Monthly Archives: February 2016

Breaking the Cycle of Violence By Reaching Youth At School

This podcast is part of a series highlighting innovative approaches to reducing violence and improving health
outcomes among at-risk minority youth at the nine demonstration sites of the Minority
Youth Violence Prevention Initiative
. One of these demonstrations sites is Youth Intercept,
a hospital-based violence-prevention program in Chatham County, Georgia, that aims to break the cycle of youth violence
and retaliation by providing educational services and referrals to public health services to at-risk minority youth.

Sheryl Sams, director of Youth Intercept, joined this week’s podcast
to discuss how Youth Intercept has adapted the hospital-based violence intervention model to meet the needs of Chatham
County, including the program’s development of a school-based element to serve youth in the Chatham County Public



following is a transcript.

POPE-SUSSMAN: Hi, this is Rafael Pope-Sussman
of the Center for Court Innovation. This podcast is part of a series we are doing with people seeking to curb violence
and improve access to public health for at-risk minority youth as part of the Minority Youth Violence Prevention
Initiative. The initiative is a partnership of the Office of Minority Health at the US Department of Health and Human
Services, and the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services at the U.S. Department of Justice that encourages
collaboration among public health organizations, law enforcement agencies, and community-based groups. Our podcast
series highlights innovative approaches at the nine demonstration sites that have received funding under the program.

In today’s podcast, I’m speaking with Sheryl Sams, director of the Youth Intercept Program, an
anti-violence program in Chatham Country, Georgia, operated by the Chatham County district attorney’s office
in partnership with Memorial Health University Medical Center, the Chatham County Public Schools, and other local
justice system agencies. Youth Intercept provides educational services and referrals to public health services to
at-risk youth, particularly black males between the ages of 10 to 18. This podcast focuses on how Youth Intercept
has adapted the hospital-based violence intervention model to meet the needs of Chatham County, including the program’s
development of a school-based element to serve youth in the Chatham County Public Schools.

thank you for speaking with me today, and welcome. What is Youth Intercept?

SAMS: Youth Intercept
is basically a violence intervention program. We work first to assist individuals who actually come in the hospital
between the ages of 12 and 25 to break the cycle of violence first, to encourage positive interactions in the community,
to assist in decreasing the amount of retaliation in our community, as well as re-offenses and re-admissions to the
hospital. The other aspect of that is the prevention piece, where we are working with individuals in our school systems,
kids in our school systems between the ages of 12 and 20 who are having behavioral issues or truancy issues, or any
of those things that may be a concern to the school system as far as teachers or social workers as well as parents
that may be alarming to them that there’s a possibility of those children actually committing crimes or getting
into trouble. We work with them to actually develop positive self-esteem and give them other avenues of engagement
in the community that are positive.

POPE-SUSSMAN: The Youth Intercept Program has received funding
under the Minority Youth Violence Prevention Initiative, which is really focused on partnerships between law enforcement
and public health. I was wondering if you could talk about how that model fits into the work that is being done at
Youth Intercept.

SAMS: We are, with the district attorney office of course, it is a law enforcement
entity. What we do is, instead of trying to put people behind bars, we’re trying to keep them out, particularly
with our youth, just being able to work together to change the way that our young people think about law enforcement.
Typically, as they’re growing, they get this negative impression of law enforcement, and they think that we’re
there to harm them. However, with this partnership, we’re able to create healthy relationships between the two.
It really works well.

POPE-SUSSMAN: Your program is based on the hospital-based violence intervention
model that was created by Youth Alive in Oakland. I was wondering if we could talk about how the model works at Youth
Intercept, and how you’ve adapted it for your jurisdiction.

SAMS: Really, it works hand in
hand, pretty much the same. We are at a hospital, we’re at Memorial University Medical Center. We have a collaboration
with them, and we are able to work directly in the hospital. Our office is located 100 feet away from the ER, which
allows us to respond immediately to victims of violence and intentional injuries. They allow us to have pagers, so
we have pagers on us at all time. At that point, any time a victim of a violent intentional injury actually is seem
in the ED, we get a page letting us know that that person is there. It gives specific information on the age and
race of the individual as well as the type of injury. We’re able to respond immediately.

addition to that, we work with the medical staff, the trauma staff, which actually contacts us as well. We’re
able to work with them immediately within a 24-hour period, just depending on the type of injury they have. We also
work with their family members if there’s a situation where the injured party cannot talk at that time. We are
at the hospital waiting to talk to family members to get pertinent information so that we’re able to move forward
with that client.

Once we have contact with the client or family member, we basically offer them
what we call Georgia Crimes Compensation, which allows them an opportunity to have their hospital bills paid up to
$15,000 as well as counseling. If the person is working, it allows them economic support for reimbursement of $10,000,
and in the event that that person [expires 00:06:15], Georgia Crimes Compensation can actually pay up to $6,000.
We inform either the family member or the injured party about the resources that are available to assist, and then
we inform them about our Youth Intercept Program, and what services we can provide. Upon leaving the hospital, we
set up an appointment with them to then work with them on a case management plan.

In the original Youth Alive model, there was not a school-based component, and I know that’s something the district
attorney she brought in when she came into office. I’m wondering how your office thinks that fits into the model?

