Deprecated: str_replace(): Passing null to parameter #3 ($subject) of type array|string is deprecated in /home/csosamed/public_html/podcast/transcripts/wp-content/themes/genesis/lib/functions/image.php on line 116

Serious-Violent Offender Reentry Research-Research Triangle Institute-DC Public Safety

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

Radio Program available at

[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes: From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host Leonard Sipes. Ladies and gentlemen, I think this is going to be one of the most important radio shows that I have ever done throughout my career. Serious and Violent Offender Re-entry Initiative – the research. We have at our microphone today Dr. Pam Lattimore. She is the principal scientist, Research Triangle Institute. She is from the Crime and Violence and Justice Research program. There was a piece of research, a very significant piece of research again called the Serious and Violent Offender Re-entry Initiative. 12 states did adult programs. 4 states did juvenile programs. It was evaluated twice. Once at the 3-year level and once at the 5-year level and I think you’re going to be surprised at the findings between the 3 and the 5-year level. To Pam Lattimore, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Pam Lattimore: Thank you Len, glad to be here.

Len Sipes: I find this piece of research fascinating. I think that this may be the most important piece of research on offender re-entry in this country’s history. There has been lots of wonderful stuff out there in terms of substance abuse, in terms of GPS, in terms of Project Hope and specialized courts and their findings are encouraging but this is main stream re-entry as we call it today. In terms of providing programs to people coming out of the prison system, services coming out of the prison system. So give me your quick summation as to the Serious and Violent Offender Re-entry Initiative.

Pam Lattimore: Okay, the initiative was actually funded by congress in about 2000 and $100 million roughly was given to 69 State agencies to do programs, re-entry programs for adults and juveniles and an evaluation was commissioned to study those programs, we looked at all 69 grantees, identified what they were doing and from those grantees, selected 16 programs – 12 adult, 4 juvenile to evaluate.

Len Sipes: But there were many more beyond this so these 16 programs are sort of illustrative and indicative of the experience that happened throughout the country.

Pam Lattimore: That’s right.

Len Sipes: And correct me if I’m wrong, it was funded by the Office of Justice programs.

Pam Lattimore: That’s correct.

Len Sipes: Or the US Department of Justice and so this is significant because it involves – you evaluated and there are far more programs than this, 12 States with adult programs, 4 States with juvenile programs. They provided services, an array of services as they came out. They were guidelines, general guidelines in terms of what it was that these jurisdictions were supposed to provide. Give me a sense at the 3-year level what the findings were in terms of the research?

Pam Lattimore: The findings and they were supposed to provide an array of services but there were core services and it’s the core that I think has sort of been the landmark/hallmark of re-entry programming. It’s a needs assessment, re-entry planning, a re-entry plan, case management to get people into services and the idea was that with any re-entry program the programming begins in prison and then transitions out into the community. The findings were that individuals that were in the programs received more services than those who were not. So that’s always a positive thing.

Len Sipes: Yes.

Pam Lattimore: You don’t want to be studying people who got the same thing and then see if there’s any differences in outcomes.

Len Sipes: Right.

Pam Lattimore: And that we saw modest improvements across a variety of domain areas. The initial results at 3 years, basically a 2-year followup post prison release was that although the numbers were in the right directions. There were slightly fewer arrests for the people that were in program. The differences weren’t large enough for them to qualify as what researchers call statistically significant.

Len Sipes: Right, which means that it’s not due to chance.

Pam Lattimore: Right.

Len Sipes: It’s due to program initiatives.

Pam Lattimore: That’s right, that’s right.

Len Sipes: You had a control group, correct?

Pam Lattimore: That’s right. We had a comparison group that was carefully matched with the treatment groups.

Len Sipes: Okay. And so there’s a certain point within the 3-year program where people sat back and said you know, where there were reductions and we were moving in the right direction, we’re not overly enthused about the results at the 3-year level. Am I in the ballpark?

