Employing Ex-Offenders

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Radio Program available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2014/02/employing-ex-offenders/

[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes: From the nation’s capital this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host Leonard Sipes. Ladies and gentlemen, the show topic today is Employing Ex-Offenders. We have two people under our supervision here at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency and a Job Development Specialist to talk about this whole process of employing people caught up in the criminal justice system. We have Kenyan Blakely; he is with the Department of Human Resources, the DC Department of Human Resources as a Support Services Assistant. We have Kenneth Trice; he is with the Greater Mount Calvary Holy Church. He is with Facilities. They’re doing facilities and maintenance. And we have Tony Lewis, star of the Washington Post and lots of other media. He is a Job Development Specialist here at the Court Services and Offenders Supervision Agency, www.csosa.gov, www.csosa.gov. On the front page of our website we have radio shows, televisions shows, trying to entice employers into a discussion called crowd sourcing in the social media world, to try to gain some sense of perspective as to what it takes for us to employ or to prompt the employment of people under our supervision. On any given day we have 14,000 people under our supervision, any given year, 23,000, but half are unemployed. Tony Lewis, your job is a Job Development Specialist for CSOSA, welcome.

Tony Lewis: Welcome. I mean, thank you for having me Mr. Sipes.

Len Sipes: I really appreciate all of you guys being here to have this discussion, extraordinary important discussion. Tell me how easy is it to convince employers to hire people under our supervision.

Tony Lewis: It’s not that easy. It’s pretty difficult actually. You know, the analogy that I always use is it’s like as if I have a store, right, and all the merchandise in my store is perceived to be broken and I’m trying to convince the customer to buy it because I have faith in it, I know that it works, but to them they feel like it’s broken. So typically that’s what I do every day all day is trying to convince people that something they perceive to be broken is not necessarily broke and it actually can get the job done. And I think we have a lot of talent in terms of our client base. We have a lot of motivated people, talented people that are ready to go into the workforce.

Len Sipes: Now, I have been doing this, doing radio and television about the criminal justice system for about 20 years. I have spoken to hundreds of people under supervision, who used to be under supervision who are currently employed and their lives are going along just peachy.

Tony Lewis: Sure.

Len Sipes: We know that the research indicates that when they’re employed, the better they do under supervision, the less they recidivate, the less they come back into the criminal justice system. It’s a win-win situation for everybody. You and I have both talked to hundreds and hundreds of people who have successfully made that transformation from the prison system to being good citizens through employment. So what’s wrong with our message? What are we not doing that we should be doing to prompt the people, employers, to hire people under our supervision?

Tony Lewis: To me I think we are taking all the proper steps. I think what happens is that there’s a stigma associated with people that have been incarcerated, previously incarcerated. And so when one person or two people, you know, so to speak, that happens to get an opportunity and blow their opportunity or reoffend, I think it can never—it has a much more significant impact than a hundred people that do it the right people. And I think that’s the issue more so than us not taking the proper—cause we’re preparing our offenders that we supervise, we’re taking them through steps for them to prove their commitment, we’re presenting talented and people with the proper skill sets to do the job and I think hiring policies across the board is probably the biggest barrier. Because hiring policies take like such a broad stroke in terms of have you ever been convicted of a felony or, you know, it’s no case-by-case basis. People are not looked at as individuals. They’re grouped into these pools and they’re put into groups where these stereotypes are really prompted by one or two individuals that made bad decisions. And so I think we’ve got to chip away at the hiring policies and maybe look to redefine those.

Len Sipes: Www.csosa.gov is the website. On the website you’re going to find radio and television shows, again, designed to prompt that conversation with the employment community. We’re inviting people to come and talk to us and give us information in terms of what it is that we can do in terms of making it easier for people to hire people under our supervision. I want to go to our two gentlemen who are currently under supervision. And we have Kenyan Blakely as I said and Kenneth Trice. Gentleman, either one of you can go and run with this question. So, everybody, not everybody, there’s a lot of people out there who have the stereotype that people who are caught up in the criminal justice system, I’m just not going to deal with them. I’m not going to hire them. I don’t care about them. I’m not going to support programs for them. It’s a little harder when you’re sitting here face-to-face as I’ve talked to literally thousands of people who are doing well, who were once caught up in the criminal justice system, but now they’re doing well. People use the word criminal, well that applies to both of you. They say I’m not going to hire criminals. So I’m going to start off with Kenneth. Are you a criminal, is that how you see yourself?

Kenneth Trice: No Leonard, I’m not a criminal.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Kenneth Trice: I just made bad judgments.

Len Sipes: Right.

Kenneth Trice: And now I’m okay.

Len Sipes: And you’re okay because of why, because of how, what happened? I mean, you’re with one of the greatest faith institutions in Washington, DC, the Greater Mount Calvary Holy Church. I mean, it’s known, not just throughout the District of Columbia, it’s known throughout the country. Is that how you were able to cross that bridge, by working with them?

Kenneth Trice: No. It came from my CSO.

Len Sipes: Your Community Supervision Officer?

Kenneth Trice: Yes.

Len Sipes: Okay. Otherwise known as Parole and Probation Agents for everybody listening throughout—beyond DC.

Kenneth Trice: Yes. It started with him. He put me on GPS leg, angel bracelet.

Len Sipes: Right, Global Positioning System monitoring.

Kenneth Trice: And then he referred me to the VOTE Unit and from there I went into Project Empowerment and from there I got placed at Greater Mount Calvary. From there I was just in the program and then once my time was up they picked me up, I started as a part-time worker. That phase lasted for maybe four or five months and then they hired me full-time, benefits and everything and now I’m just focused. It’s all about determination and perseverance. You’ve just got to be—you’ve got to know what you want, bottom line. If you feel that you—you’re going to do wrong regardless, its just nature, but you have to I guess overlook it, I guess.

Len Sipes: What did the job mean to you in terms of crossing that bridge?

Kenneth Trice: Well, it means a lot. I’m no longer, I mean, I’m still looked at as maybe an offender. I don’t want to call myself a criminal. I’m looked at as an offender but now that I have gainful employment I feel that another employer will hire me. They may overlook my background being as though I’ve been working now.

Len Sipes: But you believe that you’ve proved yourself, that you have crossed that bridge, you are now a taxpayer, you’re not a tax burden, you are what everybody in society wants you to be.

Kenneth Trice: Yes sir.

Len Sipes: Okay, and how does that feel?

Kenneth Trice: It feels wonderful.

Len Sipes: And what message would you give to other people who have the opportunity to employ somebody like you?

Kenneth Trice: Please employ them.

