Video Transcript: What Works in Reentry
Research for the Real World seminar, held October 29, 2018 focuses on the role and importance of institutional and community corrections, and rehabilitative and reentry services in crime prevention and public safety efforts. The seminar supports NIJ and the field in furthering the corrections and reentry research agenda, and advancing the knowledge of the Federal Interagency Council on Crime Prevention and Improving Reentry.
Speaking in this video:
David B. Muhlhausen, Ph.D., Director, National Institute of Justice
Chief Terri McDonald, Chief Probation Officer, Los Angeles County Probation Department
Grant Duwe, Ph.D., Director of Research and Evaluation, Minnesota Department of Corrections
John Wetzel, Secretary of Corrections, Pennsylvania Department of Corrections
Alix McLearen, Ph.D., Acting Assistant Director, Reentry Services Division, Federal Bureau of Prisons
DAVID B. MUHLHAUSEN: Good morning and welcome to the National Institute of Justice. For those of you coming from out of town, welcome to Washington, D.C. For everyone joining us online, thank you for calling in. I couldn't be more excited to welcome you here today to discuss a topic very near and dear to my heart,
What Works in Reentry.
NIJ is the research and evaluation arm of the U.S. Department of Justice. Our mission is to advance justice through rigorous research and science. Our work spans a wide portfolio that includes every aspect of the criminal and juvenile justice systems.
In our work, we aim to answer the most pressing and important questions of the field. "What works in reentry?" is chief among these questions. As many of the people in this room know better than anyone, reentry is a really important issue in American corrections. Ninety-five percent of inmates in state and federal prisons will be released eventually. Studies have consistently shown high rates of recidivism, with more than three quarters of released offenders being rearrested within five years. I cannot overstate the importance of implementing programs to change these statistics. It's not enough to simply believe that a program is effective or to feel good about it.
We need data and evidence to substantiate claims of effectiveness. When we employ rigorous research, we are able to understand and scale what works and stop doing what doesn't work. Too often, the corrections field doesn't make decisions based on what we know works. Don't feel bad because in Washington, D.C., we do the same thing. Too often, when corrections leaders turn to evidence for guidance, the research doesn't give clear, definitive answers. This calls for a renewed commitment among the research field to provide better answers. It also calls for NIJ to fund research to inform the high stakes decisions that corrections leaders need to make. To guide this future funding, NIJ recently completed our
Corrections Strategic Research Plan. This plan details our funding priorities and corrections over the next five years and I encourage you to read it online.
I'm welcoming you here today, this morning, not only as the director of NIJ, but also as the executive director of the Federal Interagency Council on Crime Prevention and Improving Reentry. That's a mouthful so I'd just like to call it the Reentry Council. The Reentry Council was created by an executive order issued by President Trump early this year. The Justice Department is a key partner in the Reentry Council and Attorney General Sessions appointed me as the executive director. Reentry Council was mandated to develop recommendations for evidence-based reforms that will prevent crime, facilitate reentry, and reduce recidivism.
The President's Executive Order gave the Reentry Council a clear mandate to use rigorous evidence informing recommendations. The only way we are going to accomplish this mission of reducing recidivism is to use rigorous evidence as our guide. This means we can't ignore evidence that is inconvenient. If rigorous research strongly indicates that our approach does not work, the Reentry Council cannot ignore it. Conversely, we cannot ignore what works. We need to be honest about the evidence. Not only do we need to be honest about the evidence, but we must avoid confusing correlation with causation. For example, knowing that crime rates declined after a particular state adopted certain criminal justice reforms is not rigorous evidence. Since the early 1990s, crime rates have fallen practically everywhere. In fact, general claims that certain policies or reforms led to declining crime rates in a particular state likely confuses correlation with causation because socioeconomic factors in other criminal justice policies may have played a significant role in changing crime rates. Crime rates may have changed or continued to decline even without the reforms or the reforms may have slowed the declining crime trend. We simply do not know the impact of reforms. Promoting public safety is far too important to rely on such flimsy evidence.
That being said, the Reentry Council and NIJ, had been very busy. Over the last few months, we have held a focus group on prosecution and diversion, and we have upcoming focus groups on juvenile justice and drugs. Since we began our earlier work, I visited state prison facilities in Colorado, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania; federal facilities in Colorado, West Virginia, and Maryland; and had met with corrections personnel at local jails and in community supervision agencies. The Reentry Council is interested in compiling evidence on what works. We also aim to establish a research agenda that addresses gaps in the empirical literature and the needs of correction professionals to engage in this important work every day. We are discussing reentry today because of the juveniles and adults involved in the juvenile and criminal justice systems. It's critical that we better understand these populations and how to improve their chances of success as they return to their communities. For example, women are the fastest-growing incarcerated population, yet one of the least examined. In December, I'll travel to Sacramento to visit a program for female inmates implemented by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation in cooperation with their local community. The Reentry Council has a lot of work to do ahead of us. But I am confident we're up to the task, and I hope you'll stay tuned and follow our forthcoming reports with further updates.
Today's seminar is
What Works in Reentry. It's an important point that reentry, recidivism, and crime prevention are persistently linked problems in America. Today's panelists come from diverse backgrounds and can speak from experience in corrections, probation and parole, and juvenile justice. I'm eager to turn things over to our panelists to talk about the good work we are doing and employing research to inform policy and practice in their agencies. Before I do, I want to thank a few people who served behind the scenes. Thank you to NIJ's Rhea Walker and Marie Garcia for their work in organizing this event. I want to give them a little clap. I really greatly appreciate their assistance and just getting things done in general. I also would like to thank Hugh Hurwitz for being a partner in discussing what works and hopefully he'll be able to attend this today. And finally, I'd like to thank our panelists.
I'll let our panelists speak further to their backgrounds and expertise, but I'd like to give a brief introduction.
Ms. Terri McDonald is the chief probation officer with the Los Angeles County Probation Department which is the largest probation department in the world. Ms. McDonald brings unique perspective to our panel because she has provided executive oversight of the State of California's parole, prison, juvenile justice systems, the County of Los Angeles Jail System, and most recently, the County of Los Angeles Probation System. Each of these systems are the largest of their kind in the country. Wow.
Dr. Grant Duwe is the director of research and evaluation for the Minnesota Department of Corrections, where he evaluates corrections programs, develops risk assessment instruments, and forecasts the state's prison population. I applaud his commitment not only to drawing on research, but to conducting it himself. He has published more than 60 articles and peer-reviewed journals on a wide variety of correctional topics.
Dr. Alix McLearen is the acting assistant director of the Reentry Services Division for the Federal Bureau of Prisons. I'm glad to have Alix here to speak about how the BOP's programming prepares inmates for release, what they do to track their success, and how residential reentry centers help inmates transition back to their communities.
Finally, I'd like to introduce John Wetzel. He is the secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections and the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole. In addition to being on our panel, I'd like to thank him for hosting me and some of my staff when we visited some of their facilities early this year. I'll turn it over to you, John.
JOHN WETZEL: Well, good morning and thank you for the opportunity. Obviously, "reentry" is such an important topic, and the opportunity to talk about what works, I just can't thank you enough. I think this hasn't been talked about enough and I think sadly, often, we talk about it real simplistic like pass/fail context and the reality is it's a lot of more nuanced than that. That no matter what we do, whether we do anything or whether we do all kinds of things, folks are going to get out of prison, and folks are going to get out of jail, and they're going to come back to our communities. I think, from my perspective and certainly in Pennsylvania, we feel responsibility to adhere to what our field says we are, which is corrections, that when someone's involved in the criminal justice system at the front end, what we want in the back end is that they're less likely to commit a crime. I think that gets lost sometimes in the conversation. From my perspective, the only path forward is that we have the courage and the guts to measure what we do, and when we do something that doesn't work, we change it. I think that's critical. We can talk about individual programs, but I think as a field, it's really about a process, a process that measures things and adjusts.
I'm a lifer, it's all I've ever done, is corrections. I started when I was 20 years old, part-time as a correctional officer while I went to college, and worked my way up mostly in the jail world until the past eight years where I've been honored to run the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. We've been on quite a journey in Pennsylvania over the past eight years and we've seen a population reduction of about 4,000 inmates. I inherited a system that was growing by 1,500 inmates a year. We did that primarily by looking internal and looking at things we weren't doing good enough. Some of it, frankly, that gets in the way of good reentry is bureaucracy. We've always done it that way. I will tell you, we're certainly committed to have individuals leave our system better than they came in, and that sounds weird when we talk about corrections. To me, that's what it's really about. What it's really about is putting someone in a— in a situation where they can be successful after prison.
