The Pew Public Safety Performance Project

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– Audio Begins –

Len Sipes: From our studio in Downtown Washington, DC this is DC Public Safety. I’m your host, Leonard Sipes. At our microphones today is Adam Gelb. And Adam directs the Public Safety Performance Project for the Pew Center on the States. Adam’s been around for quite some time. Adam was the Vice President for Programs at the Georgia Counseling Substance Abuse. He was the Director of the Georgia’s Governor’s Commission on Certainty and Sentencing. I met Adam, in terms of full disclosure, I met Adam when he was a Policy Director for Maryland, Lieutenant Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townson and from 1995 to 2000 Adam and I worked together. And he was on the staff of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee and he’s a former Reporter for the Atlanta Constitution. And a graduate of Harvard’s University John F. Kennedy School of Government. Adam Gelb, welcome to DC Public Safety.
Adam Gelb: Hi, Len. It’s great to be talking with you.
Len Sipes: All right, one of the things that we want to do in terms of discussing not just Pew, and first of all, why Pew got involved in this issue, the Pew Center for the States. And I’ll give out the contact in terms of the website a couple of times; www.pew – p-e-w centeronthestates – one, basically one word dot org. And before we get into the full program I want to thank everybody Adam Gelbain for listening to DC Public Safety, per Google we are now the number one criminal justice podcast on the Internet. We do radio and television as you well know. We respond to all of your comments individually and we greatly appreciate your comments. So you can either log on to the program or contact me at Or email me directly at Leonard – l-e-o-n-a-r-d dot sipes – s-i-p-e-s at csosa dot gov. And, Adam Gelbain, we really appreciate the fact that you continue to set records on a regular basis. We are up to 130,000 requests on monthly basis and we appreciate your comments and we appreciate your attendance and your participation in the show. Back to you, Adam. Now, Adam Gelbain you’ve had a very interesting background. I must tell the audience that when you worked for the State of Maryland, when you worked for Lieutenant Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townson we, within the bureaucracy, I was Director of Public Affairs for the Maryland Department of Public Safety. We would joke about Adam, we called him the Eveready Bunny of the criminal justice system because we, within the bureaucracy, were stoic and we were careful and we were cautious and Adam had a 1,000 ideas he wanted us to consider and discuss. So Adam is just filled with energy, filled with enthusiasm, filled with innovation and I think that’s one of the reasons why Adam ended up at Pew. So welcome back to the microphones Adam.
Adam Gelb: Well, thank you Len and I guess everybody’s probably heard the definition of insanity, doing the same thing over and over Adam Gelbain to get a different result, but here we are many years later and in fact a lot of the ideas that we talked about 10, 12 years Adam Gelbo have greened great currency. As you see all across the country, states are taking a different look at these issues than they were in the mid 90s when really massive prison growth and very little attention being paid to the costs of the growth, or for that matter, the impact on public safety. And now we’re really seeing sort of this approach change. Right? The old approach in the 80s and 90s was from state policy makers was how do I demonstrate I’m tough on crime? More and more, not everyone certainly, but more and more we see the question being reframed as; how do I get taxpayers a better return on their investment in corrections and public safety? So I would argue that we’ve reached a tipping point on this in venues all over across the country and in actions that legislatures are taking. They are starting to ask much tougher and much more relevant questions.
Len Sipes: Well, and I think that’s probably driven, Adam, I’m not quite sure it’s driven by ideology so much as it is simply driven by the fact the states could no longer afford the level of incarceration that they have that people in Maryland and throughout the country are basically complaining that they want to give money to infrastructure, to roads, to schools, to the elderly, to medical care. And they’re not terribly happy with the money that is spent on corrections or what they consider to be enormous money spent on corrections. So I’m not quite sure it’s ideology that’s driving this so much as the states themselves are basically saying there’s got to be a different way of approaching this problem. Am I right or wrong?