Pam Lattimore: You are in the ballpark. I mean the actual followup that we had for everyone was in the 2-year range and the thing that is important about that is that 2 years as been considered the gold standard for studies of recidivism.

Len Sipes: Right.

Pam Lattimore: So often times people lament, well this program was evaluated but they only looked at the first six months or they only looked at the first year and so 2 years has sort of obtained, sort of a golden hue that you know, it’s like the magic alpha 0.05 in statistics that you know, it’s like, well we need 2 years and that’s what we want to aim for and so that’s what we did here, is we got 2 years. As I say, the results were suggestive and even at 2 years we could see that people who were participating in the program, the further out we went and we’re talking about arrest as an outcome, the people that had been in the programs did seem, the further out we went to be doing a little bit more better.

Len Sipes: Okay, so let’s segway into that. The 5-year study?

Pam Lattimore: The 5-year study we found actually ironically…

Len Sipes: Of the same groups.

Pam Lattimore: Of the same groups with the same people, we found that ironically, shortly after we had stopped looking the first time that the results were statistically significant. The differences in outcomes had become large enough between our comparison subjects and the people who had been in SAVORI programs, a horrible acronym on paper, but that’s what it was called, the SAVORI – Serious and Violent Offender Re-entry Initiative – the people who had been in SAVORI programs, actually the further out you went, the better they were doing. So by the time we got to the end of roughly the 5 years we were following them, there was a pretty substantial difference.

Len Sipes: Now let’s talk about those differences. The differences were better for women and then juveniles and then men.

Pam Lattimore: In terms of, well let’s back up and you and I talked about this earlier. I mean the arrest-recidivism rate for all of the subjects was very, very high and that’s not surprising. I don’t think anyone who understands, this initiative was supposed to focus on serious and violent offenders and what that basically at minimum is these were frequent flyers. They were people that had been you know, they started young and they had been very, you know, consistent in the number of arrests that they had. They had long arrest histories and so, when they were released post release I mean we were talking about 75 to 90% re-arrest rates overall. If you just looked, any arrest within five years of release, basically for the men it was almost all of them.

Len Sipes: Now, at the same time researchers and people within the re-entry community over the course of the last five years have really emphasized this particular group, that we should not be wasting our time, not be wasting our efforts and here yet, as we sit in Washington DC we are looking at some significant budget cuts. People are saying we shouldn’t be wasting our time with lower level offenders, that we are going to get the biggest bang for our buck in terms of these higher risk offenders, the very people that you all evaluated. So you all did what it was that you were supposed to do in terms of looking at this particular group.

Pam Lattimore: That’s right and so, you know, like I say for the men and to a lesser extent, but certainly at a very high level, everybody got re-arrested at least once basically, but you know, when we started looking at the time to the first arrest. When we started looking at the number of arrests, we saw substantial and meaningful differences. I mean for the women, as you said, it was about half.

Len Sipes: Right

Pam Lattimore: The women who had been in the SAVORI program had about half the number of arrests as the women who were comparisons.

Len Sipes: To their comparison group.

Pam Lattimore: Right. And…

Len Sipes: So we’re talking about not individual instances of arrests but we’re talking about total arrests.

Pam Lattimore: Total numbers of arrests post release. Yeah, so in the followup period that we were interested in and for the men, we saw a half, 0.7 arrests. Now you might say that’s not…

Len Sipes: What percentage?

Pam Lattimore: It’s like, it was about… I don’t know, 20% or so, I don’t know I’d need to look but the comparison group was about 3.5 arrests on average in the followup period and the treatment group was about 3. So you’re talking about a half an arrest per person. Well you know, you think about the cost associated with the arrest and subsequent prosecution and you know, whatever the punishment is and that’s not trivial.

Len Sipes: So there’s still enormous implications so if you’re talking about a 20% reduction for men in terms of total arrests. If you’re talking about a 45 to 50% reduction in total arrest for women and then you’re talking about a smaller amount for juveniles.