Len Sipes: And they would do that because of why? They would employ somebody caught up in the criminal justice system for what reason?

Kenneth Trice: To give them a chance to prove themselves.

Len Sipes: All right. And Kenyan, Kenyan Blakely, again, working for the Department of Human Resources for DC Government, a Support Services Assistant, the same questions are going to go to you, I mean, these are tough questions. I use the term criminal advisedly. I have heard from employers in the past I’m not going to hire ex-cons, I’m not going to hire criminals and it is like they—what they are meaning is is that everybody falls into one category. They have a mental image of exactly who they are. They have a mental image of the fact that they’re going to create problems for me, thereby; I’m not going to hire them. But then again I sit down with the two of you and I don’t see fangs, I don’t see blood dripping from your teeth, I see just two regular guys who are now doing well partially because of employment, correct or incorrect?

Kenyan Blakely: Correct.

Kenneth Trice: Correct.

Len Sipes: All right, well tell me that. Get closer to the microphone.

Kenyan Blakely: I’ve always—I’ve had jobs, you know, I’ve been on—probably since prior to being on CSOSA and I went on a bunch of job interviews, went on job interviews this go round and I’ve had people pull me to the side and say your resume is excellent, your work ethic, everything, but it’s just, you know, it’s just that background. You can’t pass that background check or it’s not in my hands, it’s in someone else’s hands and they want to go with—but they took a chance on hiring them. Why you can’t take a chance on hiring me? You have people who have committed no crime ever in life, but their work ethic sucks. So you have to take a chance on someone, why not take a chance with someone who has a lot to loose, but a lot go gain too also. So, you know, it’s give and take with it. Like I’ve had people straight up tell me to my face outside of the office, I want you, I want you for this position, but I can’t bring you in. And they would just tell me, you know, don’t stop looking, and I’ve never stopped looking. I’ve always had two jobs. I’ve always had a part-time job on the weekend and now I have full-time employment. Like I said, I’ve started in the program with Tony a whole, almost a year in the program and I got a phone call and it’s like come upstairs you’re going on an interview. I’m like interview for what? They were like people watch you.

Len Sipes: That’s great. What does the job mean to you in terms of your ability or inability to return to crime?

Kenyan Blakely: It was never really—it was choices that we made. Those choices were wrong. I admit those. I’m the first to admit anything that I’ve every done wrong, but now, you know, as a father, I’m a father of two, you know, you just want to be able to not leave them anymore. Not to lose everything that you’ve gained, lose it over and over and over, come home to have nothing, now I’m building to have everything that I lost to have back. You know, I have a daughter that’s six, I have a son that’s 12. I never want to leave them again. I never want them to look up and be like where’s my dad. I can’t talk to him when I want to. I can’t see him. So those are the things that linger in the back of your head at all times. So when I come to work on them days I don’t feel like getting up, those are my get up, let’s go and it’s no holding back, no, oh, it’s cold outside, I don’t feel like getting, no, I’m in there every day.

Len Sipes: Tony Lewis, we have credits, tax credits—

Tony Lewis: Yes.

Len Sipes: For people who do hire people under supervision, we do have a bonding program, there’s a Federal bonding program that mitigates the amount of risk that they have. All of this is available on our website, www.csosa.gov. All right, so from a societal point of view it is extraordinarily important that people who we supervise find work.

Tony Lewis: Absolutely. It increases public safety for one. Like you spoke about people working are less prone or less likely to break the law and these two gentlemen can attest to that. They’re a representation of many people—the ones that we are able to get employed. And the program that they spoke about is the Transitional Employment Program that we have here at CSOSA. That’s in partnership with the DC Department of Employment Services. Where we basically place individuals in jobs where we pay they salary. It’s a stipend, a subsidized wage, but it gives them an opportunity to audition and so you can see these people for themselves and not just a person on paper that broke the law in the past. And that may be ten years ago, it may be two years ago, it may be 20 years ago, it gives an opportunity for that person to highlight their skillset, learn new skills and it’s for people to see them as human beings and not just a quote, unquote, criminal. And so the beauty of that program is that that’s what it affords to no cost to the employer. Now I know that’s not something that exists all across the country, but when people have an opportunity to see these guys every day and to gauge their work ethic and see their personalities and to know that they’re fathers and things like that, it really helps the employer to see them in a different light.

Len Sipes: But that’s the thing that always killed me gentleman, and anybody can come into this conversation, is that you can have the image; you can watch the 6:00 news and hear the news about somebody doing something terrible to another human being. You can watch the 6:00 news, the 11:00 news, pick up the newspaper, read the same sort of stuff, there’s a certain point you say to yourself, man, the people involved in this stuff, I’m not going to have anything to do with. I’m going to move as far away as I possibly can from them and I’m just not going to have anything to do with them. But then, again, you sit and talk eyeball-to-eyeball as we’re doing now and you’re just regular guys. You’re not the stereotype that you think of at the 6:00 news. You’re just regular guys.

Kenneth Trice: Exactly.

Len Sipes: You’re not the stereotype that you think of at the 6:00 news, you’re just regular guys. How can we transmit that, hey, I’m a regular guy, I just need a chance. I understand I screwed up. I understand I made mistakes, but please do not hold that against me for the rest of my life. How do you transmit that information to people who hire?

Kenneth Trice: I think a lot of companies need to change their hiring process. Not just to—you’ve got two strikes against you, you have one, either your credit is bad or you’re a criminal. Why should those two things stop you from gaining employment? Like you need employment. If you don’t have employment for people they’ll turn to do other things to a life of crime.

Len Sipes: They’re going to say, but I’ve got plenty of people who don’t have those backgrounds. I’ve got plenty of people with good credit without a criminal background, why am I going to hire the dude—

Kenyan Blakely: I got a point for you.

Len Sipes: Go please.

Kenyan Blakely: If you have all those people that you work for, do a background check after the fact, a lot of them won’t tell you that they have a criminal past after they’ve been hired. So you will never know if you don’t go back and do a background check every year or so often on an employer. You have employees who’ve been at companies prior to them getting in trouble but the company will never know, but they’ll be like, oh, we don’t—once you have the job it’s okay. What you do before that—

Len Sipes: Because they get to know you.

Kenyan Blakely: Exactly.

