories on the website that I find really interesting. You’ve got some personal stories about people from my agency, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, and you’ve got personal stories from people throughout the country talking addressing why they got involved in Corrections.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Exactly, and that’s I think a very important part of the website. It’s real people telling their stories, and that is in the “Explore the Field” section of the website.

Len Sipes: Okay, so that’s a good segue.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Okay, and there are stories from wardens within our prisons, and there are probation officers. There are other positions such as there’s a nurse, there’s a teacher, and a variety of individuals who are working in our field, both in community Corrections, jails and detention, prisons and institutions.

Len Sipes: You know getting back to teachers for a second, I remember when I was representing the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, which was Law Enforcement and Corrections, and we had the unfortunate privilege I suppose, I can say that now, of taking over the Baltimore City Jail. The state took over the City Jail. And what was truly amazing to me is that the teachers who worked in the Baltimore City Jail who were providing educational services to juveniles and young adults, they had the second highest increase in test scores in the city of Baltimore. Maryland has, I think, the highest test score ranking in the country, and they had the second highest for the city of Baltimore in the Baltimore City Jail, and I was amazed.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Wow.

Len Sipes: I would sit down and talk to those teachers and say, “How did you accomplish this ?” – And working with the correctional officers and working with the teachers, they told me their game plan, and then years ago I interviewed them for the radio with I was with the State of Maryland. Here are teachers working in a correctional setting, producing the second highest increase in grade average scores for an entire city. I thought that that was phenomenal, so again, it’s a wide-open field. We need lots of good people to come into Corrections not just necessarily as correctional officers but as you said, teachers and nurses and administrators and bean counters and accountants and plumbers and lawyers and ten tons of people.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Exactly, exactly, and so then when you’re viewing the website, then you can also then go on to the third section which is “Career Resources,” and that really is designed to provide specific information. So you’re looking at a state and say you’re interested in going to Montana. Well, it will give you a snapshot of how Corrections is organized in that state.

Len Sipes: Oh, that’s great.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Okay, and also then it provides a glossary of common terms, and also there’s a whole list of national links that you can click as a resource.

Len Sipes: So if I want to go to Hawaii, I can go to Hawaii and just work as a correctional officer. I can work as a parole and probation agent.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: You could.

Len Sipes: I could.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: There’s some openings.

Len Sipes: There are some openings. I’ll think about that in the dead of winter. All right, so have we covered three of the four sections of the website?

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Yes, and then the last one is “Post your Job and Find your Job.”

Len Sipes: Okay, and that’s pretty simple. Now anybody within the criminal justice system can post jobs?

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Correct, both private and public.

Len Sipes: Private and public. Thanks. I was going to ask that. And so anybody, a 17-year-old searching for his or her future can go to that website and say, “Wow, I’ve always wanted to go to Wyoming and they’ve got openings for parole and probation agents in Wyoming.” I mean, it’s open to anybody.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Exactly.

Len Sipes: All right. I think it’s an exciting concept. I’m going to give the website and we’re going to move into the second part of the program. Ladies and gentlemen, we’re talking about jobs in Corrections with Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt. She is a Research Associate with the American Probation and Parole Association. She is the administrator of “Discover Correction,” a really unique website funded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance of the Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice, in league with some of the biggest criminal justice agencies in the country, and she is with the American Probation and Parole Association. The website for the American Probation and Parole Association is www.appa-net.org – www.appa-net.org. The “Discover Corrections” website again is www.discovercorrections.com.

Mary Ann, what has been the response of people seeking jobs o the website? Do they find it useful? Do they find it easy to navigate?

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: They find it easy to navigate. I think what they would like is to see more job openings but that’s throughout the country, and of course we would like to see more job postings but more jobs are coming available, and if you’re willing to consider relocating, there are positions throughout the country that are available.

Len Sipes: Well, I remember talking to a couple of nurses decades ago who spent five years in Alaska then spent two years in Hawaii, and I’m not quite sure I’m encouraging leaving criminal justice jobs but I would imagine this gives you the same opportunity to travel the country and work for a career in Corrections. The people coming to the website, can they find what they’re looking for? That’s the bottom line. Are they satisfied with their experience?

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Yes. Yes.

Len Sipes: Okay, and have they written you back saying, you know, “Gee, I’d like to see more jobs listed,” or “I’d like to see it easier,” or what’s been their feedback?

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Yes, that’s in some of the feedback, and also, you know, I respond to individuals who use other social media outlets such as LinkedIn, and of course people will talk about, you know, it would be nice to be able to stay where they’re at however, you know.

