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Parole and Probation Supervision Week

DC Public Safety Radio

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Leonard : From the nation’s capital, this is D.C. Public Safety. I’m your host Leonard Sipes. We are here, ladies and gentlemen of recognized free trial probation and parole supervision week by interviewing three people from the District of Columbia’s Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency and Pretrial Services. As to the contributions of pretrial and parole and probation agents link in the nation’s capital and other contributions towards our public safety, to do that we have three guests at our microphones: Tom Williams, Associate Director of Community Supervision Services, again Court Services at Offender Supervision Agency, Yolanda Buffet, a associate director, again Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, and Katherine Terry Coufer, she’s the Associate Director of Operations of the Pretrial Services Agency. At the District of Columbia or in the District of Columbia enter Tom, and to Yolanda, and to Katherine. Welcome to D.C. Public Safety.

Tom: Pleasure to be here Len.

Leonard : All right, we’re here to recognize the contributions of our employees, recognizing the Pretrial and Probation and Parole Supervision week sponsored by the American Probation and Parole Association. It’s celebrated during the month of July. There are over five million adults on community supervision. Most of these individuals are monitored by pretrial probation and parole officers. Community corrections professionals must be creative in finding solutions to making sure that the supervised and have the support to find jobs, housing, and treatment by collaborating with community leaders and volunteers.

They make a huge difference in the lives of the individuals they have currently under supervision; but the bottom line in all that, that’s reading from the American Probation and Parole Association’s new press release. The bottom line behind all of this is that, our people that we call not parole and probation agents but community supervision officers, the bottom line is that our people, when people involved in a community supervision throughout the District of Columbia and throughout the country make a meaningful contribution to public safety. Correct Tom Williams?

Tom: Exactly right Len, and certainly one of the things we wanted to highlight were regards to this important week, is the great work that our staff does on a day to day basis. A lot of people just don’t realize in the District of Columbia, we are a federal agency, and we’re responsible for supervising those partisans that the subpoena court for the District of Columbia would rant probation on those partisans who enter the correctional system, as most of you have guessed, will not be aware of that the district does not have a local prison system. Anyone that’s sentenced to a term of incarceration in the District of Columbia is sent to the bureau prisons, and that could be anywhere within the continental United States. There is an effort with regards to re-entry for those persons coming back, and when they do come back to the District of Columbia then our staff is the one that are responsible for supervising them; these cases, which is different from U.S. district court.

Leonard : Katherine what you do on the pretrial side is unique, because I’ve taken a look at your stats over the course of years. You got an extraordinary return rate of people who actually show up for their court dates without committing new crimes between the arrest and their court date. Pretrial has been phenomenally successful.

Katherine: Yes Len, we are very proud of the national reputation we have and the rate of return we have for defendants who are released to pretrial services. Similar to CSOSA, so many individuals do not know the services that we provide here in the District of Columbia, for both D.C. Superier Court as well as U.S. District Court, where we’re responsible for gathering information on newly arrested defendants and preparing recommendations for the court’s consideration to make decisions in terms of their release options. PSA is known nationally for making recommendations for the least restrictive conditions to promote public safety and the return to court. As a result of our work, virtually no defendant is currently in the District of Columbia, are unreleased on a surety bond.

Leonard : You know, I am very proud of our agency, Yolanda. Court services and offender supervision agency and our partnership with pretrial services here in the nation’s capital. We are recognized, I believe fairly, as one of the best if not in my opinion, the best parole and probation agency in the United States. Probably the best pretrial services agency in the United States, much of which is due to the person sitting to your left, Tom Williams, but that’s my opinion. Is it yours?

Yolanda: Absolutely, I am very proud to work for the court services and offender supervision agency, and the thing for the Pretrial Parole and Probation week is a world wide force for change. And since my time of being here with CSOSA I can definitely say we are an agency committed to change and to helping offenders become productive citizens. I’m very proud to a part of the organization.

Leonard : You know our people. Let’s get down to what our people do on a day to day basis. It is phenomenally difficult. All of us have been involved in the criminal justice system through years, throughout the decades. Working with people caught up in the criminal justice system is extraordinarily difficult. The great majority, history of substance abuse if you count self-assessments, fifty percent have histories of mental health problems. Women caught up in the criminal justice system often have history of sexual violence. We deal with individuals either in probation or come out of the prison system, and they are challenging human beings. It’s just not a matter of will. You have to be creative. You have to be really innovative in terms of breaking down barriers to try to help that individual become a productive member of society.

Tom: Len, you are exactly right. You described a population that many of the public or your listeners are probably not aware of. We have basically the whole gander from low level cases that come to us through the subpoena court of the District of Columbia, to what we consider to be high level cases with regards to their criminal offences. For those persons who are coming out of the institution, at least ten percent have housing issues. That is a real challenge for us with regards to what we can actually do with them, because they need a place to stay for stability sake.

The other thing that you’re probably not aware of is the number of reports that we do to the court, just to help the judge with regards to the sentencing structure in terms of what they’re going to imply, with regards to those persons that come before them. We produce over three thousand pre-sentence investigations a year and on the back-end of the system, as folks are coming back in for re-entry, our tips officers will also develop plans with regards to an investigation that will really help the supervision.

The staff with regarding to the developing our plans for supervision, so it really ranges the whole gander from low level cases to more severe cases for which our staff are engaged in. Yolanda will talk a little bit about what she sees in terms of our recruitment, because its very important in regards to the type of persons that we are trying to bring in to the organization to help us to manage this population.

Leonard : Yolanda, how easy is it to recruit for what we call community supervision-al officers, what the rest of the country refers to as parole and probation agents?

Yolanda: So this agency is very progressive when it comes to evidence based practices. Our recruitment efforts are very competitive. We typically could have anywhere from seven to eight hundred applicants and fill about twenty to twenty-five vacancies at a time.

Leonard : They’re all people with bachelors’ degrees at a minimum, right?

Yolanda: Yes sir. They’re all people with bachelors’ degrees at a minimum, and we’re also looking for strong skills in motivational interviewing, cogni-behavioral interventions, and also being able to match or identify needs or match services towards those needs. These are skills that are quite progressive. Many members throughout the country will not have these skills, so it makes employment with CSOSA very competitive.

Tom: I’d like to chime in. A lot of people think that all I have to do is sit down with somebody, read and write. They’ll go straight, and we’ll never have to hear from them again. As Yolanda just explained, this is a highly trained profession, and I just want to reinforce that the skills we are imparting or have trained to the staff are really looking at the thinking patterns that individuals have that may not be in their best interest. Also, a lot of the persons we have at the high end of the assessment process are really involved with folks who are not really in their best interest with regards to their peers.

So how do we now get a person who is thinking distortely about life and have that pattern change and, or, also have a tendency to associate with people that eventually get them in trouble. To work that thought, pretrial does on the front end, certain can help us on the back-end if the judge is so inclined to grant the improvisation. Kathy.

Katherine: Absolutely, Tom speaks to that because it’s also as critical at pretrial Len, to ensure that we recruit and retain highly skilled staff who support our strategic goal of maximizing pre-proud justice by keeping the maximum number of defendants in the community. We offer a variety of supervision services for a population, who coming in at the front of the system are often not stable particularly when looking at our mental health population. The skills those staff need to ensure that in a short period of time were able to quickly assess and look at the needs and the risks to ensure safety rates remain high for our agency, and make the best recommendations to the judge to consider for releasing those defendants. We provide one of the, what I think, best pretrial service drug court programs in the country that are focused on dealing with the high risk defendants who come through with high needs for substance abuse treatment.

Tom: With a national reputation, I might add.

Katherine: Absolutely, with a national reputation. We are leading in that area, and we also partner very closely with D.C. Superior Court for the mental health community courts to work with them and identifying the appropriate services on the front end for those defendants with the hope of those who transition to probation and those who go into institution to serve a period of time, have some information that can be utilized by the case managers to continue to provide services, and are connected if they remain here in the community to services here in the city that can be utilized for the supervision purposes or the transition over to CSOSA. Its critical that we get high-skilled staff and recruit and retain those at pretrial as well.

Leonard : One of the things that amazes me is that we supervise parole and probation pretrial in this country. We’ve got five million people under our supervision on any given day. Only two million are behind bars, so when you talk about the correctional population in the United States, the great majority of individuals caught up in the criminal justice system are under the supervision of parole and probation agencies. Yet, law enforcement gets ten times the attention. Corrections, main stream corrections prisons gets ten times of attention. Why is it that parole and probation agencies get so little attention and recognition throughout the United States, considering the fact that on any given day five out of every seven people caught up in the criminal justice system are under our auspices.

Tom: Well, as you started off the program talking about the purpose of this program which is pre-trial probation and parole offices. That’s exactly why the American Probation and Parole Association, APPA, had its twenty-first anniversary. One of the recognized work that’s done in both pretrial parole and probation services, the folks that are getting the most recognition as you indicated, were law enforcement, anyone that carries weapons, the correctional officers who actually do a great job. We’re not diminishing the work that’s done by our law enforcement partners; however, when we look at the work that’s being done by the staff and the community, where the bulk of the population is, where the bulk of the work is done, and I might add where the success that we’re having is really instrumental in folks not returning to prison. For example this agency has seventy percent rate of satisfactory completion. When you look at some of the high-end folks that we have under supervision, whether or not we be sex-offenders, folks with behavioral health, issues that people are bringing to us because of lack of housing. In a sense, given that the institutions that are in society that are really there to help folks to stay on the right track, those systems have failed, education system has failed in some respect of faith.

Leonard : Families have failed; communities have failed.

Tom: It’s left to us in community supervision just to try to put some under paintings under those persons that come to us. Just so that we can give a different direction and then give a different avenue for these individuals to be a little more successful.

Leonard : But the people that come to us, the people that work for us, they got to be top notch. They got to be on top of their game every day. You know, we’re lucky. I mean court services and offenders supervision agency we average fifty to one ratios. Other parole and probation agencies throughout the country, my heavens, they’re two hundred to one. I’ve seen two-fifty-three hundred to one parole and probation agent. We have an extraordinary opportunity, our people our personnel, have an extraordinary opportunity to have a meaningful impact on the lives of people under supervision. Yolanda?

Yolanda: Yes, Len I can attest to that. I was supervision officer outside of the district in another state and I can definitely tell you I’ve had over two hundred cases to just poor little me, having to make contact to thirty days. Usually agencies with the numbers that carry those numbers are mainly doing surveillance. What’s really required if you’re going to impact offender change will have to be accountability on the surveillance side as well as the interventions in programming in cogni-behavioral restructuring.

Leonard : Right.

Yolanda: Without those resources, it’s very difficult or the evidence has shown. The rate of residerism will be higher without those services.

Leonard : Right, but we’re lucky to the point where we even control some of our services, but the bottom line, I’m just going to make this final point. Our employees whether they be pretrial or whether they be community supervision officers, known parole and probation officers, again, we don’t have any problems recruiting people from my understanding. We get lots of people coming in. Law enforcement’s struggling to find people. Corrections is really struggling to find people. We don’t struggle to find people; people want to come to work for this agency because: A. we’re a federal agency, B. we pay fairly well, C. we train fairly well. People feel they can do something different within this agency that they can’t do elsewhere. That’s my guess.