CHIEF TERRI MCDONALD: Nobody wants to follow John Wetzel. Good morning and thank you for inviting us to this important discussion. I have a belief about what's happened in America and it's informed from a lifetime of doing this work. You heard me say I oversaw California’s sprawling state prison, state parole, state juvenile justice systems, the largest in the nation and then the largest jail in America, the largest mental health treatment facility in America, which is in the Los Angeles County Jail system, and now the largest probation system in America. We've spent a whole lot of time focusing on arresting bodies. It's not difficult to arrest bodies, right? You can arrest bodies, but that's not a better public safety perspective than arresting behaviors. Reentry really is about thinking about what people need to change their behavior on intake. Reentry should begin at intake. It doesn't matter if that intake is in the local county jail, it doesn't matter if that intake doesn't actually result in detention, maybe they've been arrested and the courts are asking probation to take a look at them, but looking at people's needs and the pathways that bring them to the work that we do.
The fact of the matter is, is that John and I have been required to do work that I think is much more profoundly addressed through the health systems. Reentry is they come from communities and they return to communities. It's that relationship with communities, with the substance abuse community, the mental health community, the children and family services, starting to think in terms about we cannot do this alone. Prisons and jails are the black boxes of the reentry system. People come in, we do risk and needs assessment, we put them in drug treatment programs, we try to deal with trauma, if we are evolved in our thinking about detention services. Then they return to the community and somebody asks us to measure recidivism. Yet John could not tell you whether or not the inmates leaving his charge really are getting the kind of mental health services they need, the kind of drug treatment services they need, the kind of gainful employment that they need. To me, if we're going to move forward as a society and as a nation to improve reentry outcomes, it shouldn't just be the corrections people sitting on this panel, right? I think we need to start to charge our head of health and human services to sit with us, our head of drug treatment services. In our juvenile facilities, and this is not a lecture so I'll stop. In our juvenile facilities, 95 percent of all young people that we have in detention in Los Angeles County have been touched by the child welfare system. Half of all adults that we send to state prison have been touched by the child welfare system. Reentry begins at intake. Reentry begins to understand the trauma-informed pathways that people come to us. There does have to be accountability for criminal behavior, but that accountability is not always a jail bed or a prison bed. Sometimes, that accountability honestly can be a hug.
DAVID B. MUHLHAUSEN: Alix.
ALIX MCLEAREN: Like my colleagues, I've spent my career choosing corrections and being in corrections, so I am a clinical psychologist, but have done more than 15 years in federal law enforcement with the Bureau of Prisons. And I would like to maybe do something a little bit different, talk about our agency just because it is fairly large in scope and then maybe some of the things that we're doing around reentry. We have 122 facilities located nationwide, five security levels. We house pretrial offenders, people who are sentenced, people who have been forensically adjudicated, not guilty by reason of insanity, and we even have a unit that houses folks who are post-sentenced and have been civilly committed as sexually dangerous. We have over 180,000 inmates in our custody, about 6 percent are female, about 14 percent are sex offenders, give or take 20 percent are non-US citizens. We see about 30 different religions, countless individual religious practitioners, almost 500 individuals that have a terrorism nexus. I think the point I want to make is that when we're looking at addressing the needs of this group, we're talking about something that is very, very broad in scope because it's such a very diverse group. The mission of the agency is twofold, to securely and safely confine offenders, so that's your safety piece, but also to provide self-improvement opportunities, and that's your reentry piece, and that's always been part of what we do.
I think David mentioned that about 95 percent of people are returning to the communities when they come to prison and we're proud that our recidivism rate is about 34 percent, which is about half of that that you see in some other systems. In the bureau, just like you say, it begins at intake. We say reentry begins on the first day, so it's good to see that we're having sort of some similar trains of thought there. When somebody comes into our system, we usually have a decent amount of information about them and so we're able to use that to designate them to the appropriate security level. We're also able to designate them to the appropriate care level. What I mean when I say that is we can look based on what we have before we meet them and see what level of intensity they need, service-wise, for both medical and mental health needs. Our facilities aren't just categorized by security, but also by the availability of different kinds of services. Starting right at the beginning, we can place somebody in a situation where they're going to have the access to the best programs for them. Then once they're onsite, they get assessed and then they get reassessed twice every year to figure out exactly what their needs are, and set individual goals. I think I want to pause there, when I say needs, I certainly mean the criminogenic needs that we talk about, things that are specifically programs and services designed to address recidivism. But we also address areas that might provide other benefits to people. This could include parenting programs, healthy relationship building, mental health treatment, leisure time management, or support groups for folks that are going through unique challenges in life.
I like to talk about our programs. That's what I do. I think a lot of people are familiar with things like our Residential Drug Abuse Program, which does have a decent body of research behind it. I wanted to highlight two new innovative programs that we have implemented relatively recently. One is FIT. FIT stands for Female Integrated Treatment. This is one of our gender-responsive programs. So we recognize— and I know somebody mentioned it, that women are a small but different group within our correctional population. Our female population has not actually seen an increase even though many have. Ours has been a fairly stable 6 to 7 percent for many years. There's a growing body of research that suggests that gender-specific or gender-neutral programs are beneficial to women and that maybe they follow different pathways into prison and therefore have different needs to take an off-ramp out of prison. The FIT Program is grounded in the evidence of cognitive behavioral therapy, therapeutic communities, and integrated treatment. And what we're doing here is we are running an entire prison as a gender-responsive treatment facility. Everybody in the entire facility is engaged in that treatment community. We focus on serious mental illness, trauma, drug abuse treatment, and vocational and occupational opportunities so people are able to take an integrated approach to receiving all of that. Then they all have individual goals. When we look at outcomes of this, what we're really being able to see right now is how many people we can enroll in treatment. It isn't just reentry, it's what other positive outcomes do we have. We've got an entire facility engaged in CBT, which we know is an effective treatment.
Something related to that are our secure mental health programs. This is where we take our sickest, often violent, individuals who have psychotic disorders or personality disorders. These programs are also couched in cognitive behavioral and therapeutic community approaches. While these programs aren't necessarily designed to help people reenter the community per se, they help them reenter general population. These are folks that might normally spend a great deal of time in restrictive settings because of their behavior. Again, now we have them out and enrolled in treatment. Just to wrap up, the bureau releases about 61,000 inmates a year. The bulk of those are going to the community, but some of them are going to other law enforcement agencies or elsewhere. About 73 percent of the people that are returning to the U.S. streets participate in a residential reentry center, which are the 229 bureau-operated or privately-operated but contracted by the Bureau of Halfway Houses. While they're there, the inmates continue working on all of the things that they did, while in our custody like mental healthcare, but they're also focused on securing housing and employment. That's kind of my summary of the agency.
DAVID B. MUHLHAUSEN: All right. Grant.
GRANT DUWE: Good morning, I'm Grant Duwe. It's my honor and privilege to be a part of the event this morning. One of the things that Dr. Muhlhausen noted at the beginning is how high the recidivism rates are for those who get released from prison, whether at the federal level or from state prison systems. Those recidivism rates have been adduced as evidence for our prison systems as being broken. They don't work. In fact, nothing works. That's an old conclusion that was drawn back in the 1970s. Nothing works when it comes to correctional programming. There's been a lot of evidence that's actually accumulated over the last four decades or so that has shown that there are quite a few interventions that are effective and that do work when it comes to producing better outcomes for correctional populations. Outcomes like employment, misconduct, recidivism, cost avoidance.
I would like to focus on a few reasons why I think that that knowledge that we've gained from that literature, which is known as the "What Works" literature hasn't translated into better outcomes. First is, I think the correctional field has struggled to make what works work. What I mean by that is that that there's been difficulty in terms of implementing and running programs like they should be run. Program fidelity. I think a broader part is that for researchers, like myself, there hasn't been enough attention that's been focused on implementation science. It's sort of like the field has done a good job of identifying those products that work well, but it hasn't done a good job of providing everyone with instructions as to how to make those products work well.
