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Faith-Based Offender Mentoring

DC Public Safety Radio

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Leonard Sipes: From the nation’s capitol, this is DC Public Safety, I’m your host Leonard Sipes. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a very interesting program for you today. Faith-Based Offender Mentoring, we have the mentor and mentee of the year. Coming up for our Reentry Citywide Assembly at Gaullaudet University, talk more about that later, on Thursday February 19th.

I want to welcome to our microphones Maurice Marshall who is the mentor and Ellis, as we’re going to call him, who is the mentee. And to Maurice and Ellis welcome to DC Public Safety.

Ellis: Thank you.

Maurice: Thank you very much.

Leonard Sipes: All right gentlemen, mentoring is extraordinarily important. What you guys do is, and we’ve been doing this program since 2006, so what we have through various faith institutions, is that we have individuals like you, Maurice, who volunteer, and thank god that you do, you volunteer to reach out to men and women that we have on supervision here at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. And they volunteer their time to interact with a person who is on supervision, which in this case is Ellis, to help them out. It’s an extraordinarily important program and we really do want more mentors.

Maurice, can you tell me how you started out? What made you decide to become a mentor?

Maurice: Well what made me decide to be a mentor was that I’m a retired correctional officer. My correctional experiences were with adults and juveniles for the district government. I retired in 2008. I decided, from working as a correctional officer at Oak Hill, to learn from that skill watching young men go through the system who have so many skills that they were unable to realize their potential.

So I thought it would be best to find something that would tie me in with being retired, working with youth and then trying something new that would enable me to take that experience even further.

Leonard Sipes: And so many correctional officers really do understand the importance of reaching out to people under supervision. You know the criminal justice system probably better than anybody. How long were you a correctional officer?

Maurice: Twenty-two years. That’s as adult and juvenile.

Leonard Sipes: That’s a long time.

Maurice: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Leonard Sipes: So you saw many people coming through and probably coming through multiple times.

Maurice: That’s true.

Leonard Sipes: And you wanted to do was reach out and try to do something about that.

Maurice: Yeah because we had conversations amongst my correctional officer coworkers about what could be done to stop youth from doing the same thing over and over again. Because, unfortunately, at Oak Hill and so many juvenile facilities what happens is the youth are almost like a farm team for the prisons.

You know working at DC Jail, working at Lorton, being a frontline supervisor at Lorton, you saw these type of things happen all the time. Repeat offenders… it was all the time. You just want want to know what you can do. Especially being a native Washingtonian, you say “Hey, wait a minute, this has to stop.”

Leonard Sipes: It’s a bit heartbreaking.

Maurice: Can be.

Leonard Sipes: To see so many young men and young women come through this system with such obvious potential… be caught up in the criminal justice system time after time.

Maurice: That is correct.

Leonard Sipes: I did jail Job Corps a lifetime ago and so I interacted with a lot of individuals from the DC metropolitan area, from the Baltimore metropolitan area, who were caught up in the criminal justice system where the judge said “Go to jail” or “Go to Job Corps.” It was heartbreaking. I mean, there were those individuals who pulled themselves of the criminal justice system but there were many who didn’t and to see that wasted potential is, not to overuse the word a third time, but heartbreaking.

Maurice: Very true.

Leonard Sipes: Maurice, no, Ellis, this time, this is our Mentee of the Year. How are you doing?

Ellis: I’m doing very fine.

Leonard Sipes: All right, fine. You’re a student at a local high school here in the District of Columbia. How did you come into the criminal justice system, Ellis?

Ellis: Well I came into the criminal justice system at a young age. I was about twelve or eleven, I would say. Growing up wasn’t the best thing for me. I had no father figure, or anybody to look up to so basically it made me result to the street so at a young age I was throwing things I ain’t supposed to be doing. So I was just in and out of the system. I’ve gone from YSC, to Youth Center, to Oak Hill. From Oak Hill I went to DC Jail and from DC Jail I went to the Federal Penitentiary.

So I just look at it now like I’m just tired of doing the things I was doing. I just want to move on with my life.

Leonard Sipes: And you consider yourself a smart guy, you consider yourself an intelligent young man, and you consider yourself not part of that criminal subculture.

Ellis: No… Now… It’s getting old, basically, doing the same thing.. it’s like… a tape recorder that just keeps playing over and over. Like me, I keep going to jail, keep going to jail, it’s not going to be a good thing for me. I’m a young father at the age of twenty-three and I want to just be there for my son and teach him the right ways that I didn’t learn at a young age.

Leonard Sipes: And that’s exactly what it takes to get to break that cycle. But first you’ve got to get out of the criminal justice system entirely. So you ended up with Maurice and how did that start?

Ellis: Well, I was, basically, I had caught another case where I was already on supervised release. And basically, how the judge, my judge, had looked at it is like I didn’t have no structure or nobody that I could look up to in my life at that point in time. So basically my judge had recommended me to get grief counselling and a mentor. So somebody I can hang around with, talk to, talk about my feelings and how I feel at that time, and look for help at times that I need it.

Leonard Sipes: Now when you met Maurice how did… what was the initial interaction like?

Ellis: When I first met Mr. Marshall, I didn’t know how that was going to go because he’s a little older than me, you know, way older than me. He should probably be like my father’s age. So when I first met him, I’m like “I don’t know if I’m going to follow through with this mentor thing.” And I was too much in the streets then to worry about my well-being with my mentor.

So basically as time went past, I looked at it like this is a good thing and he wants to help me. From day to day he’ll call and keep calling me and keep calling me. “Mr Ellis, how you doing? How’s your day going? Have you found jobs?” Or “How’s your work going?” I was working with my father with a mover company.

Leonard Sipes: How did that interaction make you feel?

Ellis: It make me feel happy, in a sense, because it showed me that somebody do care. I didn’t really have that once I was young and still now, but he showed me that he care. He comes and come get me, he takes me out to eat. Things that I know I ain’t been through in my life, he’s showing me the better way. So that’s like my turn, it’s my OG.

Leonard Sipes: I want to ask you this question, if there were more Maurices in the world, more Maurice Marshalls, who were willing to mentor young men like yourself. Would it make a big difference in terms of people going back to the criminal justice system?

Ellis: I think so. I think it would make a big difference for people that don’t have no structure or I would say no guidance in their life. A mentor would be a good thing for them because of the fact they can help with things you can’t make it in life. They can help you with jobs, schooling, you know if you’re hungry maybe if that’s the case they’ll help you get something to help. It’s a lot with that situation it ain’t just eating and having fun all the time. It’s about getting your life together, trying to steer you in the right path and trying to see that you make it through life without getting killed or sent back to jail.

Leonard Sipes: I want to remind everybody that Maurice and Ellis are the Mentor and Mentee of the Year. We’re doing an event called the Citywide Reentry Assembly focusing on our faith-based programs at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. It will be held at Gaullaudet University in the Kellogg Conference Center, 800 Florida Ave, Thursday February 19th from 6:30-8:30pm. Anybody who has the slightest interest in mentoring, community leaders, that sort of thing, religious leaders, we encourage you to come.

Www.CSOSA is the website. Www.CSOSA and also (202) 220-5300 is our main number. 202-220-5300. If you have an interest just say that you have an interest in the event coming up on mentors and mentees.

Maurice Marshall, how did you feel when you were first introduced to Ellis? I mean was there skepticism, was there concern? You are a veteran of the criminal justice system, so how did you feel about it?

Maurice: Well as far as being skeptical, not at all. Concern? Wanted to know what I can do to help this young man to better himself. And to bring consistency, that’s very important to be a mentor. You have to be sincere and you have to be consistent with whatever plan that you may have in mind. See it also helps me because I am a member of my high school alumni. One of the things that I’m working on doing eventually, haven’t got to that point yet, is to put a student-alumni mentoring program in full effect.

Leonard Sipes: That’s wonderful!

Maurice: I’m a graduate of Anacostia High School and I see young men going through what they’re going through, and women, and the best way to reach them is to catch them in their early years. And you can do mentoring several ways, you can do it face to face, you can do it by phone, you can do it even through email, texting, whatever it takes for you to reach that individual. You must be consistent with it.

And as long as you’re consistent and it’s sincere and have a plan, a plan that works and sometimes you and your mentee can work a plan, figure a plan. It’s not just up to you to do it all, it’s up to him or her, because what you’re doing is guiding and sometimes you both have to figure it out yourself.

Leonard Sipes: Now we have a mentoring program. It’s pretty structured where you go through a day of training. So we do provide training but one of the conversations we were having the other day was that we want people to work through our agency, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, we want people to become mentors. But you can do as you’ve just said, Maurice, all sorts of mentoring. It could be done through a fraternity, it could be done through a community organization, it could be done through your church, mosque, or synagogue. I mean there’s all sorts of ways of mentoring. We want you to come on board with us, but what we want are authority figures such as yourself, caring individuals, in a position of reaching out to people like Ellis because Ellis is obviously worth saving. Right?

Maurice: Of course, and to take mentoring one step further. Years ago, when I was a kid, even before, before that time, mentors were police officers. Community policing was big. I wish that our police force would use that same tactic in dealing with young men and young women in today’s city. You know beat walking is very, very important. Nor in the community, not being in fear of the community. But unfortunately, with police officers, a very small, minute few of them who may not have that same type of courage or consistency in the way they do their daily work. You know, it takes them away from the realm of what they could do.

As a former correctional officer, especially working at the hardcore penitentiaries, [inaudible 00:11:58] being one, we used to walk and talk within the population regularly, it was very important to do it because they knew and they learned by your consistency. Being firm but being fair. That’s always guided me and always will. And the same thing can apply to police. You must know your environment, you must know who you’re talking to. Because that same individual one day will recognize consistency in what you’re doing in the firmness and fairness and might save your life.

Leonard Sipes: The questions can go to either one of you, I was talking to some folks in preparation for this program and the term “throwaway kids” came up in the conversation. That we within our society treat too many of our younger people as throwaways, we don’t really care that much about them. We seem as a society pretty easy, pretty willing to throw their lives away. That we don’t have mentors, we don’t have authority figures, we don’t have fathers in many cases. We don’t have the structure to guide young men and young women in terms of what is right, what is wrong. And the same time to love them, to hold them, to read to them, to play with them, to take them out to get something to eat together, to be their buddy. We have a problem within our society where we believe that too many kids, especially in our urban areas, are throwaways. Now we all find that disgusting but I wanted to ask your opinion about it.

Maurice: My opinion, I think with that, it has a lot with sometimes the court system itself. And what the court system has done is that if you chastise your child, if you spank your child, dependent upon where it happens at, then you yourself can be charged for a brutality to your child. And what happened years ago, the community could actually talk to your child, chastise your child, then come back and talk to you in front of your child about what just took place. So we have gotten away from the basics that in other areas and other cultures are still being used. Are still being used to not have a throwaway child, they are being used to correct a child. Children like to have structure. Children like to be corrected when they’re wrong because now they know what is the right and what is wrong. You don’t ever want to get away from the basics, unfortunately we we have.

And it’s not about being a single parent or even a parent with a family. It’s communication and hopefully that child will eventually buy into what you’re saying.

Leonard Sipes: Maurice, once in growing up in Baltimore City, I was dragged down to my mother by the scuff of my neck by another neighbor who caught me doing the wrong thing. And the only thing my mother ever said to this person was “Thank you for bringing this to my attention, I’ll take care of it from here.”