Adam Gelb: Well, you’re right. There is no question that budget difficulties bring people to the table in a way that they wouldn’t be otherwise. No question about it. And we certainly see that the current economic downturn is really accelerating discussions around the sort of three pools of reform, sort of an operating efficiency doing the things that are just good government things that ought to be happening in any environment. Using videoconferencing for example so you don’t have to pay for gas or transportation to get inmates from one location to another. Then you sort of have the middle of the pool where there are certain things that can be done, maybe by policy, maybe by internal action that can, for instance, reduce recidivism. And I’m going to talk about some of those a little bit later. Sort of medium impact, medium controversy kind of measures. And the more and more states taking on the deep end of the pool which is the sentencing and releasing policy. And states doing things that, you know, ten years Adam Gelbo would have seemed very unlikely. And that’s just a reason. But I don’t think you want to underestimate the importance of the improvement in the community corrections field, particularly the research about what works. And I think Adam Gelbencies like yourself and programs like this are both reflecting the reality of better programming, better researched based programming actually taking place and getting better results. And some Adam Gelbencies are doing a better job of communicating what they do, who they are, what their role is in the state’s crime fighting strategy. You know, it’s very difficult in many states to get governors or legislatures to think of parole and probation Adam Gelbencies as, you know, part of the state’s crime fighting apparatus.
Len Sipes: And that’s one of the things that Pew did, Adam, under your leadership. I do believe what Pew did was essentially come out with one of their first documents in this series. And, Adam Gelbain, I refer everybody to their website or to the Pew website. And we still haven’t gotten around to the question of Pew, who is a huge name in terms of the foundation field, how Pew got involved in this; But one of the first document’s y’all came out with was a sense that what parole and probation Adam Gelbencies should be doing is measuring everything it is that they do and hold themselves to a high standard in terms of actually reducing recidivism, actually reducing crime. Actually reducing the amount of people who are returning into the criminal justice system.
Adam Gelb: That’s right. Well, this criminal justice is a relatively new area for Pew. This project started just about two years Adam Gelbo now. And Pew has a long history of working in the environment of health and human services, in public opinion, through the Pew research center and other areas, but this was a new area and maybe to you and listeners here, it’s not all that surprising to take that on given that the institution’s criteria for taking on an issue is when the facts are clear and the evidence is in and there’s sort of a compelling case that can be made for action. And this is one of those. We were just talking about just a minute Adam Gelbo there has developed over the past 20 years a really solid research base about what works in corrections. And , as well as these sort of ripe political environment for pushing forward these ideas. So that’s how Pew got into it, along with, of course, a very foresighted leadership from folks at Pew. My boss, Sudi(?) Ram and the creator of this project, Lori Grange, you know they’re able to sort of see this happening and realize that an institution like Pew could make a difference here.
Len Sipes: The bottom line behind all of this, Adam, is what? I mean, we’re going to be discussing policy, we’re going to be discussing documents that you all have put out. And there are two new ones, putting public safety first, which is a summary and a larger piece, putting public safety first by the Urban Institute, Adam Gelbain, trying to take all of this complexity and summarize it. But for the averAdam Gelbe person listening to this program today, summarize where we are. You and I have always talked about there’s got to be a better way of doing it. Even before the economic crisis hit the states, we’ve always said there’s got to be a better way of protecting the public and reducing the amount of people coming back into the prison system and reducing the fiscal burden on states. So I mean is, what is the nutshell? What is the takeaway to the averAdam Gelbe person listening to this program?
Adam Gelb: Yeah. Easy question, Len.
Len Sipes: Yep. Yes, it is.
Adam Gelb: (Laughs). No, it’s not, it’s a very complicated issue. But the bottom line is that we are at a point now where there are one in 100 adults in this country behind bars, something that we announced in a report earlier this year.
Len Sipes: But all throughout the country, all throughout the world, by the way, for the listeners, had a report from Pew that had an immense impact.
