Interview with Former Offender-Advocate Lamont Carey-DC Public Safety Radio

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

Radio Program available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2011/12/interview-with-former-offender-advocate-lamont-carey-dc-public-safety-radio/

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

[Audio Begins]

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

Lamont Carey:  Thank you for having me.

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

Lamont Carey:  Right.

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

Lamont Carey:  Right.

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

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

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

Lamont Carey:  Right.

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

Lamont Carey:  Right.

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

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

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

Lamont Carey:  Right.

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

Lamont Carey:  Yeah, but I’m driven.

Len Sipes:  All right.

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

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

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

Len Sipes:  Right.

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

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

Lamont Carey:  Right, right.

Len Sipes:  That’s just within three years.

Lamont Carey:  Right.

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

Lamont Carey:  Right.

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

Lamont Carey:  Right.

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

Lamont Carey:  Right.

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

Lamont Carey:  Right, well I think.

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

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

Len Sipes:  Are you serious?

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

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

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

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

Lamont Carey:  Right, right.

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

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

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

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

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

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

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

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

Len Sipes:  Right, right.

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

Len Sipes:  Everybody’s on the corner.

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

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

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

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

Lamont Carey:  Right, right.

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

Lamont Carey:  Exactly.

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

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

Len Sipes:  Yeah.

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

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

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

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

Lamont Carey:  Okay.

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

Lamont Carey:  Right.

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

Lamont Carey:  Right.

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

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

Len Sipes:  Correct.

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

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

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

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

Lamont Carey:  Right.

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

Lamont Carey:  Right.

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

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

Len Sipes:  Right.

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

Len Sipes:  Right.

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

Len Sipes:  Right.

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

Len Sipes:  Yeah.

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

Len Sipes:  Yep.

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

Len Sipes:  Right.

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

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

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

Len Sipes:  Yeah, piece of cake.

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

Len Sipes:  Right.

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

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

Lamont Carey:  Right.

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

Lamont Carey:  Right.

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

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  So talk to me about all that.

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

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

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

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

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

Len Sipes:  Yeah.

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

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

Lamont Carey:  Right.

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

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

Len Sipes:  Right.

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

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

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

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

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

Len Sipes:  Right.

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

Len Sipes:  Right.

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

Len Sipes:  Right.

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

Len Sipes:  Right.

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

Len Sipes:  Sure.

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

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

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

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

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

Len Sipes:  Right.

Lamont Carey:  But that ain’t my truth.

Len Sipes:  Right.

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

Len Sipes:  You want to game the parole officer.

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

Len Sipes:  Right, right.  Sure, sure.

Lamont Carey:  So I’m going to say –

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

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

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

Lamont Carey:  Right.

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

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

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

Lamont Carey:  Right.

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

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

Len Sipes:  Right, you got to live somewhere.

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

Len Sipes:  Right.

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

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

Lamont Carey:  Right.

Len Sipes:  Okay, what else.

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

Len Sipes:  Right.

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

Len Sipes:  Right.

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

Len Sipes:  Uh-huh.

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

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

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

Len Sipes:  Yes.

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

Len Sipes:  Right.

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

Len Sipes:  Right.

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

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

Lamont Carey:  Right.

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

Lamont Carey:  Right.

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

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

Len Sipes:  Yep.

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

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

Lamont Carey:  Right.

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

Lamont Carey:  Right.

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

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

Len Sipes:  Right.

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

Len Sipes:  Sure.

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

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

Lamont Carey:  Right.

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

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

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

[Audio Ends]

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Kentucky’s Recidivism Rate Hits 10-year Low–“DC Public Safety”

Welcome to DC Public Safety – radio and television shows on crime, criminal offenders and the criminal justice system.
See http://media.csosa.gov for our television shows, blog and transcripts.