Pam Lattimore: Right, and the juveniles, we were only able to follow them for the original study period. So the smaller number for juveniles was really only within the original study period. There are some research-related reasons for that we don’t need to go into here but there was a difference and it was meaningful and yeah, I’m looking at the numbers now and it was 3.75 for the comparison group, 3.25 arrests for the treatment group.

Len Sipes: Okay, but give me percentages because that’s the difficulty in terms of a lot of people within our audience, they’re not going to be quite sure as to what that means, so if memory serves me correctly, it was about 45% reduction for women I think, and about a 20% reduction for men.

Pam Lattimore: That’s right, that’s right. That’s right.

Len Sipes: Okay, we’ll go with that.

Pam Lattimore: Yeah, that’s close enough.

Len Sipes: And this is, we’re talking about total arrests and in terms of incarcerations across the board because you look at arrests and you took a look at incarcerations, generally speaking, about 50% went back to prison.

Pam Lattimore: That’s correct.

Len Sipes: So first of all, a variety of observations. There was a piece of research which still remains the gold standard in terms of recidivism to this day done using a cohort back in 1994, the bureau of justice statistics, of the Office of Justice programs, of the US Department of Justice. Basically they gave rates of somewhere in the ballpark of two-thirds rearrested and 50% reincarcerated and those reincarcerations also included new crimes as well as violations that they committed while out. So in some ways your particular piece of research tracks that 1994 study which followed offenders for three years. So basically, what we’re saying is that across the board, this is going to be a pretty tough group to deal with and considering that you dealt with specifically Serious and Violent Offenders, not offenders across the board, but serious and violent offenders, the fact that you had higher rates of re-arrest but basically the same rates of reincarceration is not surprising. I mean your group was more difficult to deal with.

Pam Lattimore: Yeah and clearly, and we have a number of reports that describe the… you know, as you have pointed out, they’re probably, we’ve got a foot of reports and that’s probably too many pieces of paper to go through but this was clearly, the target population was serious and violent – they clearly and that has implications for what you might expect to see.

Len Sipes: Heavens, I would have a list of implications about as long as this room because what this is saying to me is that, and what its saying to media and what it is saying to policy makers and what it is saying to practitioners is we have got to be in this for the long game. It may not show results at two years, it may not show results at three years. You’ve got to take a look at longitudinal data, long range data. You may have to take a look at five years worth of data before you get a sense as to the impact of the programs that you put in place and most people don’t have the patience for that.

Pam Lattimore: That’s right and I’m sympathetic to that. I’ve not been well-known for my patience. So I think you need to look along at how the results are. Our hypothesis with respect to what is going on here, the thinking has always been, well if you do an intervention, if it is going to have an impact, it will have an impact immediately and then it may diminish over time. So that is sort of the thinking that people have and in fact what we found was the opposite. It had a little effect at first and then over time it had a greater effect.

Len Sipes: But what that does is, here’s the drill though. Okay, I represent a federal criminal justice agency; we could have a program in place. Year 1, the results aren’t very good, year 2 the results aren’t very good. So somebody comes along and says, Mr. Sipes, we would like to see the results of your research, we provide those results and somebody declares the program a failure. The program could be a success but we have to extend it and learn from it and get better at it and then after multiple years beyond 2 years, that’s when you have your impact. That’s a tough hoe to row.

Pam Lattimore: And so maybe there are some policy implications here that, you know, things that we need to mindful of.

Len Sipes: row the hoe? I’m sorry I messed that statement up entirely but go ahead.

Pam Lattimore: Yeah, but anyway, I mean I think that there are things that we need to be mindful of here and what we… you know, my colleagues who worked with me and there were many who worked with me on the study have speculated is that what we were seeing is sort of post-release, the likelihood that people who have been in prison for 2, 3, 4, 5 years, they get out and they are on supervision so they may violate. They want to go out and hang around with their friends again, they get themselves in trouble and really don’t have time to get themselves sorted out and so if you can think about criminal behavior, recidivism is like a relapsing behavior

Len Sipes: Yes.

