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Technology in Corrections

DC Public Safety Radio

See the main site at http://media.csosa.gov

See the radio program at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2015/04/innovative-technology-solutions-in-corrections/

Leonard: From the Nation’s Capital, this is D.C. Public Safety, I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. Ladies and gentlemen, the topic for today is technology in corrections high priority needs, a really innovative, really interesting document that came out of the RAND Corporation. We have two people by our microphones today. We have Brian Jackson. Brian is Director of the Safety and Justice Program and a senior physical scientist at RAND. His research focuses on technology issues in public safety, including both the use of technology in policing, corrections and the courts and technological use in crime by adversary groups, which I’d love to hear a little bit more about. Joe Russo is a researcher at the University of Denver, focusing on technology issues in the correction sector. He is currently in support of a number of initiatives for the National Law Enforcement in Corrections Technology Center, a program of the National Institute of Justice. To Joe and to Brian, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Brian: Thanks very much.

Joe: Thank you.

Leonard: All right. Joe’s been at our microphones several times before. Every time we do a show on technology it turns out to be one of our most popular shows. I read this document and I find it fascinating, “Fostering Innovation in Community and Institutional Corrections: Identifying High Priority Technology and Other Needs in the U.S. Corrections Sector”. There’s a variety of documents that comes out on technology or corrections or the criminal justice system. I define this to be a seminal document. I find this to be one of the most important documents I’ve seen within the correctional arena. Am I overplaying my hand here, Brian or what?

Brian: Well, that’s certainly what we’re trying to do here though the goal of this project really is a very ambitious one to try to help catalyze innovation in the criminal justice community. Certainly we hope that this document will be that important but whether it actually is that important will depend on a lot of other actors in the corrections center to take the ideas that came up in this study and put them into practice.

Leonard: What it does is takes virtually every issue that we have in both community corrections and mainstream corrections, analyzes it, prioritizes, but makes it a priority or puts it in rank order, and figures out whether or not there is technology that could have an impact on those particular issues. I mean all the problems that we have today could have a technological solution. If they do you list them and put them in rank order. In the ballpark?

Brian: Yes, that’s certainly what we did. We did it in collaboration with a lot of practitioners from the community to take advantage of their expertise and their on the ground knowledge, and with their help tried to rank them to identify where to start. There’s always a lot of ways that improvements in technology are practiced could help organizations be more effective or more efficient. The challenge is always to figure out where to start so in this effort we not only try to be comprehensive and look at a lot of the challenges facing corrections, a lot of the potential solutions, but then try to winnow them down to the ones that really looked best to practitioners in the area.

Leonard: Joe, how did the University of Denver that supports JustNet, which is an organization funded by the National Institute of Justice of the U.S. Department of Justice, how did the University of Denver get involved in this project?

Joe: [00:03:46] Well, we’re partners with RAND on a larger NIJ funded effort to identify high priority needs across the criminal justice sector. Our role in support of RAND is specific to the corrections community so we assisted with developing this report to assembling the advisory panel and so on.

Leonard: Joe’s been by our microphones a thousand times again producing some of our most popular programs in terms of talking about technology and corrections technology in the criminal justice system. Okay, gentlemen, now that we’ve introduced the document … oh, and by the way, the document is going to be in the show notes, the address for the document on the website www.RAND R-A-N-D .ORG, www.RAND R-A-N-D .org. Oh, before going into further into the show, Brian, for the uninitiated, what is RAND?

Brian: Oh, well certainly. RAND is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization. We do research for a wide variety of clients, a lot of them in government, federal agencies, state and local government, but also the private sector. Our mission is to improve policy and decision making through research analysis. We’re a lot of academic researchers but we’re academic researchers that really judge our success by whether what we do makes things better in the real world.

Leonard: For the practitioner community I’ve been following RAND since the beginning of my academic career. RAND has put out some of the most famous and well known studies involved in the criminal justice system. I remember decades ago reading your research on habitual offenders and found it fascinating and that prompted a discussion throughout the criminal justice system. Joe, how do people use this document? How do policy makers, how do practitioners use this document?

Joe: As you mentioned, it’s a seminal document and foundation in a lot of ways. Then part of our approach was to establish the state of the art so we took a look across the spectrum of what corrections is, what it has been and identified the different technologies and different policies and practice that are currently in place. Then from there, as we alluded to, we identified emerging or current needs and tried to develop associated on problems or ways to address those problems.

How various groups can use this information is diverse depending on the audience. Private industry can use this information because it’s a very valuable source of needs from the horse’s mouth, so to speak, from the end users themselves who have articulated what their needs are. Private industry who is interested in making investment in the sector have the blueprint that identifies a starting point of what the needs of the community are. From the federal perspective, funding sources again have that ready made source of that previously identified high priority area so they can target their research and development portfolios accordingly.

Leonard: All right, either one of you can come in and answer this question. There are seven million people under the adult correctional system, the supervision of the adult correctional system, every single day, seven million people. Seven-hundred-thousand people come out of prisons on a year to year basis. That does not include the numbers in terms of the juvenile justice system. That does not include people coming out of the jail system. There are enormous numbers of people. We in the criminal justice system, I’ve heard from my peers throughout the country that they are overwhelmed by the numbers, overwhelmed by the complexity, overwhelmed by the problems. What we’re talking about is, I don’t know, how many problems do we want to look at. Mental health, so if I said mental health from a technology point of view, what would the response of the document be?

Brian: Well, I can jump in on that. Certainly those are two of the really big challenges that the practitioners that we worked with here talked about. It’s simply the ideas of scale and also the challenges of mental health issues in prisoner populations that the correctional system is having to deal with today. I mean when you look at the options that were talked about in the document, they ranged from low tech approaches that are training to help deal with mental health issues, all the way up to high technology activities, better censors or systems to try to prevent suicide attempts in institutional settings, or in the case of the large supervision burden for individuals who are in the community correction system, better technologies to do individual tracking and make that a more effective element of corrective supervision and dealing with offenders in that context.

Really that’s what, for me at least, was one of the most interesting responses or interesting findings that came out of this work is that these very large problems can have multiple solutions to them, some of which may be technological systems, but some of them may be more about policies and practice, how we do things. The opportunities there to match solutions to the needs of different correctional systems and so on is an opportunity to make a broader change across the sector as a whole.

Leonard: Right. There are going to be practitioners throughout the country listening to this program today going, “Oh, thank God.” This is so needed because the discussion throughout the country today is taking about less use on prisons, less reliance on mainstream incarceration and a greater reliance on community supervision. Community supervision is sitting there going, “Oh my heavens, there’s no way we can take on more people.” I mean it would have to be a technological solution because the money isn’t there. The average caseload right now … I don’t think there is a national average but I think it comes close to 150 to one parole and probation agent. I have seen cases where it’s 250, 300 cases for one parole and probation agent.

Here in my agency, the Court Services and Offenders Supervision Agency in Washington, D.C., we are so lucky. We have under 50 to one ratios but we’re unusual and we’re lucky because we’re a federal agency but for everybody else they’re overwhelmed. They’re saying, “If you can’t give me a technological solution to handling this huge caseload and to provide the services and the supervision concurrently, if you can’t provide me a tech solution, we can’t do this.” Are they right?

Joe: I’ll jump in. I think they’re exactly right. It’s interesting that this issue was brought up by both parts of the panel. The community institutional correction side brought up the issue that a lot of the prison realignment strategies, particularly in California, have created a burden on the local jails. They going to have to identify the need for more alternatives to incarceration to get folks out of the jails. Well, at the same time in a nearby room, the community correction folks were gathering and they said, “Well, you know what, we’re getting all these highly violent folks who we typically would not previously get. Due to realignment efforts across the board now they’re being pushed into the community so we have a situation now known as mass supervision versus mass incarceration, which gets to exactly what you’re speaking about.

We don’t have the resources, we don’t have the tools to deal with this ever growing population. What the community corrections folks said the need was more targeted resources specifically for community corrections so they can meet this challenge. It was interesting how both groups identified similar problems coming from different approaches.

Leonard: What would be the technological solution? What immediately comes to my mind would be global positioning or satellite supervision of individuals, GPS supervision of individual offenders but, as effective as that may be, that puts a brand new set of requirements and a brand new workload onto the shoulders of parole and probation agents. In some cases, technology is a plus and in some cases it is not nearly as good as people make it out to be. I’m not questioning the effectiveness of GPS, I’m simply saying that instead of talking to this person once a week, now they’re getting data points, hundreds of them, every single day and they’re saying that they can’t process all that information.

Brian: Well, figuring out ways to improve technologies as they exist now was a big element at what we covered in the advisory panel discussions. In that case, one of the things that was discussed was better analysis tools, where reviewing those hundreds of data points didn’t produce hundreds of false alarms that were bouncing into the inbox of all of these supervision officers, but analytics that helped filter that data stream to make it possible to focus on the truly important elements of that.

Other pieces of technology, in terms of trying to deal with volume and deal with distance that came up, were ideas like the ability to deliver programming at a distance, whether that’s using a technology like Skype to allow people to more efficiently meet with the people that they were supervising, or in the case of treatment provision, the people that they were treating as part of their supervision. You’ll have better understandings and evaluations of the effectiveness of those alternative models of delivering that could help remove some of the travel burdens, if you will, in a jurisdiction where officers have to travel over long distances to visit their supervervisees in person.