Tom: [crosstalk 00:15:24] I want to say that we don’t necessarily have trouble finding people, its finding the right person. As Yolanda alluded to, the work of the parole and probation officer traditionally has really changed. There’s no more, we’re just passed those days where I can come in with a BA degree with something in behavioral sciences and pretty much work your magic. You really have to understand the literature with regards to cognitive restructuring, cognitive behavioral intervention, motivational interviewing. Those skills that a lot of folks who come to the door really don’t have, so we’re not bringing in individuals just because, quote on quote  they have the degree. You have to demonstrate your skill level either in an academic setting or prior employment setting before we actually bring you in.

Leonard : You’ve got to be good is the bottom line. I’m going to take a break and reintroduce all three of my guests, and then we will pick back up on that question: Tom Williams, Associate Director of Community Supervision Services, court services, and offender supervision agencies; Yolanda Buffet, again, she is Deputy Associate Director again working with Tom; and we have Katherine Terry Coufer, she is the Associate Director of Operations of the Pretrial Services Agency of the District of Columbia.

We are doing this in celebration of the American Probation and Parole Association’s celebration of Pretrial Probation and Parole Supervision week, ordinarily doing the month of July. The theme the American Parole and Probation Association is, “A force for positive change,” and that’s how we see ourselves. Katherine do you want to pick up on that, that we are a force for positive change in the lives of the people that we deal with?

Katherine: Absolutely, and I’d like to echo Tom’s sentiments in terms of while we do face challenges sometimes recruiting because we want the best staff, and those who do have strong clinical skills as well as case management skills to come in and impact, change, and make a difference in individual lives. Its no longer the day: sit at the desk, checking at the door, leave, but to actually to meaningful work with the defendants at pretrial services. We invest a great deal into our staff and I think that’s why we have a history of retaining strong staff because we push and encourage staff to engage in training. We bring a lot of the training in to ensure that they maintain the skills so that we can implement the best practices and community supervision consistent to those of CSOSA. It is different in community corrections now. It’s a different game, as the city has changed and the demographics those coming in. Our strategic direction has changed to work with them and to look at that. Recently, as I am sure you are all aware that we are dealing now with a new issue. Relatively the spike and use of synthetic drugs are the new challenges. So both agencies when they’re gearing up to look at how we best develop strategies to intervene in those and continue to integrate the best practices in that. And we’re very proud of that activity.

Leonard : But could you imagine the policy implication of the five million people that are under community supervision throughout the United States? What it means, if they fail, because they go out and commit additional crimes, they go out and do somebody else an immense amount of harm. The financial considerations are also immense. I mean if they all go back to prison, we could shut down the prison systems in the United States tomorrow. If we revoked everybody back to the prison system. So the states they’re saying, “My heavens, parole and probation save us. Save us from this huge correctional population. Save us from creating more prisons. Protect us; protect our public safety, and by the way at the same time the person who has the history of substance abuse, mental health problems, not a good job history. With a female often times, they’re the ones who are principally responsible for kids. By the way take care of all those social problems that accompany the individuals that we have.” That’s almost impossible to do, but we do it in terms of community supervision in this country every day.

Katherine: And we do it well in the nation’s capital Len.

Leonard : I think we do it better than anywhere else, but that’s my own bias.

Katherine: Absolutely, we do but I think wise supporting that we must work to make sure that we identity the levels of risk in those factors with the work we do. While for us here at pretrial, performance of legal precitives, around the least restrictive recommendations to continue to keep poking the community, but to safe guard public safety which is one our primary responsibilities and showing individuals get back to court.

Leonard : Pretrial has a higher return rate than the vast majority of pretrial service agencies in the Untied States without committing new crimes. The great majority of the people under our supervision do complete it successfully at Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. We put together some data that indicates we’re moving in the right direction by moving in a evidence based direction by looking at the research, by being honest as to what the research has to say, and embracing that new direction. Yolanda?

Yolanda: You’re absolutely correct, and one of the factors that helps us be successful for our graduated sanctions as well. We want to have offenders to remain in the community supporting their families as much as possible. Now, with that said, we still want to hold them accountable for their behavior. So we do practice here, swift and certain sanctions. We do also recognize positive behavior as well, and we have award ceremonies and recognition ceremonies for those that have completed particular programs, educational programs, obtained employment, and so, we really do pour a lot into the defenders that we supervise. All of it, with the programming, the risk assessments that we do, as well as the recognition, help us to be successful with our population.

Leonard : We did a show a while ago on correctional officers stress with the national institute of corrections, and my question to the National Institute of Corrections is where is the course on parole and probation agent stress. The law enforcement is huge in the news. Law enforcement stress is also huge in the news, and I see that’s just it in the program on correctional officer stress. Again, we who handle the great bulk of the people caught up in the criminal justice system we seem to be ignored. This is a very stressful, tough job, where that individual community supervision officer that parole and probation agent really needs to be on his or her game every single day. They can’t let up. They can’t be bamboozled. They can’t be fooled. At the same time, they have to break through the barriers, that that offender poses to help that individual and to work with the family, work with the community. By heavens that’s an awful lot that we ask our people to do.

Yolanda: Absolutely, which brings us back to the whole recognition of pretrial parole and probation officers week anyway. The whole purpose of the week is to recognize the work that we do. We have a week’s worth of activities to increase moral to just engage our colleagues, and some competitive competition to have just a little bit of fun. It all helps. We also have additional training that we have; we just had a training a week ago on trauma informed care. Another topic in another area of training that we do is secondary trauma, for we know our staff, reading the PSI’s and hearing the stories, and working with the offenders, that it also has an impact on us as well. Which is why we take the opportunity to have as much recognition for the staff as possible.

Leonard : But how to we get the public to understand us Katherine? How do we get the public to understand what it is that we do. I don’t see ten tons of parole and probation agent shows on television, but I could spend the rest of the day talking about the titles of the shows focusing on police officers. How do we get the public to understand what it is that we do in the real contributions that we make?

Katherine: Well you know that is a challenge Len; particularly for agencies small as ours here as pretrial services as well as CSOSA. One of the strategies, well a few of them I should say is that, we are starting to work closer with our partners in the community and increase our presence in engaging with our community. Whether its attending community group meetings and those going out informs to share with them, information as well as at the schools, the universities, to try to increase our presence in the public, as well as working with the national organizations like the National Socio-pretrial services agencies, APPA you’ve heard Tom. To get out there, many of our staff at both agencies go to these conferences and provide workshops on the great work that we do that’s targeted on showing how we’re implementing best practices successfully. We continue to partner in the community and work with our partners in law enforcement as well as community based agencies to increase our presence to share with them the outstanding work that we do.

Yolanda also hit on something that is extremely important that I think our agencies do well in. That’s doing the work-life balance and all, because that’s important because the work is very stressful for them. Some of them that are in pretrial services, we shut down for a day or two when the courts are doing their training to provide full days of training to kind of focus on a target. Those things as well as partners at agency to do things like walk or run activities and stuff to ensure that the agents see staff on both sides have an opportunity to get out, interact together, and work through some of the things that stress so they can come back and put their energies into impacting the lives of the defendants, offenders, and their families.

Leonard : I’m still confused. If the public depends upon us for as much as they do, five million people in a given day. We are the front line of public safety in their lives. Whether or not they’re victimized, whether or not their children are victimized, whether or not their house is broken in to, whether or not the person goes back to prison and we have to spend the thirty or forty thousand dollars a year to maintain that person, the billions to build new prisons, I mean that all depends upon us. Yet, the average person, Tom Williams. The average person out there doesn’t fully understand what it is we do to protect them, and to save their tax paid dollars.

Tom: Well one of the ways we can educate the public is certainly from award winning shows like yours Len. [crosstalk 00:25:48] Certainly with the electronics that we have available to us right now, we have the internet. Certainly this program is on the internet. This program certainly is a podcast, certainly is out there for the public to understand. Also, your award winning T.V. show [crosstalk 00:26:06] is another one.

Leonard : Seriously now, [crosstalk 00:26:09] do we not have a perception problem in parole and probation? Not in the district of Columbia, but throughout the country? Again, the American Probation and Parole Association, they put out a campaign,”A force for positive change.” They do this every year, and we celebrate the work of parole and probation agents. It drives me crazy considering the work that I see our people do on a day to day basis, and what they do to protect the society that they don’t get more recognition for that.

Tom: Well, that’s true. One of the reasons is certainly we don’t have a real marketing campaign like profit industry or the non-profit industry does. That’s one of the areas for which we actually could do a better job. When you really look at government servers and that’s basically what we’re involved in. We’re involved in government servers, and providing the service to the citizens of a particular jurisdiction. That’s something that local jurisdictions don’t necessarily publicize, because who gets the headlines; whether its in education where most of the dollars go, or whether its in policing where a large percentage of the dollar goes. But when it comes to issues like whose on the street and what not the person that committed an offense, should be on the street.

I think the public attitude is shifting a little bit from, “lock them up and throw away the key.” Look at what California did several years ago when they did the, “three strikes and you’re out.” Now look what’s happened with California; they’re in a position right now would have to let out convicted felons. We don’t want to have to be down that road.  I think we’ve learned from the nineteen-eighties, the late nineties of determinate sentencing. That structure that was put in place that won’t allow an individual to have early release based on either programmatic issues in the prison or based on a good candidate for release. I think that is all changing right now. I think that as the, we see greatest statistics federal bureau Justice of Assistance. With regards to whose being successful and the slow rate of return.

Yolanda mentioned in terms of graduated responses, don’t [inaudible 00:28:12] back in the late eighties, early nineties, did her study on it, intensive supervision programs. Everybody thought that was going to be the panacea. The issue with Jones, what she found in her studying, was because I’m going to watch them or I’m going to send them back more. So all that’s being changed and we can certainly owe it to our friends the Canadians who actually really was in the forefront of evidence based practices. We’ve taken a lot of the principles from those studies, those meg-analysis they showed that you can have greater success with supervising and providing some level of programming and treatment versus just supervising alone. That’s the good news about community corrections

Leonard : Tom, you’re going have to have a final word, but I do want to emphasize with what’s going on throughout the country, more than ever parole and probation agencies are being asked to save the criminal justice system, to provide the innovation that’s necessary and I think that all three of you were able to agree with me.

Ladies and gentlemen the three people that have been at our microphones today: Thomas Williams, Associate Director, Yolanda Buffet, Deputy Associate Director, and Katherine Coufer, Associate Director of Pretrial Services here in in the District of Columbia. We’ve been focusing on our employees as well as American Parole and Probation Association’s pretrial parole and probation week in July, “A force for positive change.” Ladies and gentlemen this is D.C. Public Safety. We appreciate your comments. We even appreciate your criticisms. We want everybody to have yourselves a very pleasant day.

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Synthetic Drug Testing in Washington, D.C.

Synthetic Drug Testing in Washington, D.C.-Transcript

DC Public Safety Radio


See radio show at

Leonard: From the nations capital this is DC public safety, I’m your host Leonard Sipes. Ladies and gentlemen, the topic for today is synthetic drug testing. This is a topic of great importance throughout the United States and we have a new capacity here in the nation’s capital as of October 1. To do synthetic drug testing, to discuss this new capacity we have two guests, Leslie Cooper, deputy director of pretrial services agency for the District of Columbia, Gerome Robinson, he is the director of forensics research again for pretrial services agency for the District of Columbia. To Leslie and Gerome, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Leslie: Good afternoon thank you.