Radio Program available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2011/03/kentuckys-recidivism-rate-hits-10-year-low-dc-public-safety/

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

[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes:  From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety.  I’m your host, Leonard Sipes.  At our microphones today is Secretary Michael Brown.  Secretary Brown has been there in the State of Kentucky with the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet for the last four years.  He has a long history of public service as a judge, as a prosecutor, as a law director for the city of Louisville, U.S. Army as a Captain, he’s a gentleman that’s been around for quite some time, and one of the reasons why we asked Secretary Brown to be by our microphones today, is that he’s gotten a lot of news.  We have a couple news services that come into us here at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, and the first one that caught my eye was from the dailynews.com, and it said “State’s Two Year Recidivism Rate Hits a 10-Year Low,” and all of us within the criminal justice system were struggling to do just that.  We’re struggling to bring down our recidivism rates, that’s enough to make it interesting, but it goes on to the Courier Journal, in terms of Gov. Beshear’s signing a new act in terms of rearranging the way that Kentucky does business, and it goes all the way to the Wall Street Journal, where a recent article says that “States Rethink Drug Law,” so the state of Kentucky has gotten an awful lot of publicity lately, national publicity, and a lot of people are looking at the state of Kentucky in terms of what it is that they’ve done, but again, for me, the most intriguing part of this is the headline “State’s Two Year Recidivism Rate Hits a 10-Year Low,” and with that introduction, I present Secretary Michael Brown, secretary for the last four years.  Mr. Secretary, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Michael Brown:  I’m glad to be with you, Leonard.

Len Sipes:  Okay.  Now, what we have with the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet, you have an operation much like mine in the 14 years when I was with the Maryland Department of Public Safety, where we had State Police, we had corrections, we had a lot of agencies.  You have the same thing for the State of Kentucky, correct?

Michael Brown:  That is correct.  It is the largest cabinet in state government, and we have right around 8,000 employees in the cabinet, and my major units include the department of corrections, the Kentucky State Police, our juvenile justice, and then we have medical examiners and criminal justice training and drug control policy, and just a number of agencies that are attached, including our public defenders.

Len Sipes:  One of the things that you mentioned in terms of the pre-interview is that at one time, Kentucky had the fastest growing prison population in the country, correct?

Michael Brown:  Well that is correct.  Actually, Gov. Beshears took office in December of 2007, and shortly after his first address to the General Assembly in January of 2008, the Pew Center on the States came out with a report that listed Kentucky as having the fastest growing prison population by percentage in the country.  That was something that took a number of us by surprise.  We knew that corrections had been an escalating budget item.  We didn’t know that we had crossed the finish line first in that particular situation.

Len Sipes:  Now one of the things that Kentucky, as well as virtually every state in the United States is struggling with is this concept of a corrections budget that a lot of people in a lot of statehouses throughout the country, they’re coming to the conclusion that the corrections budget is growing out of control, that it’s taking up too much of the budget, that there’s no way that you can sustain that level of an increase in the prison population.  It’s taking away from funding for college, it’s taking away from funding for seniors, and it’s taking away from funding for schools.  It has a tremendous impact on not just criminal justice, but has a tremendous impact in terms of the overall budget, and what a lot of states are trying to do, what they’re trying to wrestle with is this whole concept of how do we rein in the corrections budget without having an adverse impact on public safety, and that’s why I keep coming back to the same issue, recidivism, you hit a ten-year low.  How did you do that?

Michael Brown:  Well that was a target that frankly, we just decided we had to aim at.  When we were looking at our population, and clearly, the only way to reduce your, or the main way to reduce your prison budgets, your correctional budget, is by means of population, and when we look at our population, we know it’s made up of basically two segments.  We have people who have recently committed a felony that they’re going to be sent to our facilities for, but we’d also found that a fair percentage of all the people who come through the doors each year are coming back.  They’re returnees.  They’re return customers.  And that’s a recidivism rate, those who are coming back after a 2-3 year period of being released, and when we looked at those recidivists, we realized that a fair amount of them are what we call re-entry figures.  They’re ones who have gotten out, they’ve gone back out into the community, within, as everyone in this business knows, the likelihood is failure is highest in those first few months to a year, and those individuals then come back.  When they do come back, they come back and stay, generally, for a longer period of time than they were in for the first period.  So that becomes a, and I’ll give you an example.  In Kentucky, if you have a, you committed a crime, and you’re eligible for parole after serving 20% of your sentence, and then you go out and you violate your parole and you’re returned, it’s likely that you’re going to be in for a period of time longer than that initial 20%.

Len Sipes:  Understood.

Michael Brown:  So we, in my cabinet, I cannot control what the courts are doing.  We cannot completely control what the legislature is going to do vis-à-vis what becomes a crime, so our target had to be, by just a natural process, how can we improve our re-entry efforts, how can we cut that recidivism rate, and a cut of 1,000 prisoners at $21,000 or so a year starts to add up to real money if you can succeed at this.

Len Sipes:  Now you said that you went to the Pew Center for the States, and they provided some technical assistance?