Leonard: To deal with individuals on supervision through video visitation, either through … I don’t know. My app on my iPhone or my iPad gives me the right to instantaneously communicate with my wife through her iPhone or iPad. Technologies along those lines to deliver services to individuals to ask them questions or to supervise them, that’s what we’re talking about?

Brian: Yes, absolutely but the challenge of understanding whether that’s as effective as the traditional ways of doing that, emphasizing that in order to enable inhibition, we both need the good technology ideas and also need the evaluations, so we have confidence going in that the new ways of doing things will work well.

Leonard: Right. People are saying that, mixing radio shows here, because I’ve done radio shows … I just did a show on video visitation. I’ve done a show on correctional education. People are saying that the overwhelming majority of individuals caught up in the criminal justice system do not get the services they need. If it’s not done by video, if it’s not done by distance learning, it’s probably not going to be done at all. I think people need to understand that, out of everybody out there who has a substance abuse problem when they come in the program probation or when they come in the mainstream corrections, the data that I’m looking at is that only a small minority of those individuals get substance abuse treatment or substance abuse education. Some people are suggesting if it’s not done by video it’s not going to get done.

Joe: That’s certainly an approach that should be examined and exploited but what you’re describing there is an efficiency issue, if we can deliver these services in better, more efficiently, more inexpensively and so on. Certainly that needs to be examined. I think Brian is right. At the end of the day we need to evaluate is it truly better than nothing and if so how much better than nothing. These are things that shouldn’t impede agencies exploring these technologies but research is lagging. We’ll have to examine that and look at it and determine the effectiveness and whether it’s worth the investment.

The larger issue I think we need to talk about GPS and other technological tools to supervise offenders, is most technologies, other than the process type technologies, most supervision type technologies involve work. That’s a point that often people miss is that we just put folks on GPS and that makes it easier, more efficient. Well, that creates a lot of workload. That needs to be examined from the larger context of risk assessment, which is a common theme in the community corrections group as part of this panel. We need better tools to identify who needs what level of service and then targeted resources directed to those folks.

That gets to the larger issue is everyone within this criminal justice system need to be there and the folks that are within that criminal justice system already, do they need the same level of resources. Obviously the answer is no. We need better tools to differentiate who needs what type of intervention.

Leonard: Gentlemen, I want to reintroduce both of you. Ladies and gentlemen, we’re doing a show today on innovative use of corrections technology. Brian Jackson is the director of the Safety and Justice Program and a senior physical scientist at RAND. Joe Russo, back at our microphones, is a researcher at the University of Denver focusing on technological issues within the correctional sector. The document that we’re talking about is “Fostering Innovation in Community and Institutional Corrections: Identifying High Priority Technology and Other Needs in the U.S. Corrections Sector”. Want to give out the websites for both gentlemen and the document for RAND www.RAND.org. We’ll have the direct URL or the address to get you to that document but you can also find it by searching RAND’s website or simply Googling it. Joe is at the University of Denver, www.JustNet J-U-S-T-N-E-T .org O-R-G.

Gentlemen, to enter into this new era of corrections, whether it be mainstream corrections in a prison or whether it be a parole and probation agent who usually comes with a bachelors degree or higher, you’re talking about a fairly technologically sophisticated individual who can handle multiple technological platforms at the same time to supervise his or her community supervision population, or to run a safe and efficient prison system. We’re talking about a level of technology that we do not have now, correct?

Joe: It is in some respects the technology is already in place. The technology will grow and improve and that’s going to be continuous. I think that the point that you’re getting at, Leonard, is that correction is changing to a degree that there’s a large [inaudible 00:19:07] from specialization. If you go into a prison, a newer prison these days, almost everything is wired so the technical skills needed to operate a prison or run facilities within a prison, are much different than they were 20 years ago. That’s going to continue to change. More and more prisons are looking at allowing access to the internet for inmates as part of education reentry services. Almost every security system plugs in or is connected to a network in some way.

A lot of the same things are happening through the corrections whether it’s GPS or social media, monitoring, whatever the case might be. As society changes and becomes more technologically advanced, the supervision services have to keep pace and certainly the job is changing. On the positive side, with millennials and other generations coming into the workforce, they’re more ready and adaptable to that approach.

Leonard: To ask that person … Let’s just say going back to community corrections, and I don’t mean to keep harping on community corrections, but that’s where I’ve spent the last 11 years with Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency here in downtown Washington. To be able to analyze an individual, figure out through some algorithm as to whether or not this person is high risk, medium risk, or no risk, what that person’s needs are, what they’re not, figure out whether or not that person should be supervised at all or placed on the lowest level of supervision or the highest level of supervision, operate a GPS unit, video interface with that person on a fairly regular basis, that requires a certain sophistication. That requires a certain wherewithal and do we have that workforce now?

Brian: In all sectors we have that challenge as technology changes. Me working at a research environment, I use very different technologies and interface with my colleagues in a very different way than what’s happened 20 years ago, and that creates training challenges. Some of that is solved by, as Joe pointed out, the millennials coming in to the sector and bringing with them greater technological familiarity and a comfort level simply because they’ve used a lot of technology similar to this.

In many of the areas, in the discussions with our advisory panel as part of this work, is through the training implications of both technologies and how to use them and how to make decisions about acquiring them, came out as part of the discussion as a key element to thinking about innovation in corrections, whether that is training up individual practitioners to use the technology effectively, or whether that’s figuring out how to present information to leaders who are making decisions about technologies that they have to learn about as they’re making the assessment in procurement decisions.

A lot of this falls into an area of how do we produce that information in a way where the sector can use it effectively, since if we want innovation, part of that is arming the people, who are making the choices and who are using the technologies on a daily basis, with what they need to use it effectively. You can’t get good outcomes just by buying new technology and assuming that it will happen and work well if there’s an investment that needs to be made there to let it be adopted effectively by the organization and its members.

Leonard: Part of the document talks about the poor outcomes on key correctional measures of effectiveness, notably offender recidivism. Offender recidivism measured by … I can think of three historic documents and documents from other individuals and taking a look at individual research programs, is pretty daggone high in terms of recontact with the criminal justice system, rearrest. Generally the mantra has been within three years of two-thirds of rearrested and fifty percent re-incarcerated. You take a look at other reports and you get variations on those figures but in essence the figures are high. How does technology have an impact, have a bearing on improving the effectiveness in terms of offender outcomes?

Joe: Well, I’ll jump in. I think technology in the prison sector can be very useful and then is already being applied to support reentry. I mentioned earlier about agencies being more open to internet access if not complete, that which is not on the table yet, but at least access to internet content to help offenders develop their young vocational skills, education skills, make connections with potential employers and then in resources in the community. Between video visitation, video conferencing in general, giving offenders access to the community before they reach the community, I think technology can be leveraged to a great degree.

Leonard: RAND, interestingly enough, did an overview. Correct me if I’m wrong. I’m pretty daggone sure it was RAND. I think I saw it yesterday. Talking about correctional education in part of that document they suggested that the video delivery of services was as effective as in person. I may be overplaying my hand here but it was pretty encouraging in terms of what you can do through video delivery. Am I right or wrong?

Brian: Yes, that was certainly part of that study done by a number of my colleagues here at RAND who were looking both at the effectiveness overall of educational interventions and the very significant effect and cost effective effect that they have on reducing recidivism after release, but also development of technology in delivering those educational interventions. Again this comes down to resources, where it may be more costly to deliver education in person and be able to deliver it at a distance, whether that’s on a tablet based system or a video based system in a classroom, where the technology can become the force multiplier to let these services to reach more inmates, and as a result hopefully have a better effect for them as they leave to reintegrate into society, and hopefully find other things to do that do not lead them back into the correctional system.

Leonard: There are companies out there and I guess I shouldn’t mention the one company that I have in mind. I’m confronted as a person in the criminal justice system who’s been doing public affairs for the last 35 years. I’m always confronted with new technologies and I’m always confronted with a need to learn. There’s a company out there that provides technological overviews of equipment, of programs, of modalities that don’t assume that you have any prior knowledge of that technology at all. They walk you step by step, bit by bit, to the point where you feel pretty comfortable creating Final Cut Pro and creating a green screen movie in Final Cut Pro. This seems to be a powerful event in our lives in terms of the potential for delivering educational programs, vocational programs, maybe even mental health issues.

Joe: Well, absolutely. I mean often we talk about telemedicine as a way to deliver medical services but it’s established as well as a way to make contact and deliver services to inmates in prisons and even folks in the community. One of the things that came across during our research here was the needs of the rural agencies. Because of isolation, it’s not an efficiency issue in terms of using video to connect with their clientele. It’s not a resource issue. There is no other way to effectively connect with their clientele other than video and other technology approaches so it’s very important.

Leonard: Final three minutes of the program, we have a criminal justice system that is emerging in the technological arena but I don’t get the sense that we’re all that terribly sophisticated. I don’t get the sense that a lot of our agencies are run by people with tech backgrounds. How long will it take the criminal justice system to gear up, fund, train, implement a technological solution across the board for managing offenders, both in the community or managing people behind prison bars?