Adam Gelb: Well, it did. And it was surprising what it did. I mean, folks like us who were sort of following this for a while, you know, knew that this has been proven and I forgot what the rate was. But the reaction to that was really stunning. And, you know it just points out to people that, you know, fundamentally and to answer your question, the bottom line here is that each state needs to look at who its got behind the walls. And, you know, as a project we don’t have any position on where, you know, any particular state is on that, right? I mean, maybe a number of states don’t have enough people in prison. Maybe others that have some, you know, small chunk or even some large chunk of the prison population that could be safely and effectively handled in the community. And what this has helped do, along certainly with a lot of other efforts by other private foundations and the Federal government and the whole reentry movement and everything is to really say here, look, you know, we have got to subject corrections and prisons in particular to the same kind of cost benefit analysis that we subject education and health programs to and any other government programs. We got to see that we’re getting our money’s worth in terms of public safety. And that’s the bottom line. That’s what this issue is.
Len Sipes: You mean we should be measuring what we do?
Adam Gelb: (Laughs).
Len Sipes: (Laughs).
Adam Gelb: That’s not such a normal concept anymore, right?
Len Sipes: It’s not, it really isn’t. I Adam Gelbree. I Adam Gelbree. But I think for those of in the criminal justice system, a bit of history, I mean, we had crime stats that was initiated in the New York City Police Department about what, ten years Adam Gelbo or so? And they credited that whole sense of comstat to an overall reduction and a rather continuous reduction in crime within New York City. And I think, Adam, what you’re advocating is the fact that through Pew is that we within the criminal justice system, we within parole and probation, measure what it is that we do and be held accountable for those measurements.
Adam Gelb: That’s absolutely right. And Len, if I can, just use that as an excuse to talk for a minute about the policy framework, the strength in community corrections that we have just put together with the help of a lot of the top thinkers and practitioners in this field. It is a framework that includes five provisions; it could be legislation, some of them could be done in an executive order of a court rule, but there are provisions that particularly in tight budget times can be very important to Adam Gelbencies that are trying to stay afloat in terms of their budget. So if I could I just want to take a second to outline them, Len.
Len Sipes: Sure. Of course.
Adam Gelb: Because performance measures is one of them. And let me just start with that. I mean, we , as a thrust of this packAdam Gelbe, are really trying to focus on state legislature and Adam Gelbencies on outcomes, not that many of them are already, of course, but really here getting legislature an opportunity to say, you know, we understand the role of community corrections in public safety. We want to firmly establish the mission of these Adam Gelbencies as crime prevention and recidivism reduction. And so it’s one thing for an Adam Gelbency to develop an annual report and provide the numbers to the public and maybe specifically to the legislature. It’s a very different situation when you have a legislature saying; you know, here’s what we would like. You know, we’re going to pass a bill but we’d like an annual report, or more frequently even, reports about recidivism, about employment rates, about victim restitution, collections aids, about drug test positive rates. And so that provision in our packAdam Gelbe sets those out and uses the American Correctional Association definitions for those measures. So these can be really important in terms of helping, you know, define what the mission of these Adam Gelbencies are and get us past these sort of dichotomy of where we are in law enforcement, the social work, but what we are is about moving those four needles, moving those numbers, that’s the mission.
Len Sipes: And the numbers we’re talking about are a continuous set of numbers. We’re not talking about a yearly release of numbers. We’re not talking about a release every six months. We’re talking about a continuous collection and a continuous analysis of numbers to see whether or not, whatever strategies we put in place actually work to A) protect the public; B) reduce recidivism; C) reduce expenditures.
Adam Gelb: That’s right. I think in terms of legislation we try to be very sensitive to this and certainly the folks in the field worked with us on an advisory role, but we’re very sensitive to what’s appropriate for legislation order versus what should be done at the Adam Gelbency level and certainly the frequency within in which the data is collected and presented and whether that’s presented on paper format or whether Adam Gelbencies really do move towards those types of model where on a monthly basis you know senior manAdam Gelbers meet with supervisors and go over their numbers. These numbers and obviously any number of other measures that are important to effective performance manAdam Gelbement. So that’s ,
Len Sipes: I’m sorry, Adam, we’re half way through the program, believe it or not, our half an hour is going extraordinarily quickly. I want to remind everybody that we’re talking with Adam Gelb. He directs the Public Safety Performance Project of the Pew Center on the States. The web address is www.pewcenteronthestates – one word dot org. Adam, please continue.