Michael Brown:  Well, that was well down the road.  What had happened was, we had taken a number of different approaches to try to address this issue.  The Governor, in January of 2008 had asked me to convene what’s called our Criminal Justice Council, it’s a large body involving all the stakeholders in the criminal justice system, to make recommendations on the penal code and the drug laws, and we came up with reports but were unsuccessful, to a large extent, in getting many things passed through the legislature.  Then the legislature itself came up with a joint resolution creating another committee to look at these issues, and then finally, this most recently concluded legislature had come up with a task force on the penal code and substance abuse, which was a very small group.  Only seven people.  And historically, those seven, it was bipartisan, a Republican chair of the Senate Judiciary, a Democratic chair of the House Judiciary Committee, the Chief Justice of our Supreme Court sat himself, I represented the executive branch, we had a retired commonwealth attorney, a former public advocate, and a county judge executive.  We started work on reviewing, particularly targeting what we were going to do with probation, parole, and reentry, and also our drug laws.  Then, in the middle of that process, somewhat in the middle of it, the Pew Public Safety Performance Project partnered with us, the legislature put up some seed money of $2,000, and last August, and August of 2010, we announced a collaborative effort where Pew would give us technical assistance, primarily working with the committee I described to come up with a legislative package which was, in fact, introduced in the session which most recently concluded.

Len Sipes:  Now what do you, the group of, the small group of individuals, did you feel comfortable with a game plan coming out of that, and then Pew was technical assistance beyond that, do I have that correct?

Michael Brown:  Well, what happened was, the task force had started its work, and we had narrowed the focus of this particular task force, particularly to looking at our drug laws, recognizing that that was the largest driver of, certainly our revolving criminal population.  There’s always going to be a place for those incorrigibles and those offenders, the violent ones, but as I looked at Kentucky’s population of 20-odd thousand, clearly, if you took away those who were in as persistent felony offenders and the most violent offenders, that still left about 15,000 individuals that were in, and the bulk, I’m talking about the very large bulk of those 15,000, were in because of something to do with drugs.  Now, what the Pew folks brought to us was the ability to bring evidence based, basically studies, and attempts from all over the country on how to deal with some of these issues and boil them down in a manner that we could literally take the best practices from all over the country and then, if they had a recipe, we had the seasoning to make it come out to a Kentucky perspective, so to speak.

Len Sipes:  Well, that’s a beautiful description.  I love that!  What do you think was the most important, give me a couple of the most important policies that came out of all this.  Different people have been caught up in crime and drugs for decades, it’s not easy to get them out of that cycle, it’s not easy to break the cycle.  What were the principal ingredients in terms of how you proceeded to cut that recidivism rate?

Michael Brown:  Well, the first thing is, you have to recognize that the cycle needs to be broken, and it’s not simply, it’s not just a matter of “Just Say No.”  We have, for example, some really successful drug courts here in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, but the requirements for those coming into the drug court system, which is somewhat of a diversionary process, were pretty strict, and that really didn’t do much for those who had already offended and managed to find a way into the facilities to stop them from coming back.  We have to recognize that breaking that cycle of a true abuser is going to take long term treatment, anywhere from 6-9 months.  It’s not just simply going to be, you know, tell them to stop taking it.  And it also involves a situation where our probation and parole practices have to be aimed at reinforcing those principles once an individual is either on probation or parole, because there are relapses.  Recognizing that, we don’t want the relapse to take someone all the way back behind the fence, as we like to say.

Len Sipes:  Right.  So in essence, what you have is a prison population, they’re eventually released, they come out onto the street, and a lot of them, and for a lot of states throughout the country, when I was with the Maryland, at times, it approached 70% of the people coming into the prison systems were already on parole and probation.  I’ve seen figures ranging anywhere from 50% to 70% of the prison intake are those people already on parole and probation, so that revolving door, that sense of life or prison or the criminal justice system on the installment plan seems to be alive and well in most states, so in essence, what I’m hearing is that what you all decided to do was to stop that cycle, to break that cycle, and it sounds like you’re focusing on specifically, is it nonviolent or violent offenders, but your principal goal is to get them involved in long term drug treatment?