Brian: Well, certainly innovation across the entire system is a high bar. I mean in our criminal justice system the fact that we do this in a decentralized way means that we have answered to a lot of independent actors that are making their own decisions, that face their own financial constraints and their own legacy systems constraints. If you’re thinking about innovation across the board in the same way, it’ll be a long time, but the advantage that we have in that is that we have a lot of separate agencies that can do experiments and can try things and figure out what works. That provides a benefit to the other agencies that would come after them. On the one hand, thinking about uniform innovation, it will be a long time but what I’m encouraged by, particularly with the great ideas that came up in our advisory panels, is that we’ve got a lot of agencies out there that are trying new things and their experience can help lead the way for other agencies that come after.

Leonard: Yeah, but I’m suggesting that there’s a sense of … I don’t want to use the word panic but apprehension on the part of community corrections saying, “We need this stuff now.” If we’re going to deinstitutionalize, therefore rely more upon community supervision and you’re going to even increase the caseloads that we’re dealing with now, you’ve got to give us tools. I think that what I’m hearing is a need for speed.

Joe: There’s no doubt that there’s urgency but it’s a double edged sword. You don’t want to introduce technologies that haven’t been validated in the field or that potentially create an increased workload like GPS’s so it’s a balancing act. As Brian said there are agencies who are doing things piecemeal. It’s probably not the right term. Here and there they’re experimenting and some are having very good results.

Leonard: All right, Joe. You’ve got the final word. Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve had Brian Jackson, the Director of safety and justice programs for RAND, Joe Russo, a researcher for the University of Denver today talking about an extraordinary document, “Fostering Innovation in Community and Institutional Corrections”. Ladies and Gentlemen, this is D.C. Public Safety. We appreciate your comments. We even appreciate your criticisms and we want everybody to have themselves a very pleasant day.

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Comcast Interview with Nancy Ware

This Television Program is available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/video/2014/11/comcast-interview-nancy-ware/

Yolanda Vazquez:  Hello, I’m Yolanda Vasquez, and welcome to Comcast Newsmakers. I am joined now in the studio by Nancy M. Ware, she is the Director of the Court Services and Offenders Supervision Agency. Nancy it’s a pleasure to have you here in our studio.

Nancy Ware:  Thank you, Yolanda.

Yolanda Vazquez:  So, I was asking you earlier to give us a little brief history of CSOSA as you call it, and I was saying you established in 1997 by the US Congress but you said actually, that was part of an Act. You were established a little bit later. Tell us a little bit about how you were formed initially.

Nancy Ware:  Sure, well originally in 1997 actually, we had the Revitalization Act at Washington DC, which federalized a lot of the law enforcement agencies. And CSOSA was one of those agencies. So they moved probation and parole from the courts and from our parole board, which was in DC, over to this federal executive branch agency. And that’s how CSOSA was formed and we were formally put in place as an executive branch agency in 2000.

Yolanda Vazquez:  And the reasoning behind that was to kind of lift some of the burden from the state level agencies?

Nancy Ware:  That’s right. That’s correct. And also to consolidate a lot of the functions under one branch, one area of government. We also have other parts of the federal government that have take over responsibility like the prison system which is under the Federal Bureau of Prisons and our US Parole Commission which is part of the Federal US Parole Commission now. So we have a number of functions that have been federalized.

Yolanda Vazquez:  It’s good to get a good overview like that. So tell us a little bit more about CSOSA, and what are some of the things that you do and the population that you serve?

Nancy Ware:  Well, we’re responsible for supervising men and women who are on probation/parole. We supervise release in the District of Columbia. So although we’re a federal agency, we’re focused specifically on DC code offenders. And although we also have responsibility for interstate, which means that we also work with other states who have people who are on probation/parole or who are also in the District of Columbia, so we have relationships with other states. But primarily we’re focused on those individuals who live in the District of Columbia. And we have about fourteen thousand individuals under our supervision on any given day, and about twenty-four thousand throughout the course of a year.

Yolanda Vazquez:  How do you go about prioritizing your list of services to the various populations?

Nancy Ware:  Well, we really use a lot of research and evidence based practices in our practice throughout CSOSA, so what we do each year is to take the pulse of emerging trends and emerging issues across the population and also across the District in law enforcement. And as a result of that we’ve put in place specialized units throughout our agency to focus on emerging trends like mental health issues, which we’re finding to be more and more a concern among our population. Mental health and substance abuse have become an issue as well. Well, substance abuse has always been an issue, but we also have co-occurring disorders that we’re working with. And so we’ve put in place specific units and well-trained staff and contractors to work with that population. We also have units for women, domestic violence, we have specialized units working with youth and that’s a new one.

Yolanda Vazquez:  Can you tell us a little bit more about that?

Nancy Ware:  Yeah, that’s one that’s particularly of interest to me because we were having a lot of challenges with our young men in particular under twenty-five. And it was very difficult to get them to comply with their conditions of supervision. So we formed two campuses we call them, the Northwest and then Southeast and Southwest to serve that population better.

Yolanda Vazquez:  And it’s been a wonderful experience, the past two or three years for you, working with this?

Nancy Ware:  It has. It’s a great agency.

Yolanda Vazquez:  It sounds like it is. Well Nancy, we really appreciate you coming in. We had the Director of the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. Thank you so much for your time and explaining so much to us about what you do.

Nancy Ware:  Thank you.

Yolanda Vazquez:  Thank you so very much! And that’ll do it for this edition of Comcast Newsmakers. I’m Yolanda Vazquez. Thanks for watching everybody. We will you see you again real soon.

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Supervising and Treating Mentally Ill Offenders-DC Public Safety Radio

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

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

Radio Program available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2013/03/supervising-and-treating-mentally-ill-offenders-dc-public-safety-radio/

[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes: From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. Ladies and gentleman, our show today is on the supervision and treatment of mental health offenders. We, within the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, we say that 37% of our offenders have had contact with mental health providers or claim a mental health issue. Reports from the Department of Justice several years ago, they suggest a self-report figure of over 50%. To discuss this emerging issue within the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency and throughout the country, we have three guests today. We have Ubux Hussen, she is the Mental Health Program Administrator; a Community Supervision Officer – Supervisory Community Supervision Officer Marcia Davis; and Supervisory Community Supervision Officer Robert Evans. And to Ubux and Marcia and to Robert, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Female: Thank you, Leonard, for inviting us.

Female: Thank you.

Robert Evans: Thank you.

Len Sipes: All right. You know this is an extraordinarily important topic for us. It really is and it’s an extraordinarily important topic for every court, every parole commission, every parole and probation agency throughout the United States. It really is an emerging issue because it seems to – it seems to me that the numbers increase – continuously increase. Every time I read a piece of national research or local research, they tell me that they’re sort of astounded by the high numbers of people who have had contact with mental health providers and who claim to have a mental background. Like I said, there was a Department of Justice report that suggested that over 50% of the individuals who they interviewed caught up in the criminal justice system; they claimed to have a mental health problem or had contact with a mental health system in the past. So, Ubux, the first question is going to you. How many people out of the 15,000 individuals that we have on supervision on any given day, both parolees and probationers, how many are involved in our mental health unit?

Ubux Hussen: In our mental health unit, approximately 2068…

Len Sipes: That’s a lot of people.

Ubux Hussen: It is a lot of people spread across six or seven mental health men and women’s teams. The observation you made about the number of people – you know, back in the ’70s and ’80s, we did this deinstitutionalization from state mental health hospitals and a lot of those people have cycled through both state, federal, and local jails and prisons which really have become very innovative in mental health service delivery because of the need of the people under their care. So there are a lot more people who probably qualify than the 2068…

Len Sipes: Right.

Ubux Hussen: …who are currently assigned to our branch. So I’ll stop there.

Len Sipes: Well, that is an important piece of context for people to understand that one time we had within this country a fairly extensive community-based and hospital-based mental health system. They went through a process of deinstitutionalization, I think, back in the 1970s and at one time, there were thousands of people caught up in community care and in terms of intuitional care, but they’ve taken down most of those institutions from various states and they did not support the community component. So, in essence, we’ve heard individuals suggest that the criminal justice system is now the de facto provider of mental health services to a lot of people caught up who are in the system who are mentally ill and that’s shocking. You know, to me, it’s shocking. Marcia, who gets to be on our mental health unit? Describe that kind of person.

Marcia Davis: Okay. So the individuals who come to supervision come to us by way of the United States Parole Commission after they have been placed on supervisory list of parole or through the DC Court System after being placed on probation.

Len Sipes: Uh huh.

Marcia Davis: And in most cases, they’ve been either court ordered or ordered by the USPC to either undergo a mental health assessment, participate in mental health treatment, or be supervised by the mental health unit.

Len Sipes: Okay. Now, so they come either from the courts or they come from the US Parole System.

Marcia Davis: Right.

Len Sipes: Can a community supervision officer– what most people throughout the country call parole and probation agents, can a community supervision officer here within Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency can they mandate that a person receive an evaluation? Robert?

