Women Offenders-CSOSA Reentry Reflections 2013-DC Public Safety Radio

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Radio Program available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2013/01/women-offenders-csosa-reentry-reflections-2013-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 gentlemen, the program today is going to be about women offenders, always one of the more popular programs and one of the more interesting programs that we do. We have three guests with us today – Dr. Willa Butler, she is the Clinical Supervisor for Temple of Praise-New Day Transitional Home for Women. She used to run groups and in fact invented groups for my agency, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. We have Patricia Bradley, and she is going to be off of our supervision this September, thank God, and she is doing extraordinarily well. Marcia Austin is another person doing well, off in April, and we are here to talk about women, and women and crime, women and the criminal justice system. There is going to be an event coming up in Washington, D.C., on February 9th from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 in the afternoon discussing the Women’s Reentry Forum, 700 Southern Avenue in Southeast D.C. It’s part of the larger Reentry Reflections events held over the course of January and February. You can find more information about all of the events about Reentry Reflection, www. – my agency – csosa.gov; and to Will and to Patricia and Marcia, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Women: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Len Sipes: That was a very long introduction. Willa Butler, boy, have you been around. You invented practically our women’s program here at the Court Services and Offenders Supervision Agency, even to the point where it is now a priority for us to be sure that gender-specific programs are integral to what it is that we do on a day-to-day basis. You’ve invented groups, you’ve expanded groups, you’ve expanded services to women offenders. Why is the emphasis on women caught up in the criminal justice system so important, Willa?

Willa Butler: Well, I want to say thank you for having me back, Leonard. The most important thing to me, I have such a compassion for our female offenders because so long ago, when you look at the history, women have gone unnoticed or forgotten. As far as men are concerned, women were never intelligent enough to commit crimes therefore the system was not designed for them, and when you look at basic traditional counseling or even the system is designed for men by men.  And then over the years, in 1998, when the drug trafficking laws increased and women started going to prison for little petty crimes that listed them in the area of a king pin, then we had an over-flux. We had an over-flux of women to enter the penal system and it was like, well what are we going to with these women? Where are we going to put them? And it just gave us an understanding that as a parole officer during that time, how do we work with women? We knew it was something different but we didn’t know what the difference was, and I just studied it. I studied it and I investigated it, and I found out it’s that women are not needy, it’s just their needs were never met. And through law investigations and studying and having groups, gender-specific groups to address the vulnerabilities of women, we were able to develop the gender-specific programs for CSOSA, and from that came the Temple of Praise-New Day Transitional Home for Women which is a reentry program for women coming home from prison because housing is a very big problem for women coming back home – housing, employment, it’s whole plethora of things that affects the female offender, but I could go on and on. I hope I answered the question.

Len Sipes: I think I just about cried when you retired from the Court Services and  Offender Supervision Agency and you went over with New Day because I had been dealing with you for the last ten years and it’s like what am I going to do without Willa Butler?

Willa Butler: Oh, thank you.

Len Sipes: So ladies and gentlemen, people listening to this program, I have had literally hundreds of women in the ten years that testify to the fact that Willa Butler has changed their lives, and Willa, I will always be grateful for your involvement in the criminal justice system. Before going on to the ladies who are our guests, I do want to very quickly run over some statistics. Men compared to women, women compared to men caught up in the criminal justice system – women have higher rates of AIDs, higher rates of mental health problems, much higher rates of physical and sexual abuse, much higher rates of physical or sexual violence. Approximately 7 out of every 10 women caught up in the criminal justice system have children, and women have higher rates of substance abuse. So there’s a bit of statistics or a series of statistics that does taught about, Willa, the difference between men and women offenders. Women offenders, they come out of the prison system or they come off probation, they have a wide array of problems that male offenders do not have, in fact they have more problems than male offenders, correct?

Willa Butler: Yes, it is correct. It just that they have more in a sense that although men go through the same things – of course they don’t have children – it’s just that women process it differently. When we start off at an early age, when you look at the criminogenic gender risk factors, when you take mental illness, we’ll look at that first because a lot of times mental illnesses stem from the trauma that the women have experienced as children and it was never addressed, or if it was addressed, it was addressed in a very negative way meaning that we’re not going to talk about it, we’re going to push it under the rug, what part did you play in it, it was your fault, and things off nature. And so what the women do as children, they carry that baggage with them. They carry at a young age the guilt and the shame that I have experienced that was placed on me. I did not cause this. I have no refuge, and the refuge that they find usually will come with the drugs or the substance abuse, somewhere, or in other relationships, somewhere where I can feel this void, where I could be loved, where I could be really taken care of. And a lot of times they get hooked on the drugs and then, like I said, the trauma goes unaddressed, and the trauma which can stem into mental illness, and then that’s not addressed.