Michael Brown:  Well the first thing, we want to recognize what were the biggest drivers, and the biggest driver in the population was drugs.  That entailed us making adjustments to our drug laws which hadn’t been made in many, many years, and to include provisions in those, which are going to drive these individuals, well first, it was going to drive those who are the users.  We definitely wanted to separate the traffickers, those who are truly involved in the criminal enterprise, the profiteers, and separate them from what you might call the peddlers, or just the abusers.  And we know that that’s how it breaks down.  We also needed, in Kentucky, because of our, and I don’t want to call it unique, but it definitely is different from, say, some of the other states we looked at, we have a diverse sort of drug problem.  Parts of our state, our drug problem is driven almost entirely by the abuse of prescription drugs.

Len Sipes:  Ah, that is different.

Michael Brown:  Pills that generally come in from other states.  Florida in particular, if you don’t mind me taking a shot at a governor I won’t name right now, but we have a large influx of prescription drugs that come in from other states, and they are having a devastating effect on one part of our state.  Other parts of our state, we see some of the more traditional things that involve meth, cocaine, or heroin to a certain extent, and then of course, you know, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Kentucky was the second largest eradicator of marijuana, which is probably our largest crop of any other state in the country.  So our drug laws had to be tailored to address this, you know, multifaceted issue, but going for a moment, just to go back to what you were saying about the returnees’ situation, I had it said, and I was actually called cavalier for saying this, even though it’s true, if my population today is right around 20,500, if they live long enough, all but about 105 of those individuals are going to get out of prison and are going to come back in those communities, and that is a percentage that the public doesn’t have.  The public perceives that individuals commit a crime, they get caught, they get prosecuted, and then they go away forever.  Well they don’t go away from us, and what we have to do is do something about those 95-99% that are coming back into that community.  You break that cycle, that’s where you make the real gains in public safety, you make real economic gains, because if you can turn a large segment of those folks back into productive citizens as opposed to where we supply all their needs, my medical budget is around $60 million just for our felony population.

Len Sipes:  Yeah, and people have no idea how difficult it is to run a huge prison system and how expensive it is to run a huge prison system.  I don’t, I just get the sense that people have no clue, but they’re finding out because of all of the controversy as to the money going in the correction systems, and people are saying, gee, wouldn’t this be better spent, in terms of other programs, but again, I reemphasize this, it’s just not a matter of dollars here, it’s just not a matter of reducing the correctional dollars, you’ve been able to cut the rate of recidivism back into the state of Kentucky for a 10-year low, and so you’re doing it and protecting public safety at the same time.

Michael Brown:  Well, that’s the ultimate goal.  That’s the win-win.  Obviously, public safety is our primary concern, but clearly, when you recognize that by breaking these cycles, and by decreasing that recidivism rate, the benefit there is, in fact, public safety, because that individual doesn’t go out and commit that crime, is not a bane on society anymore –

Len Sipes:  Right, and they’re huge savings in terms of crime, in terms of the tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars to track him down, to convict him, to put him back into the prison system, I mean, this is an ungodly expensive proposition, and what you’re doing is not just saving money, but there are fewer crimes being committed.

Michael Brown:  That’s the goal, and we are in a situation, we had, as you know, the states, our state certainly, we have to operate under a balanced budget, so we can’t spend more than we have.

Len Sipes:  We’re more than halfway through the program ladies and gentlemen.  I want to reintroduce Michael Brown, the Secretary of the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet for the State of Kentucky.  The website, www.justice.ky.gov.  I’ll be giving out that website at the end of the program.  Okay, Mr. Secretary, we’ve set up everything, I think, I mean in terms of the 10-year low on recidivism, we’ve set up the fact that you’re trying to break the cycle, that you’re looking not at traffickers, but you’re looking specifically at the users, that you have a prescription drug problem and a marijuana problem there in the state of Kentucky, it sounds like you have across the board cooperation on the part of both sides of the political spectrum, the Republicans and the Democrats coming together and agreeing to this overall philosophy, so that part of it I’ve got correct, correct?

Michael Brown:  That is correct, and the recent bill that passed, which is House Bill 463, which Pew assisted us on, and that task force worked on, it passed our Senate, which is a Republican controlled Senate, unanimously, went back to the House of Concurrence and passed 96-1.  That’s an overwhelming approval for the work of the task force and recognition of the issues we have to deal with.  Now we should only be so cooperative on the other issues in the state, but at least on this one, we had virtual unanimity.