Robert Evans: Well, not necessarily mandate but one thing that is important to know is that we kind of train our staff to be very observant. We train them to have a listening ear and also be observant of when someone is experiencing some sort of breakdown or issue. And so what they’ll make – what they’ll do is make a recommendation and they will make a referral. So they will refer to our mental health program administrator to review a situation, most likely try to get this person a mental health assessment so that we can kind of gauge what this person is going through. So anybody who has a mental health assessment and assessment basically says that they have a current issue they’re dealing with, a mental health diagnosis, then we’ll take another look at that to see if they qualify for our unit.

Len Sipes: Well, from the beginning of the show, I do want to establish two things: a) Because an individual has a mental health issue does not mean that they’re going to be part of the criminal justice system and I want to make that abundantly clear.

Ubux Hussen: Correct.

Len Sipes: There are endless millions of people floating throughout the United States, throughout the world, who have mental health condition who never come into contact with the criminal justice system. However, if you are schizophrenic, if you have one of dozens of mental health diagnosis, if you are depressed in some ways that does correlate, however, with substance use that does correlate, however, with a contact with the criminal justice system. Did I phrase it correctly, Ubux?

Ubux Hussen: Absolutely. There also other environmental or psychosocial factors – poverty, low educational level, a fragile limited or non-existent family or social support network.

Len Sipes: Right.

Ubux Hussen: In terms of poverty, access to health insurance whether you’re able to get the medication that allows you to have stability in your life so that you’re not engaging in criminal activity. So there’s both the diagnosis and then there is what’s called the ecology of the person’s life.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Ubux Hussen: So who else is in your life and what else is in your life that serves as a prosocial stabilizing factor?

Len Sipes: But we have to establish as well in terms of a baseline for this discussion people on parole and probation supervision both within Washington DC and throughout the country. It applies equally across the board. They come often with substance abuse backgrounds.

Ubux Hussen: Correct.

Len Sipes: They come often with multiple contacts with the criminal justice system.

Ubux Hussen: Correct.

Len Sipes: They come often with tough upbringings, oftentimes single parent family, often time I’ve heard dozens and dozens and dozens of people caught up in the criminal justice system describe the fact that they raised themselves, that they were basically on their own, that they basically got up, fed themselves, and took themselves to school. Individuals caught up in the criminal justice system have dozens of disadvantages. Most of the female offenders that we have do things, number one, the large number have children so it’s not just taking care of themselves as they come out of the prison system. Somehow someway they want to reunite with their children. My heavens, when you start stacking deck – when you start considering all the different things that an individual caught up in the criminal justice system has to deal with and you throw mental health issues on top of all those things, it becomes scary. It becomes what some people have claimed almost to be a school to prison pipeline because they’re saying how do you overcome all those obstacles?

Robert Evans: Right.

Len Sipes: Anybody feel to comment from a mental health point of view?

Robert Evans: Yeah. I’m glad you’ve mentioned that because you know we – we throw the word mental health around and it’s kind of – there’s a stigma that comes along that word just mental health.

Len Sipes: Right.

Robert Evans: And we need to be clear that everybody has mental health. If you have a brain, you know. So everybody has health that they’re dealing with and you know, issues face us all. If you have death in the family, if you are struggling in life, so all these things that people have come along with, they deal with them differently.

Len Sipes: Right.

Robert Evans: You know and how do they – how do they deal with it. And so, one thing that we have to mention is that – especially here in DC, there are services that people can get…

Len Sipes: Right.

Robert Evans: …as a result of having “mental health issue” and so that can also add to why people are getting into this system – the mental health system because, for example, you have people that are in – who are locked up and once they realize that they can get special treatment for being in mental health now that they want to fake issues. So there’s another, you know, a sort of layer of the whole mental thing that we should visit because it’s more than just you know people have in “mental health issue.” It’s a huge sort of box that they can be opened up. You know, people can get SSI checks, people kind of once they get a diagnosis they kind of rely on at some time.

Len Sipes: Okay. So it’s a fairly complex issue.

Robert Evans: It’s very complex.

Len Sipes: All right. Let’s start from the beginning then now that we’ve laid this groundwork. So a person either comes from the courts or comes from the parole commission with a mandate that we evaluate them for mental health services. What happens when we receive that piece of paper?

Marcia Davis: And then let me also add because we kind of touched on it a little bit but I want to add sometimes, like you said, people go to general supervision and while they’re in general supervision, the CSO may notice that there’s some things that may not be totally right with this person.

Len Sipes: Right.

Marcia Davis: So they will refer them for an assessment and once they get assessed, they could be deemed appropriate for the mental health unit and be transferred over.

Len Sipes: Okay. Okay. What happens when that happens? Either through the CSO in general supervision or the parole commission or the courts? So somebody says I think this person has an issue, what happens?

Ubux Hussen: Usually, either through a supervisor or the actual CSO, I will receive an e-mail…

Len Sipes: Okay.

Ubux Hussen: …with an attached mental health assessment.

Len Sipes: Right.

Ubux Hussen: That has to be current and not older than 12 months.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Ubux Hussen: We want the most current information about the person. That assessment is reviewed for whether the person has what mental health clinicians call a severe and persistent mental illness.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Ubux Hussen: And so that’s your schizophrenias, that’s your bipolar disorder, etcetera.

Len Sipes: Right. Right.

Ubux Hussen: We also, however, supervised other people who have developmental delays, who are mild to moderately what used to be called mentally retarded. We now have a – I’m noticing a trend as everybody is getting older, we have an older population of supervisees who have age-related cognitive deficits and so it is in just do they have a serious mental illness, it’s what else is going on that might impede their successful supervision.

Len Sipes: Okay, fair enough. But we get an evaluation from the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Ubux Hussen: Yup.

Len Sipes: We get an evaluation from a mental health clinic. Do we do our own evaluations?

Ubux Hussen: Yes, sometimes.

Len Sipes: Okay. So who does those evaluations?

Ubux Hussen: We have consultants that we contract with.

Len Sipes: Right.

Ubux Hussen: One of the things in the DC area that’s really hard to get is a psychological evaluation.

Len Sipes: Right.

Ubux Hussen: And so the agency pays for those. If the information is conflicting, if it’s inadequate, if somebody for example has experienced trauma to the head while they’ve been in the community and we just need more information, we will pay for those services for them to get this assessment.

Len Sipes: Okay. So CSOSA does their own evaluations when necessary.

Ubux Hussen: Yes, that’s right.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Marcia Davis: And we also use the Department of Mental Health.

Ubux Hussen: Yes.

Len Sipes: Right.

Marcia Davis: The DC Department of Mental Health Agency does assessments, too.

Len Sipes: Okay. So the person comes in, we diagnose them, we figure out on what level of deficiency they have and then they’re placed in the mental health unit with well over 2000 people under supervision. Right?

Ubux Hussen: That’s correct.

Len Sipes: Okay. So what happens at that point? So you get this person, not only does he have to make restitution, not only does he have to get a job, not only does he have to get his GED, not only does he have to get his plumbing certificate, not only does he have to obey all law…

Ubux Hussen: Right.

Len Sipes: …he now has to go through some sort of intervention in terms of his mental health problem and I’m assuming that that ranges in terms of the degree of severity of the mental health problem, right?

Robert Evans: Correct.

Len Sipes: Okay, talk to me about that.

Robert Evans: So, basically, the guy comes from my unit and he’s assigned to community supervision officer to supervise him. Now, this supervision officer has been trained to make sure that this person is connected with the mental health services. They’re going to make sure that they connect either for Core Service Agency. This person is going to be connected with a case manager or a therapist if necessary depending on the person’s need. Once they go to that Core Service Agency, the agency would do an intake and they’ll see what this person needs and so, now, this officer needs to follow up with the case manager or whoever they’re connected with…

Len Sipes: Okay.

Robert Evans: …to be sure that they’re following through with that.

Len Sipes: And that connection could be authorities from the District of Columbia. That connection could be with the Veterans Administration.

Robert Evans: Correct.

Len Sipes: That connection could be with lots of different agencies. So okay.

Marcia Davis: Correct. Private organization…

Len Sipes: Private organizations. It could be a private counselor. Now, but do all of them get the counseling they need? I mean, you know, all we hear are budget cuts, budget cuts, budget cuts and my guess is that not everybody is going to be getting counseling – not everybody is getting counseling, not everybody is going to get “therapy.” My guess is that people on the high end of the spectrum with serious mental health issues such as bipolarism or schizophrenic – or being a schizophrenic, they will get it and the people at the lower end don’t. Am I right or wrong?

Robert Evans: Well, you’re right. You’re right. In DC especially, you know, people are overwhelmed with clients. You know, the case mangers that we deal with have extremely high case loads so they’re trying to do the best they can to make sure that they meet these individual’s needs. Bu in most cases, the people that need the intensive service, what they’ll do is get connected with what was called the ACT team, which is Assertive Community Treatment.

Marcia Davis: Assertive Community Treatment.

Robert Evans: Right.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Robert Evans: So this ACT team is going to be assigned to this client who has a very severe issue.

Marcia Davis: A severe need.

Len Sipes: A severe need, right.

Robert Evans: And so what that would do is get this person more specialized treatment but even in those cases, it’s very difficult. The difficulty that we face is we have to make sure that this person is following through with the recommendation but we can’t hold their hand, we can’t take them to treatment, we can’t pick him up from their home and take them to the case manager so –

Len Sipes: But in many cases – and that I want to get to this right after the break – in many cases, we are the principal pro-social entity in that person’s life which I find astounding…

Ubux Hussen: Correct.