The second reason why I think that the knowledge hasn't translated into better outcomes is that the "What Works" literature has really focused on identifying those interventions that are shown to be effective, or identifying types of interventions that are effective and producing good outcomes, but that literature hasn't shed as much light on how much programming do individuals need so that they can desist from crime. And that relates more to dosage. One of the things that Dr. McLearen mentioned is that cognitive behavioral therapy is an effective intervention. The literature has consistently shown that. But what if only 1 or 2 percent of a state's prison population or the federal prison population participates in CBT? Is that going to have an impact on overall recidivism rates? Probably not. But what if instead of 2 percent, it's 20 percent of a state or federal prison population that's participating in CBT? Would that affect overall recidivism rates? Possibly. One of the things that I think we've learned from the "What Works" literature is that if you provide programming to lower risk individuals that it can produce worse outcomes, and that's certainly true, but I think too often, that's been used as an excuse to do nothing. What we see when we warehouse individuals in our prison systems, it produces a slew of bad outcomes. It increases misconduct, it increases recidivism, it also increases unemployment for those who get a release from prison, and I would argue it's a costly, wasteful practice. I think we should be focusing more on dosage and more specifically the extent to which inmates are participating in programming. I would argue that we are undertreating or under programming many individuals who are in prison.
And finally this relates to the second point, is that I would argue that this lack of programming, it's a by-product of how prisons have been designed and constructed. It's important to keep in mind that most of the correctional facilities across the United States were designed and built decades ago. They weren't built with the idea of how can we maximize the delivery of effective programming to individuals in our facilities? Instead, the emphasis has been on isolation, security, and control. However, that can sometimes be at odds with producing individuals who, when they get released are going to desist from crime. I would argue that we don't have to have prison systems that are criminogenic finishing schools for crime. Instead, I think if we focus more on making them program-rich environments that could produce better outcomes, I think we can do that but I also think that would require a fundamental shift in how we view and use prisons.
DAVID B. MUHLHAUSEN: Thank you, Grant. I'm going to try to help facilitate the discussion, but I fully expect the panelists to have a free-going dialogue as well. Just don't be contained by the questions I'm going to ask. First question I want to ask is, based on your experience and expertise, what are the biggest problems facing corrections generally and reentry specifically?
CHIEF TERRI MCDONALD: I think design is probably one of the issues that was mentioned. I think really culture eats intention for breakfast. You've heard that. I didn't make that up. The circumstances in which we hired our employees and trained them — if our hiring of employees and training them was around command and control, whether it's prisons or a parole personnel, it's very difficult to begin to get them to pivot in their thinking about how you treat inmates and I mean treat in a rehabilitative term, not just how you interact with them. If the environments in which our employees work are stressful in and of themselves and are traumatizing, I remember the day I was working a secure mental health treatment facility serving food to inmates in a lock-up unit in green slickers, rain suits, because you would feed the inmates and they would gash you. Of course they gashed you. They didn't gash you because they were mentally ill, they gashed you because of the conditions in which the inmates were forced to live. Imagine me as a correctional officer how I thought about rehabilitative programming there.
I think starting to address who we're hiring, how we're onboarding them, how we value them, what we reward, if we don't do that, all of the best intentions go to the wayside, you know. We are in the human business. We're in the human interaction business. If our correctional staff and our practitioners aren't taught about the pathways that bring people to us, if we continue to say "What is wrong with you?” Isn't that what we say to inmates when they're in court? "What is wrong with you?" as opposed to "What was happened with you and what do you need?" Until we begin to pivot that thinking around it, the best of intentions, whether it's 2 percent CBT, and the truth of the matter is, the staff aren't well-trained in CBT and so we give him a, you know, an eight-hour course and say, "Go do good CBT." That, I think, is going to be the struggle in detention facilities around reentry services. If they're overcrowded, under-attended, all of the stressors around, conditions, noise, heating and cooling, vying for limited resources, if we don't address those, nothing rehabilitative happens inside those environments.
ALIX MCLEAREN: I liked what you had to say. I feel like there are so many good answers to this question in terms of what our challenge is. Look, prison itself is a challenge. You are taking people out of their community and they're losing privilege and they are losing freedom. They are losing contact. I think something that is a challenge facing corrections today is drugs. It has always been a problem. I think we're seeing a new frontier of that with opioids and synthetic drugs, things that have ways to come into the system that are maybe different than traditional ways of coming in. Symptoms that are very, very alarming, they can be not only ingested by the person who means to ingest them but by others. Then just what treatment is most effective for these new drugs because they are relatively new to us. On the good side of that, we've long had, in the bureau and certainly in other places, effective substance use treatment programs. We know that a good two-thirds of offenders in any given setting have substance use histories. Even with all of the treatments, we're still seeing new and different drugs, and people relapsing. I feel like that's the biggest challenge today.
JOHN WETZEL: I think one of the realities of American criminal justice is that we deliver most of our behavioral health services through a system that wasn't designed to do so. If you look at the fundamental structure of corrections, care, custody, and control is that high bar we set like four decades ago. We're a slow system to shift. We're pretty fortunate in Pennsylvania that we're a well-resourced system with services. I think the fundamental question is, should we be delivering those services? Something Terri said earlier about reentry really struck me. I think we've gone at reentry just backwards. Like, we see reentry as an inside-out process when really it should be an outside-in process.
Certainly the jails across the country have an advantage in that they're a lot stronger connection to the community. To expect a prison system or a jail system to be experts in delivering mental health services, and drug and alcohol services, and cognitive behavioral services, and workforce development, and housing, and you can do that. You can certainly throw resources at it, but does it make sense? I think where we need to shift as a field in the essence of what we need to do is fund community infrastructures and corrections folks like us need to get over, not letting anybody come inside our facilities, and wouldn't it make sense? I think Government works best when you spend money once on an individual. Implicit in that is we put them in the right system that they're going to address the needs. I think reentry is the perfect place where we need to get over ourselves a little bit and start bringing folks in the community who already have an expertise in something. Let them actually come inside, right, which would be a stretch for some of us. Let's get that connection because not only does that money fund individuals coming out of prison, but it builds a community infrastructure that keeps people out of prison altogether. A criminal justice system is the essence of a reactionary system. We have the opportunity to be proactive. When we talk about reentry and we talk about criminal justice, there's implications well beyond the individuals that come to our system.
We have about 48,000 people in Pennsylvania prisons. They have 81,000 children. Those children are going to be impacted by what we do with their individual while they're with us and what happens when they leave. I think, really, our challenge is that we have a system that's designed to deliver something a lot less than what we actually are asked to deliver, and then we haven't gotten over ourselves to the point where we're connecting with community infrastructure who already knows how to do it better than we do.
GRANT DUWE: One of the common threads that we see run through effective correctional programming is a continuum of care, and it kind of dovetails a little bit with what John was just talking about, but I think it's important that we within prison systems enable those from the community to come in and work with those in the inmate population. I think at an even broader level, I think that there needs to be a greater emphasis on providing programming that does deliver a continuum of care. What I mean by that is we begin programming when an individual's in prison, but then we continue that programming after he or she gets released from prison. When we consider employment programming, for example, we've seen just based on research that we’ve done in Minnesota, that when someone participates in prison labor, that it produces some decent outcomes. Its impact on recidivism is modest at best. We also see that when individuals participate in employment programming delivered exclusively in the community like a work release program, it also produces some decent outcomes. Again, the reduction in recidivism we see is relatively modest, but Minnesota also has an employment program that starts about 90 days before an individual gets released and then it continues for up to one year after release. The best outcomes we've observed have been for that program because it does provide this continuum of service delivery from the institution to the community. That's a finding that's been shown with other types of intervention such as substance abuse treatment, so I just think that there are many challenges that prison systems face in producing good outcomes, but I think that that's one that deserves a greater focus.
JOHN WETZEL: The employment thing, I think is the essence of an opportunity to really partner with community partners. For the first time in my career, I got to tell you the business sector is reaching out to corrections looking for partnerships because unemployment is so low, they're looking for employees. I think it really provides an opportunity and I'm not alone, there's other states who are experiencing the same thing. I think it's an illustration of where we should be working across systems. We were fortunate enough to get a Department of Ed grant three years ago, pathways to work gran t— about a million-dollar grant and that put us on a journey to really start plugging into the workforce infrastructure and getting out of our own way and partner with other agencies. There's some really exciting potentials. One of them we're working on is matriculation agreements with all the community colleges in Pennsylvania. What that would look like is we deliver about 90 different vocational programs, some of which are making license plates because somebody needs to do that, but many of which are marketable job skills that translate to the community. We have good staff who are certified to teach these courses. They're just a certificate. But if we can do a matriculation agreement with the community college that they actually get college credits and it translates, that puts somebody on a path to getting the degree that means something.