Pam Lattimore: And sometimes it can take, you know the treatment community says it can take a while for the treatment to take.

Len Sipes: Multiple interventions before you finally get the person on the right road.

Pam Lattimore: And so, you provide services to people that they may not use right away but that in the end, when they finally make it up in their minds that they want to try to do something about their behavior they have got the tools that they need to move forward.

Len Sipes: We are more than half way through the program and this very, very, very fascinating discussion with Dr. Pam Lattimore. She is the principal scientist with the Research Triangle Institute. By the way ladies and gentlemen, the Research Triangle Institute has been around for decades. When I left the police department decades ago and started my criminological studies, wow, the first thing I think I read was a piece of research from Research Triangle Institute. They have been around for a long time, Crime and Violence and Justice Research program – that’s what she represents. and we are also going to be placing a link in the show notes to the report that we are talking about. Serious and Violent Offender Re-entry Initiative. A 2-year study and a 5-year study and it took 5 years to show the true effects of the program. And Pam, in the second half of the show, so people are sitting, listening to this program and they are saying to themselves, okay fine, if we have got to take the program out for that many years, that has real fiscal implications for us, that has real political implications for us, it has policy implications for us. So first of all, there is that basic understanding that results may not be immediate and that is lesson number 1. Lesson number 2 seems to be that you did discrete variables. In other words, you isolated certain things, services that had more impact than others within your report. So that is the second thing that I want to get into because this has once again real policy implications for those of us in the criminal justice system. So you found some interventions that were more powerful than others – correct?

Pam Lattimore: That is correct and I would like to go if you don’t mind.

Len Sipes: Please, please. Feel free.

Pam Lattimore: To finish up on what we were talking about before the break and that is, I think one of the implications of, if the relapsing hypothesis is correct and if the idea is that people may have difficulty adjusting post release from prison – it points and this study is not the only one, a lot of folks have talked about the importance of that first 90 days post release. Now these programs were supposed to provide pre-release services and post-release services and there was supposed to be a sort of a reasonable hand-off. The report that we are talking about primarily today is based primarily on the services that people received while they were in prison and there’s two reasons for that but the most important is probably, our results suggested that people by and large did not receive a lot of services post release.

Len Sipes: Ah, no wait a minute, wait a minute – let’s back up now.

Pam Lattimore: That’s right.

Len Sipes: So the bulk of these services came within the incarcerated setting

Pam Lattimore: That’s right

Len Sipes: … and then, and this is a very important point and then the services that were supposed to ease the transition into the community in many cases, those services were not there.

Pam Lattimore: That’s right. That’s right.

Len Sipes: Well how can you do one and not the other? I mean taking a look at all the research that I have looked at, it’s crucial that when you come out of the prison system that it be a seamless continuum of services. So if you’re getting substance abuse treatment within the incarcerative setting then you’ve got to continue it in some way, shape or form whether it’s AA or NA, at least you’ve got to continue that when you come out into the community.

Pam Lattimore: Right and the short answer to your “why” is, because it’s hard to do and there was large variation across the sites in terms of post release – the amount of post release programming and our original report dealt with that more than the new – the 5-year study did and so I mean I think one lesson though from that is that there needs to be continued attention paid to how to make that transition. If you think about this organizationally, re-entry programming is extremely hard to do.

Len Sipes: Yes.

Pam Lattimore: Extremely hard to do because of the geography of it. So if you establish a program in a state prison and so you have 200 offenders in that program

Len Sipes: And if they are in Kansas they could be hundreds of miles away from that prison.