Len Sipes: …in terms of doing previous radio programs about this topic.

Ubux Hussen: Yes.

Len Sipes: Ladies and gentleman, we’re talking to Ubux Hussen. She is the Mental Health Program Administrator. We’re talking to Marcia Davis and Robert Evans. They’re both Supervisory Community Supervision Officers with my agency, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, here in Washington DC. We are a federal independent agency offering parole and probation services to the great city of Washington DC. Our website is www.csosa.gov, www.csosa.gov. Talking about the issue of mental health and how parole and probation agencies treat mental health problems and again getting back to the issue that I’ve brought up right before the break that for so many individuals under supervision, we are, in many cases, the sole stabilizing pro-social force in their life, coming into contact with them and asking them: a) Are you taking your medication?; b) Are you going to the counseling clinic but we have liaisons, we know whether or not they’re complying with this counseling clinics; and c) To sit with that individual and we’re not therapist…

Ubux Hussen: Right.

Robert Evans: Right.

Len Sipes: We’re not therapists but we do talk with that individual and try to help that individual through the various crises of their lives, and d) often times when they find themselves in crisis, we’re the first people that they turn to. So I talk to be all that.

Marcia Davis: Okay. So what we’re seeing now with the co-service agencies is that collaborations work tremendously. In the female unit, we have a group of women with unique needs. When we look at the pathways to crime for our women, these are women who have a history of childhood victimization. They’ve been –

Len Sipes: Childhood sexual assault.

Marcia Davis: Right. They’ve also been sexually assaulted as adults. They have a history of trauma. They have serious chronic mental illnesses. They are homeless.

Len Sipes: Yes.

Marcia Davis: They have low education, low appointment.

Len Sipes: Right.

Marcia Davis: They’ve been separated from their children. Their self-esteem is low.

Len Sipes: Right.

Marcia Davis: But with this population, the collaborations between the different agencies, with CSOSA, with the Core Service Agency, with the treatment staff, with the faith-based mentoring staff. If we come together and we work as one, we can see how those collaborations work. Just yesterday, we had a case, a high-risk offender who has a serious mental illness. She is 7-1/5 months pregnant. She is using substances and we had a team, a multidisciplinary staff, and where we had her Core Service Agency case manager, we had our mental health administrator, Ms. Ubux, we had the CSO, we had the individual from our central intervention team who provides substance abuse treatment, and we had our mental health treatment specialist and together, we came up with a plan to help this individual. So we see as – if we work together it’s so much better than each entity trying to do it alone in this –

Len Sipes: Right.

Marcia Davis: It takes away from the offender’s ability to play one agency against the next because working together we come up with one plan. We’re all on one co-work and it just works out better for everyone involved.

Len Sipes: I do want to point out to our audience that we do have a variety of special emphases. Am I correct? Saying that am I grammatically correct in terms of three groups. Number one, we’ve reorganized around women offenders, we’ve reorganized around high-risks offenders and now, we’re in the process of reorganizing around young adult offenders.

Ubux Hussen: Correct.

Marcia Davis: Right.

Len Sipes: And, we’re finding mental health problems in all three groups.

Ubux Hussen: Correct.

Len Sipes: And with – especially with the high-risk offenders and especially the young adult offenders we’re finding real problems in that group with both recidivism and mental health problems. We have to prioritize…

Ubux Hussen: Right.

Len Sipes: …what it this we do to the highest risk offender. Correct?

Ubux Hussen: Right.

Robert Evans: Yeah, absolutely. I wanted to also go back to your point because I think it’s really important to really highlight that even in my serious case, her community supervision officer was the one that orchestrated all of that.

Marcia Davis: Yes, because –

Robert Evans: Because, you know, when the offender comes home, they’re reporting to the CSO and the CSO is between them and the releasing authority and that’s the freedom right there. So, now, it’s up to that CSO will be the one that can try to connect…

Len Sipes: Right.

Robert Evans: …with all these other people .

Len Sipes: Right.

Robert Evans: And so, like you said, that community supervision officer is a lifeline…

Len Sipes: Right.

Robert Evans: …in most cases.

Len Sipes: Well, I have talked to a wide variety of people in going on 10 years now with the core services and the federal supervision agency, they’ve been – women offenders, Marcia, you and I have talked and the people under supervision have talked and I’ve talked to more than just a couple who are on the mental health program and they basically say, you know, Mr. Sipes, if it wasn’t for that CSO, again, community supervision officer, I don’t know where I’d be.

Robert Evans: Right.

Len Sipes: He’s the one – she’s the one who constantly says, are you taking your medication, show me your medications, show me that you have your prescription in hand, show me that you’re not abusing this drug, are you going to counseling, or are you hooking up with your faith-based mentor, where are you on your life. And that provides a lifeline. Again, I’m making the same point twice but I do want to reemphasize it. The employees of this organization become sometimes the lifeline…

Ubux Hussen: Yes.

Robert Evans: Right.

Len Sipes: …in the life of that individual and becomes the major difference as to whether or not that person succeeds or does not succeed.

Robert Evans: Right. And that’s gonna be really heightened when you’re talking about the young population because this is a population who’s in a predicament and most likely because their family may not be there…

Len Sipes: Right.

Robert Evans: …or they have turned their back on them.

Len Sipes: Right.

Robert Evans: So, now, you have somebody who is playing that role in addition to authority but now we have the sort of kind of train you up, you know, and teach you to be an adult. You know, so that…

Len Sipes: It’s cognitive behavioral therapy, restructuring how they think about things in life.

Robert Evans: It’s all [indiscernible]

Len Sipes: Do we do group therapy with some individuals in the mental health unit?

Ubux Hussen: We do. There are – we have two types of groups. We have mental health intervention groups, for example, where Marcia is located. There is a trauma group that targets women and then we do what are called sanctions groups which is for technical violations of your supervision agreement.

Len Sipes: Right.

Ubux Hussen: We’re now restructuring ourselves because at the base of everything – what you were saying earlier about people raising themselves and so forth – is underlying trauma that hasn’t been addressed.

Len Sipes: Right.

Ubux Hussen: And so we’re reconfiguring the group so that we’re offering more treatment-oriented groups and fewer sanctions groups.

Robert Evans: Right.

Len Sipes: You know, it’s interesting, the average person listening to this program especially if they are familiar with their parole and probation agency and people are more than welcome to write me, leonardsipes@csosa.gov, leonard.sipes. Call me, send with a nasty letter, do what they will but what we’re talking about is unrecognizable to them because: a) we have a ratio where we come in of community supervision officers, a lot of parole and probation agents and people under supervision of somewhere in about ballpark of 50:1. For mental health teams, it’s less than that but we come into contact with individuals at higher levels of supervision at least four to eight times a month, two of those have to be community contacts and, at the same time, they have all the mental health contacts. Most parole and probation agents in this country, you know, at the highest levels, come into contact with that individual two times a month and when it comes to mental health services, they say go to your mental health clinic and report in. That’s it. That’s most jurisdictions’ response to people with mental health problems. What we do here at CSOSA as cumbersome as it is at times and as frustrating is at times is generally leaps and bounce better than most parole and probation agencies. Now, am I right or wrong?

Robert Evans: You’re absolutely correct and it’s unacceptable if we see anything less.

Marcia Davis: Right.

Robert Evans: You know, because, you know, the bottom line is the consumer. We’re thinking about the offender, you know. We say that but really we’re looking at them like the customer and our job is to assist then through the process. We’re trying to help them get the supervision so that they don’t come back.

Len Sipes: Well, we’re trying to protect public safety.

Robert Evans: Exactly.

Len Sipes: If we get them through supervision that means they’re not out there committing crimes.

Robert Evans: Exactly.

Ubux Hussen: Correct.

Len Sipes: It means they’re not a burden to society.

Ubux Hussen: Correct.

Marcia Davis: Right.

Len Sipes: That means they’re no longer tax burdens and they’re tax payers.

Robert Evans: Exactly.

Len Sipes: So a lot of people have a lot of investment in making sure that that person succeeds under supervision including us.

Ubux Hussen: Right.

Robert Evans: Absolutely.

Ubux Hussen: Right. Not the least of which the one million children whose parents…

Len Sipes: Yes.

Ubux Hussen: …at various times are involved with criminal justice systems. So it’s really in societies enlightened self-interest at some point, budgets are finite, and people have to come home and –

Robert Evans: Right.

Len Sipes: I’m sorry. Finite and declining.

Ubux Hussen: Finite and declining and so people have to come home and we have to be able to, in terms of those of us charged with public safety, be creative in identifying the reasons for how you got involved in the criminal justice system.

Len Sipes: Okay. But you say creative and so many of us in the criminal justice system, people sitting all throughout the country, listening to this program going creative shamative [PH]. It takes money. It takes resources to do this and – and that’s – that’s where the rubber meets the road.

Ubux Hussen: Yes.

Robert Evans: I would say that’s false. I would say that, you know, when we talk about being creative, we’re talking about being evidence-based and what the evidence says is that you don’t need money to show empathy.

Len Sipes: Right.

Robert Evans: And so – and that is what our unit is all about. You know, we train people to be able to build a rapport. A big huge part that you were talking about is this person sitting in front of me has to build trust.