Len Sipes: They get to see you as a worker so the criminal background disappears because all they see is a good worker. How do we get people to that point? But hold that thought cause I want to reintroduce everybody. Ladies and gentleman, this is DC Public Safety. We’re talking about employing ex-offenders. We’ve got Tony Lewis, Job Development Specialist with my agency, the Court Services and Offenders Supervision Agency, www.csosa.gov. We have Kenyan Blakely, he is with the Department of Human Resources for the District of Columbia, Support Services Assistant and we have Kenneth Trice, he is with the Greater Mount Calvary Holy Church. He is with Facilities & Maintenance. How we convince, again, you know, get beyond the stereotype, get you in there, sit down, talk to you because all three of us, four of us in the room know that after six months that criminal history disappears. All we have to do is get beyond that point of hiring and that point of success. How do we get to that point?

Kenyan Blakely: Give people a chance.

Len Sipes: Okay, but there again, they’re going to say, once again, I’ve got some people here without a criminal history and I’ve got some people here with a great credit background. If I’ve got to give somebody a chance, I’m going to go with a guy without a criminal history and without a bad credit history. I’m going to increase the odds of a successful employment in their minds by employing the person without the background.

Kenneth Trice: I think what happens, Mr. Sipes, is that when you find, from a business standpoint, it’s about the bottom line, right.

Len Sipes: Right.

Kenneth Trice: So for me as a job developer, my thing is to say I’m not asking for a hand out, I’m here to help you by being able to connect with talent, right, something that’s going to increase your bottom line, going to increase your productivity. And the other part of that is that it’s no way, you know, when you hire whomever, no matter what their background is, you don’t necessarily know what you’re getting. So businesses have to, I think, take a standpoint to say if this person’s crime does not have a rational relationship, so let’s be very clear, we’re not saying if you robbed a bank, you should be able to work at Wells Fargo, right.

Len Sipes: Or if you’re a sex offender you should be doing daycare, nobody’s saying that.

Kenneth Trice: Absolutely, no, nobody’s saying that, but if I committed a crime five years ago that has no relationship to the job, why can’t I work there?

Len Sipes: We have, the bottom line I want to make is that we have good people right now under our supervision; we have 14,000 human beings under our supervision right now, 23,000 human beings under our supervision in any given year. We’ve got people right now ready to go who are not a risk to public safety, who have real skills, who don’t have drug positives, they’re ready to go right now. We can give them tax credits to get them involved in the bonding program, plus they have their Community Supervision Officer, known elsewhere as a Parole and Probation Agent, who can help the employer deal with problems if they come up.

Kenneth Trice: And a Vocational Development Specialist.

Len Sipes: And a Vocational Development Specialist and in many cases training that we and the District of Columbia and other cities throughout the country get involved in and plus we have GED programs, we have educational programs, we have job readiness programs. Why would you not come to us if we can deliver a talented person ready to work.

Kenneth Trice: Sure. And sometimes people that you’re hiring, even if the person’s out of college, sometimes people out of college haven’t necessarily even, in my mind, had the training. I mean, I think about the training that we provide here at CSOSA and I think about, wow, if I had that going into the job market, like if I learned things, I mean, just whether it’s interviewing, whether it’s, you know, just gaining a concept of workplace expectations. I learned that on the fly. We’re preparing people to enter the workforce and stay there through our programming. I mean, you know, and even we’re taking steps to even interface with people pre-release, myself and Mr. Blakely, our first communication started when he was in River’s Correctional Institution via teleconference. And then he met with Whittington and she did what she does and then he got referred from her to the program. Kenny Trice met with Dr. Sutton and she did what she does in terms of prepping him and gauging his readiness and gauging his commitment. Then he got referred to the program. So there’s rigger in terms of what we do because when we present people to the workforce, we’re trying to present someone that we’re going to be confident in, somebody’s that already proven to us that they’re legit and that they’re ready. So it’s not just like, hey, somebody gets off a bus from prison and we’re sending them to you as the employer and saying, hey, you should give them a job. No, we’re taking the proper steps to ensure that whoever we refer to you is somebody that’s going to come in and increase your productivity.

Len Sipes: Okay, and so, and anybody can jump in on this conversation, don’t hold back. Okay, so, generally speaking, within the District of Columbia, generally speaking, within major cities throughout the country, you have unemployment somewhere around six to eight percent. We have unemployment at 50%.

Kenneth Trice: Sure.

Len Sipes: Okay, so all the wonderful things that we’ve just said, bonding programs, tax credits, training, GED, workforce development, you’ve got all that going for us, you’ve got a Job Developer whose going to work with you, you’ve got a Community Supervision Officer, ala, Parole and Probation Agent, but yet you can not escape the numbers, six to eight percent versus 50%. Why is that?

Kenyan Blakely: I think a lot of people just need to wake up from what they’re doing and really understand that you need gainful employment, like you can’t play with it, I don’t care what it is that you do, but, bottom line, you don’t want to be too old and not be able to get a job. Like me, I just want them to know that I have skills; every day that I go to work I’m showing you my skills.

Len Sipes: But, bottom line, how many people are there like you?

Kenyan Blakely: There are a lot. There are a lot.

Len Sipes: So tell me, how many?

Kenyan Blakely: I think there are over 20,000 in this city that want to work.

Len Sipes: All right. So we’ve got thousands of people right now—I can’t speak for everybody in the District, I’m talking about people under our supervision here at CSOSA. We all know the folks. We interact with them every single day.

Kenyan Blakely: Sure.

Len Sipes: And we know that some aren’t ready, we know that some are still struggling, we know that some are pulling drug positives, we know that some are hanging out on the corner causing problems.

Kenneth Trice: Right, but we’re not talking about them.

Len Sipes: We know that, but we’re not talking about them.

Kenneth Trice: Yep.

Len Sipes: We’re not asking for charity.

Kenyan Blakely: Exactly.

Len Sipes: Okay, so if we’re tossing them off to the side and we’re talking about people, real grown-ups who are ready to work and who are going to do a good job for you, how many are we talking about?

Tony Lewis: I think we, in the City, I mean, under supervision I think probably out of your 14,000, I think you probably, strongly, probably half. I’m going to give you 7,000.

Len Sipes: Seven thousand human beings that aren’t employed that are ready to go. They’re not employed for what reason?

Tony Lewis: Some people I think they just need a chance or just some people they have to show that they want to work, like the work ethic. Like everybody that comes through the program isn’t going to make it, everybody that comes through CSOSA, we already know isn’t going to make it.

Len Sipes: Right.

Tony Lewis: You know, you have those who like, when they come through the door, hey, I’m going to do what I want to do when I want to do it.

Len Sipes: Right.

Tony Lewis: Life doesn’t work that way. Until you get that in your head that you’ve got to follow these rules, cause most people, we don’t want to get up and go to work, we want to sit home, you know, you have to work, that’s just it. I have never been the type person that didn’t want to work.