Pam Lattimore: They could be hundreds of miles away from that prison and so you have these 200 people and they get… and say you’ve got sort of a cohort type of program. So everybody comes in and everybody spends three months or six months or whatever in some core set of services. You let them go and they… and this is all, let’s just say hard as you would know, and everybody – a lot of folks listening would understand how hard it is to know exactly when people are going to get out and to gauge all that. But let’s say you could do that, then these individuals get out in Kansas and you know, 20 of them go to Kansas City and the other 80 of them go…

Len Sipes: It’s hard to coordinate services over a large geographic area.

Pam Lattimore: Geographic area.

Len Sipes: What percent of the offenders that you studied in terms of your 16 states, what percent did receive adequate post-release services in your estimation?

Pam Lattimore: I’m not sure how to define adequate.

Len Sipes: Less than 50% it sounds like.

Pam Lattimore: Oh way less than 50%.

Len Sipes: Okay, so we’re talking about way less than 50% and that is certainly going to have an impact in terms of program findings.

Pam Lattimore: Right. Right. Oh way less than 50%. I haven’t looked at those numbers in a while but yeah, way less than 50%.

Len Sipes: So a crucial ingredient was missing.

Pam Lattimore: Right and I think… and I’ll just say it again. This is hard. If this were easy, it would have been done before. And so, but that’s a very hard thing to say to policy makers, I have tried, Lord knows I’ve tried but you know, I mean I think that until we come to grips with the reality of the fact that this is hard, you know, we’re not, we don’t stand very much of a chance of making it succeed and so I think we need to learn from you know, each iteration of this. If cancer treatment were held and funding were held to the same standard that criminal justice research and evaluation were held to, we would have no cancer research.

Len Sipes: Or drug treatment across the board.

Pam Lattimore: Or drug treatment across the board – that’s correct.

Len Sipes: It’s because there are very defined guidelines in terms of what constitutes good drug treatment. All right, we only have about six minutes left in the program and I do want to get back to that very important variable. Some parts of these program seem to have a greater impact than others. Talk to me about that.

Pam Lattimore: Right. The 5-year study was supposed to be a follow-on to the original study in a couple of ways, one is the longer followup but the other was we wanted to look, not just whether or not people had been in a SAVORI program but at the impact in terms of numbers of services people received and so forth. Well we initially tried to that we were just going to make a scale, a score basically, okay this person got 12 services or 20 or whatever number we were using and this person got 2 and did the person who got 20 do better than the person who got 2 and the results were no. And we thought, hmmm, okay and we started looking at the data. And then we sort of back-tracked and said, well let’s look at the effect of individual services. And once we did that, we found that in a few instances, not only were the services not effective, they were actually having a criminogenic effect.

Len Sipes: A detrimental effect.

Pam Lattimore: A detrimental effect and it’s like, okay, if you add up something that is having a bad effect with something that is having a good effect, it’s not surprising you find no effect.

Len Sipes: What worked?

Pam Lattimore: Education.

Len Sipes: Education. What kind of education?

Pam Lattimore: You know, our education variable was sort of a sum of…

Len Sipes: An eighth grade certificate, high school, GED

Pam Lattimore: eighth grade certificate, high school, GED, you know vocational training as opposed to….

Len Sipes: Plumbing, electrical…

Pam Lattimore: Right, right, vocational training, you know, those kinds of things.

Len Sipes: And there’s good hard research that backs it up outside of your study.

Pam Lattimore: There is, yes, there is some.

Len Sipes: Okay, so what else?

Pam Lattimore: We found that services by and large that were directed at improving the individual as a person and maybe helping that individual learn not to do drugs, to change their criminal thinking, that those services had positive impacts.

Len Sipes: Okay, what we call within the field, cognitive behavioral therapy we’re talking about thinking for change, we’re talking about helping that person come to grips with their behavior and making better decisions which a lot of people think is very common place and very simple because that’s what we were taught by our parents. In many cases, the individuals caught up within the prison system did not have that education.