I can tell you we're working on things like— there's going to be a shortage of people who do water and sewage treatment. The average age in Pennsylvania of someone who does that is 55. Through this process, we've learned that this is an opportunity for certain individuals who come through our system and we easy— want to go to paint by numbers and, "Oh, so-and-so can't do that." Listen, I have 47,000 people. Exclude whatever charges you want, there's going to be somebody left, and we can train them how to clean water. This has really been an exciting opportunity. I think education is such a key place and we were fortunate to be one of the states that are part of the Pell experiment. I've sat in a bunch of those college classrooms and not only is it a great learning environment, not only do the college professors beg to teach classes inside my prison versus in the classroom at the university, I won't name the universities because I don't want to make anybody angry, but I got to tell you that this is a real opportunity for us to rebuild individuals and put them in a place for the opportunity to be productive citizens. I think that's the key and that's the focus. Again, employment is a very natural place where we can work across entities and divisions and even levels of government, and really do good things in getting somebody an opportunity to be successful.
TERRI MCDONALD: I love that, John. I agree with you. But we have to be cautious about our issue around employment, right? Because folks can get a job, we can get folks jobs, I know that from overseeing state parole in California. We can get them a job. The problem is can they keep that job? So, when their car breaks down and they can't get to work and they're late, you and I have the resources most of us do to figure out how to get to work. They don't, they quit, they fall back, they go — they go backwards. I think in these partnerships that we're engaging in, I think most jurisdictions are engaging in partnerships with employers. What we've been doing in L.A. County is adding a support mechanism to those employers. So that when Bob or Jodi or Susie gets a job in those jurisdictions, there is a mentor associated with that engagement because it's easy to quit. If you've had a lifetime experience of giving up and quitting and, when you're frustrated, turning to addiction, it's easy to give up. These folks need more than just— they need jobs, they need education, but they also need that social safety net. John mentioned this earlier, really engaging with people — I don't think you said this directly but I think this is what you meant, engaging with people that had been in our system as partners with us, bringing in ex-lifers is part — I mean, that freaks people out, right? Ex-lifers into the prison, they're going to bring in drugs. No, they're really not. What they're going to do is to help mentor people along the way. Employment, they've got to have living-wage, meaningful jobs, getting somebody a low-wage job, no health benefits, it's not going to sustain. Doing it without those other soft skills around them whether it's money management or some mentorship role, I think if we really want to push it to the next level, it's got to be a package approach towards employment. Also, you ought to be willing to hire ex-offenders. I'm in L.A. County, very progressive county, the board of supervisors' expectation is that we hire people that have been in the criminal justice system. You got to kind of cook the food you want other people to eat, you got to eat it yourself. Don't be afraid to hire people that have been in the system, not somebody that just left prison yesterday. They've got to demonstrate that they've got some earned pathway, but we've got to have the courage to say we are a second-chance, third-chance employer ourselves.
ALIX MCLEAREN: I also wanted to say something real quick about jobs but a little different back to what John was talking about in terms of creating these partnerships within the different systems because I think this is something worth sharing. It should be fairly easy for other systems to replicate. Obviously we know that getting a job is one of the things that actually help people if it is something that will support them, it will have an impact on recidivism. But what we have struggled within the bureau is people are housed all over the country and could be going somewhere other than the state in which they are incarcerated. So when we put people through some of our more intensive work programs which would be the apprenticeship programs, those are hundreds of hours long and they are the same apprenticeship programs that one would take in the community to get a certification. We've been offering those at the state level. We were able to partner with the Federal Department of Labor to create an agreement where, now, the people that complete those apprenticeships will get a federal level certification. Their job certification will travel with them wherever they go in the country, which allows them to be mobile which, in today's society, most people are. That was a relatively easy partnership with a very open-to-working-with-corrections agency that I think others could also try out.
DAVID B. MUHLHAUSEN: I wanted to sort of transition the conversation here and one of the important things that I think that I've learned as being the director of the National Institute of Justice is that there are some corrections departments some state corrections agencies that are actually standing out among the others. Two of them are here today with Minnesota and Pennsylvania. This question is directed to John and Grant. How are you using data and science to guide decision making in your agencies?
JOHN WETZEL: Everything we do is data-driven — like when people say, what's the benefit of using research to guide what you do? It's like saying, "What's the benefit of using air to breathe," to me. There's no really difference. The reality is we don't have unlimited resources. So the notion that we would do anything without measuring it and adjusting, I couldn't imagine another field that would do that. If your doctor was making diagnoses based on a guess and not measuring his outcomes, you'd find a new doctor. It's just as natural as anything. I even got scammed into doing random control trials by Bret Bucklen who's in the room here. If we're going to do something new I would guarantee you that if it's at all possible we'll be assigning people randomly and measuring it, and with a relatively quick turnaround time to figure out if it's even kind of viable before we move forward. In an era where we have competing interest and we have competing funding, I'm not going to do anything that I don't have some assurance that it's going to be effective. I can't imagine not having data or not using data on anything. I can tell you in 2012 — I think it was 2012—we became the first system to do performance contracts on our halfway houses. It stunned me that in 2012 the notion of doing performance, like we're paying people — probably our spend was $100 million dollars, and the notion that 2012 was the first time that we decided we're going to see if we actually get outcomes from this expenditure, is stunning to me. Listen, reentry is difficult. There's reasons why the outcomes are not good. People graduate from college and do bad things. Of course we don't get to pick, and colleges select who comes there, we don't. The notion that we're going to be asked to do this difficult task with all the different challenges that individuals who come through our system have, and we would do that blindly, without measuring and adjusting, like this is not a pass-fail deal for us. This is measure, adjust, measure, adjust, measure, adjust. Hopefully we can continue to get better as we adjust.
GRANT DUWE: Over the last decade we have conducted and published more than two dozen program evaluations and research studies because we think it's important to ensure that the quality of our work is high. We do publish those in peer-reviewed academic journals. Just because one of the things that we hear is, "Oh, well, this is just going to affect practice or policy. This doesn't need to get published in a peer-reviewed journal." I'm like, “This is absolutely the reason why it has to go through the peer review process, because it matters.” It affects lives. Some of the findings that we have produced have resulted in an impact in our policy and practice based on some of our evaluations of chemical dependency treatment and sex offender treatment. Our Minnesota State legislature, to their credit, increased funding to expand treatment capacity within Minnesota's prison system. There have been other programmatic changes that we have made in response to the findings from program evaluations.
But one thing that's been important to convey is that research, at least from an agency's perspective, it’s not just propaganda, or at least it shouldn't be. It's much, much more valuable than that. In fact, some of the best evaluations are those negative evaluations where you find that it doesn't work. Just because something doesn't work doesn't mean it's a bad idea. It goes back to program fidelity that maybe there were issues with the way that the program was implemented. In fact, we did a study several years ago where we evaluated this program called "Moving On," which is a gender-responsive CBT for the female population. The first seven or eight years that it was implemented, it was implemented with fidelity. We saw good recidivism outcomes when it was implemented with fidelity. But then in 2010 or 2011 staff there decided to make some changes to it and tried to offer the light version of this program to a much larger number of individuals and it no longer had an impact on recidivism. When we had those findings then it was clear to our staff you need to go back to the way that you were running that program. Using data and science, it absolutely matters. I will say that the leadership at the Minnesota DOC, again, to their credit, that they have tried to pay attention to that. I still don't think we're as evidence-based as we think we are, but I do think that there is an effort to try to be data-driven. Minnesota DOC, we've developed automated recidivism risk assessments for our own population, and that's really an effort to try to use data and science to improve the way that we prioritize and deliver programming to the inmate population.
JOHN WETZEL: Let me try to push us beyond traditional research. We were fortunate enough to partner with a group called BetaGov maybe five years ago now, it seems like forever. What they did, they come in and partner with us and they take ideas from staff and inmates, and turn them into testable short-term trials. To your point as far as learning what works and what doesn't work, we've had some remarkable stuff. First of all, if we weren't doing research around it, some of it I would have never signed off on. Unfortunately some of it doesn't come to us. I'll just give you two illustrations.