Len Sipes: Yes.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: And then also a number of people throughout the country really recognize the need to be open to be mobile and to consider job opportunities in other areas of the country.

Len Sipes: Sure. It gives you a chance to see the nation and to get a sense as to what’s happening in other areas. If I was a young man, I would love to be a parole and probation agent in Alaska, so there you are. If anybody up in Alaska wants to hire an older individual, please contact me when I retire.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Well, and there are openings. So when you go to the site, there is a U.S. probation officer opening in Bismarck, North Dakota. Pine City, Minnesota, there is a probation officer opening. It’s a lovely part of the country if you like northern Minnesota where it’s very outdoorsy, close to Duluth.

Len Sipes: And I’m glad you brought that up. There’s a lot of federal positions in here. There are federal parole and probation issues that are administered by the individual district courts within the federal system, and there are federal prisons, I’m assuming, that are within the system. So again, if you want to be a correctional officer and have a federal job with all of that security and all the pay that comes with it, and you want to go to a certain area of the country, boom, it’s there for you.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Exactly. And not only are there entry-level positions but there are management and administrative positions as well, so like Salt Lake City is looking for a trial court executive. There’s the Sheriff’s Volunteer Coordinator, which can be an entry-level position. There is also the superintendent of Mental Health Services in Maine; also the Minnesota Sex Offender Program in St. Peter is looking for a facility director, and a business analysis out of Arizona, the Arizona Judicial Branch. So there’s a variety of positions.

Len Sipes: Well, you know, I’ve been on the website several times and I’m just discovering the full complexity of all the different jobs that are available especially, you know, some of these jobs are really interesting. I mean, you can make a career, an exciting career, a very interesting career in any of these. How does an agency get on your website? Is it simply a matter of calling up and saying, “Hey, I’ve got these 20 jobs I want to advertise?”

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: No, you don’t even have to call. You go to the website and where you see “post your jobs,” you simply click on that and you will be able to create a login, you know, there’s a password etc., register your agency, and then begin posting your jobs.

Len Sipes: And is there a cost to agencies in terms of posting information on the website?

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Is there, I’m sorry, what?

Len Sipes: I’m sorry, is there a cost to post information on the website?

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Is there a cost?

Len Sipes: Yes.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: No. T his is free. This service is free so it’s no cost to your agency.

Len Sipes: Mmm, neat, okay. And I guess one of the final questions is launching the “Discover Corrections” website; it is an important enhancement to the field of Corrections, why? Explain why that is. In the past, you sort of were limited, I suppose. If I’m living in Baltimore, Maryland, where I currently live, the only opportunities I’m going to be exposed to are going to be those advertised in the Baltimore Sun. Now suddenly it’s the entire world opens to me, and I would imagine that’s the heart and soul of it.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Yes. And one of the other things, when we really began to examine how we wanted to impact job searching in the Corrections field, was considering some of the feedback that we receive from students. For many students, they do not know now to access career or job information in the field of Corrections. I mean often, at least in the past, you would have to know exactly what agency you wanted to consider employment in, and then you would have to go that agency’s website, where this really allows individuals to go to one website.

Len Sipes: And have it all done right there and see all the varieties of jobs that are open to you.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Um-hum. And it also allows employers to search resumes of registered job seekers.

Len Sipes: Oh, I didn’t know that.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Um-hum, so that’s I think a very positive feature of the website.

Len Sipes: That is a very positive, so I can throw in my own resume upon retirement and then the good folks in Alaska would reach out and say, “Hey, Leonard, come on up. We’d love to have you,” and then my wife would divorce me but that’s beside the point.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: That’s – yes. You know, they can look for the right person because I think oftentimes in this field it is about looking for the right person in that specific position.

Len Sipes: And like any other criminal justice endeavor, we really do have to go through quite a few people to find the right person. It takes a unique human being to be successful in Corrections. Either in mainstream prisons or in terms of community corrections, it takes a unique individual to be able to do these jobs.

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: I would agree. It can be challenging yet also very rewarding.

Len Sipes: Mary Ann, did we cover all the topics?

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: I believe so.

Len Sipes: All right, good. Ladies and gentlemen, this has been DC Public Safety. We did a radio show today on jobs in Corrections with Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt, a Research Associate with the American Probation and Parole Association talking about what I think is an extraordinarily good idea website, a national website, or an international website there at www.discovercorrections.com – www.discovercorrections.com. Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. We do appreciate your calls. We appreciate your letters. We appreciate your comments. We appreciate your criticisms. And we want everybody to have themselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]

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Research on Employing Offenders-Council for Court Excellence-DC Public Safety

See http://media.csosa.gov for our television shows, blog and transcripts.