Leonard: All right, you know this is a really interesting topic because this is an issue that is, that parole probation agencies, pretrial agencies, criminal justice agencies, throughout the United States are facing right now. We have this new capacity and new equipment, new protocol to test the different people we have under supervision for synthetic drugs. Now, the amazing thing about this is that that’s like twenty-five thousand samples a month, all the samples that we take ordinarily we are to start testing for synthetic drugs. So before getting into synthetic drugs, Leslie, tell me a little bit about the pretrial services agency for the District of Columbia.

Leslie: The pretrial services for the District of Columbia is a small federal entity, we’re actually housed under the umbrella of the court services and offenders supervision agency. We have a fairly simple and straightforward mission which is to promote pretrial justice in enhanced community safety.

Leonard: Is this considered one of the best pretrial organizations in the United States? You have higher rates of compliance, I’ve taken a look at the national averages for pretrial, and the national averages throughout the United States, you have more people returning to trial than just about anybody else.

Leslie: It’s true. I think that we benefit here in DC. We have a very strong statutory structure which allows us to operate from a system that presumes that the best path  is for someone who is awaiting trial is release to the community. Our responsibility in that regard is to conduct risk assessments for individuals who are arrested, and then make recommendations to judges prior to their appearance, and then for those persons who are actually released while [inaudible 00:02:58] we provide the supervision through their appearance.

Leonard: And drug testing. Okay, the presumption in the District of Columbia is release unless there is a public safety reason to hold that person, correct?

Leslie: That it correct.

Leonard: All right so that makes us unique. So it’s not a money bail, in the District of Columbia.

Leslie: That’s correct.

Leonard: Now pretrial does the testing for our agency court services and offenders supervision agency as well as pretrial services, correct?

Leslie: That’s correct, so in addition to our supervision and release detention recommendations function, we serve the primary purpose of providing drug testing for individuals in the adult criminal justice system in the District of Columbia, which includes probation, parole, pretrial, supervised release. We also do some testing for respondents with matters in the DC family court.

Leonard: Okay, but we also do lockup, and this question goes over to Gerome Robinson, director of forensic research for pretrial. Gerome, we have it a bit complicated. We test at lockup, where people who are arrested in the District of Columbia. It is essentially voluntary and, let’s just say 60-80 percent of these individuals do provide samples unless a judge orders it. So, it’s voluntary unless a judge orders it, but the majority do provide samples, correct?

Gerome: That’s correct.

Leonard: Okay. Pretrial, which is the second part of this, is that those court-ordered by the judge, which are the vast majority of individuals under pretrial supervision, right?

Gerome: Yes.

Leonard: Okay. Parole and probation, which is us, court services and offenders supervision agency, like Leslie said, we are a federal agency with a local mission. We tested intake and we do a lot of testing, once or twice a week. It can be that high, you can gradually come off it if you test negative, if you test positive you go back to the original testing schedule, but tests are also based upon the risk level of the person under supervision, do I have that correct?

Gerome: That’s basically correct.

Leonard: All right, so it’s a tri-partied series of tests. I know, Leslie, you mentioned family court and instances, but basically speaking we test at lockup, we test for pretrial, and we test under parole and probation supervision. Those are the three, and twenty-five thousand samples a month.

Gerome: That’s correct.

Leonard: That’s amazing! Twenty-five thousand samples a month, we’re testing for from those three populations, correct?

Gerome: That’s correct.

Leonard: That’s amazing. That’s a lot of drug testing, and we ordinarily test for blood, cocaine, amphetamine, PCP, what else? Marijuana in some circumstances …

Gerome: Marijuana, methadone, opiates.

Leonard: Methadone, and opiates. Oh my Heavens, I forgot opiates. Considering that I’ve been around the criminal justice system for 45 years, how did I leave opiates out of that? We understand that, at all three levels, whether it be lockup, whether it be pretrial, whether it be under parole and probation supervision, some people that come into contact with us are going to use synthetic drugs to escape testing positive. Some sample is going to do that, correct?

Gerome: That’s, yes that’s correct.

Leonard: And there’s research out there that indicates that there are somewhat substantial numbers of people who tested negative but when we retested those urines, we come to find out that they tested positive for synthetic drugs.

Gerome: Yes.

Leonard: Okay, so synthetic drugs is a problem. It’s a problem in the District of Columbia, it’s a problem throughout the United States, and ladies and gentlemen in the show notes, we did a television show about a year and a half ago on synthetic drugs and I’ll be putting the link in the show notes to the television program that we did. So, we’re talking about overall between these three populations and twenty-five thousand samples a month, we’re talking about somewhere in the ball park between twenty-five and twenty-six percent testing positive within any sample.

Gerome: Yeah, overall population.

Leonard: Overall population.

Gerome: Right.

Leonard: Out of all these tests, do we have a sense yet as to who’s testing positive for synthetic drugs? So, we don’t know the number yet because we just started it October 1st.

Leslie: That’s correct, what we have been doing, and I’ll let Mr. Robinson talk a bit about the partnership that we have that started our synthetic testing program, but we started our testing program October 1st and we anticipate having data on the actual prevalence of synthetic use within this population over the next few months.

Leonard: Okay. That is gonna be, the results are going to be instructive as to how many are using synthetic drugs. Now, synthetics can change the ingredients, of what we call synthetic drugs, can change, correct?

Gerome: That’s correct.

Leonard: Gerome, you were talking about, before we hit the record button, as to how you work with the coroners office and the drug enforcement administration and other sources because we have the capacity to change what we’re testing for, correct?

Gerome: That’s correct, and it’s one of the things that has really made this work for us, and for the region, and for the district. It’s the collaoration between the different parties: the DEA, the office of the chief medical examiners, the toxicology unit, the different DC government agencies, social entities, and so on. We’ve all come together to talk about this and give the information and knowledge that we have in our special field. They pulled all that together, and we’re at a good place now in terms of staying close to the cutting edge of the drugs that are coming in, because of this collaboration. The DEA keeps us [inaudible 00:08:33] of what they’re picking up on the packets, and then once we hear that we say, “Well let’s go look and see if we can get a standard on this, or if we can find a metabolite that we can run.”

Leonard: Ah.

Gerome: So that’s what has happened, that’s the key, in my opinion, of why it’s worked so well for us.

Leonard: Okay.

Gerome: Then, of course, we have the support of the agency, the leadership and the agency, to get this done.

Leonard: Okay so everybody’s talking to each other to figure out what we’re going to be testing for, and what it means, so if new trends come up we can be right on top of it.

Gerome: That’s correct.

Leonard: We bought our own equipment to pull this off?

Gerome: Yes.

Leonard: That’s a heck of a commitment.

Gerome: Well, yes, it is, and the last piece of equipment we got was a LCMSMS, which is quite expensive, but necessary.

Leonard: Yeah, prior to that we had all of the instrumentation we needed. So, and I’ll explain maybe later on in the program how we went piecemeal in monitoring this stuff, one technique to another and then moving on to something else, and doing the partnerships and collaboration and all of this. So yeah, they provided the instrumentation that we had prior to getting the LCMSMS, and then they went and they got the LCMSMS, and I’ve been extremely excited and happy about that.

Leonard: Now, we have committed within our budget to test for every sample that comes in. Twenty-five thousand samples a month, we’re going to be testing all twenty-five thousand samples a month for synthetic drugs.

Gerome: Correct.

Leonard: That’s an amazing commitment.

Leslie: It is. We realize, though, the severity of the issue. We, as Mr. Robinson said, are very close partners with the Metropolitan Police Department, with the entire district government, up through Mayor Bowser’s office, with the United States attorney’s office, and everyone is talking about synthetics and with PSA being the agency that does the testing, we recognize that that placed a responsibility on us to actually go out and to procure the equipment that would allow us to provide this critical information to the community at large.

Leonard: Okay but my conversations with my peers throughout the country when we talk about synthetic drugs is that very few people out there are testing for synthetic drugs. We’re not just testing, we’re testing every single sample of every person at lockup, every person on pretrial that’s going through drug testing, every person who’s going through parole and probation supervision through court services and offenders supervision agency, that is a huge commitment.

Gerome: Yes it is.

Leslie: It’s absolutely a huge commitment, again, but out investment in the Washington DC community requires that. Everyone is interested in ensuring and maintaining public safety here in the district and we see it as an investment that’s well worth it. We’re trying to keep DC a safe place for people to live, work, and visit, and we see that as part [inaudible 00:11:35] of our responsibility in carrying out that mission.

Leonard: So the bottom line is, in terms of what it is we’re testing for, the various components of synthetic marijuana, or synthetic drugs, the vast majority, all of those components, we’re testing for and as they change, we’ll change as necessary for all twenty-five thousand samples a month. Again, to me, that’s a huge undertaking that’s not happening throughout the rest of the country. That’s just my information, I don’t know if that’s completely accurate, but that’s the sense that I’m getting from talking to my peers throughout the country. Synthetic drugs are obviously illegal, I mean I want to make that point clear just in case we have anybody caught up in the criminal justice system listening to this broadcast.

Gerome: They have to be scheduled. I mean you have to realize, I think you already know this, that there are hundreds, maybe thousands, of compounds that come under that terminology.

Leonard: Yes.

Gerome: Of course, the DEA doesn’t schedule every one of those, they schedule ones that they see as becoming a problem. If they hear of people getting sick or dying from some of these compounds, they’ll put it on their schedule. So, you know, we monitor the schedule that they create, and we base our components on that schedule. So right now, in the LCMS, we’re looking at thirty-one compounds.

Leonard: Okay.

Gerome: The screening looks at about, I think close to the same amount.

Leonard: Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Gerome: It depends of what they are.

Leonard: But we’ll change it as necessary, I mean, the coroners office says, “Hey, we’re discovering this new compound.” The DEA, “We’re discovering these new issues at the east coast.” So we can change, and reflect, and report that back to the courts, report it back to the parole commission.

Gerome: I mean, that’s what we’ve seen. When we first started, we saw JWH-018073 and then that dried up, and then we had to move to something else, then UR-144, and the XLR-11 came in. What has amazed me, though, is that’s been several years and UR-144 and XLR-11 are still showing up, and that’s what we mostly see. Recently, they’ve been AB, AB-FUBINACA, AB-PINACA, all these -aca names, have been added to the profile.

Leonard: So the bottom line is, if that person who is caught up in the criminal justice system is using synthetics to get around the drug testing requirements, that person is in for a big surprise, very shortly.

Leslie: That’s the message that we’d like to convey.

Leonard: That is the message, where if you were doing this to get, to fool us within the criminal justice system, that stops on October 1, 2015.

Leslie: Correct. We think that part of the reason why you may see certain spikes in use is for that very reason, that people believe that you can use these substances while under criminal justice supervision, and use them undetected. So we recognize that challenge, we are prepared to meet that challenge to the extent possible. To your earlier point we are constantly trying to keep on top of the changing compounds just to make sure that we are trying to keep pace as quickly as possible with what we see out in the samples.