Adam Gelb: Sure. But another thing I want to highlight in this packAdam Gelbe that we’ve put together, our pieces that are important, when we started the process a year Adam Gelbo working with the experts in their field to put this together that even more so now given the economic downturn and there are three provisions that effectively create resources or can effectively create resources for Community Supervision Adam Gelbencies without new appropriations. And there’s three of them. One is earned compliance credits, one is administrative sanctions and another is performance incentive funding. So the first one, compliance credits, is essentially just taking the concept of earned time from behind the walls and putting it out in the community. Now, what our provision proposes, and it’s based on the law that’s just passed several months Adam Gelbo is essentially a day for a day credit. If you are compliant with all your conditions and supervisions for a month, you’re doing what you’re supposed to do, you’re going to treatment, you’re not testing positive, you’re paying your victim restitution, you’re current on those monthly payments, then you would get 15 days off the back of your sentence. So a three year probation sentence could turn into an 18 month sentence and ,
Len Sipes: You could cut, we’re talking about probation, we’re not talking about prison now, correct?
Adam Gelb: That’s correct. It’s taking ,
Len Sipes: Community ,
Adam Gelb: Yes. Life behind the walls and putting it to the community. And, you know, so we the folks in the field can recognize immediately that this is a powerful incentive to offenders on the one hand and on the other really will help Adam Gelbencies concentrate their resources on the high risk offenders, these low risk folks who are complying, doing what they’re supposed to do, proving that they’re a low risk can move into either non active supervision status at that halfway mark if they still owe restitution and other things and to be terminated if they’ve completed their payments. And that effectively creates resources, right? I mean, it’s going to reduce, that kind of provision will reduce case loads. And the only other way to really do it is to hire more probation officers which is not likely in this environment.
Len Sipes: Let’s dwell upon that for a second, Adam. We have to. I mean, in essence what we’re saying is that out of a hundred people that you have on a parole and probation case load, there are a certain number, probably the top third, that really need supervision right out of the box, right out of prison, when they come out of the prison system, when they start probation, when they really need, because of their criminal records, because of their propensity towards violence, their propensity towards substance abuse, that these individuals need both supervision and services right out of the gate. But there are people out of that one hundred on the lower end, there’s one third that may not need any real supervision at all. The focus of the field, the state of the art, as articulated in your documents and other documents, seem to be that individuals at the higher end of the risk of public safety let’s really provides services and supervision to these people. And let’s do as little as possible with people at the far end of the continuum. Correct?
Adam Gelb: That’s absolutely right. And there’s no question that some Adam Gelbencies already do this, of course, right? And have some discretion to move people onto administrative case loads, or to bank cases and things like this. You know, the advantAdam Gelbe of a provision like this is that it, you know, it ,
Len Sipes: Protects the public and saves money.
Adam Gelb: Well, it certainly does. I was thinking obviously things in legislature, you know, into those, you know, this is going to be the policy of the state. It does not have to be something that’s sort of swept under the rug. And it’s , it’s very exciting where we’re really looking forward to seeing how this is interpreted and we frankly expect, based on conversations with some victims’ representatives that victims would be excited about this. They’re looking for restitution to be paid and see this kind of provision as an incentive for offenders to get that restitution paid up.
Len Sipes: And I think this is one of the things were states have a hard time doing it. I represent the parole and probation Adam Gelbency, Federal parole and probation Adam Gelbency in Washington, DC, all of us within the criminal justice system have a hard time doing this where this should be done through policy and this is one of the things that Pew is doing in what, 13 states? How many states are you working with directly?
Adam Gelb: Well, we’re working now with 15 states and some of them more directly in various levels of intensity, but this is, these provisions will be available on the website, as you’ve indicated, early next week. So right the week before Christmas.
Len Sipes: Right. So I didn’t mean to take you off track, but I think that that focus, right there, that people are wondering how can we do things differently? The research seems to be clear. Pew and many other Adam Gelbencies are proponents of this. Focus your attention on the people who really are a risk to public safety and to the others, you may want to put them on administrative caseload, you may want to supervise them via kiosk, you may want to do ‘something else’ because they really don’t pose a danger to society.