One we did a pilot around. Obviously sometimes we have folks who try to smuggle drugs in. So we thought, "Hey, let's send a notice out to folks and tell them of the implications of what happens if they bring drugs in. It sounds like a good idea, sounds like a real corrections, criminal justice stuff. Didn't work. It cost us postage, right? But it didn't really have any effect. As a matter of fact, in some cases that the actual amount of drugs that came into those facilities went up. I'm not saying it's causal
Conversely we did some stuff like let individuals choose what color sheets they had in the restrictive housing, something I would have never signed off on. What it turns out is that every trial we do where individual has choice, has a positive effect. It doesn't have to be pie in the sky. One of my frustrations with research is don't tell me three years from now that something's not working when I funded it for three years. Don't tell me that. That does not work for me. This is an environment where I have to go in and fight for every dollar and I want to spend dollars to improve people's lives, but I don't want to waste money. This notion of short-term measuring, and it starts with having good baseline data across everywhere. I think that's really step one for us. Every facility should know what their violence rate is and what their assaults on staff are. If we're going to try new things and we encourage our facilities to try new things. We've taken Ceasefire from the outside, brought it inside, and had some good effect with that. We've taken Swift, Certain, and Fair. Actually we're getting ready to scale that system-wide. We had a facility, SCI Somerset, and a superintendent who's now one of my deputy secretaries, who said, "Let's try this Swift, Certain, and Fair inside prison." That had great outcomes. Now, truth be told, we did a bunch of places that had mixed outcomes, but we were able to figure out what the magic sauce was and in the next six months we're going to scale that system-wide. It all came from trial, error, understanding if something works, why it didn't work, and then making adjustments.
DAVID B. MUHLHAUSEN: Moving on from talking about prisons, I'd like to ask Terri, on the local level with community corrections, but also in jails, what are you seeing as innovations, the next steps in moving this subset of corrections forward?
TERRI MCDONALD: I think there's a whole bunch going on at the local level. Frankly, probation's been more progressive around reentry than most of your traditional corrections. I've evolved in my thinking around reentry from the time I worked in prisons. I think risk and needs assessments, everybody kind of knows that. I don't think that there's miracle science behind that anymore. I think folks get it. I think understanding how to do diversion on the front end, whether it's mental health diversion, Los Angeles County for example has specialized courts to do mental health diversion on the front end. I was telling the story a little bit earlier today, Twin Towers Correctional Facility in Los Angeles is the largest mental health treatment facility in America. It's got 4,000 acutely mentally ill people. When I first walked the tiers of that facility, you would see people in really a deep mental health crisis. I was like, "What kind of crime are these people committing?" I pulled one gentleman, he had been locked up, like, 50 times, all nuisance crime kind of stuff. The last time was defrauding an innkeeper, which is essentially he stole some food. We're criminalizing mental illness, we're criminalizing homelessness and poverty. Thinking differently on the front end about how do you engage your health agencies, your mental health, how do you create diversion opportunities working with the courts and the public defender, I think is a way of the future. Because if you don't, nothing good really comes from detention. People don't come in there and all of a sudden, we work with them, they get better. Even coming in is a traumatizing experience. If you don't have a progressive system, you're actually teaching people worse behaviors and understanding that diverting reentry that is better public safety. If you reduce recidivism, you've reduced victims.
Also the Los Angeles County jails does a ton of programming inside the jail. They have gender-responsive pods, where we work with outside agencies to come in to design that program. You hire experts like John says. Just because I read a research paper does not mean I'm an expert in that way. And I do read a lot of research papers. Working with our community, engaging people that were previously incarcerated, bringing the CBOs, the community based organizations doing in-reach in, so it's created in the network outside. Amazing things have happened in juvenile justice in the state of California and you're saying, "Well, what's that have to do with the locals?" About in 2006 in California, they did juvenile justice realignment. You probably have heard a whole bunch about AB 109 or public safety realignment for the adults. But in 2006, there were 10,000 young people in state detention facilities. That the state decided to fund and incentivize the local probation departments to keep young people at the local level rather than moving them upstream to the state juvenile justice system. At the time, L.A. County, we had about 5,000 young people in detention at the time. California had about 10,000. I was with California at the time. Started saying, "Hey, counties, keep these young people because you do a better job at the local level," for all the reasons that John said, because we're not plucking them from LA and shipping them up to Susanville six hours away. We keep them right there where their families are. In California, the state incentivized local probation to do diversion on the front end. Today, in the state juvenile justice system, there's less than 700 young people. That's a reduction of over 9,000 young people in state detention. One-third of all the state's workload comes to LA County. LA County is a state. We are massive. We're bigger than Pennsylvania, I think. I don't know, we're probably pretty close.
JOHN WETZEL: You better knock it off, Terri. [laughter]
TERRI MCDONALD: At the time, we had 5,000. So if 9,000 were in the state, we get a third. You would assume you add that 3,000 to my 5,000, I'd have 8,000 young people in detention today. I have about 1,000 young people in detention today. Front end diversion, rather than bringing kids into detention because they won't go to school, because they're truant, because they jumped on a subway, work in a different way with them. Keep them in community-based organizations, work with the families, work with the families, work with the families, and whatever family is for that young person. Then anywhere that you can disrupt the trajectory inward. If you're terrorizing the community and you're violent, there's a place for you. The prison doors are open. I'm not talking about that group, I'm talking about your drug addicts, your mentally ill, your young people that are acting out in gangs because of trauma, maybe because their parent's in prison, maybe because their parent's addicted. That's what LA County Probation's doing and that's not new to probation. Probation's been in that lane across America for a long time.
DAVID B. MUHLHAUSEN: All right. Thank you. I got a question now for Alix. How does the BOP measure success of their programs?
ALIX MCLEAREN: Thank you. Wow, that's a great question. We will have a very nuanced answer for that. Recidivism is certainly an important measure of program success if the program is designed to impact recidivism. We do have some programs that we can cite data that shows that they are successful at improving reentry outcomes. We also allow for there to be other measures of success. Let's look at a fitness program, say. It would probably be very hard to take a fitness program, even a really good, solid, evidence-based fitness program, and tie that to somebody's reentry success. Maybe one person's sure but across the board then say, "Ah-hah. Everybody that does this really amazing fitness program does way better in community outcomes long-term." If that same fitness program makes people healthier, makes them less overweight, less at risk for disease processes, that's still good. That still is a success of that program. We recognize that people are whole and we do the recidivism piece with things like our Federal Prison Industries, which is our trade name UNICOR, our businesses, or our education programs, or a residential drug abuse program. But we also measure mental health improvement, time in general population, being able to take advantage of some of these programs that I just referenced, healthy or more regular family connections, and even becoming more informed citizens so that they can take advantage of opportunities in the community when they're released.
DAVID B. MUHLHAUSEN: Good. I got one question I want to throw out to the panel, often I think that corrections across the country — there are some state departments that appear to be afraid to evaluate their programs, afraid to find failure. My question is, what if you can find that gem, that success that you need to invest in, is almost as important or probably the most important that you can do. Some of the times what I've seen and some of the states I've visited in the past year is that there are some state facilities that are offering a whole host of programs that they should be offering. But there's no tie-in to evaluating whether or not the programs work. For this panel, what can you offer as advice to, say, David Muhlhausen who just became the director of a state correctional facility. What advice can you give to not be afraid of analyzing data that can actually help you, in the long term, deliver better services and hopefully lower recidivism rates?
JOHN WETZEL: I think the first reality is that understand that corrections directors work in a political construct. The easy thing to do is not measure. Perhaps it's a smart thing to do unless you measure early so you can blame it on the previous person. I think that's the reality. The median time in this job is two years. When I go sit around the table with corrections directors, I've never been in a meeting six months apart that the same people were sitting around the table. I think that's just a truism of the political construct that this works in. But in kind of joking but kind of not joking, I think it's early on, it's critical that you establish a baseline. We have not really been held to account for outcomes, historically. Again when you're talking about competing interest and competing money, and when you're talking about the number of lives we're going to touch, I think it's the only way to do things. I've seen an evolution.
I think the other political construct is that when you're talking about elected officials, long-term thinking's off in the next election. So in more than 50 percent of the people, we're talking two years out. This notion of return on investment down the road is often absent in the discussion. The advice I would give is, first of all, you have to have a good research shop and you have to have a good understanding. Then, secondly and probably most importantly, you have to be able to tell the nuanced story that is a correction system. You have to be able to describe things in a manner that people can understand and describe why it's important to measure and why it's not a pass-fail. It's a pass or fail, and then adjust.
GRANT DUWE: Why should state prison systems have research shops? I think — well, a lot of them don't. That's one thing that's worth pointing out, and it may surprise some people, is that some state prison systems don't have what most would consider to be research and evaluation shops. I think the first step would simply have to be invest in a research and evaluation shop. I think the bigger issue, though, is that a lot of state prison populations that even though they've been declining over the last decade, for years they're increasing. When your first and only priority is to find prison beds for that influx who are entering or reentering the system, research is a luxury. Why do we even have to worry about research when we have this other immediate, pressing priority? I think as John mentioned that research is kind of looking at things from the long view, and do we want better outcomes five years from now, 10 years from now. I think in order to get there, you do have to invest in research and evaluation resources.