Len Sipes:  There’s an organization called Right On Crime, which is key Republicans at the national level who are coming together to endorse this concept, and a lot of individuals have said to themselves, okay, well this is no longer a Democratic issue, it’s no longer a Republican issue, it’s now a bipartisan issue.  They want the criminal justice system, they want we within the criminal justice system to be more effective and prove that effectiveness, and that is why I’m beating this point to death.  There are a lot of states who are doing this, and they’re starting to do it, and they’re examining it, and they’re putting money into programs in the prison system, and they’re putting money into the programs at the parole and probation level, but they haven’t yet produced data that shows a reduction in recidivism, and to the average person listening to this program, recidivism, again, are people coming back into the criminal justice system because they’ve either committed new crimes or technical violations, but as our people like to point out, a technical is a person doesn’t show up for supervision, that’s a technical violation, so the term  technical violation becomes minimized in the minds of some because it sounds trite, but if you don’t show up for supervision, or if you’re ordered to go into drug treatment and you don’t go or you don’t cooperate, those are technical violations as well, so some of this is a matter of taking greater risks with the individual that you have under supervision, that you don’t automatically send them back to prison, you try to stabilize him through programs in the community, and you understand that relapse and problems come with the supervision process, and just because you have 2 or 3, you don’t automatically send the person back to prison.  Do I have that correct?

Michael Brown:  That is correct.  In fact, some of the things that we had done in the budget bill, and that, which have been also codified in a new piece of legislation, is to give our parole and probation officers some additional tools to work with, including, for the first time here in Kentucky, some intermediate sanctions, where rather than, in the prior world, an individual would violate a condition of parole or probation, there would be a warrant issued, they’d be arrested, they’d go to jail, they’d sit in jail awaiting a process involving going before the administrative law judge, the administrative law judge, if they found probable cause, would then turn the case to the parole board, most of that time, that individual continued to sit in jail awaiting the outcome of it, and then if the parole board revoked, they’d go back to prison.  We found that a better way to approach some of those individuals, obviously, this doesn’t work for anybody, but is to make use of intermediate sanctions, and they can be a ramped up scale of sanctions, everything from, we’re going to put you on an electronic GPS monitoring device to make sure you don’t go where we told you not to go, maybe have that thing vibrate on your ankle as you approach some place where we know you’re likely to get back into trouble, or we can put you back in jail, but for limited periods of time without having to go through that whole process, so we don’t cut off whatever positive ties someone has created, either with a job or family connections when they have been outside of the institution, because as I’ve said, once they come back on that violation, statistics show us that they’re going to serve a longer period of time having violated than they served initially.

Len Sipes:  And the whole idea, I’m assuming, is one of the universal issues that states are struggling with, is that the question becomes, who do you want to be in, who do you want to occupy that prison bed?  Do you want a nonviolent offender who’s tied into drugs to occupy that prison bed, that very, very expensive prison bed, or do you want the violent offender, someone who’s posing a clear and present risk to public safety?  That dichotomy, I would imagine, exists in Kentucky as well, and I would imagine that was part of your discussions.

Michael Brown:  As was said many, many times during our hearings, and as we visited with all the stakeholders, we’ve got to differentiate between the people that we’re scared of and the people that we’re just mad at, and you know, once you get past being mad at these individuals, the key is what do we do, in many situations, to stop them from returning. Now Kentucky had been very fortunate, a few years back, we got one of the grants from the Second Chance Act, we had started our reentry program, we had started working with a new risk assessment tool, and in fact, that use of the risk assessment tool has been so successful that it’s built into the new legislation with the aim that we’re going to get that LSI used from Day 1 that someone comes in the system, so judges will eventually be looking at some of these factors when they’re making bail decisions, so that our pre-sentence officers are making use of that assessment as they give judges recommendations for sentencing, so that when an individual is processed into the institution, we have a lot of data available into what, if any, programs are going to work for a particular individual, and that’s far different from a shotgun effect that we used to take.  Our approach before, and I don’t blame anybody for this, this is not throwing a rock at the system, but it’s how you view your job, and our job before was to simply keep these people away from the public, count them and make sure you have the same number you started out in the morning when they go to bed at night, and then do it again.  Now some of our focus, both institutionally, and certainly in parole and probation, is to how can we prevent this particular individual from coming back to see us again?