Len Sipes: Right.

Robert Evans: So we’re all about trying to make a connection with this person so that this person will respond to what we’re trying to put in place for them to be successful.

Len Sipes: But this is a difficult population to supervise because I’ve did what you’ve done with your lifetime and they come out of the prison system in many cases and I do note that 65% of our people on our supervision are probationers, not coming out of the prison, but those who would come out of the prison have – what I say a chip on their shoulder the size of Montana.

Robert Evans: Big time.

Len Sipes: And you add mental health to that. You’re breaking through that barrier and so to the point you can get them to point – that person to the point where you can help them is a monumentally difficult task. How you break through that barrier?

Robert Evans: You don’t personalize it. The biggest thing that I’ve learned is to not to personalize it, you know. Just to give you a real life example, a young guy, you know, they – like you said, the chip on your shoulder, I’m seeing that more and more with the young population.

Len Sipes: Yep.

Robert Evans: He comes in. He’s cussing out his officer. This officer called me. Mr. Evans needs you. He came to the cubicle. He’s cussing me out.

Len Sipes: Right.

Robert Evans: So he said he was done. I let him walk out. Ten minutes later, he came back.

Len Sipes: Uh-huh.

Robert Evans: And he had a different attitude. Now, a typical person may have taken it personal, may have said, you know, what? You walked out, we’re done. But we have to not personalize that process and we have to realize that he is here, we’ve got a body to work with, and let’s rock and roll.

Len Sipes: That is I think the only way it can be done in terms of breaking through. If we do not break through their lives as individuals, we might as well just give it up. We might as well just send them back to prison.

Robert Evans: Right.

Marcia Davis: Now, when it comes –

Len Sipes: Go ahead, either one. We have one minute left.

Marcia Davis: When it comes to female unit, the females appreciate the programs that we have developed on the female unit that are geared and unique to addressing their needs. So they’re participating in these programs and they’re saying that, okay, finally, our needs are being addressed because, for so many years, their needs were never addressed and they haven’t been able to address the issues that they need to address in order to stop the cycle. So just then seeing that we’ve taken the time to develop these programs that were develop for – specifically for females, they appreciate that and they see the direction and appreciate the direction at the agency is doing.

Len Sipes: And I am – never in my 42 years in the criminal justice system have I been as impressed with anything as impressed as I am with the women’s unit and the fact that they come out with so many strikes against them but yet, at the same time, they succeed in greater numbers than I would ever expect and considering the efficiencies that they have to deal with. All of you, who deal with the female population, should be congratulated and all of you who deal with the mental health population should be congratulated. Ladies and gentleman, this is DC Public Safety. I am your host, Leonard Sipes. Our guests today have been Ubux Hussen, she is the Mental Health Program Administrator; Marcia Davis and Robert Evans, they’re both Supervisory Community Supervision Officers. Ladies and gentleman, again, DC Public Safety. We appreciate your letters. We appreciate your e-mails. We appreciate your phone calls and all of the suggestions in terms of new shows, even criticisms, and we want everybody to have themselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]

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

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

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

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

[Audio Begins]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Yes, exactly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Len Sipes: That’s great.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Wow.

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

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

Len Sipes: Oh, that’s great.

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

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

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: You could.

Len Sipes: I could.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Exactly.

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

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

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

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

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Yes. Yes.

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

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

Len Sipes: Yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: Is there a cost?

Len Sipes: Yes.

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

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

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

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

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

Len Sipes: Oh, I didn’t know that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mary Ann Smitz-Mowatt: I believe so.

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

[Audio Ends]

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National Recovery Month and Parole and Probation-DC Public Safety Radio

Welcome to “DC Public Safety” – Radio and television shows, blog and transcripts on crime, criminal offenders and the criminal justice system. We currently average 90,000 page views a month.

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

Radio Program available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2012/09/national-recovery-month-and-parole-and-probation-dc-public-safety-radio/

[Audio Beings]

Len Sipes: From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety; I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. Ladies and gentlemen, the program today is on National Recovery Month and we have three individuals who really know their stuff in terms of National Recovery Month. We have Kevin Moore, a Supervisory Treatment Specialist for my agency, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, Renee Singleton who’s also a Treatment Specialist here at CSOSA, and we have Ronald Smith, he is a graduate of the Secure Residential Treatment Program. He’s been out of that program and for about one year and he’s doing wonderfully. We’re here to discuss National Recovery Month and I do want to remind everybody that there are 700,000 people who leave the prison systems all throughout the United States and the federal system every year. Eighty to 90% of them have substance abuse histories. The question is, if they got the treatment, if they got, whether it’s mental health treatment or substance abuse treatment while in prison, and if they got the mental health and substance abuse treatment out in the community, how much crime could we reduce, how much money can we save tax payers and how many victimizations could we prevent? So the all those questions for Kevin Moore, again, Supervisory Treatment Specialist, Renee Singleton and Ronald Smith. To all three, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Ronald Smith: Thank you.

Renee Singleton: Thank you.

Kevin Moore: Good afternoon. Thank you.

Len Sipes: All right, Kevin, you’re going to start off first. National recovery month is put on by SAMHSA, correct?

Kevin Moore: That’s correct.

Len Sipes: And explain to me what SAMHSA is?

Kevin Moore: SAMHSA is a Federal Agency responsible for various treatment initiatives, establishing national protocols and standards for treatment providers and to ensure that there are services in the community to assist with eradicating the use of illicit substances.

Len Sipes: They’re the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. I could never get that right. I’ve been, I’ve been receiving SAMHSA materials for the last 25 years and I always screw up the acronym. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration under the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, US Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. So every month they, every year they do Recovery Month. It’s now into its 23rd year, and it highlights individuals who have reclaimed their lives and are now living happy and healthy lives in terms of long term recovery. But this issue of substance abuse, this issue of mental health treatment, substance abuse treatment, it’s not the easiest sell, considering the fact that there are budget reductions all over the country. I mean, convincing individuals that treatment is in their best interest, in society’s best interest, in the best interest of the person caught up in the criminal justice system; sometimes that can be a tough sell.

Kevin Moore: Yeah, absolutely. And just as you said in your opening, you know, we have 700,000 individuals returning to the communities each year and you know, one of the things that we feel here at CSOSA is that if we give folks an opportunity at treatment services, then we are providing opportunities to these folks to reclaim their lives, but more importantly, to reduce the possibility of continued criminal lifestyles.

Len Sipes: Right, but this is a national effort, that’s one of the things that I want to make clear, the first issue I want to make in the program. We celebrate recovery, not just here at CSOSA, but all throughout the United States, all throughout the Territories, the whole idea is to get people to understand that recovery is possible and recovery is in society’s best interest.

Kevin Moore: Absolutely. And with this year’s campaign, you know, we just want to reemphasize that prevention works, treatment is effective and people can and do recover, providing they are giving opportunity to the services that are out there.

Len Sipes: Now you’re a Supervisory Treatment Specialist, which means that you head up a team of people providing treatment services. This is probably the most difficult job on the face of the earth. I’ve done this, by the way, I ran group in a prison system, I did Jail or Job Core where the judge said, “Go to jail or go to Job Corps.” And I was also a gang counselor in the streets of the city of Baltimore. I know how tough this is to get people off of substances. And so you head up a team of people who face this issue every single day.

Kevin Moore: Absolutely, absolutely. We, I have a team, a staff who are dedicated to working with individuals who, some are motivated, some aren’t motivated, but they, meaning the Treatment Specialists, do what they can, using their clinical skills to guide our clients to entering into treatment and to give them that opportunity to reclaim their lives, deal with their addiction, deal with their mental health issues.

Len Sipes: And you know, interestingly enough, ladies and gentlemen, we have Renee Singleton who is a Treatment Specialist from my agency, the Court Services of Offender Supervision Agency. Renee, we supervise 16,000 offenders on any given day, 24,000 offenders in any given year. Eighty to 90% have histories of substance abuse, so this is a tough task.

Renee Singleton: It is an extremely tough task. That’s why I think it’s one of the great things is that CSOSA offers so many different treatment options for our offenders. Not only do they have the opportunity to participate in treatment services, in outpatient treatment centers, they can also go to our Reentry and Sanction Center and be assessed and be introduced to some evidence based treatment practices and be placed within a residential treatment placement. And we also have our secure residential treatment program which is inside the institution as well as our new After Care and Relapse Prevention Groups.

Len Sipes: One of the things that I want to crow about, because it’s my agency and I guess I’m paid to promote my agency, but whether I’m paid or not, I say this to everybody, we’re an evidence based agency. We’re a best practices agency, so we look at the guidance given to us by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration. We look for them to tell us what the state of the art is and we apply that state of the art here at CSOSA. What we do is we really figure out who that person is through a batteries or a series of tests and we match that person to the right treatment – correct?

Renee Singleton: Correct. We used the Addiction Severity Index to conduct assessments. We also use a risk assessment on the supervision side which looks at violence, weapons and sex, there’s substance use history, revocation history, so it takes into consideration all of those factors and within some of the treatment programs there are different assessments that are also used to gauge a person’s response to treatment.