Leonard: Synthetic drugs, synthetic marijuana, is often times being sold in storefronts throughout the District of Columbia. This is, I want to make this perfectly clear being we have a national audience, this is happening throughout the United States. This isn’t, it’s in Milwaukee, it’s in Los Angeles, it’s in San Diego, and I would daresay for twenty percent of our audience, that are international it’s in your city as well. It looks almost like a pack of hot rocks from years ago, from decades ago, I mean they’re very colorful packets, they look like something that you would buy for fifty cents, like candy almost. You get the impression when you buy synthetic marijuana, synthetic drugs, that this is something that has to be legal because gee, look at the packaging. I mean, heroine’s not packaged that way, cocaine’s not packaged that way, amphetamine’s aren’t packaged that way, this is packaged in such a way to convey to people that this must be a legal drug, because my goodness I’m buying it from the local grocery store, I’m buying it from the local gas station.

Gerome: Also, to attract the younger individuals in the community: teenagers, and so on. Although, a large portion of adult populations are using it too.

Leonard: Obviously, we deal with adults on supervision, we’re talking about, you know, [inaudible 00:16:36], it’s twelve thousand on any given day. The population for pretrial on any given day, Leslie, is about seven thousand?

Leslie: Just over four thousand.

Leonard: Four thousand, I’m sorry. So, right there you’re talking in the ball park of thirty thousand human … I’m sorry, twenty-thousand human beings on any given day. The people going through lockup, I mean that’s tens of thousands of people a year, I’m assuming.

Leslie: Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Leonard: I don’t know the number, off the top of my head, so this is an adult population taking this, but the really scary thing is these packages make it seem to kids that this is safe to take.

Leslie: Certainly, I mean the packages are labeled, “Not for human consumption,” however, we know that as they are presented they are fairly attractive and I think you are absolutely correct in that when you see something on a store shelf you make an assumption that it is safe for some type of human interaction.

Leonard: I would make that assumption.

Leslie: So, again, our hats are really off to this city for the efforts that it has undertaken to crack down on the sales of these particular substances. I think they’ve done a phenomenal job with both regulatory efforts and enforcement of those, to really try to get these products out of the stores, just because of the dangers that can be associated with their use.

Leonard: We’re more than halfway through the program, the topic today is synthetic drug testing, the fact that as of October 1 pretrial services agency, who does the testing at lockup, that does the testing for pretrial, and does the testing for court services and offenders supervision agency, those on parole and probation, as of October 1, all twenty-six thousand samples a month, twenty-five thousand samples a month, are going to be tested for synthetic drugs. At our microphones today, Leslie Cooper, deputy director pretrial services agency for the District of Columbia and Gerome Robinson, director for forensic research, again at pretrial services agency. Both of our agencies are federal agencies,

So, what do we see, what do you expect is going to happen come October 1? I would imagine word is getting out, little bit by little bit, to the population that we’re now testing for synthetic drugs. What will that mean?

Leslie: I think what will begin to happen is people will begin to recognize the use of synthetic drugs in a way we already recognize the more commonly known substances. So again, from a risk mitigation standpoint on both the pretrial and the [inaudible 00:19:10] side, what you’ll see is our continued existing response to abuse of any drug. What we do in those instances, when positive drug tests are received on and individual contributor, we coordinate with the releasing authority, alert them to their use, we may impose …

Leonard: Which means the courts, in your case, for pretrial.

Leslie: Correct. For us, it’s going to be the courts on the [inaudible 00:19:31], it will be the parole commission, or the court for someone who is on probation, and so we will notify that releasing authority, let them know what our efforts have been internally, to try to stop the abuse. Then, when we’re unable to stop the use on our end, after providing probably both sanctions and an opportunity for treatment, we then do refer back to either the court or the parole commission and ask them to take action.

Leonard: Okay so the bottom line is that this is a person that could be really facing jail time, prison time, if the person doesn’t comply with their standards of supervision, what is expected of them on the pretrial level, and on the parole and probation level.

Leslie: That’s correct. In violation of a drug test in condition by repeatedly testing positive could result in revocation of supervision, so yes, that’s correct.

Leonard: And we do know that those individuals, taking a look at your data Leslie, the individuals that don’t do well on pretrial supervision are the individuals who are caught up with heavy duty drug use.

Leslie: We do have information that shows that those people who are suffering from some form of addiction tend to do more poorly in terms of their outcomes. Again, our primary outcomes at pretrial are to ensure that they’re not re-arrested during the pendency of their case, and also to make sure that they show up for court each and every time, and we do find that there are variations in the outcomes for individuals who are using drugs actively during the period, yes.

Leonard: We find within court services and offenders supervision agency those folks who were in pretrial, I mean those folks who were on probation or coming out of prison, that it’s the heavy duty drug users who don’t do well, the people with mental health issues, drug issues, co-occurring disorders, so finding out who the synthetic drug users are, and intervening meaningfully in their lives, is part in partial to public safety.

Leslie: Absolutely, we consider substance abuse to be one of the primary domains that is necessary to be examined in order to put together a community supervision plan and that’s either at the pretrial or post-adjudication phase.

Leonard: Criminalogically speaking, that’s been the basis for drug testing for decades. I mean, the best practices as of decades ago, is to drug test, and research indicates that the more you test, the less they get involved in drug use and the less they get involved in criminal-based activities. So, drug testing has been in-partial, and we probably do more of it than just about any other criminal justice agency I’m aware of.

Leslie: I think one of the benefits is that we do have our in-house testing laboratory, so again, having the ability to test in-house and then have a quick turn around for result does help drug testing become a substantial part of the supervision planning process, yes.

Leonard: You know, Gerome, in a lot of agencies, they take their drug testing requirements and they farm them out, and they send them out, to an outside lab, and what we have done, as of, since the beginning of [00:22:49] pretrial …

Leslie: Actually, even prior to that.

Leonard: Really?

Leslie: Prior to that. Pretrial existed prior to that, and Mr. Robinson can probably speak because it’s near and dear to his heart that pretrial was one of the first agencies to actually have it. I think the first pretrial agency to have in-house testing, that dates back to 1984.

Leonard: Wow, and Gerome, have you been around that long?

Gerome: I got here in October 1989.

Leonard: Okay.

Gerome: So, they had a few years on me.

Leonard: So the whole idea is that bringing it in-house, having complete control over the process, is part in partial to public safety. When it’s not sent out, we control the whole thing [inaudible 00:23:31].

Gerome: Yeah, and you can adjust, to whatever is coming down the pike, like Franciscan synthetics, I mean, we’re able to adjust I think very well to testing for this.

Leonard: We control cost that way, correct? I mean, it’s a lot more expensive if you farm this stuff out.

Gerome: It can be, yes.

Leonard: So we control cost and we have the flexibility to move in any direction we want, and I think that’s part in-partial to the federal commitment to the public safety in the District of Columbia, the fact that we have brought it in-house, it’s always been in-house, it’s under out control, and we have the flexibility to move in any direction we want. We’re not dependent upon re-negotiating a contract with an outside vendor.

Gerome: Yes.

Leonard: Okay. So, what is the major misconception about synthetic drugs?

Gerome: First, is that they’re not dangerous, right. That, in the early stages, they may have been not as dangerous as they are now.

Leonard: But they have gotten increasingly more dangerous.

Gerome: Yes, the thing is, they change it so much, they tweak it so much, you don’t know what you’re getting, and so now, like I mentioned, some of those other compounds, they’re coming in. If you remember the problem we had this summer with the people in homeless shelters, overdosing and what not.

Leonard: Yes.

Gerome: I suspect that a lot of these new compounds were coming in and affecting populations.

Leonard: We really never have, it’s not like it’s and FDA approved drug, where they say, “Oh by the way we’ve changed the compounds,” when you ingest this stuff you don’t have a clue as to what you’re ingesting.

Gerome: You haven’t, that’s the big problem, you don’t know what, I mean the chemists don’t know how it affects people, they just change the drug and put it out. There’s no quality control in this business.

Leonard: So what worked in terms of testing last week may not necessarily work immediately because we would have to get the data from the DEA, get the data form the coroner’s office, get the data from other criminal justice agencies and change our formula in such a way to be sure that we’re testing for what’s on the street.

Gerome: Well we have to, of course like you said be aware of those compounds, and work with our partners and the industry to cover those drugs, so that’s a little much, a bit off a lee time, you have to work on that, but it’s doable.

Leonard: Okay, and Leslie, the bottom line in terms of all of this, in terms of the biggest message we want to get out about synthetic drugs, is he folks, we’re testing!

Leslie: The bottom line is do not roll the dice. It is not a safe bet to assume that if you are under criminal justice supervision in the District of Columbia, that you can us synthetic drugs and get away with it.

Leonard: And if you’re not currently under supervision of pretrial or probation or people coming out of the prison system, or just being locked up for it. If you’re locked up and it’s turned into a positive, then that’s something that can’t have an effect in terms of either your release or your future involvement in the criminal justice system. So the bottom line is beyond health reasons, because I’m not quite sure why anyone would ingest something they are completely unaware of what it could do, I mean, the chief of police here in the District of Columbia, Cathy Lanier has said that there are people out there who just pass out, who are committing bizarre behaviors and are being involved in criminal activity. I’m not quite sure that they set out that evening to be involved in bizarre or criminal behavior. I think that being under the influence of synthetic drugs has a way of creating, or contributing to violent behavior, correct?

Leslie: I think you make a very good point in that synthetics pose a tremendous challenge to both the public safety and the public health systems, I’m pleased to hear that within the District of Columbia we are partnering very effectively, I think across both sides of that, just to make sure that we’re covering that from every aspect. I do want to just underscore what you just said, which is that you don’t know what the outcome will be. You don’t know what it’ll be on your health, you don’t know what it’ll be with your status within the criminal justice system, and those to me are two very good cautionary reasons to why you should avoid using synthetics.

Leonard: The Metropolitan police department here in the District of Columbia, and law enforcement agencies throughout the United States are cracking down on the use of synthetic drugs, because, again, anything if you’ve ever seen the television show, and we’ll post the television show in the show notes, that we did about a year and a half ago, the packaging of this makes it so conducive to kids who end up taking this, and that could produce a psychotic episode. That could have an impact on a child for the rest of their life.

Gerome: Yes.

Leonard: So this is something that everybody needs to stay away from, and the criminal justice system is now testing it and recognizing it, it’s dangerous, and that’s the bottom line, correct?

Gerome: That’s correct.

Leonard: All right. Anything else that I left out, Leslie? Anything that you want to put it?

Leslie: Just to reinforce the fact that we are definitely committed to continuing to look into new and emerging drugs. My hat is absolutely off to Mr. Robinson and the entire team over in pretrials laboratory, that is actively working day in and day out to identify those new compounds and really help to keep us on the cutting edge so that we, again, can keep the city a safe place to be.

Leonard: Because the bottom line is that the components of drugs are always gonna change to some degree and we’ve got to stay on top of this, and so we are staying on top of it by having folks like long term veterans, Robinson, and bringing in that process in-house and having our own equipment and then committing the budget.

Leslie: Absolutely.