So in any event I want to reintroduce our guests today, ladies and gentlemen, we’re doing a program on Faith-Based Offender Mentoring. It’s in reference to a citywide reentry assembly at Gaullaudet University at the Kellogg Conference Center coming up on Thursday February 19th from 6:30 to 8:30pm. You can find information about it at or call (202) 220-5300 which is our main number and express interest in becoming a mentor.

Our guests today are Maurice Marshall and Ellis, is what we’re referring to the young gentleman who is being mentored. They are going to be the Mentor and Mentee of the Year at the Citywide Reentry Assembly on February 19th.

So gentlemen, where do we go to from here. You’re talking to an awful lot of people within the criminal justice system, you’re talking to aides to mayors, you’re talking to college students. What do they need to know about the mentoring process? What do they need to understand?

Ellis: What they need to understand is that you gotta live day by day. Take step by step. And with your mentor you can find out a lot of things, you can learn a lot of things for something that you don’t know. Because in this world everybody don’t know everything, and can’t go on without somebody helping them. How I look at it, everybody needs help, everybody needs somebody to be there on their shoulder, or somebody need a push from somebody.

In my opinion with this, a mentor would be the best thing for you right now, if you’re young whatever, middle ages whatever. It ain’t never too old to have a mentor, somebody that can help you. If you want the help then seek for the help. If you don’t want the help then there’s a lot of things that can happen. You can lose your life or you can be into somewhere, in jail for a long time.

I would try to tell you to choose the right way and not the bad way and get a mentor, somebody that you can relate to, talk to about your problems, whatever, see where it goes from there. But everybody’s not the same so that would just be my goal to see if everybody can just see and get into a program that’s going to help them instead of being in jail and being caged up like an animal.

Leonard Sipes: You know we have a huge discussion within this country about the criminal justice system and what to do and how to do it. But, again, I asked this question before but I want to reemphasize it now, if every young man and every young woman, they could be eleven, they could be nine, they could be eight, they could be twenty-three. If every young man and every young woman had a Maurice Marshall in their lives what do you think would happen with the crime problem? What do you think would happen with the prison problem? Because we say that we put too many people in prison, the United States has the highest rate of incarceration in the world, what do you think would happen if everyone had that caring individual guiding him or her through life?

Ellis: Well, it’s not a lot to say about that because of the fact that you could have somebody that cares about you, that shows you that they love you or even show that they can help you in any type of way. It’s how you take it in. It’s not that if you have a Maurice Marshall your life will do this or go this way, it’s up to you how your life want to go.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Ellis: And Maurice Marshall is… I say the stepping stone for you to try to get there and to better your life and try to make your life better and show your kids after you that there is a better way than going the wrong way.

Leonard Sipes: It’s not a piece of magic. I mean it’s not just because you have a mentor your life is going to instantaneously turn around, Ellis, you put it very well. It really is up to you. But just having that person there, would it be a dramatic decrease in crime? Would it be a dramatic decrease in people being caught up in the system?

Ellis: I wouldn’t say no, not really. Because you can have a mentor or having somebody helping you or pushing to you everyday about things that you’re supposed to do or trying to help you. And it’s just in some people’s mind frames that they look at it like they don’t care for it, it goes in one ear out the other. So I’m not sure it would increase the crime rate, I would say it would help it but it wouldn’t increase it. Because some people just ain’t the type that you could talk to or try to get to them in certain ways or points.

Leonard Sipes: I think Ellis brings up an extraordinarily important point, Maurice. And again you know this better than anybody else, twenty-three years in the correctional system did you say?

Maurice: Yes.

Leonard Sipes: You know this better than anybody else, you’re not going to be able to reach everybody and sometimes people are going to have chips on their shoulders. Sometimes people have histories that don’t allow themselves to be mentored. It can be a tough relationship.

Maurice: It can be. And one of the things about mentoring is that you have to look at it like this. Sometimes people don’t get the information the first time out. Sometimes when you mentor to a person you cannot want their success more than what they want it for themselves. You might feel that way, you may keep wondering why you keep doing this, why you keep winding up getting the same thing over and over again. You start looking at yourself, “Am I missing it or are they missing it?” Point being is sometimes people have to go through to get to where they really need to be. No matter you as a mentor or a person as a mentee. It’s just a process and sometimes that process is actually going through by maybe getting set back, getting step back, for them to realize, “This ain’t working, I got to try something else.”

Leonard Sipes: But you and I are old enough to know that we had times throughout our history where we acted out and somebody tried to reach out to us and we brushed them off. And yet went back to them six months later, eight months later, a year and a half later, because they showed that they cared. So sometimes I think what you’re saying Maurice is that sometimes you have to plant a seed.

Maurice: Sometimes you have to plant a seed and water it, nourish it and step back and let it grow. Just like when you look at a tree and when you look at the roots of a tree they go in different directions. Same thing about mentoring, same thing about the learning process itself. It goes in different directions. Because the more knowledge you get, the more you want to test the knowledge that you have. You want to see whether or not I try this over here is it going to work? Or I’ll try something else, someone else. But you have to have your basics… and your foundation. That’s the key right there to being a recipient of mentoring as well as mentoring itself. You have to know what my basics is. Things that you’re not going to get away from. Because that anchors you, that’s your foundation.

Leonard Sipes: And Ellis, let me ask… your foundation, I mean a lot of young men caught up in the criminal justice system, a lot of young women in the criminal justice system don’t really understand who they are and where they’re going. In normal cases any young man, young woman struggles with “Who am I? Where am I going? How am I going to get there?” There’s a lot of uncertainty and I sometimes get the sense that what Maurice Marshall brings to the game is a guide post, is a person who can help you through that period of uncertainty, am I right or wrong?

Ellis: You’re right. You’re right. With that question, I’m saying it’s not going to happen overnight, it’s not going to happen a day later, or maybe three days later. It takes time for you to find yourself and find what you want to do with your life, period. This is like you said, a time process. Everything don’t work as fast as you want it to. So like they say, you go through life you live, you listen, and you learn. So with that, that’s the stuff I’m trying to take.

Leonard Sipes: Now what are your goals today? And how are they different than before you met Maurice? Do you feel that you have a sense as of where you you want to go, what you want to do, who you want to be? You’re completing high school, you want to take care of your child. You’ve said that much. What’s changed for you in the time that you’ve been with Maurice Marshall?

Ellis: What’s changed? A lot’s changed, I would say. Like you just said, currently I’m in Ballou STAY High trying to get my high school diploma. And I have certifications, I got my food handling license, I got my custodian maintenance. After I finish school, my plan is to get a job. You know, get a good working job, take care of my family that I want, particularly in the future. Live on my on, have my own period. So I just want to move on and let everybody know that I can do it and I am going to do has been a grown man that I am now.

Leonard Sipes: But you can see that future. A lot of men your age and younger have a hard time seeing that future. You can clearly see that future now.

Ellis: Yes, I can see my future now. I can’t tell it, but I can see it. If I put myself to it I know I can make my future what I want it to be.

Leonard Sipes: But do you agree with me that a lot of younger people, their lives have been so chaotic, and I won’t go into all the chaos that so many people go through before they get involve in the criminal justice system but I think you know what I’m talking about. Do they see it and is there a difference between you and them?

Ellis: No, it’s not really no difference.

Leonard Sipes: Okay.

Ellis: Basically what you just said, I would say the people that did bad in their life, and the most ones that did all this crime and all this hurting people, they’re the ones that try to make it in life. The ones that you think “That’s so bad” and need to be locked up, they end up having a (time) that don’t come out until it comes out. A lot of people might say a person that’s been locked up for a long time, they this and they that. No, it’s not that. It took them a long time to realize they had a good heart and they had a good head on their shoulders, they just never used it.

Leonard Sipes: But I guess that was my point in the question before, if you have somebody like a Maurice Marshall to help you figure that all out, that could help.

Ellis: Yeah, he plays a part with that too. Mr. Maurice he plays a good part in it. He has you to look within yourself to see what you want to do. But like you said you got to want to do it yourself. He’s going to be there, but you got to be the one to step in there and say, “Okay, I’m tired, I want to do something with my life.”

Leonard Sipes: Right… Crossing that bridge, getting to that point sometimes takes assistance, Maurice, would you agree? A lot of young people are confused and they need an older individual to step in and help end some of that confusion.

Maurice: Well that’s true, but at the same time, no matter how much effort or help that you give someone they have to be willing to accept it. Like Ellis just said, once the person realizes that they are tired, they have to totally be done with whatever it is that they are doing before they can move on to the next step.

Sometimes in doing something a person… One thing I used to notice about a lot of guys, they were addicted to the game of being involved in the fast life.

Leonard Sipes: The corner.

Maurice: Yeah, they were addicted to it. They had to beat the addiction. They had to realize it was fun, I enjoyed it, but now my run is over, but they look at it like that.

Leonard Sipes: What I’m hearing from Ellis, I often times hear from thirty-five year olds, I often times hear forty year olds, “I’m tired of it. I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired,” Is what all the old heroin addicts used to tell me. What I’m hearing from Ellis is stuff that I ordinarily would hear from them. They’re thirty-five and up, he’s twenty-three. Correct.

Ellis: Yes.

Leonard Sipes: Where did he come to that magic moment where he realized that he’s sick and tired of what’s been happening?

Maurice: It could be from a number of things. Right now, see, Ellis is ahead of the game. He’s ahead of the curve.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Maurice: And I’m proud of him for that. And I want him to know that. Because with him, he’s already saw other people, probably ten, fifteen years older than him, still going through the same thing over and over again. Not realizing “This ain’t working.” Sometimes people in the family structure enable a person to continue doing what they’re doing.

So in order for a person to really turn their life around they have to have folks who are family members who may feel “Look, you got to stop.” Because what they’re doing is enabling that person to continue doing the same thing over and over again. And once they realize that and everybody’s on the same page then that person can really make a change for the better for himself, his family, his kids, and make folks start believing in him.

Leonard Sipes: Well the bottom line is, Ellis, do you feel that you are moving in the right direction?

Ellis: I have feelings that I am.

Leonard Sipes: And one of those reasons that you’re moving in the right direction is because of your mentor Maurice Marshall?

Ellis: Yes.

Leonard Sipes: All right. You gentlemen, that was a profound interview. I really do appreciate both of you telling your story. Ladies and gentlemen, I do want to remind everybody that all of these issues, the mentors and mentees, we’re going to celebrate their work at the Citywide Reentry Assembly at Gaullaudet University at the Kellogg Conference Center, 800 Florida Avenue on Thursday February 19th from 6:30 to 8:30. If you’re interested in mentoring we really want you to be there. If you’re a community leader or religious leader we really want you to be there. Go to our website Court Services and Offender Supervision or call (202) 220-5300. (202) 220-5300.

Ladies and gentlemen this is DC Public safety. We want you to know that we appreciate your comments. We even appreciate your criticisms. And we want everybody to have themselves a very, very pleasant day.


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Faith Based Mentoring-DC Public Safety Radio

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[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes:  From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host Leonard Sipes. Ladies and gentlemen, today the issue is Faith-Based Mentoring. The fact that we have individuals in Washington DC and throughout the country, they’re coming out of the prison system and the question becomes, who is there to help them? Is anybody there to help them? Sometimes it’s the family, sometimes it’s friends and sometimes it’s nobody at all. But what is happening in Washington DC and throughout the country is that the faith-based community, the churches, the Mosques, the Synagogues, they’re stepping up, what they are doing is they are providing volunteers to help individuals come out of the prison, come out of the prison system and to make a successful transformation into the community. We have two guests with us today to discuss this issue. We have Natasha Freeman, she is a cluster coordinator. She is with Israel Manor Incorporated and she is also with Israel Baptist Church in North East Washington DC and we have La Juana Clark. She used to be an individual under our supervision and thank God she is out and she is doing perfectly fine. She has been through a couple of programs. She was in Project Empowerment and the 13-Step program but she was a mentee for two years. So to talk about this whole issue of faith-based individuals, faith-based programs, people coming out of the prison system. Natasha and La Juana, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Natasha Freeman:  Thank you Len, thank you for having us.