JOHN WETZEL: I think sometimes we hear research and we think like the Ivory Tower and measuring programs and all this stuff, but I got to tell you that I think that a lot of corrections directors don't understand what a powerful tool using data to guide policy. Recently, we just came off a lockdown where we had a significant drug issue. You mentioned synthetics and we had a bunch of synthetics coming in. I can tell you that the data case is what won the day and what led us to the changes we made. And absent having a data orientation, I'm not sure we would've got where we got to. What I'll tell you is the month before, our historic positive random drug test rates about 0.32. And the month before we did the lockdown, that number jumped to 1 percent. Now, if we didn't know what the random drug tests were, it'd be difficult to make the case that we really had a drug problem. Some people even — with that said, "It's only 1 percent." And I said, "Well, it's a closed system. One percent is pretty high, you know." We went through these changes and we were able to put a baseline measure on everything we anticipated. It's a discipline that we force our staff to do. If you want to do something new, that's fine. What's the anticipated outcome? Yeah, sometimes, the outcome is not recidivism.
We had a problem with increase in violence among younger inmates. I approached our research folks and this is at a time when we had a better researcher funded by NIJ, which is a great program, by the way. You may want to think about expanding that one. We had a better researcher and so the challenge I said to my research folks is, "Listen, it's clear to me that when we get too many young inmates at the same site, violence goes up. What can we do about this?" Long story short, four years later, I believe, we worked with the Lehigh Industrial Engineering Program, and developed an algorithmic-based inmate move system that allowed us to make good nuanced decisions, and we saw a reduction in violence as a byproduct of that. I think oftentimes, folks in my position don't see research as a management tool and sometimes we focus on violence and this and that, but it is the tool for all that stuff.
TERRI MCDONALD: I always love listening to John. I learn so much. Corrections is an art and a science. I am an expert in corrections. It's not based on the fact that I worked a tier a long time ago. It's based on the fact I pay attention to the research. California Department of Corrections has 50 researchers on staff. I've watched it ebb and flow over time about the willingness to allow outside researchers. Because much like John said, some people value it and they're afraid of it, some people don't. I honestly think to be effective in these jobs you have to not need a job. I can speak the way I want to speak because if somebody didn't like the way I spoke, they can exit me stage left or stage right, which makes me a little bit more willing to be brave.
What I expect my employees to do, because John and I, we come and go. Somebody else will sit in this panel three years from now. What you have to do is to push the philosophy about corrections as an art and as a science down to the DNA of the organization. As John says, don't let just somebody come to you and say, "Violence is up because we were serving spaghetti yesterday." Really? Well, let's see how many times we've served spaghetti over the last year and let's see whether or not violence was up each of those days. Maybe if there was new drugs in, maybe it was pruno, maybe somebody kicked somebody's shoes that day. I think you have to have the courage to make the decision to do research.
Researchers have to be responsible with research. Oftentimes, people will come and say, "Hey listen, Terri, we'd like to do some research on blah, blah." But that research entity hasn't proven to be responsible with their research. They have an agenda on the front end. Having relationships with universities that you can call on them for independent research, and pushing your public agency, your legislature, your board of supervisors, whoever it is, to ensure that you have actual data sets that you can research. I think you'll find that's very difficult at the local level, most state systems have pretty progressive systems. But you get to a county jail system, for example, they may not have a lot of infrastructure to actually align themselves to research. I think if we want to say we are a profession that's an art and science, then research comes hand in hand with that. As John says, you got to be a risk-taker. You're not going to get a homerun if you don't swing the bat. Now I am a Dodgers fan today, I'm a little bereft. Somebody should've swung the bat a little bit better. I think you have to be willing to swing the bat, and you're going to hit some homeruns and you're going to strikeout, and then our bosses have to be patient with our audacious and courageous risk-taking, responsible. Then use research to adjust quickly and don't wait for that three-year research, you got to kind of deal with promising practices on the front end.
DAVID B. MUHLHAUSEN: All right. All right, thank you, everybody. I would like transition at this point and take questions from the audience and also from Webex. We have three microphones to my right, the center, and the left. So please stand up and say your name and affiliation, and ask a question.
JOHN STANARD: My name's John Stanard, I do criminal justice reform work for the Church of Scientology's National Office in DC. I'm also on the board of a prison program reentry an inside the jail program called Criminon. I love the discussion that I've heard today. Mr. Wetzel talked a little bit about how the institutions need to be friendly for outside programs coming in. I was a volunteer for our program in D.C. jail for about six years. I have a lot of experiences there. I've got two questions for you guys. Number one, I've always found that the management within the jail was very receptive to our group and many other groups coming in. But the implementation once we got on there, was a little spotty. I'd be interested in your thoughts about how you pull that together. Secondly, I'll be interested in everyone's thoughts here regarding the value of faith-based programming within the institutions and what your institutions are doing with faith-based groups coming in. Thank you.
ALIX MCLEAREN: I can you tell you a little bit about what we do in the Bureau of Prisons in terms of faith-based programming to that piece of your question. The bureau has faith-based volunteers at every one of our 122 facilities around the country representing a wide variety of religions. We have individual practitioners who worship. We have chapels in every facility. People can go use resource libraries, meet with chaplains either of their own faith or participate in various programming at their own speed. There are book clubs and groups that study religious texts in the chapels. Then there are two levels of actual formal programming. One is a residential program and then one is less residential but a similar program offered on more of an outpatient, if you will, basis. Those are called threshold and life connections. They are faith-based reentry programs that are open to individuals who wish to choose from any of a variety of faiths and then they will be provided mentors to make sure that they're working through the program but also honoring the tenants of their individual faith.
GRANT DUWE: Within the Minnesota DOC, we have evaluated a program back then, it was called Interfaith Freedom Initiative or IFI which is run by prison fellowship. Now it's called Prison Fellowship Academy. When we evaluated it, we found that it did produce a reduction in recidivism. One of the questions then was, "Well, is it the faith part that reduced recidivism or was it something else?" It's difficult to really disentangle that because what we see with a lot of faith-based programming is that that those who have greater religious involvement are more likely to volunteer. And so, those faith-based programs tend to attract more volunteers. Those volunteers come in from the community and they also provide support after individuals get released. They provide this pro-social support that is critical because one thing that a lot of people forget is that anti-social peers is a major recidivism risk factor. When individuals come in, and whether this is prison visitation or mentorship or even something like faith-based programming, they're addressing a recidivism risk factor in addition to potentially some other recidivism risk factors. I've been involved with other research where we looked at a Bible college in Angola and that's kind of outside the scope of this. Generally speaking, what we do see is that, you know, with faith-based programs that there is that social support piece that is critical.
JOHN WETZEL: I find volunteer programs to be some of the more transformative things I've seen. I think the fact that when people come in and volunteer their time to invest in someone's life, who they're not being paid or reimbursed to do. I think individuals who are incarcerated, I think it resonates with them. They're very popular programs for us. As far as the cultural stuff with staff, I think it’s all about a valued proposition. I think we're all the same that if we see a value in something and not just that like this high value for the society, but how does it benefit me? I think from a correctional leadership standpoint, I think that's an important message. Listen, these programs keep individuals productively occupied, really encourage appropriate behavior. As a line correctional officer, you benefit from that.
I also tell volunteers all the time, we really go out of our way to acknowledge volunteers. We do an annual ceremony at each one of our prisons and we do a state-wide one because we think it's an important part of the fiber of our organization. What I also tell volunteers is it's okay to say hi to staff too. It's a two-way street. I think if you put 10 people in the room, one of them is going to be a jerk. I think that formula goes over every group we deal with. So, I encourage people when you have that bad interaction, understand that's one in 10, right? Let's focus on the other ones. But I think it's a very important part of it. Then when you talk about reentering, you talk about community connections. When you talk about pro-social supports and those kinds of things, plugging individuals into positive faith communities upon reentry, that's good stuff.
CHIEF TERRI MCDONALD: John, I don't know if you're going to remember this. John and I were at some event where we were recommending awards for research grants. Dr. Ed Latessa, some of you may know him or know his name out of University of Cincinnati, I asked him the question, "What's emerging? We all know R & R, we got it. What's new? What's on cutting edge?" What he said is he believes that the role of mentorship will play a significant role in the emerging research about how does that enrich mentorship, faith-based does that. Then that aftercare release mentorship, how does that drive down future criminality. I also agree with John that folks have to understand the conditions in which our employees work. They're hyper alert. They're hyper diligent. These are tough jobs. So, saying hi, saying what can I do for you, having a relationship with the staff will do far more than me coming in and having a meeting with 400 employees and saying, "I value people coming from the outside. Be value added." If you're encountering an employee who is that one jerk, don't engage in the code of silence around that behavior. Let somebody know so that management can do some CBT work with the employee. [laughter]
DAVID B. MUHLHAUSEN: Great. All right. Next question please.