Leonard: To twenty-five thousand samples a month. I want to thank my guests today, Leslie Cooper, deputy director of pretrial services agency for the District of Columbia, and Gerome Robinson, the director of forensic research,,, ladies and gentlemen this is DC Pubic Safety. We appreciate you comments, we even appreciate your criticisms, and we want everybody to have themselves a very very pleasant day.


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Successful Parole and Probation Practices-DC Public Safety Television

Successful Parole and Probation Practices-Transcript

DC Public Safety Television

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

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

AnMarie: Thank you Nancy.

Russ: Thank you Nancy.

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

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

Nancy: Okay and in Michigan?

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

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

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

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

Nancy: AnMarie?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nancy: You want to add anything to that Russ?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anne: Thank you.

Gerald: Thank you.

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

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

Nancy: Right, right, Anne?

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

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

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

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

Nancy: That’s a good point, Anne?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Information Sharing With Law Enforcement and Parole and Probation-APPA

Information Sharing With Law Enforcement and Parole and Probation-APPA

DC Public Safety Radio-Podcast


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LEONARD SIPES: From the nation’s capital this is DC Public Safety. I am your host Leonard Sips. Our show today ladies and gentleman Information Sharing Between Parole and Probation and Law Enforcement, back at our microphones is Adam Matz. He is a Research Associate with the American Probation and Parole Association, and we have Yogesh Chawla. He is an Information Sharing Specialist with SEARCH and the Nation Consortium for Justice Information Sharing. The website for SEARCH is Adam, welcome back. Yogesh, welcome to our microphones at DC Public Safety.

ADAM MATZ: It is great to be back.

YOGESH CHAWLA: Thanks it great to be here Len.

LEONARD SIPES: Well it is great to have both of you. Adam, I thank you for doing these shows with the American Probation and Parole Association. Always great shows; some of our more popular shows. All right, we are talking about information sharing between parole and probation and law enforcement and you wrote an article that is currently being submitted addressing the Offender Transfer Notification Service and I want to start off with establishing some of the definitions that we are dealing with here. Essentially, Adam tell me if I’m right or wrong, we have a prototype program that electronically sends out information on offenders being transferred from one state to another to a law enforcement fusion center and when they get that information they can disseminate that to everybody else in that law enforcement fusion center or in that state correct.

ADAM MATZ: Yeah that is correct. The information exchange project: APPA American Probation and Parole Association has been working with SEARCH who is the technical partner on this particular exchange. We partner with the Interstate Compact for Adult Offender Supervision and what we have done is developed a project where a subset of the state transfers, folks deemed potentially dangerous, whenever their transfers are approved and they are ready to be relocated to another state, the idea behind this exchange is that that state will receive notification so that the Fusion Centers in that state will receive notifications of these individuals. And it’s just basic information. And then those fusion center are then able to turn around and distribute that information through their channels to the local law enforcement in that state.

LEONARD SIPES: Okay now we do have and for our none, it is mostly a criminal justice audience, but for the non criminal justice audience I always use the same example to the aid of the mayor of Milwaukee who is looking for information about information sharing between parole and probation and law enforcement. The states transfer people under supervision to each other all the time and there’s hundreds of thousands of people moving from one state to the other for a wide variety of reasons. That state, through the Interstate Compact, the receiving state must accept this individual and it happens routinely. Correct?

ADAM MATZ: Yeah that’s right.

LEONARD SIPES: Okay and so the idea is to be sure that law enforcement, through a fusion center, and describe to me what fusion center is.

ADAM MATZ: Yes, the fusion center, the State fusion centers and there is roughly 70 of them across the country but basically after 9-11 there was concern about information sharing across the country and the Department of Homeland Security was a big part of developing these Fusion Centers and they are maintained by the individual states and they are basically responsible for compiling information on various different, it could be criminal, it could be disaster related type of information, compiling that information and making folks in that state aware of those.

LEONARD SIPES: So that was in reaction to the criticism after 9-11 that law enforcement agencies and criminal justice agencies were not talking to each other.

ADAM MATZ: That’s right, exactly right.

LEONARD SIPES: Okay. So the idea here and the idea behind the article, is that they are pilot testing this in New York State but this is something that’s going to be expanded to the possibility of it being expanded to all the other states throughout the United States?

ADAM MATZ: Yeah that’s right and in fact the Interstate Compact as you know is national in scope, so it takes care of basically takes care of all the exchanges, for all the transfers for all the states in the country. Now where we are at with this exchange we’ve had a pilot in place with New York State intelligent centre and a New York State Fusion Center to receive notifications of individuals transferring into that state and that can include anyone across the country, any of the other 49 states. And that’s been going on for about a year. Now on average they get basically maybe 10-15 notifications per week.

LEONARD SIPES: This is in New York State?

ADAM MATZ: That’s right.

LEONARD SIPES: Okay, because they are not talking about every offender, they are talking about those deemed to be of most concern; those are the people of the highest risk?

ADAM MATZ: Yeah that’s right and to kind of expand on that, one of the conversation points we had early on, we had work group meetings several years ago on this, was there’s no standardized risk assessment across the country and that was kind of an issue. So we couldn’t really go by a risk level, if you will, because it varies depending on what instrument folks use. So because of standardization what we ended up doing instead was relying on primary offence, NCIC codes – so basically the primary offence, what level that is and the seriousness of that. And we worked with obviously the fusion center in New York to develop that specific list as well.

LEONARD SIPES: All right, so the bottom line behind all of this though, is that this is the program that we are going to be talking about or the issue. The Interstate Commission for Adult Offender Supervision is what we are talking about today but I just want to make it clear to the listeners that the vast majority of information exchange between law enforcement and parole and probation and corrections is done at the local level like here at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency and for those who don’t know we are a federal agency. We provide parole and probation services to Washington DC. We’re in constant contact with law enforcement anywhere from the FBI to the Secret Service to Housing Authority but principally the Metropolitan Police Department. We’re in touch with them on a daily basis exchanging information. Our parole and probation agents, known here as community supervision officers, are constantly exchanging information with police officers at the street level. So I don’t want to give the opinion or the sense that the bulk of this information exchange happens through this sort of mechanism, that the bulk of information exchange happens at the command level and between individual police officers and parole and probation agents. Correct?

ADAM MATZ: Yeah that’s right and to kind of build on that a little bit, you know. and we have had prior shows about police and probation and parole partnerships, and sort of informal information sharing that happens. This exchange is new. There is not any previous sort of attempt to share information like this between the Interstate Compact and the law enforcement, so it is kind of a nice opportunity to kind of automate, because it is automated. There is no manual aspect to it. Once the exchange is established, the information and notifications go out basically as soon as they’re ready. And usually it’s once a week but it is kind of configurable depending on you know the fusion center and how they want to receive it and how they want to disseminate. So there is some flexibility in there as well.

One thing that I want to point out too, is the goals of this exchange in particular. One of the primarily goals of this exchange, from the very beginning, has always been about increasing officer safety, particularly police officer safety and situational awareness. And there is obviously different examples of where maybe law enforcement go into situations where they are not fully prepared or maybe they are not fully aware of the individuals they’re dealing with. So the genesis behind this exchange is twofold. One is officer safety and two, it is really about encouraging more dialogue, more coordination between police and probation and parole agents.

LEONARD SIPES: Which is a good thing. Which is a necessary thing. Yogesh Chawla, I apologize for not getting to you. I am looking down at my time clock and we’re close to 9 minutes in the program and you and I haven’t even talked yet. But let me give something in the article that both of you wrote along with Harry Higman is it and Gloria Brewer. The one example that you provide in this article is a Washington State parolee by the name of Maurice Clemens was involved with the murder of four police officers back in 2009 and your article says, “Still it’s unclear whether such a tragic complicated incident could have been prevented. It was understood that there was a need for greater information sharing between law enforcement and the community corrections.” Do you want to comment on that?

YOGESH CHAWLA: Sure, one thing I’d like to point out is that a lot of the challenges we have with information sharing exchanges is the cost and the scope of them. So one nice thing about this particular project, when we started it, is that we had a national focus in mind. We couldn’t be thinking in silos or in state to state or point to point exchanges. When we built this exchange, we said, “How can we get this information to all 50 states, get all 50 states sending and receiving these offender transfers so we can scale our officer safety, so that it is not just limited to certain jurisdictions?” So what we did is, what we had in mind with this exchange is, in the initial pilot is to build as much functionality as we can and then we’re basically in the process of rolling this out to other states and if states want to receive this information, they can do it at a very low cost. Basically all they’d have to provide is an internet connection and a server which would receive it and then they would be receiving these transfers and once they get them they can disseminate them to their local partners as they wish to do so. So we do have this national scope in mind and cost is a really important thing especially when we are looking to scale out to the entire country.

LEONARD SIPES: You know I have taken up so much of the program just trying to form a base line for the person listening to the program but let me do the final baseline issue, and we’re probably coming close to halfway through the program. Adam, The American Probation and Parole Association is the premier organization in the United States providing information for the rest of us in community supervision, providing us with information and research and guidance in terms of what good parole and probation, what state of the art parole and probation, what evidence parole and probation is correct?


LEONARD SIPES: Okay Yogesh, give me – you are with, you are an information sharing specialist for the National Consortium for Justice Information Sharing and you were also with SEARCH. So give me a sense as to what the National Consortium for Justice Information Sharing is, and then give me a sense as to what SEARCH is.

YOGESH CHAWLA: Sure, SEARCH is basically the National Consortium for Justice Information Sharing. We are a membership based organization and we have representatives from all 50 states and we are non profit and we have been around since 1969. So we have being doing justice information sharing when it was originally done with paper and pen or telephone and we have seen that all the way through to a lot of the advances that we have made with justice information sharing in technology. What we try to do is we try to provide local jurisdictions, states, even national public safety organizations with the tools to do justice information sharing: and that’s planning, design and implementation and support. So if you have a justice information sharing problem we are here to provide a solution basically from point A to point Z and in this specific exchange we partnered up with APPA to provide the technical resources to actually write the software which is doing the exchange here and to do it in such a way, since it is funded by federal grants, in a way that it can be reused in, for example, other exchanges.

At the time this exchange was being written there was also a sex offender exchange which is very similar that was being written where sex offenders move from one state to the other where there could be a notification in place for that or the Adam Walsh Act. So one of the great thing about this project is that not only are we allowing it to scale when we are adding different states to it, we have also created an infrastructure out there nationally so if states want to do information sharing projects in the future there is basically a cloud infrastructure out there. So they have a place to put their information exchanges and we are looking to expand that as other information sharing needs become available.

LEONARD SIPES: You know I go back an awfully long time. I have been involved in the criminal justice system for 45 years, for 35 years in terms of doing media related endeavors for the criminal justice system and I can remember SEARCH from the very beginning of my career and I can remember the American Probation and Parole Association from the very beginning of my career. So I just wanted to give the listeners a sense that I am talking, they are listening to representatives from two organizations that have been around for decades.


LEONARD SIPES: Alright so we are more than half way through the program, are we, no. We are a minute before we get to the half way point, before I reintroduce you. So the Interstate Commission for Adult Offender Supervision is what, Yogesh, give me a very brief synopsis of that.

YOGESH CHAWLA: Sure, I’m actually going to throw that question over to Adam he has been very involved with that.

LEONARD SIPES: Yeah go ahead.