Len Sipes: Sexual and physical violence is a common, common occurrence in the life of women offenders, and the vast majority of that takes place before the age of 18. Am I correct or incorrect?

Willa Butler: Yes, that is correct.

Len Sipes: All right. Before getting into the ladies, again, a reminder, our Women’s Reentry Forum, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, is going to be on February 9th from 8:00 to 3:00 at 700 Southern Avenue in Southeast Washington, D.C. You can get additional information about all of the events that we have here at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency on Reentry Reflections, a whole series of events dealing with the concept of reentry at www.csosa.gov. Patricia?

Patricia Bradley: Yes.

Len Sipes: How are you doing?

Patricia Bradley: I’m doing great. How are you?

Len Sipes: I’m fine. Now, you’re off supervision, correct?

Patricia Bradley: That is correct.

Len Sipes: And you’re off supervision as of September 2012.

Patricia Bradley: That is correct.

Len Sipes: Congratulations.

Patricia Bradley: Thank you.

Len Sipes: What did it take to come off supervision successfully? All we ever hear are the negatives. All we ever hear from the media is the fact that the person did not do well. You’ve done well. What was the key ingredient in you coming through the criminal justice system, you coming from an incarcerative setting and doing well?

Patricia Bradley: It was easy for me. I can’t speak for a lot of the other women. For me it was real simple – support. A lot of women don’t get just moral, simple support. I had requirements. I had a one-year probation, that was my sentence, and it was simple. I was to report to CSOSA to do weekly [PH 0:08:41] urinals. I was going twice a week, and then I got a once-a week, and then it went to a month, and then it was phased out, and it’s just simple requirements. And sometimes, if you’re a substance abuse user, it can be difficult. First of all, you’ve got to get yourself together and stop using your substances first, you know. That’s step one. For me it was going to a Narcotics Anonymous meeting, Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, meeting with my probation office regularly. I was scheduled to meet with him. And it just wasn’t hard. It was just something real simple, you know, and then me being a resident at out New Day too, Temple of Praise Transitional House. They helped also because that was one of my support mechanisms because without support, in some cases with some women like me, with not only just substance abuse issues, I also have mental health issues as well but you have to address all your issues.

Len Sipes: But look, to me the idea of a woman coming out of an incarcerative setting, coming out – she has kids. You have kids, correct?

Patricia Bradley: Yes, I do.

Len Sipes: Seven out of 10 have kids, mental health issues, substance abuse issues, not a lot of money, not a lot of support, that almost seems to be impossible to overcome all those odds, and the fact that you did it to me is courageous.

Patricia Bradley: Very – very courageous because there was a time, like I said, with the issues, because you can run into different issues. Just simple, something basic, is transportation to get to and from these places. I’m not embarrassed to say one of my sons was helping me with transportation. New Day, they helped, they had a transportation van that would take us to our appointments and different things that we had, and I think that’s where women, one of their biggest issues and biggest problems is just having their basic needs met, you know? Without that, you can’t be successful. You need help in a lot of these areas, and a lot of these programs that we do have, I think with the very few that we do have, in order to be successful, a lot of these women, including myself, they need help, you know, just simple resources, and for me, that’s how I became successful.

Len Sipes: How many kids?

Patricia Bradley: All together, six.

Len Sipes: Okay, that’s a lot of kids.

Patricia Bradley: Yes.

Len Sipes: And they’re going to depend upon you either for financial or emotional support.

Patricia Bradley: Yes.

Len Sipes: So it’s just not you, it’s seven human beings – six kids and you.

Patricia Bradley: Yes.

Len Sipes: A lot of people out there listening to this program are going to say, “Hey, Patricia, I’m really sorry. You did the crime, you did the time, you committed a criminal act. I’m not putting a lot of money into you. If there’s money to be put, I’m going to give it to the school. I’m going to give it to the elderly. I’m going to give it to people from Hurricane Sandy. I not going to give it to you because you’ve been in the criminal justice system. You harmed yourself and harmed other human beings in the process. Why should I support programs for you?” So, that’s the question. Why should people support programs for people like you?