La Juana Clark:  Thank you.

Len Sipes:  I appreciate you both being here. Now I do want to emphasize that this is in support of our yearly event that we have in Washington DC. It’s probably our biggest event. So on Thursday, February 21st, 2013 from 7 to 9 pm at St. Luke Church Center, 4923 East Capital Street in South East Washington DC, Thursday, February 21st – it will be on our website where we bring hundreds of people involved in the mentoring process and hundreds of people coming out of the prison system who have been mentored to involve them in the celebration of this whole concept of faith-based mentoring. Natasha Freeman, first of all, you’re the Cluster Coordinator, one of the three Cluster Coordinators for my organization, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency – what does the faith-based community do for people coming out of the prison system in Washington DC.

Natasha Freeman:  Well Len, the faith-based community does a lot of things for people on parole and probation in Washington DC. One of the major things that we do is we go out to different churches, synagogues and mosques as you mentioned earlier and we recruit volunteer mentors to kind of help them navigate successfully through supervision. We also offer a number of special emphasis programs that help with issues like employment, relapse prevention and parenting.

Len Sipes:  Mm hmm. You have a lot of different programs throughout the city. That’s the thing that really does impress me; the fact that it is just not a church, or a mosque or a synagogue involved. It’s just not the mentoring process involved. You all provide a lot of services, it’s AA, NA, clothing, baby sitting, connections to jobs, food – it just goes on and on and on. I mean it’s a very impressive program.

Natasha Freeman:  That is correct. We actually are also responsible for partnering with different organizations in the community to provide the services that the faith-based community cannot.

Len Sipes:  And one of the things that the faith-based program here at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency really is trying to do is to expand on those partnerships, expand upon those services so people coming out of the prison system do have access to the different services they need.

Natasha Freeman:  Yes, that is correct because it is critical to have services in order to make that successful transition from prison to home and successfully entering into the community.

Len Sipes:  La Juana, the thing that strikes me more than anything else is that you come out of the prison system and you come into community. Sometimes you have support. Sometimes family is there, sometimes friends are there, but in a lot of cases, there is no support and on a lot of cases, it’s the church, the mosques, the synagogue that surrounds you and embraces you and says, “Welcome back home – you can do this, we’re here to help”. How does that make you feel?

La Juana Clark:  It makes me feel great. When I first came home and I just got with my church. My church is over in South West and I decided to join the faith-based organization and I got with the 13-Step program which shows you life skills, how to do interviews and how to basically, you know, give you job leads and how to get out there and you know, start working.

Len Sipes:  What religious body were you associated with out there?

La Juana Clark:  Covenant Baptist Church.

Len Sipes:  Covenant Baptist and Covenant’s got a huge reputation in Washington DC.

La Juana Clark:  Yes they do.

Len Sipes:  So Covenant Baptist, did they approach you? Did you approach them?  How did you come together?

La Juana Clark:  Well in the edifice they had some information about the 13-Step program and I just went, I signed up.

Len Sipes:  And it’s just a matter of signing up and walking in?

La Juana Clark:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  And how were you treated?

La Juana Clark:  Very well. I was treated very well. The facilitator he was very knowledgeable and he had a lot of information and I just utilized it. You know, I was like well I guess a natural leader in the program so I was helping him to get the information out to the other people in the program and so it’s a wonderful program.

Len Sipes:  As a woman caught up in the criminal justice system, do people stereotype you as being a person caught up in the criminal justice system?

La Juana Clark:  Absolutely. Absolutely.

Len Sipes:  And did you get that stereotype in terms of Covenant Baptist Church?

La Juana Clark:  No, not at all.

Len Sipes:  Okay.

La Juana Clark:  Not at all.

Len Sipes:  And why do you think that is? I mean this is what people tell me. They get the stereotype all the time and it really is an impediment in terms of crossing that bridge from being a tax burden to tax payer. Crossing that bridge from being caught up in the system and not caught up in the system and that embracing aspect of the faith-based community, so many men and women have told me it’s made a huge difference in their lives simply to be accepted for who you are.

La Juana Clark:  Yes, absolutely.

Len Sipes:  Tell me about that.

La Juana Clark:  Well, first of all I joined Covenant in 2010 and once they found out what happened to me, my situation happened in 2009 and I was open, I told them about it – what happened and I was open to whatever you know they had to offer and they embraced me and so they had the 13-Steps and I joined it and anything else that was available, the resources that they had, I utilized it and it has been a tremendous help.

Len Sipes:  People have told me… people say, a lot of people come back out of the prison system and they go back out into the community and the join a gang because they need people around them, they need people to support them. It may be dysfunctional. It may lead them back to the prison system but they need people in their lives to support them and as one person of the faith-based community once told me, “We’re a gang for good. We’re an embracing gang. We’re exactly the kind of gang structure you need only we’re going to help you, we’re going to lead you down the right path”. Am I… that person’s comments, are they accurate?

La Juana Clark:  The gang, if it’s a good gang – yes. More likely, I believe in the faith-base and for me and I could probably speak for several other people that that’s all that we need, is some help and if there’s help there, you know, something to get us out there, to do positive things. It’s not necessary, even if it’s just finding a job, yes it’s cool to find a job – that’s good to find a job but we need programs, more programs like faith-based programs or you know, just more programs out there to help us get back on our feet to get us where we need to be, to point us in the right direction so that way we won’t go back into the prison system.

Len Sipes:  If the support is there it lessens the likelihood considerably of you going back.

La Juana Clark:  Absolutely.

Len Sipes:  And it lessens the burden on tax payers, it lessens the burden on the criminal justice system and you become an example for everybody also.

La Juana Clark:  Absolutely.

Len Sipes:  So going back to you Natasha, is this a common experience of men and women coming out of the prison system and reaching out to the churches or the mosques or the synagogues? And being embraced and having that successful transformation?

Natasha Freeman:  Yes, I would say so and I would like to commend CSOSA because what they have done here in Washington DC is they have actually allowed the faith-based community to kind of band together so that the resources are a wrap-around services that we can offer people in the community so it’s not just one church doing one thing and someone else doing something else. Because we are networked together, we can actually offer that push that’s really needed to help someone transition back into the community and I would like to commend people like La Juana who have come back into the community and have really through the help of the faith-base, stepped up and are now able to help other people make that transition and we see a lot of that where people have successfully completed their supervision and then they come back to be a part of the faith-base in the capacity of a mentor or a facilitator or a helper just to add to that network of people pushing for people to come home and stay home.

Len Sipes:  But so many people in any community, I won’t say necessarily the faith community, they say to themselves, you know, there are so many issues that need our attention. There’s the elderly, there’s the unemployed, there are kids in schools and I have heard this directly and it may sound offensive to either one of you, and I don’t mean it to be offensive but it’s like Leonard, I don’t have time for criminals, I want to help fill in the blank. School kids, I want to help the elderly, I want to help unemployed – I don’t have time for people who have done harm to other human beings. So that’s a stereotype and an issue that all of us need to deal with – correct?  Not everybody is cut out to be a mentor to somebody coming out of the prison system is the point.

Natasha Freeman:  Right, and I agree with that and what I would say to… you know, not every church in Washington DC is involved in the faith-based program. It would be nice if we could get that much support but the reality of it is, like you said, it’s not for everyone but what I would say is that if we don’t do what we can now, the problem will only grow and those children or the elderly people that you think need your help more than a person who is coming home on parole and probation could easily turn into that person because we’re not offering the right support services and the right foundation. We are not only helping the person who is on parole or probation, we are also helping their family members who need their support. So by helping this person, we are actually really strengthening the family, hopefully helping young people not follow in the same footsteps as their parents and then hopefully helping that person on parole and probation become a support system for their elderly parent or family member who needs them.

Len Sipes:  Well most individuals who come out of the prison system have kids.

Natasha Freeman:  That is correct.

Len Sipes:  So when you are dealing with an individual coming out of the prison system it is just not about them. It’s about their kids. I mean I think National Research that in terms of women caught up in the criminal justice system La Juana that 7 in 10 have kids, so it’s just not about that individual, it’s about her family, it’s about her kids. So if you can save one, you’re saving three or four others.

La Juana Clark:  That’s correct, we are.

Len Sipes:  So I mean, what about that? Does everybody clearly seem to understand that?

La Juana Clark:  Well not everybody seems to understand it. The women that we have, you know people have kids and like as you said, people stereotype or what have you but I believe that you know, if you… just like I said before, we need those programs. Even in the system, they are taking the programs away from the system because now you have this thing where they are building more prisons and it’s not like it used to be where you could go in and get your education in the system and come out and be a productive citizen any more. It is more so, build a prison, we’re going to lock you up and you will stay there basically.

Len Sipes:  Right.

La Juana Clark:  And it doesn’t matter whether you have kids or not, or what have you – your kids will grow up and if nobody is there to nurture them and to show them the way, they will be a product of a horrible society. They will follow in their parents’ footsteps to do the wrong thing and they will be in that same prison.

Len Sipes:  Well I just did a show on women offenders a little while ago and the thing is, I don’t understand how women coming out of the prison system do make it. Most have higher rates of mental health problems than men. Most have higher rates of HIV. Most have higher rates of substance abuse problems. 7 out of 10 have kids. Now that’s stacking the deck pretty considerably against that person successfully coming out and not going back to a life of crime and not going back to a life of drugs. I mean those are impossible odds it strikes me to overcome. So it strikes me that the faith community – if the faith community is there for that person, that dramatically increases whether or not they are going to be successful.

La Juana Clark:  Well you know, thank God for faith-based community. Where I stay at, which brings me to my point, where I stay, I was looking around, I was actually still on probation and my probation officer asked me to come down to CSOSA and check out some jobs and places to stay and stuff like that and one of the places where I stay at – it’s called End Street Village and that place is awesome. It is a shelter as well as recovery housing and there are women there that are in recovery and have kids and also across the street is the night shelter which is Luther Place night shelter. So I stayed there for a year and now I have my own place. I’m in a…

Len Sipes:  Oh? Congratulations.

La Juana Clark:  Yeah, I’m in an SRO. And it’s wonderful.

Len Sipes:  What’s an SRO?

La Juana Clark:  SRO is a Single Residency Occupancy.

Len Sipes:  Okay, cool.

La Juana Clark:  So I have a roommate but this is what we need. This is something that helped me to get through. I don’t have any kids but I know there are ladies there that do have kids and we help one another and if we have programs like End Street Village, Luther Place Night Shelter. Some, any places like that, the faith-based communities. I wish there were more faith-based communities because we can get through. Not just women, men too.

Len Sipes:  And it’s not, it’s just not the matter of programs, it’s a matter of being embraced.

La Juana Clark:  It’s a matter… exactly.

Len Sipes:  It’s a matter of having the respect that you feel that you need to make that transformation.

La Juana Clark:  I tell you one thing, if I was not embraced by my church and by a faith-based community, I don’t think I would have made it out here.

Len Sipes:  That is one of the questions I do want…

La Juana Clark:  I don’t think I would have made it.