Len Sipes: Yeah, I’ve never been able to figure out how to get around not working. I’ve been looking for that my entire life and I haven’t found it yet. But, you know, Kenyan, I talked to you, you’re interviewing perfectly, you have bright eye, you know, eye contact, delivering everything perfect, I would hire you in a second.

Kenyan Blakely: Appreciate that.

Len Sipes: I would hire you in a second. You know, Kenneth, same way with you. You’re looking at me direct, you’re interviewing well, I would hire you in a second. What is it that I am getting that everybody else is not getting? Everybody else is sitting out there and saying, okay, dude, look they’re caught in the criminal justice system. I already told you I’m not going to hire somebody caught up in the criminal justice system.

Tony Lewis: Most companies just can’t get past that.

Kenyan Blakely: It’s that, it’s background.

Kenneth Trice: The hiring policies, and especially Len, when we’re talking about today’s world, talking about 90% of job searches done via the internet and you have, you know, questions, have you ever been convicted of a felony. And a lot of times you check yes, that’s it for you, that’s an eliminator. It doesn’t matter how long ago it was, it doesn’t matter what you did, it’s like no. And especially, we’re talking about here in the District of Columbia where you have probably the most bustling job market in the country, right, where you’ve got the most moved to place America. People are coming here solely because of the strength of the job market but we have native Washingtonians, we have people under supervision who can’t get a job at all. You know what I mean? It shouldn’t even be an issue but at the end of the day people aren’t being judged on their skillset, they’re being judged just solely based on crime.

Len Sipes: All right. And there’s a certain point—what we’re saying is is that fundamentally, morally, ethically, that could be wrong, is wrong, but more importantly, we’re saying to a business person, because business hires, does 80% of the hiring, you’re not protecting your bottom line because there are good people that you could be hiring.

Kenneth Trice: Precisely.

Len Sipes: You’re not making the money you could be making, you’re not doing as well as you could be doing because we’ve got 7,000 people ready to rock and roll right now.

Kenneth Trice: So, and 7,000 people, something that Kenyan brought up, that may possibly work harder than your just normal Joe Blow, because they have everything to lose. They’re going to value their job because they know they just can’t go anywhere and get a job.

Len Sipes: You know, in the 20 years of interviewing people that’s one of the most powerful points is that I’ve got so much to lose I am not going to screw this up.

Kenneth Trice: Yes.

Len Sipes: And that’s a powerful incentive, I mean, look, I mean, Kenyan just basically said, I’m not going to leave my kids again.

Kenneth Trice: Absolutely.

Len Sipes: And we’re not talking about just people under supervision, we’re talking about the fact that most people under supervision got kids.

Kenneth Trice: That’s right. Exactly.

Len Sipes: So we’re not just talking about them, we’re talking about kids. So now instead of the 7,000, let’s times it by two just to be on the average, so now we’re talking about 14,000 human beings.

Kenneth Trice: Yep.

Len Sipes: Let alone spouses, you know—

Kenneth Trice: Sure. Sure.

Len Sipes: And another 7,000, we’re up to 20,000 people. We’re up to 20,000 people affected and their lives are coming to a halt because you’re saying to yourself, Mr. Employer, this guy ten years ago committed a burglary, I’m not touching him.

Kenneth Trice: Sure.

Len Sipes: Is that it? Is it that stark? Is it that real?

Kenyan Blakely: It’s that real.

Len Sipes: And what we’ve got to do to get beyond that reality is what gentlemen? How do we convince them?

Kenyan Blakely: Give them a chance.

Len Sipes: Give them a chance.

Kenyan Blakely: Just give them a chance. But like me, for instance, my last interview that I went on, they looked at everything, they asked me questions about it, they went straight to it and I told them if you give me a chance I won’t let you down. Everybody that sat in front of me—there was four people on the panel. I left out, an hour later I got an e-mail, offer letter and everything, you know, just like we’re going to give you a shot. It was two other people and they gave me the shot and I was happy. And to this day they’re still looking at me like, Kenyan, you’re in here. I’m trying, like I don’t want to—like I’ve been at my job almost a year. I come from—my first agency was, as a matter of fact, what was that—the Agency for Public Affairs, and I was under the Mayor’s Office, I worked for Officer of Partnerships and Grant Services and now I work for DC Department of Human Resources. And like I met so many people through the agencies, through District Government and, you know, they don’t know your story until you talk to them and then when you give them some insight they’re like wow, like you came from that to this. Yes, I did. Like a lot of people can’t walk in those shoes.

Len Sipes: Tony, you’ve got 30 seconds before we have to wrap up. I’m going to give you a chance to close. What do we say to people, what do we say to employers, what do we say to their husbands and wives, what do we say to get them to give people like Kenyan, like Kenneth, a chance.

Tony Lewis: Bottom line is that we have talented, motivated people that can potentially bring new ideas, can increase your productivity and an overall sense, I think it’s just better for society and our community when we have people gainfully employed. It leads to a safer environment, it leads to a more productive environment and, you know, we need everybody who can help should and I think we’re moving in the right direction and at the same time the people that we supervise also have to be accountable to continue to do the right thing and not reoffend.
Len Sipes: Everybody’s got to pull together.

Tony Lewis: Absolutely.

Len Sipes: Everybody’s got to row the same boat in the same direction.

Tony Lewis: Yes sir.

Len Sipes: All right. Gentleman, I really want to thank you very much for being with us today. It was an extraordinarily important topic. I do want to remind all of our listeners, again, at our website, www.csosa.gov. We have a series of radio and television shows where we talk about this issue of hiring people under supervision. We really do want people to call us, contact us, let us know how we can do a better job of preparing people to be employed with their company. You can always give me a call, 202-220-5616, 202-220-5616. Ladies and gentleman, this is DC Public Safety. We appreciate your comments. We even appreciate your criticisms and we want everybody to have yourselves a pleasant day.

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

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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.