Len Sipes: Because I think that that’s unusual. In my experience, and my 42 years within the Criminal Justice System I’ve seen the vast majority of treatment programs out there and other Criminal Justice Agencies and they’re cookie cutter. They just pile a bunch of people under supervision into a program. We create specialized programs for that individual offender, that person under supervision. I think that’s what makes us unique. Correct?

Renee Singleton: Absolutely. You want to have treatment services that are going to address the client’s needs and to apply a cookie cutter approach is not going to, actually address that individual client. So if you take a program that’s going to meet the client where he’s at, it’s evidence based, and help him to look at his thinking errors, cognitive distortions, substance use history and factors along with that, then that will help the client be successful, not only in treatment recovery, but also on supervision.

Len Sipes: The other unique thing is that we have money for about 25% of our population. Most parole and probation agencies in this country, they don’t have a dime. They don’t have a dime towards treatment. They just basically refer to the local treatment services provider. Now what we do is focus on what, the high risk offenders? That 25% for the people who pose an obvious risk to public safety or have histories of substance abuse, severe histories?

Renee Singleton: Yes, the auto screener takes the risk assessment. So you want to take that risk assessment because we want to look at the overall public safety.

Len Sipes: Right.

Renee Singleton: So in terms of substance use, you want to look at the risk, potential risk for public safety, as well as provide substance abuse treatment for an offender who’s in need.

Len Sipes: Okay. And we have an array of programs, anywhere from detox to residential to, to 28 day stay in terms of an assessment center that we built and then they go into designed, treatment designed specifically for them, correct?

Renee Singleton: That is right. I believe its 45 days for the women and 28 days for the men.

Len Sipes: Okay. And we have an array of other programs here at CSOSA in terms of anger management, educational assistance, vocational assistance, so we try to target the high risk offender, the offender who poses an obvious risk to public safety and we try to target our services, a wide array of services to that person.

Renee Singleton: That’s correct. There are, there is anger management program, which is also offered through CIT, and there’s DVIP, there are Reentry and Sanction Center, which is the 28 day assessment center, or 45 days for men. VOTEE, which offers educational services and vocational placement services. You have the faith based initiative, which also provides services.

Len Sipes: Oh, thanks for bringing that up.

Renee Singleton: And offers training sessions for our offenders.

Len Sipes: Because that’s a key issue. I mean, we have 100 faith institutions in Washington DC and I think the total number the last time I looked was 500 people under supervision have gone through the faith based program. I mean, that’s wonderful, the idea. Kevin, did you want to take this?

Kevin Moore: Yeah.

Len Sipes: That’s wonderful, the idea that you come out of treatment and you’re matched with a mentor.

Kevin Moore: Yeah, absolutely and I just wanted to add that you know, because we only have probations for 25% it’s very important that we use our faith based partners to help us deal with the issues that our clients face, whether it’s addiction or mental health and that mentoring component is very significant in helping the client sustain his productive path as he or she tackles their recovery.

Len Sipes: And we also, the ones that fall outside of the high risk, we refer over to [PH 00:10:41] APPRA, which is the Washington DC’s organization to provide substance abuse treatment and we also rely upon the faith based community. Sometimes they provide treatment and there is Salvation Army, there is the Veteran’s Administration, there’s all sorts of places that we can refer other people to that don’t fall under the category of high risk offender. Wait a minute, just let me get an answer to that question and we’re going to get right over to you in a second, Ronald. So, is that correct?

Kevin Moore: Yes.

Len Sipes: Okay. Ronald.

Ronald Smith: Hello.

Len Sipes: I’ve been looking forward to talking to you.

Ronald Smith: How you doin’?

Len Sipes: You know, get closer to that microphone, get right on top of that mike. You know, you and I were talking before the program; you’ve had quite a drug problem from a fairly early age, correct?

Ronald Smith: Yes.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Ronald Smith: You know, I was, I was 14 years old and I was boxin’ and then I got on marijuana, started with marijuana and then I graduated from PCP to heroin.

Len Sipes: Right. Were you involved in criminal activity all throughout that time?

Ronald Smith: Yes, to support my habit.

Len Sipes: Right.

Ronald Smith: What y’all were saying about the programs that Washington DC have – CSOSA, when I was in the Federal System, them guys are like, they goin’ home to Philadelphia and New York and Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, they don’t have the programs that the residents of Washington DC have.

Len Sipes: Right.

Ronald Smith: And it’s a blessing.

Len Sipes: Yeah.

Ronald Smith: You know, and I’m . . .

Len Sipes: I do want to explain in terms of the Federal Prison concept that since we had a change in Washington DC in August of 2000, all people, DC offenders, not just necessarily Federal Offenders, but all DC code offenders now go to Federal Prison, so for somebody listening in Albuquerque, New Mexico, I want to be sure that they understand your reference to Federal Prison.

Ronald Smith: Yeah, because they closed Norton down –

Len Sipes: Right.

Ronald Smith: And now they sent us to Federal Institutions.

Len Sipes: Well you know, Ronald, look. You’re a success, and thank God you’re a success. It makes the rest of us in the Criminal Justice System celebrate the fact that you’re a success. But today you’re representing all the different people caught up in the Criminal Justice System who have been able to get by drugs. Now you spent how long in the, the, you’re a graduate of the Secure Residential Treatment Program. That was a jail based program, correct?

Ronald Smith: Yes, that’s a six month program.

Len Sipes: Okay, so you graduated from that and why did you go into drug treatment?

Ronald Smith: Why?

Len Sipes: Why.

Ronald Smith: Because I got tired of being homeless. Homelessness – and my treatment specialist, she helped me point out my weaknesses as far as being homeless.

Len Sipes: Right?

Ronald Smith: So with that I learned, it’s, I already had knew what she was teaching me, but I just wasn’t using it and when I was out there, on drugs and drinking alcohol.

Len Sipes: Before the program you said you weren’t ready before and you have to be ready. Anybody entering these sort of programs needs to be ready to make a change, correct?

Ronald Smith: Yes.

Len Sipes: Tell me about that.

Ronald Smith: That’s automatic, because if you don’t want it, then you going to have reservations. You going to be, like you be in jail, they going to [INDISCERNIBLE 00:14:36]. So if you have reservations, then it’s not going to work.

Len Sipes: If we had sufficient money, if we had now, like in CSOSA we have, we can treat 25%, we refer people to other organizations in terms of drug treatment and mental health treatment and other services and its employment services as well, we have partners. Without partners we can’t exist. But if we had not 25% but 35%, 45%, if every person who had a drug history or mental health history, who are caught up in the Criminal Justice System, if they had services for that in prison and when they got out in the community, would it substantially reduce crime?

Ronald Smith: Yes it would. Because you building your foundation while you’re incarcerated. So when you come home, you still got that motivation.

Len Sipes: Right.

Ronald Smith: And when you have that motivation, you can’t be stopped. So every day that I wake up, I thank God for waking me up, and then I go on with my day. Every Monday I call my treatment specialist to check in. You know, I’m not in the program no more –

Len Sipes: Right.

Ronald Smith: But I still check in and she part of my support system.

Len Sipes: Right.

Ronald Smith: And I build a, I mean, my support system is awesome right now and I stay in contact with these people every day, every week.

Len Sipes: That’s cool, that’s cool. Relapse prevention is part, a big part of the SAMHSA program, part of the CSOSA program, but ladies and gentlemen; I wanted to reintroduce everybody one more time. We’re halfway through the program. Kevin Moore, Supervisory Treatment Specialist, for my agency, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, we’re a Federal Parole and Probation agency providing services here in the nation’s capital. Renee Singleton, she’s a Treatment Specialist, and Ronald Smith is a proud graduate of one of our programs, still under supervision. He’s been out for one year and he’s working and doing fine. Okay, let me go back to you, Ronald.

Ronald Smith: And 22 months clean.

Len Sipes: And 22 months clean. That is so important.

Ronald Smith: It is very important.

Len Sipes: How difficult was it to kick drugs? I mean, you know, people tell me it is one of the most difficult things in the world to kick both drugs and to kick the corner.

Ronald Smith: Yeah, like, it’s, it was a mental, it was mental.

Len Sipes: Right.

Ronald Smith: It’s mental. But I know that I’m addicted to the lifestyle –

Len Sipes: Right.

Ronald Smith: So. . .

Len Sipes: You’re not just addicted to drugs, you’re addicted to the lifestyle.

Ronald Smith: Lifestyle too.

Len Sipes: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Ronald Smith: So I stay away from the lifestyle.

Len Sipes: That’s it.

Ronald Smith: You know what I’m saying? I spend time with family and I have a son and I have a little bouncing little grandson that’s a month.

Len Sipes: Congratulations.

Ronald Smith: So you know, I’m busy.

Len Sipes: And it’s, and now you’re a meaningful part of the lives of your children and your grandchildren instead of being this person who floats in and out of their lives because they’re using drugs.

Ronald Smith: Yes. When my son told me, when I came home, he said, he said, “Dad, when you going to stop goin’ to jail?”

Len Sipes: Yep.

Ronald Smith: I had to, you know, think about that.

Len Sipes: If treatment wasn’t available to you where would you be today?

Ronald Smith: If I didn’t take my treatment seriously?

Len Sipes: Yes.

Ronald Smith: I’d be back in jail or dead.