Len Sipes:  That’s one of the questions I did want to ask you but we’re more than half way through the program, I want to reintroduce our guest today. Natasha Freeman is a Cluster Coordinator; she is with Israel Manor Incorporated. She is with Israel Baptist Church in North East and also we have an individual who used to be under supervision and she used to be part of our mentoring program and that’s La Juana Clark and she has been through a variety of program and she has now been out for two years and has been a Mentee for two years. She has been part of this faith-based program for two years. So again, I say congratulations and La Juana let me just go right back to you with that th… oh, I do want to remind everybody that this is in support of our annual city-wide faith-based mentors and mentees of the year on February 21st. It will be at St. Luke Church Center, 4923 East Capital Street, South East Washington DC from 7 o’clock to 9 o’clock in the evening. If you need additional information we are at La Juana, the question again goes back to you. You mentioned if you didn’t have these programs, what would happen to you. Where would you be?

La Juana Clark:  I would be out street doing the same thing that I used to do and there would be no support because my family is all gone. My family, my mom, parents are dead – grandmother, everybody is gone. I have two brothers. One is, you know, I have brothers. One is a product… he was in and out of the system and he did well. He would do well for a moment and then he would go back in and it’s like you do need that support. You need the support.

Len Sipes:  Virtually every woman I have ever talked to who has come out of the prison system who is back into the community has told me that again, without these programs they would be back inside the system. Without these programs they would either be dead or back in the game or back doing what they were doing or back harming society and they are not and they are reunited with their kids and they are doing well. Not all of them by any stretch of the imagination but a pretty significant number.

La Juana Clark:  Yes, that’s correct.

Len Sipes:  That’s what impresses me. Natasha, now we have well over 100 faith-based organizations here at Washington DC. We have well over 200 people who are mentors. I think that is just phenomenal. I think well over 700 people have been through the program and we only started tracking these numbers back in 2007. The program started in 2002, but since 2007 when we started actually keeping track, over 700 people caught up in the criminal justice system have been through, have successfully completed the program. The early indications are that the longer they stay with the program, the better off they do and the less they recidivate. I mean that shows the power of the faith community.

Natasha Freeman:  That’s correct and just touching on your point the longer they stay with the program… it’s about developing relationships when it comes to the mentoring program. Even beyond people completing supervision they still keep in contact with their mentors because it is really a long term journey and so once we give them the programming, we give them the resources, the whole idea behind the faith based mentoring program is to help them successfully navigate through supervision but then once they complete supervision we still have to make sure that they have the relationships and the support from the community in order to stay home and that is really our biggest goal is to keep them here and becoming productive tax paying members of society and we can’t do that without the support and the relationships developed through the faith-based community and I think that’s why the people who complete supervision through the program are a lot more successful because those brick and mortar 100 year old organizations and foundations on every other corner here in Washington DC, they can always go there and say you know what, I’m having trouble with this or I need that and you always have that objective person to talk to, that can talk you through the situation so that you don’t have to turn back to drugs or violence or whatever your vice was that got you into trouble in the first place.

Len Sipes:  Right, but coming out of the system, coming out of the system, coming out of prison you’ve got a chip on your shoulder the size of Montana and there’s a lot of individuals and people always say that I make excuses for bad behavior when I say this but again, you take a look – a little while ago when you were talking about women offenders, the degree of sexual violence directed towards women caught up in the criminal justice system when they were minors is astounding. It is literally astounding. It is much higher than the males, but if you talk to the males I mean the problems that they had in terms of their household, so many of them getting up at 6 and 7 and 8 years old, pouring their own cereal, taking themselves to school, raising themselves essentially or you know, 9 year olds raising 7 year olds, it’s a very difficult problem. They end up in the prison system in many cases. They come out and again they have the chip on their shoulder the size of Montana. How do you break through that wall, that barrier that so many people coming out of the prison system present to you when they show up at your institution and say okay, I’m not sure as to who you really are. I’m not sure as to what your game is. I’m not sure as to what you truly are trying to offer me but I’m standing here – go, convince me! What do you say to them?

Natasha Freeman:  You know, one of the first things that I tell them is that you know, we are no different. One of the biggest differences between us you got caught for doing something wrong and a lot of people in the faith community just never got caught and I think that’s why there is a level of compassion for people, for some people, for those who are coming in to the faith institution with those types of situations and then the other thing is that you just have to love on the person and when it is genuine, they know. Not right away is everyone going to tell you everything. You know, they are not going to pour it all out on the table right away but once they come around and you show them the services, you show them that it is real, if they need clothing; you take them to the clothing closet. If they need help with food, you take them to the food pantry. Once you start to offer them some of those services that we have, then they start to see that these people are really here for me and one of the big differences with the faith-based being attached to CSOSA is they kind of come with that kind of “oh well, my CSO sent me” thing and then they get there and they see, okay, well this is not like going to see my CSO. This is somebody else who kind of really cares. Not to say that the CSO doesn’t care but you know, when you go to see your CSO you go with that oh, “they’re just going to tell me to do this and do that” type of chip on your shoulder. When you come to the faith base, you see that this person is really here trying to help you kind of be in good standing with your CSO, help you navigate through some things, solve some problems so that you don’t have that chip on your shoulder.

Len Sipes:  And CSO for people outside of the Washington DC metropolitan area, we stand for Community Supervision Officer what most of the country calls parole and probation agents. La Juana, the person that I described coming out of the prisons again, with the chip on their shoulder the size of Montana – am I exaggerating or am I accurate?

La Juana Clark:  No you’re not because I was one of those people and because even though I didn’t have a long term time in jail, I was one of those people and I was like you know…

Len Sipes:  What’s your game?

La Juana Clark:  Yeah, what is your game and I don’t need all of this stuff. I just want to get back to work?

Len Sipes:  What’s in it for you, why are you here? What are you trying to do to me?

La Juana Clark:  Exactly.

Len Sipes:  Because so many people coming out of prison just see other people as just gaming them. As just, they are just there to exploit them.

La Juana Clark:  Yeah, but you know, you have to be open and so I was open. Because I was open, nothing else was working. All of my cards read zero and so I was like, you know I have to be open to this and in order for me to not get back in trouble, I have to do something and I’m too old also. So I was open and I had to own up to what I had done so, that card, I was owning up to my responsibility. The part that I played in it and I was open to whatever services that CSOSA and the faith-based community offered.

Len Sipes:  How long did it take you to trust the people in the faith community to the point where you were ready to open up and talk about your real experiences?

La Juana Clark:  It took a while.

Len Sipes:  How long?

La Juana Clark:  It was like six months.

Len Sipes:  Yeah. And that’s not unusual Natasha?

La Juana Clark:  It takes a while.

Len Sipes:  That’s not a first day process, a second day process – it ordinarily takes months for that relationship to build to the point where the two trust each other. Correct?

Natasha Freeman:  That is correct and that is why in our program we make it so that the person has a mandatory minimum of six months left on their supervision so that way we can make sure that the relationship is cultivated in such a way that they can trust and we can really get down to the nitty gritty of what their real needs are and kind of touch on some of the real issues that they have, so that they can again be a successful member of society. Because if we don’t touch on those issues, it’s so easy for something bad to happen in your life and you turn right back around and start doing the things that made you comfortable.

Len Sipes:  Right and the beauty – and this is, I’ve talked to several people who have been through our faith-based program and tell me if I’m right or wrong – the beauty is that you could be two years out. You could be two years away from the faith-based program, you’re doing fine, you’ve got a job, you’re off of drugs. Everything is going okay but suddenly everything is not and they reinsert themselves and the faith community embraces them once again. I mean, am I right or wrong?

Natasha Freeman:  That is correct and that is the true beauty of the program because we are the faith community at the same time that we work with CSOSA, we are the faith community so they can always come back and receive the services and the support just as if they never left and some cases people don’t leave because we become their surrogate family, their second family so they come to us and they become members of the faith institutions, of course we don’t [PH] prosthetise or we don’t force anyone…

Len Sipes:  Right and I do want to get that point across very clearly that they do not have to belong to the Muslim religion, the Baptist religion, the catholic religion, the Jewish – they don’t have to… they can just come and be mentored.

Natasha Freeman:  That is correct and they never have to join a faith institution at all but some people do. They choose to and like I said, they become active members of that congregation and I’d like to point out that La Juana at her faith institution, Covenant – she joined. She is a member of their choir. She sings very beautifully.

Len Sipes:  Wonderful. Wonderful. Congratulations.

Natasha Freeman:  And she’ll be modest – she has a very wonderful talent in singing and she has performed at the Kennedy Center so that is something

Len Sipes:  Now that’s quite a transformation going from the system to the Kennedy Center La Juana.

La Juana Clark:  Yes. I performed at the Kennedy Center three times as a matter of fact. Once was for … in 2011 – I was still on probation mind you, and I performed at the Kennedy Center, we had a celebration of Let Freedom Ring, it was for Martin Luther King’s birthday and we performed under the director of Nolan Williams and we backed up Patti LaBelle. It was a wonderful show.

Len Sipes:  WOW – that’s an amazing experience all right. Well first of all, thank you so much both of you for being on the program. Ladies and gentlemen we’re going to close. Natasha Freeman, she’s a Cluster Coordinator with Israel Manor Incorporated. She is with Israel Baptist Church in North East. La Juana Clark used to be under our supervision. She used to be a part of the program – actually you still are right?

La Juana Clark:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  You still are part of the program and that is one of the wonderful things about what we do. You’re over there at Covenant and congratulations La Juana to all the successes that you’ve had and I do want once again to take an opportunity to remind everybody that our big yearly faith-based mentoring program is going to be at St. Luke’s Catholic Church. St. Luke’s Church Center, 4923 East Capital Street, South East Washington DC on February 21st and there is plenty of parking. It is a very large operation. We have hundreds of people from all over the city involved in the Mentor and Mentoring program that come together to celebrate the success and the challenges of the Mentoring program. If you need additional information, go to our website,  Thank you for your cards, your letters, for your emails, for your feedback in terms of what we do and have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]


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Faith Based Programs for Offender Reentry


Radio program at

Len Sipes:  From the nation’s capital this is DC Public Safety.  I’m your host Leonard Sipes.  Ladies and gentlemen the issue for today’s program is faith-based partnerships.  It is amazing as to how many people all throughout this country how many congregations are involved in helping people caught up in the criminal justice system.  And the amazing success that they’ve had to talk about this issue.  We have today Eugene Schneeberg from the U.S. Department of Justice, the Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.  It’s also part of a White House initiative,  Eugene, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Eugene Schneeberg:  Thanks so much for having us back, Len.

Len Sipes:  Eugene, it’s really exciting because we just recently did a radio show … and oh, by the way ladies and gentlemen the reason why Eugene is late today is because he had a meeting at the White House.  So you don’t get that excuse all that often except in Washington, DC — “Oh, I’m sorry I’ll be late for the radio show today because I have to go to the White House.”  Give me a sense as to what faith-based initiatives are as they apply to people caught up in the criminal justice system.

Eugene Schneeberg:  Sure.  Well I would say that faith-based organizations play a critical role in cities and towns, municipalities all throughout the country as key partners with law enforcement because of their long standing in communities, the sense of credibility that churches, synagogues and mosques have throughout the country.  They’re places where people can go when they’re in need of help.  And so for decades faith-based organizations have been really involved in helping prisoners transition back successfully from incarceration, helping them with real practical needs, whether it was clothing, food, shelter, counseling.  The houses of worship often times function as places where people can go when they need help.