Radio Program available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2012/01/research-on-employing-offenders-council-for-court-excellence-dc-public-safety/

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

[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes:  From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety.  I’m your host, Leonard Sipes.  Ladies and gentlemen, the issue today is employing offenders.  We have a piece of research today from the Council for Court Excellence and what they did was to go out and ask individuals, ask individual employers what it takes to hire people under community supervision.  I spent a good part of the morning taking a look at previous research on the issue of employing offenders and to my knowledge, this hasn’t been done before or it’s been very rarely done where an individual organization goes out and asks not just people who hire, but also former offenders themselves what their issues were in terms of employment, what it takes to hire people under supervision.  So with that lofty introduction, we have two people at our microphones today:  June Kress, the Executive Director of the Council for Court Excellence, and Peter Willner, the Senior Policy Analyst, again for the Council for Court Excellence.  And to June and Peter, welcome to DC Public Safety.

June Kress:  Thank you.

Len Sipes: June first of all, the first question goes to you.  What is the Council for Court Excellence?

June Kress: The Council for Court Excellence is a non-partisan, non-profit civic organization.  We’ve been around since 1982 and our mission, simply put, is to improve the administration of justice in the District of Columbia.  We watch the courts and related institutions and agencies of justice and we make policy recommendations to improve things.  But our work, even though we’re focused on the District, our work has serious implications for jurisdictions all over the country that are interested in improving how justice is administered.

Len Sipes:  And the Council for Court Excellence, you know, I’ve been to several of your meetings, they’re very well attended, well debated.  You look at a variety of issues in terms of the larger criminal justice system and in terms of larger criminal justice issues, so you work goes way beyond the District of Columbia because in essence, Milwaukee is facing exactly what we’re facing right now in Washington D.C.  Anchorage, Alaska, Honolulu, Hawaii – it doesn’t matter where you are in the country, 20% of our audience is worldwide.  I would imagine the same thing is happening in Paris, France.  What you’re doing has implications for the entire country, correct?

June Kress:  That’s absolutely right and when we do our work, we certainly take a look at best practices elsewhere to inform what we’re doing here.  So it’s really an exchange between Washington and everywhere else in the country.

Len Sipes:  All right we have a unique opportunity in terms of recent research that you all conducted and to my knowledge, it’s one of the first, if not the first, where we’ve actually sat down with individual employers and asked them what are your perceptions of hiring people on community supervision.  And there was a wide variety of research; findings that came out of this, 50% were unemployed, regardless of the economics.  So in good times and bad times, 50% of the individuals under community supervision are unemployed.  Now that has huge ramifications for the entire criminal justice system. The research is abundantly clear. The better odds of them being employed, the more they’re employed, the less recidivism there is, the less crime there is, the less costs there are to taxpayers and this has huge implications.  If only 50% are going to be employed regardless of the circumstances, that simply means more crime.  Reducing crime means what can we do to bring that number down, correct?  Peter, you want to…?

Peter Willner:  Yeah, yeah, I think the answer to that is a clear yes.

Len Sipes:  Okay, but I mean how do we do that now?  If 50% are unemployed, regardless of the economics, regardless of the circumstances, what can we do?  I mean, you know, one of the findings that you had is that 77% of the individuals, when they were caught up in the correctional system, whether it’s prison or jail, they didn’t receive any assistance at all in terms of getting ready for employment so obviously, what we do within the correctional setting has an impact in terms of how they are when they get out.

June Kress:  That’s right. And in fact, that’s one of the recommendations, that the Bureau of Prisons and in terms of locally, the District of Columbia jail, begin to try and do something about this, what we believe is a disconnect between the kind of training and education that exists in institutions today, vis-à-vis the kinds of employment opportunities that exist in our particular jurisdiction and in jurisdictions around the country.  The world has changed a lot.  No longer, you know, is there a market for barbers and we believe that Bureau of Prisons needs to take a look at the kind of training that people are getting and make that much more relevant.  I mean, everybody knows that re-entry begins at the beginning, we’ll go into the institution and it shouldn’t begin when people are coming home.