Adam Gelb: That’s right. Len, the next provision I want to mention is what we’re calling performance incentive funding and Adam Gelbain this is something that we didn’t dream up but is based on some work going on in some states, in particular Arizona here, and that is that, you know, when Adam Gelbencies perform, they do what they’re supposed to do, they reduce their recidivism rates and they reduce their revocation to prison rates, particularly for technical violations, they ought to share in some of the savings that the state achieves by not having to lock up those recidivists or technical violators. And so this is, the languAdam Gelbe is complicated but the concept is simple, which is that in our proposed provision, state or local Adam Gelbencies and probation or parole Adam Gelbencies would receive 45 percent of the calculated savings from the reduction in their revocation rates. They would not get any funding if their rate of new felon convictions went up, right? You don’t want a situation where people would just keep violators on the street in order to reduce their rates and get incentive funding, but then we’re causing more crime, so there would be measurement of new felon conviction and convictions of people on supervision. And if that was headed in the right direction, it was heading down, then the savings that were achieved by not having as many violators go back into the system would send money back to those Adam Gelbencies for coming back into supervision services, their reporting centers, there are other things of course, and victim services. That’s the way we have it drafted, those incentive funds could be used for supervision services or victim services.
Len Sipes: And I think the bottom line in all of this is the research that basically says you just can’t supervise them. It has to be a combination of supervision and treatment. The example that I give all the time, and we just produced a television show on mental health treatment, and I’m real happy with the way the television show turned out and it will be on DC Public Safety in about two weeks up on the website. The problem, though, is that if you come out of the prison system, and if you have a mental health issue, I’m not quite sure where regardless as to where you are in a political spectrum, whether you’re far right or far left, I think all of us Adam Gelbree that that individual is probably going to commit another crime, probably going to be a nuisance, probably going to be a detriment to society unless or she gets treatment. So I think that’s something that all of us can Adam Gelbree on out of the box. So there has to be a combination of both supervision and treatment and it really does depend upon the level of the social problems the person brings with them in terms of how much money we spend on treatment. There’s research now on terms of self analysis, not necessarily a formal diAdam Gelbnosis, which ever is around 16 percent, but self analysis from the, or self diAdam Gelbnosis from the U.S. Department of Justice that indicate that 50 percent, five zero percent of the offenders coming out of the prison system have problems in terms of emotional or mental health issues. I think that that is profound and at the same time shows indeed that there has to be programs, drug treatment comes to mind, helping find jobs I think comes to mind. I think all of these things are necessary, as necessary as drug testing them, as necessary as putting on GPS electronic or satellite tracking system, as necessary as low caseloads so you can keep a strong eye on them. And as necessary as if you’re involved in a violent crime we take you off the street as quickly as possible. So I think the dichotomy on all of this is that it has to be both and I think that’s what Pew and others are saying.
Adam Gelb: That’s absolutely right. And actually it would, the way you described that, gives (chuckle), you said it so nicely, the last two provisions of this policy framework, so I’ll just describe them quickly. One is the administrative sanctions provision that would allow judges to say that in particular cases the offenders could be sanctioned by probation or parole without having to go back to the board or to the court and create certain levels of authority that would be allowed to be imposed certain sanctions with the incarceration sanctions obviously needing a higher level of scrutiny and review by an administrative peer officer. This is yet another way to essentially create resources for probation without requiring new appropriations, right? Because a significant amount of officer time is spent in a courthouse , awaiting hearings and certainly preparing the paperwork required for this judicial proceedings. This gets rid of that. And it also shrinks pretty substantially the amount of time that violators are held in jail awaiting violation probation hearings.
Len Sipes: As an example the person is forced, in terms of administrative problems, the person is forced to report to a day reporting center every day for two weeks.