Patricia Bradley: I think we should be supported so that we can, you know, I know a lot of people don’t believe in ex-offenders being given a second chance. They think it’s a waste of time, it’s a waste of taxpayers’ dollars, but I’m here to tell them today that that is not true. Really, that’s kind of a tough question to answer but why not? I mean, one day, you never know, the persons who are saying that, they could be on the other side of the fence too because I never thought I would be an offender. When I had my incident, when I got arrested, I was like 44 years old. I’m now 46, and who would have thought I would commit a crime but I did, you know, so you never know. People really shouldn’t be so, you know, judgment because you never know.

Len Sipes: You never know.

Patricia Bradley: You never know.

Len Sipes: You never know. If you did not have the support either from New Day or from Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency – if you did not have that support, where would you be today?

Patricia Bradley: Being 100% honest you, I probably would have re-offended.

Len Sipes: You probably would have gone back to the criminal justice system?

Patricia Bradley: More than likely, I would say 100% yes.

Len Sipes: All right. Marcia!

Marcia Austin: Hey, Len.

Len Sipes: Hey, how are you doing?

Marcia Austin: I’m good.

Len Sipes: Good, and you were telling me before the program that you’re on supervision now. You’re going to be off supervision in April, and first of all congratulations for that.

Marcia Austin: Thank you, thank you.

Len Sipes: And what was your experience, Marcia? Again, this is a very emotional issue for so many of the women that I’ve talked to throughout the actually 20 years of sitting down and interviewing women caught up in the criminal justice system. They tell me often times very emotional stories, and you basically did the same thing before we hit the record button. Tell me a little bit about your background.

Marcia Austin: My background is coming up, you know, I was abused. I was told I was dumb and I’d never amount to nothing. I grew up with that, you know. I started using drugs to fit in, to have somebody to love me. I started going to jail. I started going to jail early in life because I thought being bad was the way I needed to be because that’s what I was told. I got locked up in 2008 for a stolen car and violation of probation. I got out in 2010. When I got out, I was homeless. I had nowhere to go. I was broke and lonely. I was sad. I was depressed. It wasn’t until that I met my probation officer, Miss Hunnigan, who introduced me to New Day 2. When I got to New Day 2, my emotions was going crazy because I felt caged in. I felt like I couldn’t get no help from them but I was wrong. I had a 30-day black-out period; a 30-day black-out period helped me to be able to map out my long-term and short-term goals. The 30 days allowed me to seek mental health and it helped me with anger management. We took parenting classes in New Day 2 and we prayed often. We had Bible study and we had church, and it helped me with my spiritual side of life. The love that I got from New Day 2, they encouraged me to go to school. They encouraged me to connect with my family, and that’s what I did. I went to school. I went to school for construction and I never thought that I would complete it because I was told I was dumb all my life. I did complete that class and I graduated, and the New Day team, Dr. Anderson and some of her workers, they came to my graduation. They gave me flower and candy, they gave me love and hugs, and I said, “If it feels this good being in love just by doing something good, if I can get this kind of attention, I’m going to keep going,” and that’s what I did. I’m in GED classes now and then I’m in SRO. SRO helps me save money, teaching me how to manage my money, and it’s the next step to getting my own apartment.

Len Sipes: I have two very quick questions for you and then we’re going to go for a break. So before you got involved in CSOSA and in New Day, you felt like what? Give me a quick answer.

Marcia Austin: I felt broken, lonely, on my own.

Len Sipes: And now you feel?

Marcia Austin: I have hope, you know. I feel smarter. I think that I can do anything. My probation officer – I have a probation officer, her name is Farmer, and she shows me much love. She encouraged me and let me know that I can do it, and that’s what I’m doing.

Len Sipes: Let’s go for the break. Ladies and gentlemen, you are listening to DC Public Safety. We are doing a program on women offenders. What we’re trying to do is support the Women’s Reentry Forum that we have every year in the District of Columbia. It is going to be on February 9th from 8 o’clock in the morning to 3 o’clock in the afternoon at 700 Southern Avenue Southeast in Washington, D.C. Again, it’s part of our larger Reentry Reflections, a wide variety of activities taking a look at reentry in the District of Columbia and throughout the nation. www.csosa.gov is the website to get additional information. Dr. Willa Butler, she is a Clinical Supervisor for Temple of Praise-New Day Transitional Home for Women, and she used to run groups and invent groups and invent the women’s program here at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. Patricia Bradley and Marcia Austin are our guests who have been caught up in the criminal justice system. Marcia, let me quickly get back to you. Many of the women that I’ve talked to over the decades felt as bad as bad could possibly be, as hopeless as hopeless could possibly be because of the abuse, of the sexual violence, of people calling them names, of people not lifting them up, and I see hundreds of women at this stage of their involvement real human beings. They go from not being human at all to being fully functioning human beings. Is that where you are? Is that where you’re headed?