Len Sipes:  Well, we say that, we say that re-entry begins the day they enter the correctional system, but the research on drug treatment is terrible.  Only 10% of people end up getting drug treatment.  Only a small portion are ending up with mental health treatment and by your research and prior research, only a small portion are receiving occupational assistance.  So in essence what we’re say is, is that when we send them into any prison system, state or federal, the great majority are not getting the services that they need in order to hold down crime rates when they get out.

Peter Willner:  That’s right and I think the thing that’s important for your listeners to understand is that the District of Columbia’s prison system is the Federal Bureau of Prisons. The District doesn’t have its own local prison system and so that is part of the national implications I think of our study. We heard from lots of people who were former offenders who were saying they wanted to try to do some job searches before they got out, they wanted to try to put their resume together, but they didn’t have access to the internet, they didn’t have access to anyone who might help them do that search or put their resume together.  And I think part of the context of our study was, we had BOP on our committee and we understand that they are resource-strapped.  And I think the broader conversation that has to happen you know, in this country and across the country is that you know, our prison populations are increasing. I don’t know that BOP is getting the necessary funding to be able to handle that adjusting population.  Part of what they need to get funding for in my view, is to be able to think more systematically about how they can make that goal of re-entry starts on the day they enter more of a reality, not only as it relates to employment but to mental health and drug use and all that.  And I think that’s a legitimate – that was a legitimate concern we heard from BOP.

Len Sipes:  But everybody who I’ve talked to has said that jobs – the people coming out of the prison system have said jobs are the crucial issue.  Regardless of their substance abuse history, regardless of their mental health history, it’s jobs that seem to be the key component when they come out of the prison system.  So my question becomes, if this is such a key issue and if the research is so abundantly clear that the more they’re employed, the less they recidivate, the less crime they commit, the less – you know, we’re talking about saving hundreds of millions of tax-paid dollars if they don’t go back to the prison system – then why not?  What does that say about us as a society that we’re not providing that employment assistance?

Peter Willner:  Well, the District, I think, has made a good first step just late last year when they passed legislation that for the District of Columbia government, that would for a lot of lower level jobs at least, they would not look at a criminal record at all in terms of the hiring process.

Len Sipes:  Um-hm.

Peter Willner:  And so I think the DC government, following the State of Minnesota who adopted that same approach, is trying to take sort of the moral lead in that area.  And I think there are a number of other states that we see – I would include again, Minnesota in this – who have adopted legislation that would encourage private sector employers to hire people and that’s one of our report recommendations, which is private employers are concerned, they’re concerned about their bottom line, but they’re also concerned if they hire someone with a record that for some reason they might be – it might subject them to a liability or lawsuit.

Len Sipes:  Right.  They’re concerned about being sued.

Peter Willner:  That’s right, and so there’s a legislative fix for that where if they – where if an employer goes through a several-step hiring process to make sure they’re looking at the person’s record, making sure that it is not, when they hire that person, there’s no greater risk to public safety or on the street.  If they go through that process, that can severely limit their ability to be sued for negligent hiring and Minnesota’s adopted that, New York State has that in place and that was one of our recommendations that you know, we understand the DC Council might be taking that up very soon this year.

Len Sipes:  Now I do want to get to that but I don’t want to leave this issue of jobs within the correctional setting.  I mean, if say bricklaying – bricklaying is a viable alternative, being an electrician, being a plumber, being an apprentice electrician or a plumber or a bricklayer.  These are all hard skills that are going to transfer into just about any economy.  If we had a system that produced people with those skills as they came out of the prison system, what impact would it have on crime?  What impact would it have on public safety, what impact would it have on taxpaying dollars?

Peter Willner:  It would have a good impact on that I think.  You know, I think what we were finding, though, when we were going through our research, the challenges, you might have that skill set but the next step is getting a license to do that.  And I think that that’s where you know, state-to-state, there might be some variance, so you might come out with that skill set.  But if you’re not – if you don’t have the ability to get a license, then you’ve built the skill set that means nothing at the end of the day.  But your premise is correct though, that if you do train folks in these areas, it will be a benefit, but we have to make sure we’re also careful about giving them the ability to get a license.

Len Sipes:  Okay, so we have to do – the first part of the solution is dealing with the training within the correction settings and the fact that the great majority according to your survey said, 77% said they received assistance in jail or prison in terms of occupational training.  The second thing we have to do is to deal with things at the home front, is assuming even if they came out of prison, assuming they came out with a hard skill, there has to be laws and legislations in place that allows them to get the certification that they need to go on and practice that occupation, so that’s step number two.  Is that what I hear?