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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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Interview with Ex-Offender Eddie Ellis-DC Public Safety Radio

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

Radio Program available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2011/10/interview-with-ex-offender-eddie-ellis-dc-public-safety-radio/

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 am your host, Leonard Sipes.  Ladies and gentlemen, it’s a real pleasure today to have Lamont Carey. Lamont’s been around for a long time.  He’s a fixture, not only in Washington DC, but throughout the country.  Lamont spent 11 years in the federal prison system for committing a crime in Washington DC, and he’s been an outspoken individual regarding the condition of people coming outside of the prison system and in the world where the overwhelming majority of people who come out of the prison system are basically ignored.  He’s gotten an awful lot of press.  Let me tell you a lit bit about what Lamont Carey has done within the course of the last 10 years, 11 years:  HBO, for the Def Poetry Jam, on Home Box Office, he’s done The Wire, again, with HBO, probably the best crime and justice program ever on television.  Black Entertainment Tonight, Lyric Cafe, he worked, he’s spoken at the National Cathedral multiple times talking about the plight of ex-offenders.  He’s done a ton of media both in the United States and Canada.  He’s been with Al Sharpton, with the National Action Network, and he has written a book called The Hill, just out, about his journey through prison, and he’s also, in progress, his film, a video called Outside the Gate.  Lamont Carey, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Lamont Carey:  Thank you for having me.

Len Sipes:  All right, man.  Again, what I said at the beginning, what I said in terms of the introduction is that the overwhelming majority of people coming out of the prison system, they don’t talk to anybody.

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  I mean, they don’t even talk to their own sister.

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  And here it is that you’re talking on – you know, you’ve been with a couple HBO productions.  You’ve been at the National Cathedral.  You’ve been at media throughout the United States and Canada.  You’ve been with Al Sharpton.  You’ve been at the National Cathedral.  You’ve been with BET.  Why is all this going on when everybody else is ignored, you’re getting all this air time.

Lamont Carey:  Well, I think the difference between me and everybody else is that I’m not afraid of where I come from.  Most people don’t talk about the things that they think will hurt them, so I was once labeled a product of my environment.  Now I use those experiences as my product, and that is how I make my living.

Len Sipes:  But everybody goes through the same thing you went through.  What is it that – I need to know this.  What is it that distinguishes you from everybody else?  Everybody is talking about this, but they’re just talking to each other.

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  Everybody is going into group.  Everybody is talking to their friends.  Everybody is standing on the corner.  You’re standing on the corner at HBO with The Wire.

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  Okay, so, there’s got to be something unique and something different in your experience versus everybody else.

Lamont Carey:  Well, when I came home from prison, before I came home, I decided I was going to be successful.  I decided I was going to give back to my community, and with both of those goals in mind and the developing in it a grasp of entertainment, I figured that I would combine all of those and that would be how – One, I remember where I come from but also use it as a stepping stone to get where I’m going, so I’m fearless.  I turn all of that into a business, and so that, I think, what makes me a little different than most.

Len Sipes:  Okay, I’m going to try this one more time.  Okay, I’ve been interviewing people out of the prison system for 20 years.  Everybody wants to give back.  Nobody wants to go back to prison.  Everybody wants their voice heard.  Nobody’s voice is heard.

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  There is something unique about you, I mean – that I’m still trying to get at.  Everybody’s said what you’ve just said.

Lamont Carey:  Yeah, but I’m driven.

Len Sipes:  All right.

Lamont Carey:  I’m driven to succeed underneath it all.  That’s what it is.  I’m driven to succeed.

Len Sipes:  All right, all right. WWW.LAMONTCAREY.COM, WWW.LAMONTCAREY.COM is Lamont’s website for all the different projects that Lamont is working on.  All right, let’s get around to the former offender coming out of the prison system.  All right, so the guy comes out.  The woman comes out.  He hits the street, and what happens?

Lamont Carey:  Well, a lot of – what I think throws a lot of people off when they hit the street is that they deviate from their plan that they created in prison.  Everybody has a plan.  I have a – I’ve been incarcerated in 11 institutions, and every individual that I came into contact with had a plan on what they was going to do when they come home.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Lamont Carey:  But when they get home, they – I guess because they try to live up to the expectations of their family members, they think they have to rescue their family, change their whole standard of living, and so they get thrown off, and they go after jobs, or get on another route that they didn’t plan for, and I think that’s another difference between me and a lot of people is that I didn’t deviate from my plan, so they come home.  They get everything isn’t like they thought it was going to be, I mean, even me, when I was coming home, I thought that all the doors was going to open for me, I was going to be celebrated as a hero or what have you, and then when you get home and you face reality – that I have to go live back at my mother’s house, and she’s doing as bad as I thought she was doing, and I felt those urges, or those desires to want to save her, but I can’t save nobody unless I get myself right, so I had to stick with my plan and follow it to the letter.

Len Sipes:  Okay, so 50 percent, according to national stats, 50 percent of people go back to the prison system within three years.

Lamont Carey:  Right, right.

Len Sipes:  That’s just within three years.

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  I mean beyond three years, more go back.

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  A ton of people go back to the prison system.

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  There can’t be mass hysteria in prison.  Everybody’s got to know how difficult it is when they’re going to get back.

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  That they’re going to be labeled an ex-con.  They’re going to go and try to find jobs, and people are going to go “Hmm.  How many years you spent in prison?”

Lamont Carey:  Right, well I think.

Len Sipes:  Well, you know, everybody’s got to come out of there with a sense of man, it’s going to be hard when I get back to the street, I mean, how could it be any other way?

Lamont Carey:  But they don’t, I mean – a lot.

Len Sipes:  Are you serious?

Lamont Carey:  Yeah, a lot of people don’t because you got to – something that – what took place with me in prison – prison – it’s like you’re living inside of three different worlds.  You’re living off your past, you’re living off of – you got to follow the rules and regulations of the institution.  You’ve got to follow the rules and regulations of the convict, and then you got this future that you’re dreaming of happening, so a lot of individuals assume that when they come home that this woman is going to help them find a job, or the man that they used to hang out with, he’s working at a company, and he said that he can get them a job there, so a lot of times, we believe in there what somebody else is telling us so we don’t see that we’re going to have to, like face applying for a job and not getting it.

Len Sipes:  Somebody’s going to hook you up.  Somebody’s going to take care of you.  Somebody’s three hearts and a card.

Lamont Carey:  Yeah, it’s the hook up.

Len Sipes:  Somebody’s going to give you a place to stay.

Lamont Carey:  Right, right.

Len Sipes:  And nobody in prison is sitting there going, Dude, we got a lot of guys keep coming back.

Lamont Carey:  Well, I did that.  I figured that – the one thing that I knew:  One, that I’m not a construction worker.  I’m not doing no labor.  Two, I knew that I never had a job before.

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

Lamont Carey:  And so, I knew that the chances of me getting a job that is going to pay me 20 dollars an hour like I deserve with no work experience, I knew it was impossible.

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

Lamont Carey:  So I decided that I wanted to work for myself.