Pam Lattimore: That’s exactly right, that’s exactly right and then we found that to a large extent that the services that didn’t have any effect or maybe had slightly detrimental effects were the practical services, housing, well not housing in this case, but re-entry planning, that was a surprise. Now we think that the re-entry planning variable may have been because people had re-entry planning but then there was, you know, there was either no transition post release or they didn’t have other things.

Len Sipes: Right, the lack of followup in the community.

Pam Lattimore: The lack of followup in the community.

Len Sipes: Okay.

Pam Lattimore: And so people were disappointed and so therefore maybe they were doing better. It certainly for us, really raised the question of something I don’t think we know…psychologist have begun… the field has started to drift. I mean we have to remember that these programs were established in 2003 and so we are 10 years then

Len Sipes: And we have come a long way since then

Pam Lattimore: We have come a long way since then

Len Sipes: In terms of the research and in terms of our understanding as to what works.

Pam Lattimore: That’s right, but clearly there is evidence here to support the CBT

Len Sipes: CBT?

Pam Lattimore: The cognitive behavioral therapy

Len Sipes: Okay, thank you.

Pam Lattimore: And you know thinking for change and those kinds of things.

Len Sipes: We have to go after the core, the individual in terms of how he or she seems themselves as a functioning human being and maybe that is, and that plus occupational training, those two variables may be the most important ingredients in terms of good re-entry.

Pam Lattimore: Right and so, you know, with practical services, helping people do resumes and job skills and yeah so interviewing skills and all that, are those going to be helpful? They may be helpful after people have had, you know, sort of come to terms with themselves in terms of changing their criminal identity.

Len Sipes: Stabilizing the core of the individual and that is one of the reasons by the way, why we at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, I mean with the serious offenders and women offenders, why we put them in groups with the philosophy of changing the core. Of having that person change the core as to who they are and before they move to on to other services that we could provide. We only have three minutes left and I need a minute to close. Are there any other over-arching lessons that people need to know when they are talking about this piece of research on Serious and Violent Offenders?

Pam Lattimore: Well I want to say, just to follow on what I was saying about the important about sort of criminal identity and change and all of that, we are about to commence on what will be a 9 to 10-year followup on a subset of the individuals who were in the original study and it is a desistant study that is going to look, we are going to reinterview individuals, men and women in two states that participated – about 750 of them who participated in the original study and some of them will be in prison. I fully expect at least half of them will be in prison and we’re going to try to find the other half out in the community and we want to know two things. This study that we have just concluded was really interested in the factors that were associated with recidivism. The new study will look at that but it is also going to look at factors related to individual change, identification of self and those kinds of things, with respect to why people desisted from crime.

Len Sipes: Is there a way of ferreting out those people who did get good after-care services once they were released from prison and look at their recidivism rates?

Pam Lattimore: We have done some of that and it is not really – well obviously it is not in the report. It wasn’t anything that we felt was useful. I mean I think what we need to understand is that the things that may cause people to stop crime are different from the things that may keep people continuing crime. And that we know a good bit about the things that cause continuation, that causes recidivism, drug use and those kinds – hanging out with the wrong people. We don’t know very much about the reasons, the factors that are associated with why people decide to quit and we think that those are associated with an individual’s identity as well as their commitment maybe to family and children and we need to learn more about that.

Len Sipes: You know, I think this is one of the most fascinating studies that has come out of the US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs and I really want to commend you all for this 5-year commitment to guiding the rest of us within the Criminal Justice System. Ladies and gentlemen, the show today was on Serious and Violent Offenders a 5-year analysis, a Serious and Violent Offender Re-entry Initiative. Our guest today is Dr. Pam Lattimore, she is a principal scientist at the Research Triangle Institute. She is with the Crime, Violence and Justice Research Program – And a direct link to the research that we have been talking about today will be in the show notes. This is DC Public Safety and we really do appreciate all the comments that you give back to us and criticisms and suggestions for new shows. We really do appreciate the feedback and we want everybody to have themselves a pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]