June Kress:  That’s right.  And also – I mean, the crux of the problem is the criminal record.  Something like 80% of people that we interviewed said that they were asked all the time about their criminal records.  So this has become such a barrier, both in good times and in bad, and so what do you do about – I mean, Pete was just talking about the legislation to remove you know, to remove that problem from the folks that – from the government sector, but it still exists in the private sector, so our research and our recommendations are about trying to incentivize employers, which is why you know, where we came up with removing employer liability.

Len Sipes:  But you did talk to employers –

June Kress:  Yeah.

Len Sipes:  – this is one of the exciting things about this study.  I mean, you reached out to the employment community in a very systematic fashion and you spoke to a lot of individuals within the employment community – that’s exciting, because that’s one of the first times it’s happened.  We’ve tried to do that here at CSOSA, we’ve tried to crowd source this issue, not terribly successfully, only about 20 calls –

June Kress:  Right.

Len Sipes: – as a result of it, but you spoke to a lot more than that and so what are you hearing from the employment community, the private sector, in terms of what it’s going to take the higher people under community supervision?

Peter Willner:  Well, I think the, I think the benefit is that people who are under some sort of supervision, employers I think are attracted more to those folks than people who are not under any sort of supervision.  We did find, it’s not reported so much in our report, but we did find that employers were very interested in people who had some level of case management.  But what employers were more interested in was not being sued as a result of hiring someone who had committed a prior criminal offense.  They were also very interested in knowing that the person was in good standing with the conditions of their release and so those were the things that currently don’t exist in DC, they don’t exist in a lot of places in the country and I think that is something that will help to incent private sector employers to hire.

Len Sipes:  But will they hire people with criminal records?  I mean, what I’m hearing, what you’re saying is that the answer is yes, as long as their level of liability is limited.

Peter Willner:  That’s right.

Len Sipes:  That becomes the key issue.  I mean, so it’s not outright discrimination against people with a criminal history.  I mean, one of the problems that I have in this whole issue is that I’ve interviewed a lot of different people, both on radio and television and they are years away from their last crime. They are years away from their last issue of substance abuse.  These are very good risks and some of them have real skills, some of them have real solid work histories, but they’re unemployed. They’re years away from their last crime, years away from their last positive drug test, so that to me is a bit of a tragedy.  We’re not talking about somebody fresh out of prison, we’re not talking somebody who’s still in the game, somebody still taking drugs, somebody still involved in violent crime.  We’re talking about people past that, yet they can’t find work.  So there’s got to be something else at work here besides liability, correct?

June Kress:  Well, we’re also recommending that a certificate of rehabilitation program or certificate of good standing program be conceptualized and implemented and monitored in the District of Columbia and the recommendation calls for the bringing together of all of the relevant criminal justice agencies, including the Office on Ex-Offender Affairs, to talk about how this would best be undertaken.

Len Sipes:  We’re halfway through the program already; it’s gone by very fast.  June Kress, Executive Director of Council for Court Excellence; Peter Willner, Senior Policy Analyst, again, for the Council for Court Excellence, www.courtexcellence.org to get a copy of this fascinating report in terms of interviewing both offenders as well as employers as to what it takes to increase the level of employment for people under community supervision.  June, I’m going to go right back to you.  In terms of this certificate of rehabilitation, that’s tough for any bureaucracy to do.  Now all of us have been around the criminal justice system for a number of years and we’ve all taken a look at lower level offenders and found to our dismay, at a certain point, where they do end up in serious crimes.  So when we issue a certificate of rehabilitation, whatever agency is going to issue that certificate, their reputation is on the line.  If we say there is a certification of rehabilitation for John Smith and John Smith three years down the road commits some crime, then the agency issuing that certificate of rehabilitation is going to be held accountable.

June Kress:  Well absolutely.  I think those kinds of details will need to be worked out and we’re not indicating that if someone walks in with a certificate of good standing, that they’re automatically going to get a job.  The point, though, you know, this is very much a part of the 5% solution concept, which is, we believe that this could be and has been in other jurisdictions, a conversation starter.  It puts formerly incarcerated folks at the top of the pile in terms of trying to, you know, the resume pile, in terms of trying to get their foot in the door in order to get an interview.

Len Sipes:  But it gets to be right back to the proposition that I made, excuse me, before asking the question, there are – I have sat down and talked to hundreds of people throughout my career who are bricklayers, who are electricians, who you know, their last conviction was three years ago.  They haven’t had a positive drug test in the last 2 ½ years.  They are clean, they’re not working.  So it gets back to how do you convince employers that this person, regardless of the fact that he’s had an armed robbery, he’s beyond that.  He’s ready to go.  He wants to work.  So a certificate of rehabilitation is one of the things we need to consider.