ADAM MATZ: So the Interstate Commission for Adult Offender Supervision, they obviously, there’s Interstate Compact officers in every state but there is also a sort primarily headquarters if you will that is also in Lexington, Kentucky. APPA partnered with ICAOS to develop this exchange. It is obviously to support their work. It is all the data we are talking about is ICAOS, ICAOS data.

LEONARD SIPES: Let’s stay away from acronyms again, if we could, for the general audience. The Interstate Compact for Adult Offender Supervision, right?

ADAM MATZ: Yeah the Interstate Compact. Basically they are the ones that facilitate the transfers of probation and parolees across state lines.

LEONARD SIPES: Okay, and we are talking about, I said hundreds of thousands, I was wrong because I am looking at the article itself, we are talking about 150,000 transfers a year from one state to the other?

YOGESH CHAWLA: Yeah, and since there is such a volume of transfers 150,000 you know as we stated before, we are focusing just on the high risk offenders here.

LEONARD SIPES: Right okay let me reintroduce both of you because I find this to be a fascinating program. The concept of information sharing between parole and probation and corrections and law enforcement, we have two people. Back at our microphone Adam Matz, Research Associate with the American Probation and Parole Association. is the website for the American Probation and Parole Association. Yogesh Chawla is an information sharing specialist for the Nation Consortium for Justice Information Sharing or SEARCH Both Adam and Yogesh and two other people put together an article that is currently being considered for national publication talking about using information technology to share information about high risk offenders as they move from one state to the next. Again, with the idea that most of this information exchange does occur on a day to day basis between law enforcement and parole and probation agencies and correctional agencies and that happens automatically, but this is really exciting because what we have here with the Interstate Commission for Adult Offenders Supervision is the idea that we can eventually bring every state in the United States into this concept. It’s being field tested with the State of New York, bring every state in there. So all high risk offenders, when they are being transferred from one state to the other, they don’t fall through the cracks. Law enforcement is notified through something called a fusion center and that fusion center distributes that information to all other law enforcement agencies in the states correct.

ADAM MATZ: Yeah, that’s right and just to kind of chat on that a little bit. We are kind of using the term “high risk” but that is kind of used loosely. As I mentioned before there is no standardizes risk assessment across the country so I think probably the best way to refer to it would be “potentially high risk or potentially dangerous.”

LEONARD SIPES: Based upon the crime that they are being supervised for.

ADAM MATZ: Correct yes.

LEONARD SIPES: Okay. And so the goal of the information sharing is officer safety and public safety, right?

ADAM MATZ: That’s correct and it is also to encourage more partnerships, more collaboration between police and probation and parole. I also want to throw in real quick. This project is funded by the Bureau of Justice, funded by the Department of Justice and those incidents like the Maurice Clemmons case, those are kind of the incidents that help kind of bring this to the attention at a national level and that is really what kind of created the genesis for this kind of exchange and all this work that we are doing so I wanted to plug that in there too.

LEONARD SIPES: Now you have here NIEM, what does National Information EM stand for.

YOGESH CHAWLA: Sure you know in the technical arena we often run into lots of acronyms and one of the things that the US DOJ and the Bureau of Justice Assistance provided was something called the global reference architecture. Many times, as IT practitioners, it seems like we are speaking a language but then when we speak to each other we are also speaking a different language. And what we really saw a need for in the justice arena and in the information sharing arena just in general, was the need for standards and standardization and the Global Reference Architecture really provided that. One of the building blocks for that is called The National Information Exchange model and that is basically the vocabulary that we use to talk to each other. When we’re defining what an offender is, an offender obviously has a first name, a last name, an address that they are going from, an address they are going to and what the National Information Exchange model allows us to do is to package these up into, the language its built on it is called XML, some of the tech people out there might know that but it allows us to package this up and allows us to basically speak the same language.

So if computer A and computer B are talking to each other, they are both speaking with the same language and same vocabulary and what you can do with this is, for example, right now we are using this specific exchange for offender transfer notifications. However, if you wanted to use this same information in a different way you wouldn’t need to go and reprogram everything, you can say, “Hey, we have this offender transfer profile that we have developed here how else can we use it? Would we like to use it to create more statistics? Would we like to use this to, you know, for a web portal so people can go search around and see who is moving into their neighborhood, things like that?” When you use NIEM and you use the Global Reference Architecture the whole purpose of it is to reduce cost and to take one exchange that you write and make it applicable for multiple purposes. That way every time we need to do something new in IT we are not going back and asking for more money to write something new. So BJA has been very instrumental in leadership and developing the Global Reference Architecture and that was the building blocks for the exchange that we have developed here.

LEONARD SIPES: But that has always been the problem for SEARCH across the board, because you know, you are dealing with 50 states and in some of our information systems that we have created, it goes way beyond 50 states. It goes into every law enforcement agency, every parole and probation agency. So there has to be an architecture that is common to almost every jurisdiction out there and that they understand and can be properly maintained so the entire country can talk to each other instantaneously if necessary. I mean that is the heart and soul behind SEARCH, I would imagine throughout the decades, is building those architectures that work from one criminal justice agency to another.

YOGESH CHAWLA: Absolutely, absolutely, and that is really instrumental here. And you know a couple of things I want to point out. I just want to give the listeners here a concrete example of what we are talking about. When we’re exchanging this information, this information all goes over the internet so there is a certain level of security that we need. Obviously we want to use encryption so anything that goes across the wire, no one can read it. You know we don’t want, you know if you read about a lot of these credit card breaches and what not, you know a lot of this encrypted information gets out there. The other thing we want to do is we want to digitally sign every message so if somebody takes one little piece of the message, they try to change the offenders name or the risk profile, that message would get rejected. The other thing we do is we put a time stamp on a message so it is only valid for a very short period of time. Now if you look at these requirements that we have right here, trying to get everyone to decide on how to program these specific things would be very difficult to do unless we had a reference architecture. So the Reference Architecture provides us guidance and says hey, “If you want to time stamp your messages, this is how you would want to do it. If you want to encrypt your messages this is how you would do it. If you want to sign your messages this is how you would do it.”


YOGESH CHAWLA: And the nice thing about it, it’s built on already existing IT standards. So it provides us a clearing house, a place where we can look to say, “Okay here are our requirements. How do we do this in the justice arena?”

LEONARD SIPES: Adam so you are pilot testing this in the state of New York how is that pilot test been going

ADAM MATZ: The pilot test has been great. We implemented it, I believe it was September of last year, so September 2013. We only have had a few maybe technical hiccups but very minor little issues and basically it’s been automated for practically a year. We have been keeping tabs on basically how many notifications would go to other states if they were connected. So we have some data on that as well it sort of helps us priorities. One thing I want to mention too, with that pilot, in that we did do just a few small interviews with a couple of different jurisdictions in New York to kind of get a sense of how is the information is used, is it helpful and one of the things I will note is that most folks agree pretty unanimously that the information is great, it’s helpful. We mentioned a little bit about local partnerships and information being shared. Now in some cases that’s true. There is some of this information being shared already. What’s kind of interesting though, is from the comments I got, a lot of times that information was isolated to just that jurisdiction. What they like about this notification is they get information about people going across the state. Not only that, they get a little bit more information. So this information exchange includes pictures with it. Those are types of extra elements that they are not getting already at the local level. So not only is it great nationally but also builds on any sort of local information sharing.

LEONARD SIPES: And it’s important, again, because what we are talking about is a) expanding this from New York to every other states through, I am assuming, funding from the Bureau of Justice Assistance and the US Department of Justice which is right up the street from me, and the possibility of using this for other endeavors, correct ? Or have we gone that far?

YOGESH CHAWLA: We’re currently in talks with four or five states right now who are really excited about this. And you know and when we brought up the existing pilot and the level of effort [INDISCERNIBLE 00:25:07] a lot of the states are really happy to hear that. Based off the work that we have done in New York we can basically just take what we have in New York and basically just drop it onto their server and they should be able to connect it at a very low cost and that allows us to scale the grant money that we have left as well and that was one of the advantages of using the Global Reference Architecture. So if there are any listeners out there who are working in local law enforcement or who work at a fusion center or are working in information sharing in a state you are looking for a very simple project, a very easy win and a very easy way to provide additional information to your local law enforcement for public safety, this would be a really good exchange at looking at joining since the cost is so low and since you can see results so quickly.

LEONARD SIPES: Well, I would image in terms of any information sharing across state lines, that they would automatically go to SEARCH considering the fact that SEARCH has been around for a decade. What else could the system is used for?

ADAM MATZ: Yeah, just to build on that a little bit. The Interstate Compact actually, right now the focus is obviously sharing information with law enforcement but the Interstate Compact may find other uses for this or other means of sharing information with other organizations like the courts and so on and so forth. So there might be more application for this for the Interstate Compact than what we are currently using it now even though our focus is fairly specific at the moment.

LEONARD SIPES: Uh huh. But I mean the idea of people at a, I’m sorry I don’t know how else to put it, at a certain risk level – I know we are not using an objective risk instrument to judge risk, but if you are transferring, if a person is transferred from Nabraska to Maryland and the person has a homicide charge, that sort of person is something that the State of Maryland is going to want to know about.

ADAM MATZ: Exactly, yes.

LEONARD SIPES: Okay, so the idea here is that instead of just going to Baltimore and Baltimore and the Maryland Division of Parole and Probation sharing that with Baltimore police well that offender can easily go across state, I mean county lines, four or five counties away and so that is the beauty of not just local information sharing between local police and local parole and probation officers, that is the beauty of sharing of it through the fusion center so the entire state is notified that George Smith, who was convicted of homicide but now he is going to be supervised in the state of Maryland – and we do want to do this by the way, for the casual person listening to this we do want people to go through the Interstate Compact and be transferred from one state to the other because we don’t want that person taking off on their own. We do want that person, if that person has a legitimate reason to be in that other state for family or for job or for whatever reason, if they have a legitimate reason for being in that other state we want them supervised. Thus the Interstate Compact, right?

ADAM MATZ: Yeah that’s right and the other really nice thing about the way that this exchange is set up and the information is being shared is that along with each of those individuals, the information and it’s just the basic information about who they are and where they are located and what they, you know if there is gang affiliation and those kind of things; it doesn’t include all their background. It doesn’t include that. It is just very specific you know. Here is an individual who is coming in and here is where they are going. And it also includes the contact information for the supervising officer, if that’s a probation or parole officer which is great.

LEONARD SIPES: So they can get the information they need because if a county, I am going to use the state of Maryland again, if a county three counties away from Baltimore City where that person is going to live suddenly has, if a sex offender has been transferred and suddenly starts getting sex offender sort of crimes and they have no leads, maybe a call to that parole and probation agent asking for information about that person and does he have any contact with my particular county, may be a good call.

ADAM MATZ: Yeah, exactly. And that’s exactly what we are hoping that this exchange will do. It will make folks aware, so obviously increase situational awareness, but we really want to encourage that dialogue.

LEONARD SIPES: And dialogue is the heart and soul in terms of the exchange of information between law enforcement and corrections and parole and probation and you have got about five seconds. Right?

YOGESH CHAWLA: Yeah great and what we are really looking to do is just to get additional fusion centers and additional states connected. So once again if you represent a state and you would like to get this information, please go ahead and get in touch with us at either or as well.