Len Sipes:  Well, you’re going towards the larger scale, because that’s not just the state of Kentucky, again, this is something that every state in the United States is wrestling with, the attorney general, Eric Holder, the assistant attorney general, Laurie Robinson, the folks at the U.S. Department of Justice, the people who are trying to develop this whole sense of justice reinvestment, which is essentially, if you save money in terms of people coming back into prisons, the states would put more of that money, so if you save the state, any state, $50 million, and the fact that you didn’t send that many people back, a certain amount of that $50 million would go back into programs and go back into efforts to keep people from coming back into the system, so this is a larger, this is not just a conversation for the state of Kentucky, this is a conversation that’s happening in virtually every statehouse in the country, and again, not to beat a dead horse, but you’re the one who’s proven that you can reduce recidivism.  Other states have reduced recidivism, but you hit a 10 year low.  That’s what intrigued me, and that’s why, one of the reasons why I wanted to talk to you.

Michael Brown:  Well, and again, a lot of it is, you know, I hate to use the cliché, if you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.  But if you go around and you really get a focused effort in, these are very smart, dedicated professionals, and it’s simply a matter of saying, here’s what our goal is, this is what our mission is going to be in this situation, and believe me, most of our probation and parole officers, they don’t want to just be in the arrest business.  They don’t want to be, they would rather have people succeed, because when they do these home visits, and when they do these assessments, they run up against everyone else who’s touched by these individuals, and it’s much, much better that these individuals succeed than fail on the outside.

Len Sipes:  I’ll give you one example.  In the state of Maryland, where we had a person come out of the prison system, his wife let him come back home, he was getting along well with the wife, getting along well with the kids, he was working, and he was making his restitution, and he was going to substance abuse therapy, he was doing everything that you want him to do, and yet he celebrated by getting high.  He celebrated his successes by getting high, and there’s a certain point where the 4th, 5th, 6th positive drug test, I mean, you have to sit down with him and say to him, look, you’re about to blow the whole thing.  We’re about to send you back to prison, there’s a certain point we have no choice.  You know, when you have a couple more, and then finally, we were able to intervene, and he finally stopped celebrating his successes by getting high, but if that person had committed a crime while that happened, the newspapers would have come to us and said you knew he was doing drugs, why didn’t you put him back in prison?  That’s a big dilemma for people at the state level, that’s a big dilemma for us all within the criminal justice system, because we are taking somewhat increased risks with the people that we have under supervision.

Michael Brown:  Well, and that’s where, as I said, the beauty of this law, it’s building in, and one other thing I do want to touch on is the reinvestment aspect, but it’s building in a way to make these risk assessments.  Nothing is going to be 100% perfect.  But the key is, rather than, sometimes our intuition is just flat wrong.  We think that, oh, that looks like a great program.  Why?  Well, it would work for me.  Well maybe your criminogenic factors are not the same as the people you’re actually dealing with.  So it might work for you, we’ve proven that it doesn’t work for this population that we have been locking up, so let’s use what works for them.  One of the things that 463, this bill did, it codified a way to return some of the money that’s saved back into the reentry systems, and into our local jails and counties.  Kentucky also has a fairly unique, when I say fairly unique, it’s just us and Louisiana, where one third of my felon population resides in our county jails.  So if we don’t find a way to enhance the programs and what’s going on in those county jails, we also miss an opportunity to cut this recidivism rate, and thereby not take the fullest advantage of our public safety dollars.  So 25% of the projected savings from one of our efforts, and please remind me, please ask me about the mandatory supervision provision in this bill, which I think is the key.

Len Sipes:  Well, go ahead and say that, but we only have about 30 seconds left, so we have to wrap up soon.

Michael Brown:  Well, in wrapping up, then, I’d say one of the key parts of the bill is, we recognized that the early part of failure happens in those 6-9 months, so we’re going to put in a program where the last 6 months of an individual’s sentence are now under mandatory supervision with probation and parole.

Len Sipes:  There you go.

Michael Brown:  We’re very excited about that.

Len Sipes:  Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve been talking to Secretary Michael Brown, who has just focused, refocused an entire criminal justice system focusing on high risk offenders, being sure that they’re incarcerated, and taking some chances, and actually doing, getting some great results in terms of a 10-year low in his recidivism rate for everybody else.  He’s saved the state and the collective wisdom has saved the state literally, millions of dollars, so Secretary Michael Brown, we congratulate you on these successes.  Again, if you want to take a look at the website for the state of Kentucky, it’s www.justice.ky.gov.  Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety.  I’m your host, Leonard Sipes.  I want everybody to have yourselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]

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CBS News: Reentry and Sanction Center

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

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

(Audio begins)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reporter 2: Decarus Wardrett knows that.

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

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

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

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

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