June Kress:  Absolutely.  And you know, Len, we don’t think that stigma, the stigma that ex-offenders, formerly incarcerated persons face, is going to be wiped out through the publication of this report.  It’s going to take a very long time to change people’s minds. I mean, it’s kind of like you know, seat belt use.  It didn’t happen overnight.

Len Sipes:  Correct.

June Kress:  It’s a whole see change that the country is beginning to go through and I think it’s important to point out that this report took into account the perspective of employers and ex-offenders and also law enforcement – very much reflecting the kind of balanced work that the council has done for 30 years.  We made a very, very conscious effort to make sure that those three perspectives are balanced out, because this is, you know, at the end of the day, this is all about public safety.  We want to make sure that you know, it’s not just simply assisting people in getting jobs, to help them and their families and to help entire communities, but to help jurisdictions that are faced with a serious public safety interest.  Because if people can’t find jobs, chances are that they will engage in crime.

Len Sipes:  Or they’re going to come back to the criminal justice system, they’re going to victimize somebody else –

June Kress:  That’s right.

Len Sipes:  – they’re going to continue to cost us literally hundreds of billions of dollars.  I mean, 710,000 people every year leave the prison system throughout the country, either the state prison systems or the federal prison systems.  That’s an enormous amount of people – 710,000.  Now if we do, the national recidivism rates at the moment are 50% after three years of returning to the prison system, so we’re talking about 350,000 individuals at the cost of, my heavens, at least $20,000-30,000 a year, the cost of building prisons, we’re talking about hundreds of millions of dollars.  So there’s a lot at stake.  If we can find work for them, if we can find employment for them, that number of people returning back to the prison system goes down dramatically.  That’s the bottom line, correct?

June Kress:  Correct.

Len Sipes:  Okay, now I’m looking at the New York Times, a recent editorial, in their opinion page by two very prominent criminologists, with the idea of, there’s a certain amount of time, there’s certain point where that person loses their stigma as to being dangerous.  There’s a certain point where that person loses that stigma as being a threat to public safety, compared to people who are not involved in crime, they’re in essence saying that after seven or 10 years or so, that that person’s rate of recidivism is no worse or any better than the general population’s rate of recidivism.  So there is a numerical number statistically speaking, as to when these people even out in terms of the risk of public safety.  So it’s that stigma of carrying that criminal record for decades.  Something that happened at 18 and now you’re 38 and the person doesn’t get the job you know, 20 years later – that doesn’t hold water criminologically-speaking, correct?

Peter Willner:  That’s correct.  And you know, I would add to that though that you know, if there are a lot of challenges, like we’ve come across the example in certain industry sectors, so banking or the insurance industry, which are federally regulated.  We’ve learned that in those sectors, they are not free actors to hire whomever they want.  When they hire somebody, it has to be run through a federal agency, so we’ve heard anecdotally that an insurance company tried to hire somebody, the federal regulating agency that oversaw them, found that person had a criminal record from 25 years ago and denied them the ability to hire that person because of that conviction.  So there’s a whole series of federal regulations that are industry-specific that add to the complexity of this challenge and that you know, I think trying to factor in some of the criminological research to come up with a better approach to this is something that’s certainly worthwhile but tackling those various federally-regulated sectors is going to be a challenge.

Len Sipes:  But the low-hanging fruit here is that certainly we can all agree – I mean, everybody, not just the three of us in this room, but everybody can agree that there is a certain amount of time where the person’s criminal history should no longer be held against them, so issuing a “certificate of rehabilitation” for somebody who’s 10 years past their crime, according to the piece that I was looking at in the New York Times, that certainly everybody would agree that you can’t hold him responsible for the actions of his youth forever.  I mean, if I was held responsible for the stupidity of my youth, I wouldn’t be sitting here, I wouldn’t be a member of the criminal justice system.  There is a certain point where forgiveness is in society’s best interest and we should move on.

June Kress:  Well especially if someone has served their time.

Peter Willner:  Right.  But even if they’ve served their time, they could be fresh from prison.  I mean, they could say to themselves, okay, well let’s see how well he adjusts in society before I give him an opportunity to hire.  I’m simply saying there is a point where we could easily agree and we could disagree as to the years.  I think they were, in the research, we’re talking about seven years.  There is a certain point where it just doesn’t make any sense to continue to hold that person responsible for what happened 10 years ago, 15 years ago.