LEONARD SIPES: Okay Yogesh, you’ve got the final word. Ladies and gentlemen we are doing a show today on information sharing between parole and probation corrections and law enforcement. Adam Matz and Yogesh Chawla has been by our microphones. We really appreciate both of you being here. Ladies and gentlemen we really appreciate you listening to DC Public Safety. We appreciate your comments, we even appreciate you criticisms and we want everybody to have themselves a very pleasant day.


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Pretrial, Parole and Probation Supervision Week-American Probation and Parole Association

Pretrial, Parole and Probation Supervision Week-American Probation and Parole Association

DC Public Safety Radio


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LEONARD SIPES: From the nation’s capital this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host Leonard Sipes. The show today, ladies and gentlemen, Pretrial Probation and Parole Supervision Week, July 13 to 19, this year. It’s part of an annual event put on by the American Probation and Parole Association to honor parole and probation and pretrial supervision people throughout the country. By our microphones is Diane Kincaid. She is Deputy Director of the American Probation and Parole Association, Diane, welcome to DC Public Safety.

DIANE KINCAID: Hello. It’s great to be here.

LEONARD SIPES: This is wonderful and I love the idea of this week, because I think that parole and probation agents, what we call community supervision officers here in the nation’s capital, I don’t think they get the recognition that they so desperately deserve. I really do think that they’re sold a bit short in terms of recognition of public safety personnel throughout the country. Am I right or wrong?

DIANE KINCAID: You are absolutely correct, Len. Their job is some of the most difficult that you can have in corrections and law enforcement, and so often their work goes unnoticed, and people really don’t understand how difficult their work really is.

LEONARD SIPES: There are seven million people under correctional supervision in this country on any given day. Two million are behind bars. That means that five million are out under the responsibility of parole and probation agents, again, community supervision officers as we call them in DC, or on a pretrial status. So that means the great bulk of what we call offenders are our responsibility, the responsibility of community supervision agencies. So we have a huge, huge, or make a huge contribution to public safety, do we not?

DIANE KINCAID: Absolutely. That’s correct as well. With that many people under supervision and to be expected to know what these people are doing 24/7, making sure that they are leading law abiding lives, that they’re not breaking the conditions of their supervision, is a tremendous amount of stress and work for these professionals.

LEONARD SIPES: And it’s just amazing as to what they do in terms of both supervising people under supervision and at the same time helping them. So that’s a very, I guess, tough role to combine. When I was a police officer all I had to do was go out and make arrests and, boom, I was done with this person. Parole and probation agents, pretrial supervision people are included in this category, but not to the degree of parole and probation agents, they could have relationships with these individuals of up to five years, providing a certain level of supervision and providing a certain level of assistance.

DIANE KINCAID: That’s true. And we can’t forget about the juveniles who are also on supervision, who are helped tremendously by these professionals as well. And their role is to help these kids grow up into perhaps a better environment and to let them know how their lives can turn around and be better for themselves. So we can’t forget about the kids.

LEONARD SIPES: Right. And I didn’t even think about that particular category, but you’re absolutely right. Okay. Pretrial Probation and Parole Supervision Week, July 13th, 19th is the event for this year. So but what we try to do is not only make sure that everybody else in the country understands the role of people who do community supervision but the fact that they celebrate this time of year and they acknowledge the fact that people on, who are parole and probation agents, again, community supervision officers, pretrial people, juvenile officers, they are on the front lines of public safety. And you, through the American Probation and Parole Association, coordinate that average effort on a yearly basis. So we want everybody to get involved in this, right?

DIANE KINCAID: That’s right. We’ve been doing this week, as we call it, since 2001. It’s an annual event. It’s something that really for me to work on is a pleasure, every year I look forward to it, because it’s really celebrating the work that’s done on the community by these individuals and just really giving them a pat on the back.

LEONARD SIPES: And what APPA calls A Force for Positive Change, I mean that’s been the catchall from, regarding APPA’s efforts throughout the year is making sure that everybody understands that these individuals are just that, A Force for Positive Change.

DIANE KINCAID: That’s right. And the theme that we have for this year is Be the Change in your Community. So it’s all about probation, parole, and pretrial officers and community supervision officers being change agents for the people that they’re supervising and throughout the community, really.

LEONARD SIPES: Now, you have a list of resources on your website, again,, they can find that list of resources that help them celebrate Pretrial Probation and Parole Supervision Week.    

DIANE KINCAID: That’s right. We have an entire website that’s developed every year with a different theme, a different look. We have a designer, a very talented gentleman named [John Higgins, who designs the look for the week every year. We have a poster that can be printed in your office. We have actually an agency that’s going to be – I didn’t turn my cell phone off – we have an office that is going to be printing large banners to hang from their office area. That’s really going to be a lot of fun. It’s going to be – I can’t wait to get the pictures for that. That’s going to be really neat.

LEONARD SIPES: Now, how far in advance can they ask for material from your agency?

DIANE KINCAID: We try to have the website up right around the first week of April. We work on the theme; we work on the design starting around the first of the year. The week is always in July. We try to have that right around the third week, depending on how that week falls. But it’s, you know, we’re always right in the middle of July. We start working on it again the first of year trying to get together and have the website up in April.

LEONARD SIPES: Now, the theme again for this year is what again?

DIANE KINCAID: Be the Change in your Community.

LEONARD SIPES: Be the Change in your Community. Do people understand the role of parole and probation agents, is it, or pretrial people or juvenile service officers? Do they understand exactly what it is they do? Because I get the sense that there are thousands of police shows and resources devoted to what law enforcement does, television shows, the movies. You get this constant barrage of information as to what police officers do. Now, as a former police officer, I would suspect that an awful lot of what they see and hear is unrealistic. But you hear and see little to nothing as to what parole and probation people do.

DIANE KINCAID: Well, that’s true, and it’s the issue of an identity. Police officers have that uniform, they have, often have a car that identifies them as law enforcement, but for the most part probation and parole officers and pretrial officers don’t have that. There’s not a look that they have. They look like just anybody on the street. They look like you and I.


DIANE KINCAID: So knowing who they are and what they’re doing, you know, you see somebody talking to somebody at work and you don’t know that that’s a probation officer checking up to make sure somebody’s going to their job. So knowing what they do is really difficult, even for me, having worked here for almost 15 years. I learn something new about what they do every day.

LEONARD SIPES: It’s a combination, law enforcement, again, a social service agency. You find some parole and probation agents are out there all the time, some are in raid jackets, some carry firearms, some have arrest power. We don’t have arrest power nor do we carry firearms here in the nation’s capital, but that’s not unusual for them to take on the law enforcement motif, and at the same time they’re interacting with people, some of the most challenging people on the face of the earth. How do you build that relationship with that person under supervision to the point where you can convince them that to go into drug treatment, complete drug treatment, make the restitution, not disobey any laws, not to bother the neighborhood, to get work, to get along well with their family, pick up their responsibilities? I mean these are all skills, immensely difficult people, and at the same time skills to deal with immensely difficult problems. The parole and probation people have got to be at the very top of their game every single day.

DIANE KINCAID: They do. And you raised an issue also that involves safety for officers. Unfortunately sometimes an officer can be killed in the line of duty. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen. So the stress and the safety and the diverse nature of the work is something that really goes undervalued I think.

LEONARD SIPES: I think most of them in, throughout the country have college degrees.

DIANE KINCAID: They do. It’s a very well educated workforce, because the skills that are needed are such that a good background in social studies and in psychology and those sorts of areas is really beneficial for someone who works in this field.

LEONARD SIPES: And at the same time many people within my agency here at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency have master’s degrees and above. So you’re right. It’s an extremely well educated field. And we have parole and probation people, again, juvenile justice people, pretrial people, in every jurisdiction in the United States.

DIANE KINCAID: It’s true. It’s well educated. It’s, you know, the ratios of males to females is about 50-50, so it’s well represented, very diverse as far as culture. As I said, probation, parole, and pretrial officers are just like you and I.

LEONARD SIPES: But it’s interesting that it’s a bit of an American invention to some degree. We had a delegation from China that sent some people over, and we sent people over there to build a community supervision system over in China. Either you were let go or put in prison. There wasn’t anything in between. So is parole and probation not just something that’s in every American jurisdiction, every county, every city, every state, and I would imagine it’s the same for Canada, but I would imagine, again, that it’s, they’re in most jurisdictions in the world but not all?

DIANE KINCAID: That’s true. Not all have a very well developed supervision system. And something interesting that I would like to mention as well is next summer the Second World Congress on Community Corrections, I’m sorry, is going to be held in Los Angeles, it’s going to be in July, 2015 –


DIANE KINCAID: And APPA is hosting that. So we’re going to be welcoming the world to talk about community corrections and how we can all learn from each other and help each other.

LEONARD SIPES: Now, in terms of getting people involved in the field, you all even have a website that is done by Marianne Mowat. Now, you’re also aligned with the Council of State Governments, your organization, so it’s larger than just the American Probation and Parole Association, it’s the Council of State Governments, correct?

DIANE KINCAID: That’s correct. We are an affiliate member of the Council of State Governments, CSG. They handle all of our secretary duties, our human resources, our benefits, that sort of thing, our county. So they are a tremendous support for the association. And you mentioned Marianne, who has worked on the website for several years now; it’s called Discover Corrections –


DIANE KINCAID: Which has a tremendous amount of information for anyone who is in the field and perhaps seeking employment in a different agency or different state. We have a job posting board. It also has a lot of information for someone who’s looking to work in the field who wants to know a little more about it.

LEONARD SIPES: And it also celebrates the field. So the point with American Probation and Parole Association is that you’re doing this year round, you’re doing it year round through the website, you’re doing it year round in terms of promoting this concept of A Force for Positive Change. So the American Probation and Parole Association is representing us, those of us in community corrections throughout the entire year, in terms of research with the Department of Justice, in terms of promoting community supervision and what community supervision does. So you guys are basically the center point of this discussion, not just for Pretrial Probation and Parole Supervision Week, July 13th – 19th, this year, but you’re doing it throughout the year.

DIANE KINCAID: We do. And we really, we’re a nonprofit, obviously, but I could tell you to a person all staff feel that we really are here to serve the field. Anything that we can do to make their work easier, anything we can help them with as far as getting information, the research that we do and the training that we try to provide is really just an effort to help, to really support those individuals.

LEONARD SIPES: I walk by the National Police Memorial every day on the way to work and I interact with their people. So they have a huge presence in downtown DC, a huge memorial, where people come throughout the Unites States in the spring to celebrate the sacrifice of police officers and the sacrifice that police officers make, not just in terms of the past year, but in all previous years. The names of all deceased police officers killed in the line of duty are aligned on a long wall. We don’t have anything like that for parole and probation, do we?

DIANE KINCAID: We don’t. And, again, that’s just something that, you know, I don’t think the average probation, parole, or pretrial officer would really even expect it. It’s not something that they really look for. They see their work as helping others, keeping the community safe, just like law enforcement, obviously. But they go about their business; they do the job as best they can – and I think they do a fabulous job – and don’t really want a pat on the back, for the most part.

LEONARD SIPES: Well, but I do think they want recognition. I do think that –

DIANE KINCAID: And they deserve it.