Len Sipes:  Moral authority, I think that for me is a key issue here because in the criminal justice system who has the moral authority?  Both of us I think would pretty much agree that society polices itself.  It’s not necessarily the criminal justice system that works; it is the moral authority of the larger society.  To me nobody carries more moral authority in larger society than faith-based institutions.  So if anybody’s going to have the authority to say, “Hey, you should be doing this.  You shouldn’t be doing that.”  It would be the churches, mosques and synagogues.

Eugene Schneeberg:  Yeah.  I would agree with you.  And additionally, Len, I just would add that many religious organizations have spun off parachurch organizations which are essentially the service delivery arms of the houses of worship.  So many organizations have their own non-profit organizations that are specifically designed to provide these much needed services.

Len Sipes:  Three hundred and fifty thousand congregations throughout the United States.  Again churches, mosques, synagogues, 50% … according to your literature … of all volunteers in this country.  Now that’s amazing come to think of it, 50% of all volunteers in this country are faith-based.  That’s powerful.

Eugene Schneeberg:  Yeah.  I think most, if not all, major religions have in their tenants the desire to serve, the desire to be there for the least of these.  And so it’s definitely a strong motivator, faith is, and the desire to help those who are in need of help.

Len Sipes:  Eugene, you have a unique story in terms of this whole faith-based initiative.  One of the reasons that you gravitated towards this arena was that of your own background, correct?

Eugene Schneeberg:  Absolutely, as a young person … Len, we talked about this on the last broadcast … but grew up not knowing who my father was, grew up in a very high-crime community.  And it was really the faith community that was there for me, my local church, my pastor who played the role of the father that I never had.  And I was able to grow my own maturity, grow in the faith.  And I’ve seen firsthand in my life and also in the lives in the young people that we’ve served over the years, the power of when a community comes around someone who’s in need, it’s incredibly transformative.

Len Sipes:  In a system it doesn’t have a lot of good news stories … the criminal justice system at times can be downright depressing … we have high rates of recidivism in this country.  About 50% of all offenders say after three years are back in the prison system, two thirds are re-arrested.  You take a look at these numbers and those of us that deal directly with people under supervision, there comes a point where you say — well this is something a Public Safety Secretary said to me years ago.  He said, “Leonard, are we just spinning our wheels in terms of the high rate of recidivism?”  And the faith-based community basically says, “No.”  Because they embrace this individual coming out of the prison system.  Maybe nobody else wants him; maybe his own mother doesn’t want him.  So he either ends up in a gang on the street or he ends up in a gang for good.  One of the two.

Eugene Schneeberg:  Well, I might need to steal that from you.  A gang for good, I think you know, again in many religious traditions, there’s a tenant of forgiveness, of grace, of redemption.  And so it makes a lot of sense.  I think also in many of our criminal justice institutions, whether it’s parole, probation, the courts or our prisons and jails are just overwhelmed.  And as a result of that, oftentimes they just don’t have the resources necessary to provide all of the services that are needed for someone that’s trying to rebuild their life.  And so faith-based organizations are in a strategic position where they can come along side and help to catch those who fall between the cracks and not try to replace the criminal justice institutions, but really come along side then partner with them.

Len Sipes:  I’m part of the criminal justice system.  Why should anybody listen to me?  There’s something powerful when a person comes along, he’s not being paid for it … I’m being paid for what I’m doing today … he’s not being paid for it, she’s not being paid for it, comes along and embraces this person … now I do want to emphasis as I always do when I talk about the faith-based program is that they are not allowed to try to convince these individuals coming out of the prison system.  They’re not allowed to try to convince them to partake in their religion.  They are specifically told not to do that.  But if I’m there and if I’m by myself and I’m alone and somebody reaches out their hand to me and says, “You don’t have to come to church but why don’t you come … I mean to a church service … but why don’t you come to our church.  Let us find out what it is you need in terms of food, in terms of clothing, in terms of going on a job interview, maybe we’ve got some connections, maybe your child needs some daycare.  Come to us and let us discuss your issues.  And maybe you want to open up and tell us a little bit about your life and who you are and what you are.”  That’s profound.  Either they get us, the stodgy old criminal justice system who’s seen everything and there’s a certain point where we lose our enthusiasm.  Or you get this genuine human being who’s reaching out their hand to you.  That’s such a dramatic difference.

Eugene Schneeberg:  Yeah.  I think there are some limitations in terms of scope of responsibilities that say a probation officer has.  They have a kind of narrow focus.  And their job is to monitor and supervise.  And often times that person from the faith community, whether it’s a mentor or an advocate of some sort, has a different goal in mind.  And has perhaps their goal is to see that person restored or to some sense of wholeness and also to support their families.  And so again,faith-based organizations are key partners.  I just think about here at DOJ, through our Second Chance grants, there’s a category funding for mentoring.  And that’s available for non-profits and faith-based organizations.  And in I think it was 2011 I think we got well over 1,000 applicants throughout the country, many of whom were faith-based organizations.  And we could only fund a fraction of those.  But I think it was just an indication of the outpouring of level of interest and activity that’s going on in faith community.  Likewise we held a webinar at the beginning part of this year and it’s available to see and hear on our website on faith and community based approaches to reentry.  And we had over 2200 registrants Len.  We set a record for the Department of Justice.

Len Sipes:  That’s amazing.

Eugene Schneeberg:  And so that, I think, sent a message that said faith-based organizations, non-profits … and law enforcements particularly interested in this.  I hear from so many police chiefs –

Len Sipes:  Oh, sure.

Eugene Schneeberg:  – wardens, decision makers within the criminal justice system that say, “Hey we want to work with the faith community”.  Maybe we don’t know how, but there’s a desire to do that on both sides of the coin.

Len Sipes:  Well this is an old tradition that goes back decades.  When I was in law enforcement, if somebody was in a jam but he wasn’t a threat to public safety, but he was a threat to himself, we’d gather up the responsible people in that particular community and always the faith-based part of it … there was always a faith-based component.  There was always a priest.  There was always a minister.  There was always a rabbi.  There was always an imam.  There was always somebody there that we grabbed in terms of intervening in the lives of that individual.  So the law enforcement have been reaching to the faith community.  It may not have been known back in the 1970’s as a faith-based initiative, but that’s what it was.

Eugene Schneeberg:  Yeah.  I think you hit the nail on the head.  I think in law enforcement there’s a recognition … you hear this all the time, it’s almost become cliché … where they say we can’t arrest our way out of the problem.  We can’t incarcerate our way out of the problem.  And so there’s a recognition that tough on crime oftentimes isn’t the answer.  It’s better to be smart on crime.  And in being smart on crime, that means that pulling together all the stakeholders in the community, not only the faith community but the non-profit sector, the business community, et cetera.  And I think the faith community would be wise to likewise recognize that they can’t do it alone.  You can’t pray your way out of this situation.  There needs to be these authentic partnerships across the board that cut across silos.

Len Sipes:  I do want to remind the listeners that we do have at the court services an offender supervision agency, a faith-based program involving some 500 places of worship.  You just sit down with these individuals who have been through the faith-based program.  And you talk to them about their successes.  And you talk to them about their challenges.  And to a person … I always ask the same question … what would happen if the faith-based program was not there when they came out of the prison system, to a person.  No exceptions, to a person they would say, “I would either be dead or back in the criminal justice system.”  That leaves me profoundly moved when you have that level of interaction.  I’m not going to suggest that this happens to everybody.  I’m not going to suggest that this happens to 50%.  I’m going to say that there are significant numbers of people who credit their lives and their wellbeing to the faith community, and if the faith community wasn’t there, they wouldn’t be here.

Eugene Schneeberg:  Yeah.  Len, and I think that’s what led to the creation of the faith-based office.  President Bush felt strongly about that and created the White House Faith-Based initiative.  And President Obama feels very strongly as well and that’s why he expanded the responsibilities of the faith-based office in 2009 when he came into office.

Len Sipes:  Now what your office does is basically to coordinate with clergy of religious organizations, criminal justice organizations, neighborhood organizations throughout the country to try to really prompt people to consider being involved in faith-based initiatives.  It doesn’t necessarily mean criminal justice.  It could mean criminal justice, but there’s endless arenas that are quasi-criminal justice where the faith community can reach out to people in need, correct?

Eugene Schneeberg:  Sure.  And so I get this question a lot, Len.  There are 13 satellite offices throughout the Federal Government all coordinated by the central White House Faith-Based office.  I head up the faith-based office at the Department of Justice.  But there’s one at Agriculture, the VA, SBA, Labor, HUD, HHS, all throughout the Federal Government.  Each of which work to strengthen partnerships with faith-based and secular non-profit organizations with the missions of their agency.  So at DOJ we do concentrate entirely on criminal justice issues but which includes mentoring, delinquency, prevention, victims, a lot of things that you might not traditionally think of.

Len Sipes:  For information about our program by the way,, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency.  I’m going to give out the website again for Eugene Schneeberg’s Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.  It’s also a White House initiative., Faith-Based Neighborhood Partnerships.  Eugene, how do we get people involved that may be sitting on the fence?  Somebody listening to this program right now either at a church, mosque, synagogue and they say, “Well gee, maybe we should be participating in this effort to help people come out of the prison system.  We have individuals who maybe they have a background here.  A long time ago they were caught up in the criminal justice system and now they’re doing fine.  But, boy, they would make great mentors.”  How do we convince them to get off the fence and really consider this?

Eugene Schneeberg:  Well, I would say first off thanks for plugging our website.  But I would encourage your listeners to go ahead and go to the website and subscribe to our e-blast that goes out.  We send out regular updates of activities that we’re doing, partnership opportunities and highlighting best practices all throughout the country.  On our website you’ll find a number of different I think very practical, very useful step by step tool kits guides for faith-based organizations along different lines, whether it’s mentoring, whether it’s working with prisoners, whether it’s youth violence prevention, whether it’s responsible fatherhood activities.  They’re all on our website.  And also feel free to email us at

Len Sipes:

Eugene Schneeberg:  Yeah.  Also folks can feel free to give us a call at area code 202-305-7462, that’s area code 202-305-7462.  Len, we really have a open door policy.  We love getting calls from people with questions all throughout the country everyday, people that want to get involved.  And so I would say as a first step you could talk with your local police department.  Many times there’s Crime Watches.  There are city wide steering committees, and I think the law enforcement would love to have more participation on the behalf of the faith community.

Len Sipes:  But do you agree … and I’m pretty sure you do, I think this is a softball question, but I’m going to ask it anyway … but do you agree with this sense that we within the criminal justice system, we within government, we’re somewhat limited compared to the average person out there?  If somebody’s caught on the fence, if somebody’s involved in crime, if somebody is drifting over towards that side of the equation that’s going to get them into a jam, somebody’s now doing drugs, somebody’s now stealing, somebody is now doing a little hustling on the side, they’re moving in this direction.  It strikes me that ‘we’ within the system have limited abilities to persuade this person not to … somebody from the neighborhood, somebody connected to a church, mosque, synagogue that they would have far more power than we would in the criminal justice system.  Not just to help a person coming out of prison, but to persuade a person to move in another direction.

Eugene Schneeberg:  Well, a couple responses, one I think law enforcement, if we’re talking about police in particular, they have a job to do.  They need to keep us safe.  And thank god for police officers.  I have a brother who’s a police officer.  And so nobody wants a community without any police, it’d be chaos.  But they’re not social workers.  And they’re not equipped to do much of the work that non-profits, social service organizations do.  But on the other hand to your point, oftentimes if it’s someone that does have kind of is in the street life or the criminal mentality, often times they’re viewed as having an adversarial relationship with law enforcement.  And so the fact that someone from the faith community can come alongside someone particularly like you said as a volunteer, not being paid to do so, and there’s obviously more of an opportunity to create the authentic relationship.  And like you mentioned the moral authority.  There’s a moral voice to it that says, “You can do better.  We’re here to support you.  There is hope.  There is another way.”  And that’s incredibly powerful.