PAT MARKS: Pat Marks, United Methodist Women. My question is not faith-based. My question springs off of what Ms. McDonald said about the foster care system. Our focus is the school-to-prison pipeline. Our question is how to disrupt that with — how do we get the juvenile system working with the Child Protective Services System?
CHIEF TERRI MCDONALD: Sure. Much like we've been mentioning here today is that law enforcement stepped into a lane where other systems are not holding up their end of the bargain. Whether that's families, or schools, or religious institutions, or mental health, or drug treatment, all of a sudden in America, more and more badges came into place and few social workers came into place. I think understanding that our schools need support to deal with young people that are coming from very difficult neighborhoods. Every state has urban settings with high poverty, high violence, high crime. Those schools exist in those areas. If the solution is call the school police when Johnny's acting up and not understanding the trauma that Johnny lives in, all of a sudden they're in the juvenile justice system and on a pathway there.
We have a profound relationship with our Department of Youth and Family Services because we have many kids who are in both systems. What I will tell you we struggle with as leaders is the push off. "It's not my kid. It's your kid, DCF kid,” DCF. “No, no. It's not my kid. It's a probation kid." I long for the day when we fight over the kid. "No. Give me this kid. I'm going to help this kid. No. You give me the kid. I'm going to help the kid." In L.A. County, I had probation staff that were supervising kids in the schools, not on formal probation. They called it "voluntary probation." I'm not in the voluntary probation business. I'm not out looking, broadening my net, scooping up people to come to my system. What I said is, "Let's stop this voluntary probation system and use those dollars to leverage dollars for the school." Because what it costs me for a probation officer in a school, a school can hire a coach and a social worker. Then that kid has not had a personal identity of being supervised by probation. I think we need to talk a whole lot about what leads to that pathway into the juvenile justice system. If somebody's not going to school, why aren't they going to school? Don't just arrest them, give them truancy and all of a sudden they're mine. That's not the right solution to the problem.
JOHN WETZEL: Let me just kind of briefly talk of my journey to this. My answer is always upstream and proactive. Not back stream and reactive. In 2014, we did an initiative called A Time to Lead, which kind of replicated President Obama’s My Brother's Keeper. Governor Corbett, My Brother's Keeper, we would not have called that in Pennsylvania in 2014. So, we call it A Time to Lead. We looked at outcomes around young men of color. What we found is that a young black kid who dropped out of school had a 70 percent lifetime likelihood of being incarcerated. What we also know is that kids who are not reading at grade level by third grade are likely to drop out. To me, it's just as simple as keeping kids in school. Then looking at what does that, the early childhood education program from Nurse-Family Partnership to high quality pre-K and those kinds of things I really think is where it's at. I think we really need to be proactive. We know right now if you overlay outcomes in areas that have high crime, they also have high unemployment. They have poor education outcomes. When we do heat maps around these things, everything is in the same area.
I'll tell you what we did in Pennsylvania. We decided to be more proactive and we created through legislation what's called the First Chance Trust Fund. What that does is that puts a 1 percent surcharge on every contract with Department of Corrections over $5 million. That 1 percent goes to programs specifically to impact kids in high crime areas. You would think it wouldn't be controversial. It got a little controversial, but we ended up getting it through the budget process. The notion there is that we know that kids in certain ZIP codes have a challenging environment, but we have an opportunity to be proactive and put pro-social supports before they ever hit the criminal justice system. We need to get out of using this lens of the criminal justice system to address these things and be more proactive in front end. We're not splitting the atom here. Our First Chance Trust Fund seeks to fund programs like Boys and Girls Club, Big Brothers and Big Sisters. I would tell you every year, I do three pre-K events outside of my prisons where we invite providers and community people, and we talk about trying to get beyond the next election and think about funding these programs proactively to put kids in a posture where they can be successful. Think, the high bar that we want kids to be able to read at grade level at third grade. I think I really want to push us out of the criminal justice system for some of this stuff and just fund systems that we know work, and fund it in a way that we can get these kids on track.
CHIEF TERRI MCDONALD: Let me add to that. If you go to your juvenile halls and camps in your jurisdiction, I can assure you they're going to be disproportionally young people of color. Los Angeles County, I would say 90 percent of the young people in detention are young people of color. It's not just the school issue, it's the criminal justice decisions around young people that take a look at them. Am I making decisions based on implicit bias of the color of people's skin because it is alarming? If we all left here today and we went and watched the arraignment court here in Washington, D.C. you will see 95 percent of the people are African-American, I believe. I think somewhere around there. I think disproportionality, our schools underinvested in high-need communities. We have to do a better job. The truth of the matter is if we really wanted to reduce state prison populations, Federal Bureau of Prison population, you would push that money down like John's talking about, down to the front, the very beginning of it, to stem the tide of what comes behind these problematic communities.
MONIQUE RILEY: Hi, everybody. My name is Monique Riley. I work for the Department of Justice, Office of Inspector General in the Evaluations and Inspections Division, so I am not new to research. I appreciate this panel today. I think that one of the main things that I loved about listening to the discussion today was that you guys talked a lot about changing the narrative about how we deliver criminal justice services. You, Terri, talked about being courageous in talking about accountability, looking different for each person and each crime. I really appreciate that so I wanted to start first by saying that. My question is about prison programs for reentry for inmates who have shorter sentences versus inmates with longer sentences. We know that prison programs work and have good outcomes that are much longer just because they get to stay in the program longer. But at the state, federal, and local levels, how have we been changing reentry services so that people with shorter sentences can receive some of those same benefits?
GRANT DUWE: I can go ahead and start with that one. I think one thing that's worth emphasizing at the outset is that for those who come into prison and have short stays, they are much more likely to be warehoused. They're much more likely to go into prison and not do anything, just sit there, idle for the whole time. That produces bad outcomes all the way around. Those who stay for short periods of time are more likely to come into prison as either a probation violator or as a parole violator. What we have seen is a number of states have tried to reduce the number of admissions for probation and parole violators, which I think is a step in the right direction. But it's difficult to provide effective programming to those who are prison for three or four months because what we see even with an effective intervention like a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Program, that's going to last at least 90 days. Most effective correctional programs do take longer than that. I think that's a consideration that we need to keep in mind when we're deciding how long someone should be in prison. Sometimes, when people hear that, they think, "Oh, well, we just need to make prison longer for everybody." Not exactly. What needs to happen is that we need to reduce those short stays in prison. So instead of someone coming in for 90 days, maybe it's a 150, or a 180. But at the same time, on the back end for someone who's in prison for 10 years that should be ample time to participate in programming. What benefit do we really get if someone's in prison in year eight, or year nine, or year 10? Instead focusing more on getting those individuals out of prison and not warehousing them.
ALIX MCLEAREN: I would just like to point out that I think this is where your halfway house or what we call Residential Reentry Centers can really come into play because I agree with most of what you said. When people are in for a very short time, some of these programs are just designed to be longer. While the bureau does offer shorter workshop versions of things that people can take when they don't have the time to do it, the reality is treatment is not something that happens overnight, behavioral changes, changes in thinking patterns, those do take time. Many people releasing out of prison, even if they did return on a violation, which like you said are some of the shorter sentences, are going to go to some kind of transitional place which we call RRCs in the bureau, but most systems have something similar. Treatment can take place there in a community setting, you can still have those CBT programs and they can continue often with the person as they move on out of the halfway house and into the community based services full time.