June Kress:  Well the collateral consequences are too great.

Len Sipes:  Right, right.

Peter Willner:  Yeah, and I would just add that you know, I’m not sure that it’s in anyone’s interest to have an agency certify that someone is rehabilitated.  I think there are a lot of good, you know, I think really saying anyone is rehabilitated is a –

June Kress:  Risky business.

Peter Willner:   – considerable challenge. And I think really, what we found when it came to what employers were interested in, they just wanted to know if that person was in compliance.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Peter Willner:  With the conditions of their release.  And so I think a much more accurate way to describe what we’re talking about is to call it a certificate of good standing.

Len Sipes:  A certificate of good standing.

Peter Willner:  So, I –

Len Sipes:  That’s an important point.

Peter Willner:  Yeah, I don’t think an employer wants to know that somebody’s rehabilitated, I mean, appreciating what we’ve seen here in the District recently regarding you know, people who’ve been convicted of embezzling and all that who’ve never had a criminal record.

Len Sipes:  Right.

June Kress:  Right. When I said risky business, I meant that because the definition of rehabilitation is such a loaded definition open to you know, many, many different interpretations by many different people.  Opting away from using that term, I think is the way to go.

Len Sipes:  The conversations I’ve had to the employment, with the employment community – and we only have five minutes left in the program – I’ve had some surprisingly frank conversations with people in the employment community and they’ve essentially come to me and said, Leonard, what you just said a little while ago – if you tell me that the guy or the woman is a clean risk, will show up every day, will work hard, I’ll consider hiring that person.  I’m not going to say as a class I’m not going to hire anybody caught up in the criminal justice system.  You heard a lot of that, correct?

Peter Willner:  Correct.

Len Sipes:  I mean, it goes against the stereotype; I’m not going to hire you because you’ve been in the prison system.  Any employer sitting down at night and watching these network programs, Hard Time, Lock Up, I mean, how in the name of heavens do we ask that person the following day to consider somebody who is out of that environment.  If I sat there and I spent my night watching those programs, I wouldn’t hire anybody coming out of the prison system because that’s the stereotype I have of that individual.  But yet, surprisingly, the employers that I’ve talked to said, no, I will.  You’ve just got to make it easy for me.

Peter Willner:  Well, and I think that you know, a lot of the folks that we’ve talked to and I’m referring to former offenders, a lot of them have gotten to the point where they’re highly motivated people, that I think that they possess a lot of the attributes that employers are looking for and it’s a lot, you know, 50% of the game when you’re hiring somebody is, can you show up?  Will you be reliable?  Will you do what I ask, what I want you to do without a lot of fuss?

Len Sipes:  Right.

Peter Willner:  And I think there are a lot of people who have, when they’ve been in prison, they’ve had a chance to reflect and they are ready to make that next step and they’re highly motivated employees.

June Kress:  I would just add that they’re also – it can be extremely good role models for other people. They have been through challenges and have surmounted those challenges, and that to me is a very good role model.

Len Sipes:  Well, it just doesn’t have to deal with that particular individual because the great majority of the people under our supervision have kids.  So it’s just not him, it’s just not her, it’s them.

June Kress:  Right.

Len Sipes:  In terms of being a role model, in terms of setting an example, in terms of breaking a chain throughout the course of the years, in terms of just putting you know, them in a nice place to live and food on the table.  So much of this has real implications for the larger society.  But the sense that I got from the employers is, I’m not here to deal with the larger society, I’m here to make a dollar.  The great majority of hiring comes from the private sector and you’ve got to prove to me that this person is going to help me accomplish my purposes.

Peter Willner:  Yeah, I think that’s right but I think that, you know, I think you can’t discount that there are … I mean, not every private employer is exclusively motivated by the bottom line.  I mean, that certainly is a major factor in what they do but there are private employers who have a sense of moral justice and you know, what’s right and trying to promote you know, people and trying to help people and families, that can also edge your bottom line.  If you’re helping families near your neighborhood store, for example, if you can help them become more economically stable, that might have you know, longer term effects on your business.

Len Sipes:  I was being the devil’s advocate because I –

June Kress:  You know, I would, I understand though –

Len Sipes:   – I’ve interviewed those employers, I’ve interviewed those employers who sat through the microphones and said, it’s in society’s best interest for me to hire.