Marcia Austin: Well, right now I’m right where God want me to be, you know. I’m peaceful, you know. I’m going through some changes but I can deal with it. I can deal with it because I talk about it. I have a psychiatrist. I can always call the staff at New Day 2 and get any kind of information and encouragement that I need. Like I said, I have a probation officer who just smiles when I come in, you know, that makes me want to continue me to good, who encourages me, who hugs me, something I have never had out of a probation officer before. I just want to give a shout-out to Ms. Farmer because she’s an awesome probation officer first, and Ms. Ishiman. But my biggest challenge this year was kind of like leaving New Day 2. I felt like when I leave there, that there was no more love and support but that’s a lie. I call them all the time and they still support me in everything I do, and I’m just going to keep on and letting the women know who’s in the criminal justice system that we need help and we can get it, you know. We just got to keep pushing on. We got to keep the hope.

Len Sipes: And if these programs were not there, where would you be?

Marcia Austin: I would be homeless right now. Without New Day 2, I would have been homeless. I was homeless before I got there. I was broken and depressed. I mean, I was going from house to house to house, you know, and I just thank God for Bishop Staples and Dr. Anderson and Dr. Butler for New Day 2 because I would be in the streets. By now I would be locked up, you know, because when I’m homeless, I steal, I have no food to eat, so when they accepted me into the program, I was the first female there, I mean, I just was shown incredible love.

Len Sipes: Well, I want to go back to you. Okay. So how many times have we done this sort of radio show? This is what, our tenth, eleventh, twelfth time we’ve done this sort of radio and television show, and every time you bring me women who were broken human beings and you’re now at the end of their supervision, at the end of their treatment programs. You bring me women who are repaired human beings. They’re taking care of their kids. They’re taxpayers. They’re not tax burdens. They’re not committing crimes. How in the name of heavens do we convince people that these are programs worthy of support?

Willa Butler: First of all, just listening to the stories here, it’s very rewarding for myself and to have the understanding, and I want people to have the understanding that a second chance is what it is. It is a second chance. We talk about keeping the community safe and reducing recidivism, and the only way you’re going to do that is to ensure that our women, they have jobs, that they’re able to sustain themselves, they can take care of themselves and their families. Just like both Patricia and Marcia were saying earlier, if they didn’t have a place to go, if they didn’t have income, they would go back to committing crimes again because that’s the way they know how to survive and that’s the only way that they have learned how to survive, and if we keep pushing them down and stereotyping them and saying that we’re not going to help you, all we’re doing is what, we’re throwing fuel into the fire, and we can’t do that. When a person is productive, you build self-esteem, they’re building their residual strengths, and like Marcia said and Patricia, “I can do all things,” you know, and that’s what we are promoting here, letting people know that we need their support. And while they’re at New Day 2, we have a lot of wrap-around services that they are getting involved in, they get their needs met, and then they come out and they’re working and they’re productive citizens again.

Len Sipes: The question becomes do we want a more dangerous society or do we want a safer society?

Willa Butler: Right.

Len Sipes: Do we want people paying taxes or do we want people taking our tax money?

Willa Butler: Right. Right. That’s right. We want what? – We want more people paying taxes. We want a drug-free and crime-free environment especially here in the District of Columbia.

Len Sipes: And we want kids to be taken care of.

Willa Butler: We want our kids to be taken care, and not only that, once we do that, we break that cycle of pain because it’s only going to continue to the next generation, you know, and that’s what we’re trying to stop. We stop here, as they say, the buck stop here, right now and here, and this is beautiful for me to hear these women and to know that not only have I played a part working with CSOSA but also at the Temple, at the Transitional Home, because we brought the same I guess techniques that I’ve used before over there, the Wicker Program, empowering women, and building them up, and letting them know, hey, I can do it. I can really do this thing this time. And like I always say – I know I talk a lot, forgive me – I always say that women are not needy. We always look at women as being needy. No, they are not needy. Their needs have never been met, and if you are constantly in a position where nobody is hearing you, nobody is giving me what I need to survive in this world; of course I’m going to appear to be needy. Of course I’m going to appear to be less vulnerable. Of course I’m going to seem like no, I can’t do it, but I can. I can.