LEONARD SIPES: I – they want recognition for the fact that they carry very large case loads. I want the audience to think about the fact that they’re extraordinarily well educated people. I mean I know parole and probation agents who have PhDs. They’re out there every day in tough neighborhoods, dealing with people with problems and with issues and convincing somebody to how to take care of your child, be sure that you go to school every day. “We heard from law enforcement resources that you’re out on the community, out on a corner bothering the community. I’m told by your substance abuse provider that you’re not attending all the sessions or that you’re being disruptive.” Those are all major life issues, and when you’ve got a large case load and you’re dealing with people that intimately and being that involved in the lives of hundreds of people on your case load, that’s got to take a toll. And recognizing that the vast majority of people that are part of the criminal justice system are their responsibility, not prison, their responsibility, I do believe, both of us believe that they need recognition.

DIANE KINCAID: That’s true. And just talking about all of this with you it just brings up the amount of work, the amount of stress that these individuals are working under, the large case loads. If you find someone who has been in this system working in the field between five and seven years, they’re dedicated, because it is hard work, it’s something that takes a lot of mental effort, physical effort oftentimes, so they’re really dedicated people.

LEONARD SIPES: We’re talking to Diane Kincaid. She is the Deputy Director of the American Probation and Parole Association, We’re talking about Pretrial Probation and Parole Supervision Week. Now, one of the, you know, the whole idea is this is not just one week that we’re celebrating, we’re celebrating them throughout the course of the year. One of the ways that you celebrate community service or community supervision personnel is the fact that you’re having a conference coming up in New Orleans on August 3 through August 6 of this year. Now, you do two of them a year, right?

DIANE KINCAID: We do. This will be our 39th annual training institute. Our annuals are typically July, August, and then we have winter institutes that tend to be a little bit smaller, recently they’ve been right around the same size, that’s January, February, for the winter. This institute looks to be really big. We have a really good registration right now, we’re not even to the deadline to register, we haven’t had that last push, and I think everybody’s excited to be in New Orleans, so we’re looking to have a good show with everybody. We’ve got a full exhibit hall, with a lot of new exhibitors, to show sort of the items that they have to help probation, parole, and pretrial professionals do their job.

LEONARD SIPES: That exhibition hall is one of my favorite spots when I go to your conferences to find out what’s new, and especially from a technology point of view, what’s new, what’s happening throughout the rest of the country. There’s a lot of really interesting things that’s coming onboard, coming up in terms of community supervision. I remember doing a radio show within the last couple weeks with Joe Russo, talking about corrections technology or community corrections technology, and that’s a very exciting field. So I think as the research indicates that more and more of this idea of crime control is going to be placed in the hands of parole and probation agents, the level of technology seems to be increasing and our options seem to be increasing. I’m thinking specifically GPS, but there’s now devices that can tell whether or not a person is under the influence of alcohol, there will be technology in the somewhat near future that will indicate whether or not a person is on drugs or using drugs. So we’re doing a lot of remote supervision, some agencies are using kiosks, some people are doing facial recognition, some people are doing remote fingerprinting, there’s a lot of technology that’s coming our way, because, again, most people caught up in the criminal justice system are our responsibility. They’re not in prison, they’re out in the community, they’re out in the street, and they’re our responsibility, correct?

DIANE KINCAID: That’s true. And technology really has taken off in the last few years, you know, the different tools that can be used to supervise individuals. And I have to say too, not every person who is on supervision is a danger to anybody. They’ve done some things that maybe they shouldn’t have. They just need a little guidance, they need some support. So the greatest majority of those individuals really do need the skills of community supervision officers. Then there are the ones who need a little bit more help, who need more direct supervision, and that’s what’s taken care of as well.

LEONARD SIPES: How many community corrections agencies throughout the country celebrate Pretrial Probation and Parole Supervision Week?

DIANE KINCAID: We have quite a few. We hear from a number of those, you know, we have the ideas on here about how to recognize staff, to maybe have a staff luncheon, maybe go out and do some community service work with your agency logo on your shirt, just get out in the community and let people know that you are part of it, that you are supporting them, that you are trying to keep them safe, and to help those people who are under supervision. I would say there are dozens of agencies we hear from every year that are doing different things, and a lot of the ideas that we have on our website about how to recognize staff and volunteers come from the field, they come from people telling us what they’ve done. So that’s always really interesting to see.

LEONARD SIPES: I recognize that more and more agencies are getting involved in doing what we’re doing, which is the promotion, the creation and promotion of radio shows and television shows, Facebook pages, I’m finding a greater presence on social media from community corrections personnel.

DIANE KINCAID: That’s true. And for anyone who’s interested, APPA also has a Facebook page, we’re on LinkedIn. There is always a really active discussion in the LinkedIn page for APPA, a lot of really good ideas, a lot of information being shared there, so I’d encourage people to take a look at that as well.

LEONARD SIPES: Now, we are, is it fair, Diane, I say to others and I’ve heard others say to me that we are at the epicenter for change. When I’m taking a look at the criminological research coming out from the US Department of Justice, from Pew, from the Urban Institute, from the Council of State Governments, it’s always an emphasis on parole and probation. I’m finding that, through research, that there has never been such a presence of parole and probation agencies, community supervision agencies. It basically seems that if we are going to rearrange the way that we do business within the criminal justice system to be more effective, to be smarter, to reduce rates of recidivism, it all comes down to community supervision agencies and community supervision personnel. Now, is that my observation? Is my observation or the observation of others correct or is that an exaggeration?

DIANE KINCAID: No, I agree with you. I do see that trend as well. And the fact is, we cannot build prisons to buy ourselves out of crime. It’s just not going to work. For one thing we can’t afford it, and that’s a horrible thing to say, but we cannot afford to put every person who breaks the law into a prison or jail. And most of those people don’t need to be imprisoned. So when they’re part of the community, when they’re getting the support they need, when they’re getting some substance abuse help, when they’re getting some therapies, then they can have a job, they can take care of their families, they can pay their taxes, they can be part of the community and support their own community.

LEONARD SIPES: Someone once told me that, theoretically at least, that every governor has had a discussion with every director of corrections in every state in the United States, and their message has basically been you must reduce your budget, that corrections is taking such a large share, we don’t have the money to build roads, we don’t have the money to build colleges, we don’t have the money to do head start programs, we don’ have the money to build schools or to improve schools, because so much of it is going towards corrections, and you have to reduce the reliance upon incarceration. So whether we’re approaching it criminologically or whether we’re approaching it from the standpoint of budget, more people are going to be coming onto community supervision, correct?

DIANE KINCAID: I would say that that is the trend these days, because people that realize that, not only does it help state budgets, as far as the Department of Corrections and their prison system goes, but it helps the community. When people are in prison they’re breaking apart families, they, or they’re not supporting their children, they’re not supporting their spouses, they – it just really sort of creates an imbalance in our communities when you have so many people in prison who more than likely don’t necessarily need to be there or don’t need to be in there as long as we do so today.

LEONARD SIPES: And I’m bringing all this up to be sure that the listeners understand the importance of community supervision officers, because all the research that I read it’s parole and probation, the parole and probation becomes the epicenter for the change within the criminal justice system. I’m reading now that it’s just not a Republican or a Democrat or a left wing or a right wing point of view, that you have some rather conservative people out there coming together with people on the other side of the aisle and they’re pushing for the same change, that this is now a universal message that goes across political spectrums, that we’ve got to be smarter, we’ve got to be better, we’ve got to reduce recidivism, we’ve got to bring programs on, and we’ve got to have the right people to apply all of this. And, boom, we’re right back to community supervision personnel, parole and probation personnel.

DIANE KINCAID: Yeah. And I think too we have to add in this whole focus on evidence-based practices, where we know what works and we can prove it. We can prove that these things and these methods and these practices do work to reduce recidivism, to reduce imprisonment, and to help our communities.

LEONARD SIPES: Right. And we have to be sure to assess them, to figure out what their risk level is, what their need level is, being sure that we supervise people at the right levels, making sure that we have the programs in place to provide the substance abuse treatment or the mental health treatment or the job assistance. I mean this is beginning to be very complex, and it calls for extraordinarily well educated, extraordinarily dedicated, extraordinarily motivated people to be parole and probation agents.

DIANE KINCAID: It’s true. And just to go back to some of my recent comments, that I don’t mean to say that we don’t need prisons, obviously we do. There are individuals who are a danger to our communities; they’re a danger to others, maybe even a danger to themselves, depending on how they’re living. But there are still those who – the biggest population in our prisons are drug offenses and property offenses. Not everybody in prison is a murderer. So –

LEONARD SIPES: But what you’re saying –

DIANE KINCAID: And we have to think about that.

LEONARD SIPES: What you’re saying goes right along with what the research community throughout the country and the advocacy community throughout the country and what the US Department of Justice is saying. My only – in terms of the fact that we cannot continue to send everybody to prison or we cannot continue to send everybody to prison for the length of time that we ordinarily do. And, again, theoretically, every governor in the country has had this conversation with their corrections people basically saying we can no longer house the amount of people that we housed before because of budget reasons. And according to the Department of Justice data we’re seeing a gradual, not a huge, but a gradual change in terms of the small decrease in prison population over the course of the last five years. So all of your, all that you’re saying is nothing more than what’s what the reality is.

DIANE KINCAID: Yeah. And that’s, you know, and the evidence proves it, so you can’t really argue against something that you can show somebody works. So the more states that get into this and the more states that start working on these different ways of doing things and different ways of thinking about offenders is just going to reinforce that.

LEONARD SIPES: Okay. We’re going to wrap up. And I do want to reemphasize that information is available at the website of the American Probation and Parole Association,, Pretrial Probation and Parole Supervision Week is July 13th through 19th of this year. Our agency, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, our director is in the process of doing a video outreach to all employees. Again, parole and probation is at the epicenter of change, the research, the advocacy, whether you are on the right or the left of the political spectrum, all, everything is now being, the emphasis is now parole and probation and community supervision, and that’s where we’re going.

DIANE KINCAID: Yeah. It’s been a great pleasure to speak with you today, Len. I really enjoyed it.

LEONARD SIPES: Well, we’re not done yet, because I do want to reemphasize that we have the conference coming up in August in New Orleans, August 3 through 6, and that is, again, at your website, and the fact that you do have Discover Corrections. That website that is funded I think through the Council of State Governments, through APPA, through the Department of Justice, through the Bureau of Justice Assistance. So you’re doing this throughout the course of the year. I think that’s the important thing to understand, that the American Probation and Parole Association is leading the rest of us in terms of trying to build up parole and probation, again, A Force for Positive Change has been the logo of APPA for the course of the last several years. So it’s your emphasis is constant throughout the course of the year, and we really do thank APPA for everything that you do.

DIANE KINCAID: Well, it’s a real pleasure to work with those in the field and it’s an honor, so it’s a great job.

LEONARD SIPES: Okay. We’re going to wrap up. Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. Our guest today, again, Diane Kincaid, Deputy Director of the American Probation and Parole Association, talking about Pretrial Probation and Parole Supervision Week, this year, July 13th, 19th, This is DC Public Safety. We appreciate your comments, we even appreciate your criticisms, and we want everybody to have themselves a very, very pleasant day.