Len Sipes:  The other thing about it is that churches will come together as a group to deal with a wide variety of neighborhood ills.  So it’s not just a church or a mosque or a synagogue, it’s the group of them.  It crosses religious boundaries.  That’s the thing … when I see a church, a Baptist church and a mosque and a minister and an Imam standing there side by side with a priest addressing neighborhood ills, there’s just something about that that says okay there’s hope.  There’s hope for us within the criminal justice system if we could marshal that sort of power.

Eugene Schneeberg:  You’re absolutely right again.  You see in cities throughout the country alliances, collaboratives where communities speak as one voice.  And it’s incredibly powerful, particularly when you’re talking about advocating for a particular issue like preventing violence or like stopping mass incarceration or banning the box or some of these other issues that we see today.  So that idea of folks working together, that there’s power in numbers is incredibly important.  And we see that in ministerial alliances in other examples as well.

Len Sipes:  Because just last week we had a discussion in this studio with a group of filmmakers.  And there were three videophotographers.  They were all award-winning individuals.  They had won some rather prestigious awards, all three of them.  Dealing with films and still photography, dealing with the subject of reentry.  And I kept hammering away at them what is the magic formula for reaching out to the larger community?  Sometimes I think we in this business speak to the already converted so many times.  And that unless we reach out to the larger community beyond the already converted, we’re not going to get that terribly far.  The example I gave last time was that 80% of offenders caught up in the criminal justice system have histories of substance abuse according to data, ten percent get drug treatment when they’re in a state prison.  So the overwhelming majority of people who need drug treatment aren’t getting drug treatment.  Okay if I’m off by five percent or ten percent, the overwhelming majority still aren’t getting drug treatment.  The reason for that is that we haven’t convinced the larger society that these are programs in their best interest.  But wouldn’t the average person out there see the faith community as in their best interest?  Wouldn’t the average person say, “Well I may not care for whatever reason,  I may not care about a person coming out of the prison system.  But I do care about “the church”, or the faith or the synagogue?”  So doesn’t this strike you as being a way of enlargening the pool who are supportive of programs for offenders caught up in the prison system coming out of the prison system by doing it through the faith community?

Eugene Schneeberg:  Well, I think you’re right.  I think a lot of people get informed as part of their religious expression, whether it’s through weekly announcements or from the pulpit directly.  And so it’s incredibly powerful when leaders in the faith community take up this issue, take up issues of justice.  And we see that being done in all faith’s traditions.  And so you’re right, there’s an opportunity there to reach a population that might not be traditionally tied into some of these criminal justice issues.  And so we meet with regularly groups of faith leaders that come together across denominational lines, across religious ideologies but are concerned about similar issues.  They’re concerned about reentry, they’re concerned about mass incarceration, they’re concerned about employment barriers.  And they come together with a collective voice representing, oftentimes, thousands, if not millions, of congregants in some of these larger denominations.  And they speak with a pretty powerful voice.

Len Sipes:  I think that I’m just … in terms of this last radio show that I did with filmmakers at a radio show that we’re doing today, it just struck me.  They’re talking about doing a national public service announcement.   And it just struck me that … and I was pounding away at them in terms of what’s the theme.  What would you say to the non-converted?  What would you say to the average person?  And it just struck me then maybe the PSA should be somebody representing Catholicism, somebody representing the Protestant churches, somebody representing Islam, somebody representing Judaism coming together at the same time within the frame and saying, “This is something that you need to support.  It’s not only in your best interest, but it’s what God commands.”  I remember from my religious upbringing Jesus didn’t say you have an option about dealing with people in the prison system.  I remember Him saying it was a command to go into the prison system.  Now I don’t expect anybody to be going in the prison systems.  But it really was a command from my religious deity from Christianity that this is something that I had no choice about.  It’s something I had to do.

Eugene Schneeberg:  Yeah.  I think some people feel that it’s more than an occupation, that it’s a calling.  And I think there’s large organizations that focus on what we call prison ministry, the work is done behind the walls.  And then there are organizations particularly over the past ten years that are becoming more sophisticated and recognizing that not only is there a need to meet the spiritual needs of individuals behind bars through Chaplaincy and other types of prison ministries, but really there’s an overwhelming need to provide those services when people come out to help them find jobs, help them get back into school, housing, supportive services like you mentioned for substance abuse and the like.

Len Sipes:  We have about five minutes left.  What is the future for the Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships?  Again, it’s Department of Justice, it’s a White House initiative, it’s within all federal agencies.  So where do you go to from here?  Is it just a matter of continuing to do exactly what we’re doing now and put out the call?

Eugene Schneeberg:  Sure, Len.  Well since the last time we were on your show we did roll out our website, which we think is a great tool to reach people throughout the country.  Our subscriber list is growing daily.  On our website we have three webinars that have been extremely well attended.  We had one on faith and community-based approaches to prisoner reentry, faith and community-based approaches to responsible fatherhood, and most recently we had one on faith partnerships with law enforcement.  So I encourage folks to go on our site, check out those webinars.  We’ve also worked closely with our colleagues at the White House to help put on a Fatherhood Heroes events throughout the country.  It’s part of President Obama’s fatherhood and mentoring initiative.  Where we’re going around the country catching dads doing the right thing.  It’s far too often we hear about all the negatives associated with father absence and dads not being around.  We wanted to go around the country and lift up examples of every day dads sticking it out, being there for their children, being there for their families.  And so we started off in DC, then we went to Los Angeles and Orlando and most recently we were in Texas.  And we hope to continue to take the show on the road so to speak.  We’ve also hosted events at the White House called Champions of Change events.  We’ve recognized leaders in the fields of youth violence prevention, of fatherhood.  We hope to have a reentry Champions of Change at the event at the White House sometime in the fall.  We’re rolling out a tool kit for faith-based organizations on how they can get more involved in various criminal justice efforts.  Again we continue to work with cities throughout the country on the national forum on youth violence prevention helping cities to set up comprehensive youth violence prevention plans.

Len Sipes:  Which a big effort on the part of the Attorney General.

Eugene Schneeberg:  Absolutely.  His leadership in that space is critical.  And additionally we also help to support the Attorney General’s interagency Reentry Council, where he’s called together his colleagues, several cabinet members.  And I think at this point we’re up to about 20 federal agencies that are all looking at the issue of reentry through their unique lens.  Agencies that you might not ordinarily think of when you think about reentry, but groups like the IRS, the Office of Personnel Management, all trying to identify ways to reduce barriers for formerly incarcerated individuals, increase public safety and save the taxpayer dollars.

Len Sipes:  Well I’ll tell you it’s, once again, I keep repeating the same things and that’s one of my favorite topics within the criminal justice system.  We did just finish a television show for our audience that will be coming up on our website.  Again,, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency.  It’ll be up on the website in about a month or so.  And I do want to give time to go over slowly a lot of the numbers that you gave out today.  So it’s the Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.  It’s a White House initiative.  And I’m going to let you give out the telephone number, it’s 202-

Eugene Schneeberg:  202-305-7462.

Len Sipes:  202-305-7462.  And that’s, in terms of email.  And you’re one of the very few bureaucrats that I’ve ever met in my life who’s basically said, “Contact me.”  Getting a federal bureaucrat to give out their email address is pretty rare.  They don’t ordinarily like to do it.  And you’re saying, “Hey, call me, email me, go to our website, we’re accessible.”  That’s the kind of guy you want to be.

Eugene Schneeberg:  Well you know I take my lead from my boss at the White House, Joshua Dubois.  And really the Faith-Based offices are designed to be kind of open door to the government.  Yeah, to the government which can be quite complex and so we just want to be a servant and we want to be of assistance to the community.

Len Sipes:  Well and again a lot of people say that.  A lot of people — again, I spent 42 years in the criminal justice system, how many times have I heard a bureaucrat say I want to be a servant to the community?  But I’ve never heard of anybody giving out their phone number and their website address.  So any final things to wrap up?  You’ve got about 30 seconds.

Eugene Schneeberg:  Sure.  Well, I just again appreciate you having us again and please check out our website, email us, call us.  We just think that this is a critical issue.  It’s a critical time in our country where the numbers of folks coming home from incarceration are unprecedented.

Len Sipes:  Seven hundred thousand people ever single year are coming out of federal and state prisons, 700,000.

Eugene Schneeberg:  One of the stats that really motivates me is a stat out of the CDC, the Centers for Disease Control, which indicates that roughly about 14 young people are victims of homicide every single day in this country.  So there’s much work to be done and appreciate you, Len.

Len Sipes:  Oh, I appreciate you being here, Eugene.  Ladies and gentlemen this is DC Public Safety.  Our guest today, Eugene Schneeberg, U.S. Department of Justice Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.  Again, a White House initiative.  Ladies and gentlemen, we really do appreciate all of the contacts, the emails, calls and for suggestions in terms of improving the program and sometimes even criticisms.  We’ll take them all.  Feel free to contact me directly at Leonard, L-E-O-N-A-R-D .Sipes, S-I-P-E-S at  I am the Senior Public Affairs Specialist for the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency here in downtown Washington, DC.  And have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.


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Faith Based Programs for Offender Reentry–DC Public Safety Television Show

DC Public Safety Television Show–Faith Based Programs for Offender Reentry

Television show at (CSOSA social media website) (CSOSA website)

[Video Begins]

Len Sipes:  Hi and welcome to DC Public Safety.  I’m your host, Leonard Sipes.  Today’s program is on the Faith Community and their involvement in terms of offenders coming out of the prison system.  You know the faith community has long been an important force in improving public safety, offender reentry, and victim services.  Many faith-based organizations are uniquely suited to bringing together residents and local leaders to address challenges.  There are more than 350,000 religious congregations in the United States.  Faith-based institutions engage 45,000,000 volunteers; nearly half of the total number of American volunteers.  The White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships has worked to improve collaboration.  The Department of Justice is one of 12 agencies that have a center for faith-based and community initiatives.  Here in Washington DC, my agency, the Court Services of Offender Supervision Agency has joined 100 faith institutions resulting in 200 mentors being matched with 300 mentees, approximately 500 offenders have successfully completed the program since August of 2007. Our guests today represent a national perspective and efforts here in Washington DC.  They are Eugene Schneeberg, Director of the Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships for the U.S. Department of Justice and Christine Keels, the Supervisory Program Analyst, and the FBI Leader, Faith-Based initiative Team Leader at CSOSA.  And to Eugene and to Chris, welcome to DC Public safety.

Eugene Schneeberg:  Thank you.

Len Sipes:  That was a terribly long introduction.  But what I wanted to do, Eugene, is to get across the full flavor of the fact that this is a massive undertaking, 350,000 religious congregations throughout the United States.  Whether they be Christian churches, synagogues, whether they be led by imams.  The whole point within the Islamic religion, the whole point is that this is huge; getting the religious community involved in this concept of offenders coming out of the prison system is a huge issue.  And you’re part of the coordinating efforts for the U.S. Department of Justice.

Eugene Schneeberg:  Well, thanks, Leonard, for having us, first of.

Len Sipes:  Sure.

Eugene Schneeberg:  You’re absolutely right.  This is a major issue and the faith community has for decades been out in front on this issue of providing needed services for the most vulnerable among us.  And so President Obama recognizes that the Federal Government can do a lot to help people in need, but most often it’s the faith community or it’s non-profits in local communities on the ground, grass roots organizations that are going to have that face-to-face, direct contact with organizations. And so in that, we partner with faith-based organizations with secular non-profit organizations to let them know about what resources available to the Department of Justice, and we’re proud to do it.