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

Lamont Carey:  So I think that is what made me different.  I didn’t expect – what I did expect – I didn’t expect that they were going to give me stuff.  I looked at it as they owed me because they wasn’t there for me while I was in prison, so when I come home, that they was going to give me this, and they were going to give me that, but I also had to face the reality.  What it was, was that they weren’t doing as good as I thought they were doing, but I didn’t get to see that until I came home because most of the time, people don’t reveal that they’re doing as bad as they’re doing.  They might say they can’t send me no money.

Len Sipes:  Right, right.

Lamont Carey:  But, we live – and prisoners live in a fantasy, like I havn’t met too many prisoners that said they’re the corner boy.  Most prisoners say they were the kingpin or close to the kingpin, so a lot of times.

Len Sipes:  Everybody’s on the corner.

Lamont Carey:  Right, so yeah – but that’s not what they say in prison.

Len Sipes:  But do they really believe that?  Does everybody else really believe that?

Lamont Carey:  Well, not really, but what else do we have to go off of?

Len Sipes:  All right, so it’s the convict world.  There’s two things come to mind.  The convict world is what rules in the prison system, not the correctional personnel.  I mean that world –

Lamont Carey:  Right, right.

Len Sipes:  is what rules, and so what you’re saying is that people invent a sort of fantasy world that allows them to exist with some sort of dignity while in the prison system.

Lamont Carey:  Exactly.

Len Sipes:  And when they come back out, sometimes that status gets in the way of clear thinking.

Lamont Carey:  Right.  Because it’s distorted, because you have been incarcerated for two years or ten years, and you’ve been – you get to believe in this lie that you told yourself, and so when you’re telling people what you going to do when you come home, it’s exaggerated, you know what I’m saying?

Len Sipes:  Yeah.

Lamont Carey:  My guy, when I come home, my man, they been doing this.  They been doing that.  They going to give me –

Len Sipes:  They’re going to take care of me, yeah.

Lamont Carey:  Probably a few thousand, so we come out, and that bubble is burst.

Len Sipes:  Now, I have talked to, in a career of 20 years of interviewing people coming out of the prison system, I’ve talked to hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people who have made it.

Lamont Carey:  Okay.

Len Sipes:  And they’re all encouraging, and it really is really neat to hear about the woman who suffered through a life of sexual abuse and child abuse, and she comes out and she gets discouraged, and she gets determined, and she goes out and buys, eventually, three ice cream trucks, and now she’s her own woman.  I mean she’s made her own way.  She said, I’m not going to let anybody step in front of me and tell me no.  I’m going to make my own way.  I’ve told those stories hundreds of times, but at the same time, 50 percent go back to the prison system.  Now 730 thousand people get out of the prison in this country every year.  That’s – conservatively, 350 thousand of those people are going back to the prison system within three years, more than that afterwards, so there’s two ways.  One part of it are all the success stories like yourselves, people who have risen above their own circumstances, people who have that magic moment in their lives, either through God or their families or their own sense of self determination that they’re going to make it, and 50 percent just like, you know, you ask them, “Why did you come back?” and it’s like, they can’t give you an answer.

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  It’s like, dude, I was on the corner, and somebody said, “Man, we’re going to do a hit,” and, you know, people smoking reefer, and it just got out of hand – didn’t mean to get involved in it.  I mean, we’re not talking about necessarily stalking people, you know, just crap happens –

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  is the way a lot of people get caught back up in the criminal justice system.  How do you make sense of all of this?

Lamont Carey:  Well, again, the guys – with the individuals that I think become successful and not going back to prison, they become good at problem solving.  A lot of other people let stress get the better of them.  I can’t find a job.  I need a place to stay, and so when things are not happening according to the way that we want them to happen, we resort back to what we know.

Len Sipes:  Correct.

Lamont Carey:  Because one of the other things I think that ex-offenders or prisoners face is that they believe that they have to forget their whole past, that none of those skills are transferable to a positive and productive life, so a lot of them come home thinking that now they have to erase everything, so now they’re an infant again.

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

Lamont Carey:  And so they need guidance on what to do – I mean, what route they should take to be successful because they have never lived, really, a productive life, and so when things don’t go according to plan, they return back to what they know, and the police are more aware.  Surveillance is greater.  More people are telling, and so that’s how I think they end up – a lot of people end up back in the prison system, or those that used to use drugs fall back under the spell of substance abuse, which leads back to prison.

Len Sipes:  People have told me giving up drugs is somewhat easy.  Giving up the corner is impossible.  Giving up their friends.  Giving up their contacts, and a lot of times, they just get involved in crap that they have no business being involved in.

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  And again, it’s not – you know, there’s a huge difference in terms of people who are involved in criminal activity, between that person who says, “I’m leaving this house tonight, and I’m committing a crime, and I’m going to do this, and I’m going to do that.” versus the person leaving the house that night, and saying, “I’m not quite sure what I’m going to do.  I’m going to check out my boys on the corner and figure out what’s going down.”

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  There’s a huge difference, and so many of these people who don’t set out that night to commit a crime end back up in the criminal justice system.

Lamont Carey:  Right, right.  Cause one of the things is that if me and you hung out before I went to prison, the way you remember me is the way I was before I went in.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Lamont Carey:  You’re not fully aware of the guy that I’ve turned into.  Most of the time you probably think it’s just jail talk, or jail letters, when I’m telling you that I changed, and so I’ve had this experience.  When I came home, a guy came to see me from my past, and he tried to – he said I got a gun for you.  That’s how he remembered me.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Lamont Carey:  So, the real test comes with whether I take this gun or not.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Lamont Carey:  And when I refused the gun, then he knows that I’m serious –

Len Sipes:  Yeah.

Lamont Carey:  about my change, and so I think when I come out of the house to come and hang out with you, that’s because I’m bored.  I don’t have no plan.  When I have all these – I don’t have a job.  I don’t have all these things to – instead of me focusing on them, I just get tired.

Len Sipes:  Yep.

Lamont Carey:  And I just say, “I just want to breathe for a minute.  Let me go see what Sipes’s doing.” and I go hang out with you, and – but at the same time I’m hanging out with you, you I’m observing the drug game again.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Lamont Carey:  Or whatever it is that – you know what I’m saying, it’s –

Len Sipes:  Yeah it’s all caught up.  It all falls together.

Lamont Carey:  Right, because if you’re still in the criminal life-style, and when I come around to you, you’re always thinking as a criminal.  And so, it just so happened.  When I come around, this is the same time that you about to make a move.  You about to go sell some drugs, and you about to rob a store, and I’m there, and you’re telling me, “Man, it’s sweet.  We going to be in there three minutes.  We’re going to be in and out.”

Len Sipes:  Yeah, piece of cake.