June Kress:  Well, but even if we all agreed that the bottom like is you know, making money, any employer who really, really gets it, knows that this is a worthy investment to get people back on their feet, to ensure that the taxes are paid – it all goes back into the community, which then helps their bottom line.

Len Sipes:  We only have a minute left, so to the Mayor of Milwaukee, to the council person here in the District of Columbia, to the congressional aides sitting there on capitol hill, what must they understand based upon your research?  Certainly, certainly the fact that this is in society’s best interest and they’re willing to hire if they’re given the right set of circumstances.

Peter Willner:  Right, and I think that there’s, that there are lots of people who are coming out of prison and jail who are at that point where they are ready to be contributing members of society and a lot of them are at the point where they would make excellent employees and be excellent contributors.

Len Sipes:  Peter, you’ve got the final word.  June do you have something quickly?

June Kress:  I would just add that to those mayors of Milwaukee and other jurisdictions, we would encourage them to have a community dialogue about collateral consequences like employment and all of the other collateral consequences of long-term imprisonment.  It’s good for the community to talk about this.

Len Sipes:  And I think what the Council for Court Excellence has done is extraordinarily valuable, not only to here in the District of Columbia but to this issue throughout the county.  I think you all have produced an extraordinarily important piece of research and we thank you for it.  Ladies and gentlemen, today our guests have been June Kress, Executive Director, Council for Court Excellence; Peter Willner, he is the Senior Policy Analyst for the Council for Court Excellence.  The report on employing offenders, www.courtexcellence.org. Court excellence is one word.  www.courtexcellence.org.  Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety.  We thank you for your letters, we thank you for your cards, we thank you for all of your input at the show – suggestions and in terms of ways that we can improve what it is that we do.  And we want everybody to have themselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]

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CBS News: Reentry and Sanction Center

This Television Program is available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/video/?p=20

See http://media.csosa.gov for “DC Public Safety” radio and television shows.
See www.csosa.gov for the web site of the federal Court Services and Offender Services Agency.
See http://media.csosa.gov/blog for the “DC Public safety” blog.

(Audio begins)

Reporter 1: Of the 600,000 inmates America’s prisons release every year, almost two-thirds are expected to be back behind bars within 3 years. Proof corrections experts say that we need new ways to prepare inmates for life beyond the prison walls. That’s tonight’s weekend journal, an exclusive look at a program officially launched this month that seems to be working.

Reporter 2: That’s Decarus Wardrett wielding the trimmer. “Little Man” as he’s known at the North East Washington, DC Barber Shop where he works long days. He’s also working hard at staying clean and out of prison.

Reporter 2: Were drugs a big part of your life?

Decarus Wardrett: Yes, marijuana, crack cocaine, cocaine, PCP. I’ve used it.

Reporter 2: Wardrette is like most offenders. Up to 70% have substance abuse problems, constantly in and out of prison. 42 year old Wardrett has been locked up 10 times; his last stint, more than 7 years for robbery. His repeated incarcerations put him here,

Decarus Wardrett: I didn’t really want to come,

Reporter 2: In DC’s innovative Re-entry and Sanctions program. Hard core federal inmates spend 28 days preparing for their release back into the community by focusing on the drug problems that likely began their downward spiral in the first place.

Male 1: Yeah, I do have a problem with authority figures.

Reporter 2: Counseling plays a big part and includes psychotherapy, fatherhood training and anger management with specialized treatment plans for each resident.

Paul Quander: It forces you to look at yourself. It’s difficult to go back and talk about what happened in your childhood. It’s difficult to talk about your mother and your mother’s substance abuse. It’s difficult to talk about how the first time you saw someone use drugs it was your grandmother.

Reporter 2: The approach used here is part of a growing trend across the country, preparing inmates for re-entering the community and staying out of trouble. That’s a major shift from the philosophy of the last two decades when the focus was on building more prisons. But a significant push came in 2004 when President Bush proposed funding for re-entry programs and Congress approved the Second Chance Act.

Paul Quander: The bottom line is people are going to come home. And we can have them come home from hardened without any resources, without any hope, or we can invest the money and we can invest in the people and we can invest in our communities. It’s not treatment versus lock them up. It’s treatment to enhance public safety. That’s the key.

Reporter 2: Decarus Wardrett knows that.

Decarus Wardrett: So I’m tired of going to jail.

Reporter 2: It’s not going to happen again?

Decarus Wardrett: No, I pray to God it won’t. You know, we can never say never, but each and every day is a struggle so I pray.

Reporter 1: The Second Chance Act is still pending in the House of Representatives.

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