Adam Gelb: That’s correct and that would be something that the probation could do in a lot of states. IN most states you can’t do that without going back to the court and get that kind of authorization and there’s a feeling now that moving offenders up and down the staircase and the latter of sanctions is something that ought to be able to be done through an administrative process. So that’s a significant piece, Adam Gelbain, it takes on added importance in times of tight resources. But the last piece, Len, speaking a little bit more to what you were describing in terms of the treatment aspect, because obviously it’s not just about sanctions or incentives, but about what types of services. And I know you didn’t mean to imply this at all, but all treatment programs are not created equal. And obviously the research has identified that specific approaches that work better than others. And so our fifth provision is called simply evidence based practices and borrowing from an Oregon statute it says that within four years 75 percent of offenders should be supervised in accordance with evidence based practices and also that within four years 75 percent of programs shall be evidence based programs. And so, you know, this is absolutely key to gaining confidence in community corrections and to having programs be actually programs that target criminal factors and do the things that they’re going to actually make it less likely that offender’s recidivate.
Len Sipes: Adam, we’re just about out of time. The bottom line in all of this is that we can, we are convinced Pew and lots of other organizations out there are convinced that we can make society safer, provide services to offenders and at the same time reduce the burden on states and states are crying bloody murder as to the fact that they don’t have the money to do, to build the roads, to put up the senior centers, to do all the different things that they want to do, so this is pretty much a win/win situation for everybody. We’re talking about, we’re not talking anti incarceration, we’re simply talking about making sure that the right person is behind bars, correct?
Adam Gelb: That’s absolutely right. And it is not as if, Len, that there is not a fairly significant political consensus on this. I’m not going to argue that we’re in some kind of post partisan area on criminal justice policy in the way other people would like to argue about this and other areas now. But it is absolutely striking, not just within the criminal justice profession, but even at the political level. We have republicans and democrats leading these reform efforts in the states. We’re working together across party lines. And, you know, when you approach it from the perspective of, you know, what can we do to get taxpayers a better return on their investment, you know, lots of things become possible that weren’t otherwise possible. Now, I’m not going to be naive here, there is still plenty of political points to be scored on these issues and no doubt that the best laid plans and programs and best of the systems and risk assessments are not going to always protect or inculcate releases from states or governments or legislatures from when something goes wrong. And something well go wrong. But ,
Len Sipes: I sort of think that that’s inevitable, don’t you?
Adam Gelb: It is, but what’s not inevitable is when those things happen that the programs fall apart and the heads roll. And we really see this policy framework as a way for, you know, Adam Gelbencies to put themselves out on the map, to create more resources, to ratchet up their activities and in a way that builds more public awareness in support of what Community Supervision, what community corrections is, what it can do and the vital role that it plays in the public safety machinery of states.
Len Sipes: And at Public Safety we’re talking specifically Adam Gelbain about making citizens safer. And I think that you, it’s possible, I think what Pew is doing and a lot of organizations are doing as well as my Adam Gelbency, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Adam Gelbency, what is what we’re doing, I think, is trying to create a framework where citizens are safer. And I think that’s the bottom line in all of this, do you Adam Gelbree?
Adam Gelb: Absolutely, Len. You are always right.
Len Sipes: (Laughs).
Adam Gelb: (Laughs).
Len Sipes: Tell my wife that.
Adam Gelb: (Laughs).
Len Sipes: Adam Gelb, you’ve got the final word on the program. Adam is the Director of the Public Safety Performance Project for the Pew Center on the States. You can get to the Pew Center on the States by visiting www.pewcenteronthestates – one word dot org. Ladies and gentlemen this is DC Public Safety. Adam Gelbain, we really appreciate your comments. We really appreciate all of the feedback that you’re giving. Continue to give us that feedback at Or Leonard dot sipes at csosa dot gov. Thank you and have yourselves a very pleasant day.

– Audio Ends –

The show is hosted by Leonard Sipes. The producer is Timothy Barnes.

Meta terms: crime, criminals, criminal justice, parole, probation, prison, drug treatment, reentry, sex offenders, domestic violence, anger management, corrections, high-risk offenders, GPS, women offenders, DWI and youthful offenders.

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