Lamont Carey:  And my pocket’s are broke.  Yeah, that 50 thousand or what you say we’re going to get out of this stuff sounds really good to me right now, and I can do it in three minutes.  What’s the chances of me getting caught in three minutes?

Len Sipes:  Right.

Lamont Carey:  And then the next thing you know, the police outside.

Len Sipes:  Lamont Carey, ladies and gentlemen, WWW.LAMONTCAREY.COM.  That’s LAMONTCAREN.COM.  Again, to go through Lamont’s list of media involvement would take, for the rest of the day, The Wire, which is, again, the best TV program ever filmed in Baltimore about the criminal justice system, BET Washington, a book called The Hill, a book about his journey through prison, and currently a video project called outside the gate which is in progress.  Okay, you’ve given me some really interesting pieces of insight, Lamont, now, let me hear what you had to say to those movers and shakers, the mayor of Milwaukee, folks here in the District of Columbia, somebody in Germany which is now our second most popular outside the country in terms of people who pay attention to what it is we do here at DC Public Safety.  What do they need to know about people coming outside of the prison system, because I’ll tell you, it’s not a terribly pretty picture.  Most people needing drug treatment don’t get it.

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  The stats are very clear.  Most people needing mental health treatment don’t get it.  Most people who need job training don’t get it.  So somehow, some way, there’s a disconnect.

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  Because we’re saying these – if we have these things, if we have these programs, we can drive down the recidivism rate, but yet society is basically going: nah, I don’t want to fund programs for people coming outside of prison.

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  So talk to me about all that.

Lamont Carey:  Well, what I think is, it should start – transitioning should start inside the institution.  I guess when the individual gets within, maybe 18 months of coming home.  If you can get programs inside there that can get them thinking on survival of – a person has to – a person has to be willing to be homeless to be free, so they have to – if you can’t think – if you can’t forsee in stack how to get around obstacles, they’re going to always fall, but the one thing that I want policy makers and program providers to understand is that, each prisoner has created a plan, whether they wrote it down or it’s mental.  If you can get them to open up and try to help them stick to their plan, I think it would better their chances of success.  Like I wanted to go into the arts.  There are no arts programs right now for ex-offenders.

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

Lamont Carey:  So that means, my task, my journey probably was a little bit harder because I had to do it on my own, but I was willing to be homeless to be free.

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

Lamont Carey:  So, again, I would say, for programs that could help a individual think.  Another thing is the college system back into the prison system.  That was a kind of an eye opener to me to let me know that I had transferrable skills because when I was in the college program, I was taking up business management, and they were talking about distribution, and I was like, I know distribution.  Supply and demand, you know, from the street life.

Len Sipes:  Yeah.

Lamont Carey:  But what school allowed to happen was, it showed me that I wasn’t as inexperienced as I thought I was.  So – and I thought – it’s been said that, a person that gets a degree in prison is less likely to re-offend.

Len Sipes:  It’s probably, out of all the research, the best strategy that we have.  That people who come out of prison with an associates of arts degree or a bachelors degree have the lowest rate of recidivism, bar none.

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  And when I say the lowest rate of recidivism, I’m talking about saving tax payers literally millions upon millions of dollars, and saving victims of crime from being re-victimized, so when I use those words recidivism, that’s what I’m talking about.  Go ahead.

Lamont Carey:  So, those are two things, and since the parole officer is really our first interaction after the immediate family.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Lamont Carey:  It’s being taught in prison by guys and females that have been sent back to prison for parole violations, so they say, “The parole officer is out to get them, right?”

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

Lamont Carey:  So even for me, when I came home, I was on edge with the parole officer, because I’ve been told, that’s all they’re trying to do is send me back to prison, and so, that misinformation has to be broken.  It has to be explained to the individual, chances are, the most you going to see your parole officer in your first 16 weeks, well at least in DC, is like three times a week.

Len Sipes:  Right.  There’s a lot of contact in DC.

Lamont Carey:  But that is only for like, I think the longest I think I’ve been inside with my parole officer, unless I was running my mouth, was 10 minutes.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Lamont Carey:  So we’re talking about 30 minutes out of a week –

Len Sipes:  Right.

Lamont Carey:  One hour out of one day, so, you giving up one hour out of 23 hours.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Lamont Carey:  Most of the time, all the parole officer said is, have you had any re-arrests?  Have you been getting high?  Do you have a job?  You answer those questions, and move on.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Lamont Carey:  And so, I think parole officers have to first understand that that’s how the individual is looking at them, as an enemy, because that’s what we’re taught.

Len Sipes:  Sure.

Lamont Carey:  So I think the best way to break through that is parole officers saying, “What is it that you really want to do?”

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

Lamont Carey:  My job is to make sure the public stays safe.  That you transition, that you get a job and all that, but what kind of job do you really want?

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

Lamont Carey:  Because when I first met my parole officer, I’m sure when he asked me what kind of job that I really want, I said, it doesn’t matter, and I said that so that the parole officer won’t see me as a troubled person.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Lamont Carey:  But that ain’t my truth.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Lamont Carey:  My truth is that I ain’t going to work construction, but I’m not trying to start off this relationship on bad terms.

Len Sipes:  You want to game the parole officer.

Lamont Carey:  Right, right.  When I game them, I just don’t want to be beefing with them.

Len Sipes:  Right, right.  Sure, sure.

Lamont Carey:  So I’m going to say –

Len Sipes:  And the way to do that is to say as little as humanly possible, nod your head up and down, you go yeah, yeah, yeah, don’t worry man, I’ll do it.

Lamont Carey:  But if the parole officer say, “Okay, Mr. Carey, I understand that you have to get a job.  It’s my responsibility to make sure that I’m encouraging you to get a job, but what kind of job is it that you really want so that when you go out and apply for jobs, you not only just applying for jobs at retail stores or low end stores, but you also are applying for jobs that you really want to work at.”

Len Sipes:  Right.  Now what happens – so there’s a plan – I’m writing all of this stuff down, the plan in prison, and that it would be nice if there were programs in prison for mental health, substance abuse, and a person without job training actually got job training.

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  And a person who wanted a college program could go to a college program although that carries tremendous controversy.  In Maryland, whenever we talked about college programs, we’d get a hundred angry letters and phone calls, basically saying, I can’t forward to send my kid to college.

Lamont Carey:  And that’s understandable.  That’s truly understandable.