Len Sipes: In jail or dead or still committing crime?

Ronald Smith: Yes.

Len Sipes: Still using drugs?

Ronald Smith: Yes.

Len Sipes: And you know, Kevin, I’m going to go with you for a second in terms of this larger issue. Again, it is the SAMHSA which is the, under Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. They’re setting up National Recovery Month; we’re participating in it as we always do. We feel very strongly about this issue because you know, talking to Ronald, if these programs weren’t available, people would still be committing crime, people would still be victimizing people and it would still be costing taxpayers literally hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

Kevin Moore: Absolutely. You, Mr. Sipes said, it costs more to incarcerate an individual than to treat the person for their addiction and you know, I’m thankful that this initiative has been in existence for 23 years, but I’m more thankful that CSOSA has embraced recovery month and that we are providing various activities to acknowledge individuals who are in recovery. And you know, SAMHSA, about two years ago, redefined what recovery means and simply put, they states that recovery is a process through which individuals improve their health and well being, that they live a self directed life, and that they attempt to maximize, or they strive to maximize their full potential. And just listen to what Ronald is saying –

Len Sipes: Right.

Kevin Moore: It sounds like he has taken advantage of that and I’m glad that CSOSA was a part of providing that opportunity for him.

Len Sipes: And you know, all of us in this room, we’ve talked to literally, throughout our careers, thousands of people who have crossed the line, who have crossed the bridge. They’re now tax payers, they’re not tax burdens, they’re now supporting their kids, they’re now you know, doing the right thing, they’re full members of their community but they were none of this until they got mental health treatment, until they got substance abuse treatment. Renee, you want to take a shot at that?

Renee Singleton: Yes, I think Mr. Smith is a prime example of how treatment works in regards to just maintaining his recovery and being in compliance with supervision. It’s definitely been a change in how he responded to supervision prior to treatment and now, and he can best attest to that, in regards to being on intensive, maximum, and now minimum supervision.

Len Sipes: Right, he’s come down, he’s worked his way down the chain in terms of how intensely we supervise him.

Renee Singleton: That’s correct, and that’s not also, not just in regards to supervision, but in regards to drug testing as well. So you may start off at a higher level of drug testing, because of your substance use history, and then work down to spot testing and not being required to drug test as frequently. Also, Mr. Smith has been quite modest. He’s taken advantage of a lot of services that CSOSA offers and all of those services have helped him be successful on supervision and in the community. He’s now a taxpayer, he maintains his own house or he’s maintaining housing, stable housing, he’s not in violation in supervision, so he is a prime example of how treatment works.

Len Sipes: Right, he’s everything we want him to be, he’s everything society wants him to be.

Renee Singleton: Now that he’s successful [OVERLAY]

Len Sipes: And then congratulations go out to all of you. Okay, so why is it so dag gone difficult to find money for substance abuse treatment programs? You know, the last survey that I saw, that in prison now, not under community supervision, but in prison, that 80 to 90% of people in prison have histories of substance abuse. 10% are getting treatment. Now, I’ve seen others surveys that said 13%, I’ve seen other surveys that said 16%, it’s a small number that get treatment. Okay, why do we have this dichotomy? If we have individuals who have histories of mental health issues, substance abuse issues, then why aren’t we treating them in the prison system? What’s going on? Why is it a matter of convincing society that this is something that we need to do? We need to give up the money? Any one of you can answer that question.

Kevin Moore: Well, I’ll take a shot at it Mr. Sipes, and you know, within the Criminal Justice Systems, you know, we go through various shifts. You know, every decade or so the philosophy changes. One, we go from rehabilitative concept to the punitive, punishment concept. I think now we are moving back towards the rehabilitation, we’re looking at evidence based practices.

Len Sipes: Right.

Kevin Moore: And so we are educating folks more, but you know, substance abuse and mental health, you know, still poses a stigma to folks and the community has a difficult time of embracing that. I think that you know, though we celebrate National Recovery Month every September for the past 23 years, we need to have a better or more established campaign throughout the year to promote the successes of folks who have recovered from substances and mental health disorders.

Len Sipes: Is it because people just hear bad news about people under supervision and just don’t hear the good news? I mean, what Ronald has done is phenomenal. I mean, I’m looking at an article right now that was written up by somebody in terms of his transitional housing, a Reverend Deborah Thomas Campbell and who just absolutely, absolutely is glowing in terms of Ronald’s recovery, but as he says, if he didn’t have the treatment programs there, the other programs there, he may be dead, he may be in prison, he may be back doing drugs, he may be back doing crime and additional victims are going to have to suffer through those consequences. They don’t have to suffer through it now because he’s sitting by our microphones clean and sober for how many years?

Ronald Smith: A year and 8 months.

Len Sipes: That’s a long time Ronald. Congratulations.

Ronald Smith: Thank you.

Len Sipes: So what are you, so what do you say to the larger society? What message do you give to people who are saying, “Look Leonard, you know, we can’t fund our schools, we can’t fund programs for our elderly, we’ve got 10 tons of people out of work, you know, and you’re now telling me to give more money to substance abuse and mental health treatment programs.” What do you say to that person? Closer to the mike. . .

Ronald Smith: I would tell’em, okay, I’m part of the community.

Len Sipes: Yeah.

Ronald Smith: And I helped mess it up, so you can help straighten it up and then be a mentor to the kids because the generation coming up now, they need some mentoring.

Len Sipes: Yeah, they do.

Ronald Smith: And that’s what I want to do. That’s what I want to do, because I used to box. And drugs, alcohol destroyed my career. That’s ‘cause I wanted to go into the Marines.

Len Sipes: Right.

Ronald Smith: And box in Olympics. But that dream was shattered and I just want to, I want to give back.

Len Sipes: Right.

Ronald Smith: Because same thing with the NANAA, you learn it and then you give it back. So that’s, that’s my philosophy.

Len Sipes: But what people are listening, more from you than from the three of us sitting in this studio right now, they’re saying, “Okay, this is possible. If I give more money, if I support more treatment: either mental health treatment, substance abuse treatment, vocational treatment, if I support this, I’m creating a safer society.” Is that right or wrong?

Ronald Smith: That’s right. Because the kids can go out and play. People can go to the store without being robbed.

Len Sipes: Right.

Ronald Smith: I mean, you know, back in the day, DC used to be a nice town but now you can’t, you got to lock your door. Back in the day you used to have your door unlocked. But now you gotta lock it.

Len Sipes: Right.

Ronald Smith: So, times have changed you know.

Len Sipes: And we’ve got to change with those times.

Ronald Smith: Right.

Len Sipes: And provide the substance abuse and treatment services necessary. Kevin, go ahead.

Kevin Moore: Yeah, I was going to say, Mr. Sipes, you know, it’s a windfall if we invest more in treatment. You know, some of the society benefits would include you know, increased productivity of these individuals. As we know, Ronald now is working, he’s a taxpayer.

Len Sipes: Right.

Kevin Moore: You know.

Len Sipes: Right, he’s paying our salaries. Thank you Ronald.

Kevin Moore: Yeah, yeah.

Len Sipes: Thank you Ronald.

[Laughter]

Kevin Moore: You know, with treatment you know, we minimize premature deaths. As Ronald said, if he were to continue on this path to destruction, he would either be incarcerated or dead and also the criminal activity. You know, we reduce the crimes committed in our communities and also we reduce the substance abuse related illness. You know, as we prepare for the Recovery Month, you know, we uncovered some staggering stats and one of the things that stood out to me is that 40% of all the emergency room visits are substance abuse related here in the District of Columbia.

Len Sipes: Right, so we’re talking about reducing the cost of medical care. That would be an obvious benefit.

Kevin Moore: Absolutely. Absolutely. In addition to that, what was even more staggering is that 50% of all the vehicular incidents here in the District of Colombia are related to substance use.

Len Sipes: Abuse, yes.

Kevin Moore: Yeah, so again, you know, by investing in treatment and helping folks recover, we minimize these instances of increased healthcare, premature death, yeah. . .

Len Sipes: Renee, I mean, you’re going to have the final word in this program. What does the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, their guidance, their research, their promotion of the state of the art, what does that mean to us as treatment providers?

Renee Singleton: Definitely provides us with evidence based treatment approaches so we can best assist our clients with being successful in recovery. It also offers us a lot of research and information to train ourselves so we can become more efficient Treatment Specialists and counselors for our clients.

Len Sipes: And the bottom line is, they give us the guidance we need and we implement that guidance.

Renee Singleton: Correct, we do implement the guidance, we use them as a great resource. They provide trainings, information, and so we use them to assist us with our work.

Len Sipes: Renee, you’ve got the final word. Ladies and gentlemen, I really do appreciate you listening to our program on National Recovery Month and how it applies to my agency, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. Our guests today have been Kevin Moore, Supervisory Treatment Specialist with CSOSA, Renee Singleton, a Treatment Specialist again, with CSOSA, and Ronald Smith, who I now like an awful lot, who is a very successful person who is now working, a taxpayer, proud grandfather and father and Ronald again, congratulations on your recovery.

Ronald Smith: Thank you.

Len Sipes: Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety; we appreciate your criticism and comments. We really do thank you for listening. Our website is www.csosa.gov www.csosa.gov. Please have yourselves a very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]

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