Len Sipes:  Now there’s a certain legitimacy in terms of the faith-based community that we in government do not have.  There is a certain moral responsibility, there is a certain, I guess, sense of respect in terms of the people who live within that community.  They embrace their own faith organizations.  I’m not quite sure they embrace us in government, but they embrace them.  They embrace the congregations, they embrace the leadership.  And it doesn’t matter, again, whether it’s a synagogue, whether it’s a mosque, whether it’s a church.  They embrace that. So getting to them, getting them involved, in terms of people coming back from the prison systems.  That seems to me to be extraordinarily important.

Eugene Schneeberg:  Well you’re right on.  I think faith leaders have kind of an innate credibility within them.  And they have the respect of the people in their community.  They’re oftentimes when people are in need the first place they go is their local congregation, their church, or their mosque, or their synagogue.  And so it’s a great opportunity, it’s a great asset for the Federal Government to be able to partner with these organizations.To be able to make grant awards, and provide training and technical assistance.

Len Sipes:  Christine, you and I go way back from the Maryland system before both of us came to the Court Services at Offender Supervision Agency. You’ve revitalized this whole concept of the faith-based effort here at CSOSA.  You have a lot of people, 100 institutions, where am I on this list.  Two hundred mentors resulting in 300 offenders being matched with a mentor.  Approximately 500 offender mentees have successfully completed the program since August of 2007.  That’s a lot of organizations; that’s a lot of human beings being assisted.

Christine Keels:  That’s correct.  It’s a lot of energy, a lot of good energy around doing some very positive things for people who need our assistance.

Len Sipes:  Now throughout this program, ladies and gentleman, one of the things I do want to emphasize is that we have a yearly celebration of the faith-based program in Washington DC and throughout this program you’re going to see a lot of B-roll.  You’re going to see a choir leading us in and out of these segments.  And you’re going to see a special presentation by a gentleman on the second half talking about the streets calling his name, but nobody else remembered his name, but the streets call his name.  So we’re going to again, focusing on this faith-based celebration, yearly faith-based celebration that we have in February every year. And Christine, the success of this program, I’ve talked to so many people within our program who were down and out, coming out of the prison system, nobody cared, nobody wanted them.  But the faith-based organizations embraced them.  They didn’t just provide food.  They did, in some cases, provide shelter, and some cases provide clothing, in some cases provide substance abuse counseling, and other cases alcohol assistance.   It’s the embracement of the individuals of saying, “Okay, yeah I know that you’ve been out of the prison system, but you’re still a human being.”  Embracing him and accepting him seems to be the bridge that allows a lot of people to cross over from law offending, to law abiding behavior.

Christine Keels:  Yes.  Having a role model is important for all of us.  And so our mentors serve as life coaches, they provide resources, they help with decision making, and most importantly, they help people get off supervision successfully.  We’ve had a number of early terminations as a result of those good relationships and those partnerships that have developed.  And we’ve learned in the criminal justice system based on analysis, that what we’ve been doing in the past really hasn’t worked.  So what work data’s telling us now, is that we need to work on cognitive behavior, and building relationships.

Len Sipes:  Right.  The cognitive behavior means teaching them a different way of looking at life.

Christine Keels:  That’s right.  Approaching things differently, having different options to be able to work with and being able to use their creativity to solve some of their problems.

Len Sipes:  Eugene, what do we say to people who … you’re part of a national effort and part of the White House effort, in terms of encouraging people within faith communities, to reach out and to join the institutions.  They have to be trained; they have to go through a certain amount of training.  They’re just not put out by themselves.  Some cases it’s team mentoring, correct Chris, where we have two or three mentors working with one mentee.

Christine Keels:  Uh-huh.

Len Sipes:  How do you convince people, how do we convince people that this is something in this day and age of there are kids that need to be taken care of?  There’s the elderly that need to be taken care of.  There are people who are out of work that need to be taken care of.  How do we convince people to give time, support, and money effort to offenders coming out of the prison system?

Eugene Schneeberg:  Sure.  That’s a great question.  And so it’s the argument and the case that we try to make often at DOJ.  Which is these folks are coming home back to our communities.  It’s not like when you lock them up, you throw away the key, they’re never going to come home.  Ninety-five percent of people that are incarcerated are coming home.  And without the proper support, the likelihood of them reoffending is high.  In some cases, it’s high is about 60%.   And so not only is it the moral thing to do, but also from a fiscal perspective, we can’t afford to continue to incarcerate folks.  I think in Massachusetts or some state, to incarcerate a juvenile for just one year is well over $100,000.  You can send someone to Harvard University for less than it costs to incarcerate a teen in Massachusetts. So the burden to taxpayers to continue to fail people when they’re coming out of incarceration is way too high.  And so it makes sense to make small investments, strategic investments, in organizations that can be effective and oftentimes community-based or faith-based organization can keep someone out of incarceration.  Help them get a job, helping them get housing, for a fraction of what it will cost to keep them incarcerated.

Len Sipes:  Seven hundred thousand people leave state and federal prisons every year, 700,000.  Now you go to national research, and 50% are back in the prison system in three years.  If you can hook them up with a mosque, a synagogue, and a church, if you can get them to be embraced by that community, and also at the same time, serve their needs, housing needs, or need for alcohol anonymous, or the programs or drug treatment, you can really dramatically reduce the costs, the fiscal burden to states and the federal government in terms of people going back to prison.

Eugene Schneeberg:  Absolutely.  If you go to our website, there’s links there to the work that the National Institute of Justice has done to evaluate community-based and faith-based organizations.  If you go to the National Reentry Resource Center website,, there’s all kind of research that just really demonstrates the impact that community-based organizations are having.

Len Sipes:  And we’ll be putting up these websites all throughout the course of the program. Chris, talk to me about what I said earlier about the fact that we in government have limited authority.  The church, the mosque, the synagogue, they have the authority.  They can communicate with individuals in a way that we cannot, is that correct?

Christine Keels:  That is correct.  It’s returning to our good ole’ fashioned American values of helping our neighbor and doing what we can to empower the person who lives next to us or who exists next to us. And, of course, as the Federal Government we cannot prosthelytize or force people to go into any religious –

Len Sipes:  Oh, thanks for bringing that up.

Christine Keels:  – into any kind of religious programming.  However, our mentors are very well trained.  That it’s really showing love through deeds and helping people to be able to make good decisions based on the experiences that our mentors have had. If our mentors walked the path, why not share that path with someone else so that they don’t go the wrong way?

Len Sipes:  And know in the second half we’ll have a mentor/mentee team as part of a CSOSA effort and they will talk about their particular story.

Christine Keels:  That’s right.

Len Sipes:  But I’m glad you brought up the fact that they cannot bring up their … they cannot try to convince somebody to join their church, or join the mosque.  It is completely agnostic and that’s one of the points I’m glad that you brought up. You’ve got training throughout the course of the year.  This is a big, involved program.  You train new volunteers all throughout the course of the year.  You offer training for the new faith-based institutions.  And then we do this huge, big celebration in February that people are seeing the Biro of all throughout the course of this program.  What you’re doing is a big operation.

Christine Keels:  It is.  Like I said, lots of energy, lots of good energy that keeps us going.

Len Sipes:  Well interestingly enough, it’s the energy.  Is it … either one of you can answer this question.  Because look, we’re from the criminal justice system.  It’s a tough system.  It’s not exactly a joyous system.  We have to deal with some tough people and some really tough issues.  And this is probably one of them enlivening activities I’ve been in in my 42 years in the criminal justice system.  The fact that you go into our faith-based celebration and you see hundreds of hundreds of people who have reached out to each other and have helped each other. That’s a positive thing that very few people, Eugene, hear about.  And I think that’s one of the messages that we need to get across today, that this is something positive.

Eugene Schneeberg:  Well Leonard, I get calls and emails from all over the country.  From faith-based organizations, some secular non-profits that are doing great work around reentry.  I can think of none really better than what’s going on here in DC with CSOSA’s faith-based initiative.  It’s really remarkable.   And I think, as we talk about celebration, I think in many of our congregations that sense of community, sense of belonging is what’s at the foundation of faith-based organizations.  So they’re almost designed to be able to embrace folks, and embrace the vulnerable, embrace the broken, and celebrate what we have in common.

Len Sipes:  But am I correct where the White House recognizes the limitations of government.

Eugene Schneeberg:  Of course.

Len Sipes:  The Department of Justice recognizes the limitations of government.  We only have a minute left, who wants it?

Christine Keels:  I’d like to have that minute.

Len Sipes:  Go ahead.

Christine Keels:  In our mentoring and mentor relationships, we have developed 12 special emphasis group, classes and programs that support the relationship between the mentor and the mentee.  So that they can get together and work on the problems together.  We have Celebrate A New Life, which is the men’s relapse prevention program, where the mentor and the mentee engage together in looking at new ways of handling things and looking at other options.  relationship restoration, parenting classes.  In fact this past Tuesday we graduated 43 of our offenders from the program.

Len Sipes:  And that’s always amazing to go to one of those graduations.  Eugene and Chris, thank you very much for being with us on the first half.

Eugene Schneeberg:  Thank you, Leonard.

Len Sipes:  Ladies and gentlemen, watch us on the second as we talk to an actual mentor/mentee combination.  And they’re going to talk about their life with each other and how they’ve been able to assist each other.   We’re also going to open with a piece from Lamont Carey, called The Streets Know My Name.  We’ll be right back.

Lamont Carey:  See today is my first day back on the streets.  And I got a secret to tell because this was a rude awakening for me.  See all them nights that I sat up on that block and dreamed about this day.  Now reality and hope just don’t look the same.  So instantly I’m in a drain.   See this is the first time in my life that I’ve ever felt ashamed.  See I have to go live back at my mother’s house.  And including her, everybody in there, they want me out.  See they say I’m just another mouth to feed and there isn’t no place in there for me to sleep.  And then the streets start to whisper to me, “Lamont, come back.  You ain’t got to live like that.  The streets ain’t changed, you still know this game.”  See, the streets keep calling me by my first name.   And all my buddies I thought was going to take care of me when I came home, now they moving in that cell I just left or they’re dead and gone.   So I’m out here alone trying to fend for myself.  And every time I look in your direction you roll your eyes in your head.  So from you I can’t get no help and then the streets start to whisper to me.  “Lamont, come back.  You ain’t got to live like that.  The streets ain’t changed, you still know this game.”  See, the streets keep calling me by my first name.  And on the day I go to see my parole officer, and she’s telling me that I got to do A, B and C, well she’s going to guarantee me they’re going to take me off the streets.  And all I want to do is say, “Miss, just help me.”  But it seems that she got her guards up like I’m here to try to make her job rough, so I keep my mouth closed and promise myself that I’m going to do as I’m told.  But then the streets start to whisper to me, “Lamont.  Come back.  You ain’t got to live like that.  The streets ain’t changed, you still know this game.”  See, the streets keep calling me by my first name.