Len Sipes: But the astounding thing to me is that it takes the criminal justice system to intervene in the lives of women? What about everything that happened beforehand? – And Patricia, I’m going to go – I keep giving you the touch questions, Patricia, so get closer to that microphone. I mean, you know, what is it? I mean, we’re the criminal justice system. I mean, it takes us to save you guys and get the programs together to allow you people to cross that bridge to being productive human beings?

Patricia Bradley: Unfortunately, it does, and that’s not really to me a good or bad thing because without it, somebody has to – we have to start somewhere and unfortunately it’s with the criminal justice system. The problem is in society, again, nobody wants to take responsibility for how everything is with the criminal justice system, the criminals themselves, but at some point we have to draw the line, you know.

Len Sipes: And at some point you have to either have the programs or it just continues and continues and continues, and then it affects the kids, your own kids, and then it continues with them. Somewhere along the line it’s got to stop.

Patricia Bradley: It has to stop. We could stop it now before it gets to the kids. The kids are our future, you know. If we don’t stop it now and if society try to get a grip on this, then the kids will be doing the same thing as the parents are doing.

Len Sipes: And this is something that we in the criminal justice system and in criminology have seen decade after decade after decade – women ignored, their problems ignored, and it just continues unabated.

Patricia Bradley: That’s right.

Len Sipes: So, okay, so I’m going to Marcia. We’re in the last couple minutes of the program, so speedy answers. I’m going to give you the same terribly rough question that I gave to Patricia, and that is so people are going to say, “Look, we’ve got all these fiscal difficulties. We’ve got all these budgets cuts. People are asking more of my tax money. Damn, I’ve got to give money to you all? Why? I’ve got schools it should go to. I’ve got my grandmother; she’s getting old, give the money to her. Why give it to ‘criminals’?” So answer that for me, Marcia?

Marcia Austin: Well for me, I am a criminal, I was a criminal, and I changed my life around through help. I mean —

Len Sipes: But you’re not a criminal now.

Marcia Austin: No, I’m not a criminal now but I’m a work in progress every day, first of all. I’m enjoying my life today but what I’m saying, without the support of the United States, we we’d be lost. Without the support of transition homes, without shelters and churches, we’d be lost. We need support, you know, because it goes deeper than just being a criminal. It comes from how we was being raised and what we was taught and the things that happened to us, and we just need support.

Len Sipes: Do you understand how much courage it took for you to do what you did in terms of your background and in terms of all the things that you suffered through. Do you ever look at yourself in the mirror and say, “I am full of courage” because it does take immense courage to overcome what you’ve overcome.

Marcia Austin: Only by the grace of God. Only by the grace of God, only by the programs and the help of the probation officers that encourage you. That makes a difference, it really does.

Len Sipes: The final couple minutes of the program, and either one of you can jump in – so we are going to be doing the Women’s Reentry Forum at 700 Southern Avenue Southeast on February 9th from 8:00 to 3:00, and we’re going to be bringing together hundreds of women caught up in the criminal justice system, and those hundreds of women, they need to hear what, for them to do the same thing, to have the same accomplishments that you two have had. What do they need?

Marcia Austin: They need hope. They need transition homes to be open. They need shelter. They need mental health help. They need clothes and the ways to get around to look for jobs. They need education whether they’ll be able to get it online, to put resumes online. Education is very important because a lot of us don’t have education, and we just need somebody to love us and to guide us and to take a chance with us, you know?

Patricia Bradley: I attended the Forum last year, I was there, and it was very nice. When the women come, what they need, they need information, and that’s what the forum has there. They had a lot of information because a lot of women don’t know, you know. You’re not going to get your answers until you get the information so when they come out; the information is there available for them. That’s what they really need is the information, and then they can pretty much take it from there once they’ve received the information.

Len Sipes: You’ve got the final word. Ladies and gentlemen, this is DC Public Safety. The program today has been on women offenders. We have been talking to Dr. Willa Butler, the Clinical Supervisor, Temple of Praise-New Day Transitional Home for Women, Patricia Bradley, off of supervision, and Marcia Austin, soon to be off of supervision. And ladies and gentlemen, thank you all very much for the extraordinarily powerful stories that you tell, and it’s always the most enlightening and heart-warming of all the other interviews that I do, Willa, these programs on women offenders. We thank everybody for listening, we really do.

Willa Butler: Yes, thank you.

Len Sipes: We appreciate your comments. We appreciate your criticisms. We appreciate whatever information that you have to give to us in terms of new programs or suggestions for how we can do this better, and I want everybody to have themselves a very, very pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]