Len Sipes:  Why am I giving this guy who stuck a gun in somebody’s head and threatened to pull the trigger and took money from them?  Why am I giving him a college education out of my pocket, but I can’t – so there are controversies involved –

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  But we know that the better.  The more training, collegiate programs, therapy programs, that you have in the prison system, the better prepared you’re coming out, and to have a realistic plan is to deal realistically with the probation officer, what we call community supervision officers here in the District of Columbia.  What else do people need to know?

Lamont Carey:  Another thing is, is who they – who they come home to.  I know, for me, when it was time for me to go up for parole, I had to give a address to where I was going to be staying, and for me, that wasn’t the actual address where I was going to be staying, but, I’m going to give you what I’m going to give you so I can come home.

Len Sipes:  Right, you got to live somewhere.

Lamont Carey:  And so the problem, the problem that I see with a lot of individuals is that they meet something in prison.  They meet a girl, or dude in prison, and they be paroled to those people, and they have never lived with those people.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Lamont Carey:  And so they find out they can’t live together.  They not getting along, so that creates a problem, and now I’m rushing because I need to find additional housing, so if you can set up something where the person to return to society has housing, maybe a transitional home.  A transitional home, I think, would actually be better than a lot of places that people are staying.

Len Sipes:  You need a legal place to live because if the guy comes out and the sister takes him in and suddenly he’s a beef with the sister, or the sister’s husband, and he needs to go some place legal for three weeks, there’s some plays legal for three weeks.

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  Okay, what else.

Lamont Carey:  Um, now, for the sub-abuse people, it’s kind of hard for me, because I’ve never dealt with that, but I do know individuals who have, was addicted to drugs before prison, but didn’t use drugs the whole time in prison.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Lamont Carey:  And so when they come home, they again to use drugs again.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Lamont Carey:  So they got to find out, like what are those triggers?  What are those triggers? and the only way you going to find that out – again the parole officer, the parole officer is the person that can get the information to actually do something with it.

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

Lamont Carey:  But there has to be a relationship established, an open relationship where I can trust my parole officer.

Len Sipes:  Isn’t that hard?  I mean the parole officer has got this large case load, I mean not in DC.  We’ve got some of the best case loads in the country, but throughout the country, you’ve got huge case loads.  How are you going to establish that relationship with that person?  He doesn’t trust you.  You don’t trust him.  How do you get to that point where you help out each other?

Lamont Carey:  Well, another good thing about DC is the faith based community.

Len Sipes:  Yes.

Lamont Carey:  So when I came to my parole officer, the next thing I know, they were sending me over to a church.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Lamont Carey:  Meeting with a guy, Jean Groves, and Miss Keels.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Lamont Carey:  And so, they had, they took the time to say, “Lamont, what is it that you really want to do?”  And I was looking – I, I must want to work, so they said, “Okay, I’m going to call.”  They called the restaurant and got a job at the restaurant.  That last 24 hours because I didn’t really want to work for nobody, I wanted to work on my own, so after that experience, they were like “Okay Lamont, what is it that you really want to do?”  And so I told them, this is what I really want to do.  I want to work for myself and so when I convey that to my parole officer, and my parole officer said, well Mr. Carey, you have to be working to be in the street, and so you need to start a company where you going to be able to pay yourself, or you need to get a job, and so I went, and I started a LLC, LaCarey Entertainment, and I started off with something simple, selling socks on the corner, and I just kept taking that money, turning that money over, using the profit to reinvest, and then eventually I went into the studio and recorded a CD.

Len Sipes:  The faith based program we have here in the District of Columbia is also one of the largest in the country and having people who truly, who volunteer to come to your aid to be a mentor.

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  That has helped a lot of guys, and a lot of people cross that bridge.

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  It’s an amazing program.  All right.  What else?  We’re in the final minutes of the program.  We got about three minutes left.

Lamont Carey:  Okay.  The next thing, for parole officers, when you got a guy or female that you have you gone problems with, I think if we open up and create a situation where they can go talk to the young people because all of us want to give back.

Len Sipes:  Yep.

Lamont Carey:  Like you said, all the guys and the females you talk to want to give back, so if you give us an opportunity.  Instead of sending us back to prison, make us do some community service at a youth facility or somewhere where we’re telling them about – if you keep going down that road, this is where you’ll end up, because nobody is going to say, “Go out and get high.”  Most of the time, they’re going to try to show themselves in a good light, and it’s going to be connected back to what they said they wanted to do in prison.

Len Sipes:  All right.  What about all of the issues that I started off with this second half of the program.  I mean, most people aren’t getting drug treatment.  Most people aren’t getting mental health.  I mean you’re letting us off the hook here.  I mean, there’s got to be programs.  You know, if a guy comes out and he’s schizophrenic, and he comes out of the prison system, that medication is going to keep him, in many ways, out of prison.

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  Keep him out of trouble, keep him from hurting something.  I mean there’s got to be some sort of program set up where that person’s getting their medication.

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  There’s got to be some sort of setup where somebody is knocking on his door, saying, “Are you taking your medication?”

Lamont Carey:  Well, I think even people that suffer from severe mental illness, that have never been in prison, they’re pushing them out on the street.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Lamont Carey:  So there’s going to have to be another look taken at that because I haven’t really experienced that.  It’s hard for me to say, but even I had issues.  I became an introvert.

Len Sipes:  Sure.

Lamont Carey:  You know what I’m saying?  In my apartment, everything that I need was in one room, and I got a whole empty house, so again, the parole officer is probably the person.

Len Sipes:  Final minute of the program.  How people – what is fair in terms of how people look at you?  They look at you as a criminal coming out of the prison system.  You look at yourself as something else.

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  What’s fair?  What should the rest of us know about people coming out of the prison system?  How should we view them because if you watch television, and if you watch Hard Time and if you watch Lock-Up, I mean, you don’t want to touch anybody who is coming out of the prison system with a 10-foot pole.  How should people – what’s fair in terms of how people should see you?

Lamont Carey:  Well, I think they should look at themselves.  We’ve all made mistakes, and now I came home.  You can’t judge me by my past, but you can, but it doesn’t stop me from doing what I’m going to do regardless if you look at me like a criminal.  I’m still going to be and do what it is that Lamont Carey is going to be, and that’s successful.

Len Sipes:  Lamont Carey, it’s a blast having you.  I want to have you back in six months and find out where you’re going with all these programs.  Lamont Carey.  WWW.LAMONTCAREY.COM.  Currently, with all the other things that he’s done, he has a book, The Hill, his journey through prison and Outside the Gate, which is a work in progress, a video in progress.  Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety.  I’m your host Leonard Sipes.  Thanks again for all of your cards, letters, emails, telephone calls, and suggestions.  Have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]

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