Len Sipes:  Hi, ladies and gentleman, welcome back to DC Public Safety.  I remain your host, Leonard Sipes.  We have two unique individuals with us.  We have Artis Thomas.  He’s a person being mentored by our program here at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency.  And James Fulmer, the mentor, the person who mentors Artis. But wasn’t that a great segment?  We started off with Lamont Carey who gave a two-minute presentation on “The Streets Call My Name.”  And the point behind Lamont’s artistry is the idea that nobody else is there to help him.  Sometimes family members are there and they’re not there.  Sometimes other people are there, but they’re not there.  But the streets always call my name.  The streets are always ready to call the person back to a life of crime. And so Artis, and then to James, I wanted to talk a little bit about that before getting into that piece that we just watched.  James, give me a sense as to why you decided to get involved in the mentoring program.  What church are you with?

James Fulmer:  I’m with Mount Lebanon under Reverend Lionel Edmonds.  Wonderful.  Awesome.

Len Sipes:  And you got involved in mentoring people coming out of the prison system why?  There are a lot of easier people to deal with.

James Fulmer:  Well, first of all, God didn’t pick what people he wanted to be involved with.  And I truly, truly believe that He picked me to be involved with these people.  Because what He did was for me, was brought me up out of the addiction.  What He did was save my soul.

Len Sipes:  Okay.

James Fulmer:  And I have just decided to give back what was freely given to me.

Len Sipes:  So you’ve lived that life, you’ve been there, you’ve been redeemed, you know it’s possible to be redeemed.  And you decided to give that to Artis.

James Fulmer:  Yes.

Len Sipes:  Okay.  So Artis, you were caught up in the criminal justice system?

Artis Thomas:  Quick, fast, in a hurry.  I came up too fast for myself, think you know everything.  Just took matters to my own hands, and then ’til I surrendered to God, I found out that I can’t think for myself, I have to be led.  Which is okay to feel that way, especially when you not living right.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Artis Thomas:  And I’ve been hit with abundance of good joy from going … being in Faith-Based.  Because Faith-Based … what faith based got me is this.  They showed me that I can be shameless.  Talk about myself or the bad things I did to get over it.  Okay.  Then once you start doing that, right, it will direct you to a path where you start being productive.  Then once you start being productive, you get on a cosmic path and you start just seeing things, seeing brighter views of different things.  You’re not thinking like you normally think. And for a lot of us who give Faith-Based a chance to see what it could do for you like it done for me.  I can’t speak of them, but I’m just saying, if they was to give them a chance, Faith-Based really is there for us.

Len Sipes:  If the faith program wasn’t there, Artis, where would you be today?

Artis Thomas:  I would … to be honest … I might, probably be back in jail.  Because for the simple fact I didn’t have nobody to take time, to walk me through my suffering.  Because like the streets say, “It’s easy to swallow you up.”  But I had something else on my mind to keep me from the streets.  Like going to different programs, speaking at different churches with their own faith based, and doing stuff like that got me to win the Mentee of the Year award, all this kind of stuff.  But then there people paying attention to me, hey, this is where I supposed to be.

Len Sipes:  It’s a success story.

Artis Thomas:  Yeah.

Len Sipes:  But let’s go back to that piece that we saw when we were introducing this program by Lamont Carey, The Streets Call My Name.  The streets are always calling the names of people.

Artis Thomas:  And they will always be there.

Len Sipes:  Why not the churches and the synagogues and the mosques?  Why aren’t they calling this individual’s name?

Artis Thomas:  Because we’re not crying out for help and we need to.

Len Sipes:  Okay.

Artis Thomas:  See, when you ask for something, you get it.  But if I sit back and try to handle this myself, I really can’t handle this myself.

Len Sipes:  Well James, how powerful is this concept?  The streets call my name, but we want the churches, and the mosques, and synagogues to call this person’s name.  How difficult is that to pull off?

James Fulmer:  Well first of all I had to surrender to this fact that there is a Savior out there for me.  And when I surrendered, then what I did was start going to church and participating.  And my pastor, I have an awesome leader and a pastor that shows us the way.  And he’s into involvement in the city in trying to help people to do things.

Len Sipes:  Did people know your background when they embraced you?

James Fulmer:  In the church?

Len Sipes:  Yeah.

James Fulmer:  Yes.  They did.

Len Sipes:  So they embraced you regardless?

James Fulmer:  Regardless.

Len Sipes:  Is that the most powerful concept on the face of the earth?

James Fulmer:  That is powerful.  Nobody’s putting you down.

Len Sipes:  Nobody’s calling your name and yet now you’ve got hundreds of people embracing you.

James Fulmer:  Exactly.  And what happens is that we’re able to talk freely about our past to bring this us up to the present.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Artis Thomas:  And that’s a good feeling.  That’s a feeling that we don’t get that much.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Artis Thomas:  When you can talk about your past and don’t nobody hold it against you, and can still show you how to do the right thing, that’s a person you want to connect with.  That’s why this is my mentor right here.  Because … and not just there, I got two of ’em.  I’m greedy, I got two mentors.  Okay.

Len Sipes:  That’s not unusual.

Artis Thomas:  Can I say his name?

Len Sipes:  Sure.  Of course.

Artis Thomas:  His name is [PH] James Butcher.  I got two because I knew it gonna take more than one person to help me out.

Len Sipes:  By the way, we’re running the footage all throughout this program of CSOSA’s faith-based, city-wide celebration.  It is amazing for those of us hard-nosed people within the criminal justice system to go in there and then see hundreds of people redeemed.  That’s just amazing.

Artis Thomas:  ‘Cause I was angry.

Len Sipes:  Because we’re so used to failure and now we see success.

Artis Thomas:  Right.  I was angry.  I thought I couldn’t be a success.  There was so much anger in me that I didn’t know I had, it take someone else to get it out you.

Len Sipes:  Right.

Artis Thomas:  It certainly don’t matter what you did, you can make it.

James Fulmer:  One of the things that I love about Artis is that he was so open to “about change.”

Len Sipes:  Yes.

James Fulmer:  He was participating.  He comes back, even after he graduated.  He graduated two or three times because he sees the need to change.  And then so he’s open to listening to what the program has to offer.  He’s one of the best, easiest guys I’ve worked with, to show them that there is another way.

Len Sipes:  I want to ask what I asked of Eugene and Chris on the first part of the program.  If everybody coming out of the prison system had … was embraced by the church, by the mosque, by the synagogue, if everybody had that support system –

Artis Thomas:  They’ll make it.

Len Sipes:  How would that cut recidivism, people going back to the prison system?

Artis Thomas:  They wouldn’t be going back.  Because you know why?  They be coming out to a welcome.  And somebody that’s looking, know what they went through, know what they’re going through, not holding it against them.  You ain’t gonna find a better spot than Faith-Based.

Len Sipes:  But how difficult is it to get everybody involved?  Because people say, “Leonard, we’ve got kids that need to be taken care of -”

Artis Thomas:  They’ve got to surrender to God.  They’ve got to surrender.

Len Sipes:  “- we’ve got older people, we’ve got unemployed people.  Do you really want me to give this level of effort to people coming out of prison or criminals?”

Artis Thomas:  Okay.  The question is do you want to leave criminals out?  Not should you help the older people, the handicapped people.  If you leave the criminals out, you’re going to get more crime.

James Fulmer:  One of the things that is very outstanding to me, is the President, he did, he put his energy into this program and wanted to put a lot of energy in there.  And it’s the same thing as when I came back home from Vietnam.  Nobody was there for us when we came back.   Now there’s a thing where we need to be there for people coming back from prison.  Because the Faith-Based initiative program is that’s what it has, an open arm to people that is come back from different types of walk.  The war is the same as the war out there in the street.

Len Sipes:  It is a war in terms of what many come from.

James Fulmer:  You understand, it’s a war.  And so to have someone to embrace you and show you that there’s a new way of life that we can have, and we can love each other versus fighting and trying to take from each other.  That there is a way of life through Christ Jesus who saved us to move on to have a better way.

Len Sipes:  Because the alternative is me, my agency, a parole and probation agent, and sporadic help from the family and from friends in the community.  You are the alternative.

James Fulmer:  Exactly.

Len Sipes:  You are the alternative to government.  So who are people who are going to buy into that person who needs assistance coming out of the prison system, that mother who’s trying to reconnect with her kids, who’s trying to shake drugs, that guy who’s trying to find work.  It’s either me or it’s the faith community.  Who would you pick?

Artis Thomas:  I think they should pick their faith.  The reason why I say this you go through the faith because you get some type of spiritual guidance.  See we can’t do it without that.  You got to surrender, you got to submit.  And then when you do that openly, you’ll be tested.  And people are going to talk against you and think you’re not doing the right thing.  Then you just go back and say, “You know what, shoot, that ain’t nothing, [PH] these what’s worse than this.”  So then you’re okay.   You stay on that path.  Keeping going through it.  Things not going to happen when you want.  But like I say, it’s going to happen on God’s time.  He know when He want it to happen for you.

Len Sipes:  One of the points that I wanted to make in terms of the faith community is that we’re also talking about the provision of food, sometimes the provision of shelter, clothing, for job interviews, help for to get a job interview.  There’s a wide array of services.  Some of the institutions are providing drug counseling, Alcoholics Anonymous programs.  So it’s just not the embracement, it’s just not the encouragement, it’s the provisions of programs.  A lot of the mentors are driving the mentees to different job interviews.

James Fulmer:  Exactly.

Artis Thomas:  Right.

James Fulmer:  Those are the things that we … that our faith initiative program has in place.  I facilitate drug abuse and coming into a new way of life.  Going into … providing job interviews for them, providing a list of job places for them to go to apply for new jobs. We have a program set up where we actually talk to them about what they need to — how they need to dress, how they need to put their self together, how they present their self in different programs.  So what we’re trying to do is just show people that there is love out there, and we want to love you.  We want to bring you back and come in and come together as one so that this world can be a better place than it is.

Len Sipes:  Why is the street so powerful, Artis?  Why does the street overwhelm … in some cases, the faith-based institutions [PH] like call of the street.  I’ve talked to people who have said, “Kicking drugs was easy, kicking the corner, kicking the street was impossible.”

Artis Thomas:  Kicking drugs are never easy.  See, he said earlier, love.  The streets don’t show you love.  Streets show you support, or getting something fast.  But when people start being treated with love, that’s something we all need and we all crying for, we all wanting.

Len Sipes:  James, how do we convince the average person that this is something they want to get involved in?  How do we convince people out there with money, people out there with jobs, people out there who could be volunteers?  How do we get them to cross that bridge and to come and work with people coming out of the prison system?

James Fulmer:  What we would really like for people to do is come out and sit with us and talk about what we are really doing.  Come out and actually go to our meetings that we provide to show the people, show them some success stories, and things of that nature to turn their thinking around. There are people out here that are crying for help.

Len Sipes:  Yes.

James Fulmer:  But if we don’t have anybody in place to help them, then we’re going to be lost.  It’s going to be a lost battle.

Len Sipes:  Well I think both of you are an inspiration.  Both of you have told a story of redemption.  Both of you had told a story of struggle.  And now that you here as taxpayers, not tax burdens, now you’re here as solid citizens.  And I think that’s one of the most important things. Artis, we only have just a couple seconds left.  What would you say to the person who is considering getting involved in the faith community?

Artis Thomas:  Okay.  I’d say, “If you was an ex-felon like I was and you really want to change, don’t try to change yourself.  Plug into something, get you a mentor, find you a church, and just wait it out.”

James Fulmer:  I think we just need to just give God all the praise and honor for what our faith-based program is putting out there.  And it’s going to work and it’s going to get better.

Len Sipes:  Gentlemen, thank you.  I really appreciate you being on the show.  Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for watching as we discuss that extraordinarily important issue.  The power of faith, in terms of helping people coming out of the prison system.  Watch for us next time as we address another very important topic in today’s criminal justice system.  And please, have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

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