JOHN WETZEL: I think this is the perfect group where we really need to not paint by numbers and prison systems are notoriously not agile and we notoriously treat everybody the same way. A third of our new court commits have less than a year to serve. We call them short mends and we were apparently one vote away from a good legislative fix, but the session ended so that's not going to happen. This is a group where I think you have to differentiate and then you have to have a different approach and both end in that, you could start services inside, and follow them outside. I think this is also a group that's really right for something like Medication-Assisted Treatment. We're getting ready to expand and offer every available Medication-Assisted Treatment. The target group is parole violators and short mends, or people who come in less than a year. That way, we can keep them on the medication throughout and just like everyone else, we're struggling with this opioid epidemic and our percentage of new commits has doubled from 6 percent to 12 percent over the past 10 years. That's a group that we're going to specifically target to keep on Medication-Assisted Treatment from the time they come in the door, out the back door. I think the third truism with this group is this is the most critical group to make sure we keep them as close to home as we can. Now, in Pennsylvania, we have a structural bed deficit. We have 10,000 more inmates from the East than we have beds in the East and vice versa in the West. This group in particular, we should be keeping them as close to home as possible and then engaging those community groups so we can create the continuum that we talked about earlier. Keeping them plugged in to their communities when it's appropriate and plugged in to the supports is actually part of the treatment.
CHIEF TERRI MCDONALD: Prison should be for people you're afraid of, not that you're mad at. Somebody coming into prison for three months, you're not afraid of that person. So the question is, what kind of sentencing reform can we do that doesn't let somebody that's got three months left to serve go up to prison? It's the most expensive solution to have a bad outcome. Processing in the reception centers are some of your most expensive beds. Most systems, California Department of Corrections could take up to 60 days to process somebody through reception. And then, to serve 30 more days, how ridiculous is that to bring him upstream? There were all kinds of solutions to that problem, but I think the legislature has to look themselves in the eyes and say, "Why are we shifting people with 30, 60, 90 days left to serve to the state prison system?" In California, a parole violator cannot serve their time in state person anymore. The parole violators, because of realignment, serve their time in the county jail. But even that's not really a good solution because they go in, they're doing whatever they're doing, they're not getting treatment, they're popping right back out. I think a fresh-eyed look about how you're using those very valuable state prison beds, making different decisions about front end investments into facilities that you're not afraid of if they escape. You know, I love John. He says, "Medicated-assistant therapy." That's drug treatment. It's not prison. I think we just do what the legislator orders us to do. I think at a certain point, we have to challenge to say why are the sentencing solutions sending people to prison that really aren't violent? They don't have long periods of time to serve and what could we do different and what environment can we put people in that has a better solution, arresting behaviors, not arresting bodies.
DAVID B. MUHLHAUSEN: All right. Yeah. One more person to ask a question?
JESSICA STROOP: My name is Jessica Stroop. I'm with the Bureau of Justice Statistics. The conversation about research has been really beneficial and to dovetail off of the last question. I was interested in hearing the panel’s thoughts if you know of anything that's happening at your state and local levels that give good outcome indicators for the short term stays. I know that one of the things that we struggle with on the research side is figuring out who is eligible for some of our studies, not just in the prison side but on the jails as well, and struggling with the movement that occurs particularly in the jails that oftentimes we are not able to get good research on the pre-adjudicated population because they're moving around so much. Just the logistics alone of trying to get some information in research about these folks presents a logistical challenge. I was wondering if at the state level, if you know of anything that you could share with us that is beneficial that you're able to capture from these populations of these short stays, be it on the prison side or on the jail side. What can we be looking at to see changes and meaningful data that can be garnered from these short stays because that's something that we struggle with I think on the national level?
GRANT DUWE: I can go ahead and weigh on that one. I think — so, if I'm interpreting the question correctly, I think some of it is the type of programming that we can provide short stay inmates and what…
JESSICA STROOP: No. It's not about programming. It's more about what is expected in [INDISTINCT] for short stays.
JESSICA STROOP: Yeah. Some of the outcome measures that you can effectively get for people that are in these facilities for short amount of time.
GRANT DUWE: I'm not sure…
JESSICA STROOP: [INDISTINCT]
GRANT DUWE: Right. I think the question seems to assume that there are possibly good outcomes from short stays. I guess my argument would be the evidence that we've compiled when looking at Minnesota's prison population, and we've looked at this in-depth, is that the outcomes are significantly worse when we're looking at those who are there for short stays. That's one of the reasons why we see that length of stay is positively associated with better outcomes. Again, that's not to say that we need to increase lengths of stay in order to achieve better outcomes. But I do think there's a point at which bringing someone into prison for two months or three months just is not a good idea. It doesn't achieve any kind of good public safety outcome and I think it's wasteful and it's costly. There's a much better way to do prison than that.
CHIEF TERRI MCDONALD: If the research shows, I don't know if it's 70, or 80, or 60 percent. It depends on who you're asking and what day of the week is. That many people come to enter the system over addiction issues. That's what John mentioned about medicated-assistant therapy. The jails may be a classic place in which to begin at intake. I always say, “I'm in the greatest crisis and most willing to change the day after crisis.” If I — God-willing, had a heart attack today, tomorrow I'm not eating cheeseburgers anymore. I'm done with the cheeseburgers. I'm eating salad. I'm going to exercise, all of that. What happens in jails is people come in crisis. You're getting them the worst day in their life. Imagine a world in which rather than just an intake officer talking to you or a mental health clinician but a drug treatment counselor is talking to you that when you wake up the next day and say, "Hey, aren't you tired?" Jails generally in L.A County, the average time for the pre-trial population is 13 days. , What can you do in 13 days? You might introduce them to something. But imagine a world that — like John said medicated-assistant therapy is tapped on there as well as, because we're an ACA state, an introduction into drug treatment center while they're there.
JOHN WETZEL: I suggest you connect with the council state government's justice centers specifically around the initiative they're doing, it's Stepping Up, where they're cross-walking human service and jail data specifically around individuals with behavioral health issues. They did one in Dauphin County in Harrisburg. They did a year in a county doing a deep dive into their data, and data collection, and the challenges. Richard Cho is the head of that. I think that’s probably the best illustration as far as how to capture really good data around short term transient population. They actually did it in two pipes. The behavioral health data and the criminal justice data and cross-walked it.
DAVID B. MUHLHAUSEN: All right. One last question.
REENA CHAKRABORTY: I'm Reena Chakraborty. I'm an NIJ Practitioner fellow but I work for the D.C. Department of Corrections which is a large municipal jail system. My question is giving that in jails the lengths of stay are so short, how good of a measure do you think recidivism actually is for measuring the success of outcomes of people who we have in our custody and who may or may not receive programming? A follow up would be, do you have alternative measures that you would suggest?
JOHN WETZEL: First of all, say hi to Quincy for us. We love Quincy. The guy who runs D.C., he's a great guy. I think— my thing is measure something. Define it, and measure it, and baseline it, and then make adjustments. I don't think in the jail world it's very difficult when recidivism is your sole measure, but if you have the opportunity to develop other measures such as employment, such as use in another systems. We talked about the Stepping Up work and looking at individuals for instance staying in treatment, or engaging in treatment, or staying sober if they're on probation sobriety. I think there's a myriad of measures. I think the key is just find something you can consistently measure, agree on a definition, actually tell people what the definition is, so recidivism in my system means ABC and then consistently measure it. I ran a jail for nine years and spent most of my career working jails, it's very complicated. Our data systems, at least in Pennsylvania jails, are terrible. Even any recidivism I would've put out was a guess based on a real tight definition. I think just the exercise of agreeing on what you're going to measure, and then measuring it, and publicizing it is the critical part. I don't think the what is as important as that you do it.
CHIEF TERRI MCDONALD: So your other question, I agree with John as I always do. Your question about "What do you recommend?" You have to ask yourself the question, “If somebody comes in the jail and then they go to the court and the court releases them in 48 hours, 72 hours, why did they come to jail?” Start to take a look at the arresting processes in your jurisdiction and begin to innovate like the LEAD Program out of Seattle. Los Angeles has it as well. Pre-arrest diversion. Again, churning somebody through a jail is the most expensive thing that you can do. We know that the research shows that if they've been locked up for three days, the outcomes are terrible. They lose their jobs, they lose houses, they lose family. Really look at who's coming in, why they're coming in, are there some front end pre-arrest diversion programs that your jurisdictions, your counties can begin to engage in. Do the research on the front end, there's plenty of partners that want to help in this lane, whether it's Pew or others. They're more than happy to help you think through it. Then start using those valuable jail beds for folks that really are on a pipeline, maybe the prison or to longer detention settings.
GRANT DUWE: One additional measure that I think would be worth looking at is the safety within the facility. We often focused on recidivism which is a public safety measure. I think institutional safety is critical. When you have inmates who are there for shorter periods of time, you want to look at whether they're being placed in security levels where they're safe but then staff safety too.
DAVID B. MUHLHAUSEN: All right. I’d like to take a moment to bring this to a close. I'd like to say thanks to the panel. This has been a very good conversation and I hope we can learn from it. Thank you very much.
Date Created: December 6, 2018