SAMS: Well, I would say that with the data that we collected over the years with the hospital-based portion
of the program, we saw that there was a lot of the victims that have some of the same background information such
as truancy issues and school, and the reason why they actually dropped out of school. There were certain risk factors
that we saw that lead us to the school system. We felt there was a need to reach out to the schools and say hey,
let’s get this program started so that we can prevent other youth from coming into the hospital if we work on
the side of eliminating the issues that they have on the front end so that they don’t end up in the hospital
or perhaps deceased.

POPE-SUSSMAN: What are the results you’ve seen?

I would say definitely we’re having a huge success rate in the sense that we actually had about 1% of the individuals
that we’re working with who actually commit a re-offense. However, we’re seeing that there is an increase
in their education levels as well as their truancy rates, so they’re staying in school, they’re enrolled
into positive after-school activities, and are able to increase their academic scores. We’re seeing that that
has been a positive thing.

POPE-SUSSMAN: I’m wondering how you’re measuring outcomes.

With our school-based program, we measure the individual at intake, so we’re looking at their grades at intake,
and we compare it to their exit, as well as a midpoint of achievement. Also, looking at their truancy rate, how many
days they actually missed, when they entered our program, where were they at, and where are they now? We document
changes in behavior as well as during life skills, we do pre and post exams to determine if they are actually learning
from the life skills that we’re teaching. With the hospital-based program, we measure whether those individuals
have actually received certain services like mental health counseling and if they actually did not have a job, and
now they have a job. Or if they weren’t enrolled in school, and now they are enrolled in school. Those are some
of the things that we look at. Also, if there has been a re-offence or a re-injury, also looking at mental health.

POPE-SUSSMAN: Have you partnered with any sort of research organization?

SAMS: We are
actually working with Georgia Southern University; I think it’s the criminal justice department that will actually
work directly with us to gather data to be able to do it in a research-based form.

Fantastic. Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me.

SAMS: Thank you, I certainly
appreciate it. It’s been delightful.

POPE-SUSSMAN: This has been Rafael Pope-Sussman with
the Center for Court Innovation, and I’ve been speaking with Sheryl Sams, the director of Youth Intercept. For
more information on the Center for Court Innovation, visit

The Strengths and Limitations of Risk Assessment: Professor Susan Turner of the University of California-Irvine

In this podcast recorded at the Courts,
Community Engagement, and Innovative Practices in a Changing Landscape
 symposium held
in Anaheim in December 2015, 
Susan Turner, professor in the department of Criminology,
Law & Society at the University of California-Irvine, explains how risk assessment tools are developed and
discusses the strengths and limitations of risk assessment. 

POPE-SUSSMAN: This is Raphael Pope Sussman, with the Center for Court Innovation. This podcast is part of a series
of dispatches from the Court’s Community Engagement and Innovative Practices in a Changing Landscape Symposium
held in Anaheim in December 2015. The conference focused on justice reforms, including recent developments in California,
public safety realignment and Proposition 47. Public safety realignment refers to changes brought about by 2011 legislation
that shifted responsibility for certain populations of offenders from the State to the county level. Proposition
47, a ballot initiative passed by referendum in 2014 reclassified certain low level felonies as misdemeanors. I hope
you enjoy listening.

Hi, this is Raphael Pope Sussman, with the Center for Court Innovation, and
I’m here today at the Court’s Community Engagement and Innovative Practices in a Changing Landscape Conference
in Anaheim. Right now I’m sitting with Susan Turner, professor in the Department of Criminology, Law and Society
at University of California, Irvine. Susan, thank you for speaking with me today.

Glad to be here.

POPE-SUSSMAN: What’s the process for developing a new risk assessment tool?

TURNER: Well, risk assessment tools can be developed by an organization. There are also ones that are available
that have been developed by others, so some of the first decisions that jurisdictions make is whether to do it home
grown or whether or not to buy something that’s been developed and is available for purchase, or is perhaps
free. If you’re interested in developing a risk tool for your jurisdiction, one of first things you need to
decide is what are you interested in predicting? Most jurisdictions in risk assessment are interested in predicting
some kind of recidivism behavior, such as arrest or incarceration or conviction. Then we generally use a set of variables
that are related to an offender’s prior record, age or gender, and then some other factors that may be related
to their drug use, mental health status, their association with criminal peers. You basically need to make sure that
you have the data for your left hand and your right hand side of the equation.

You gather the
information on an individual level, so for every person you’re interested in, you gather information on whatever
outcome and then their record, their variables such as their gender, their age, and their prior record. You want
to have a sample that’s large enough. You put them generally in a regression equation, where you try to figure
out whether or not these factors are predictive. You’re able to gather weights for the variables based on these
mocks. For example, if you’re predicting whether somebody would be convicted, you might have age and you’d
have a weight of 5, gender you’d have a weight of 3, different prior record variables would have various weights.
You can just imagine sort of scoring everybody up, and the higher the scores, generally the more likely someone will
recidivate. Once you do that on one half of your sample, you build your model. Then you do something called validation
on a separate set of data that you haven’t looked at before and that tells you whether or not what you’ve
developed on your first sample validates or is predictive on your second sample. That’s basically a kind of
simplistic view, but the overall gist is that you have data available, you develop your instrument on one half of
the sample and test it on the second.

POPE-SUSSMAN: What are the limitations of these tools?

TURNER: Well, there’s a lot of good things about the tools and there are, of course, always limitations
with any kind of tool. Risk assessment for recidivism is, like many other risk tools, we have risk tools in our regular
lives. You think of your car insurance premiums that you pay are based on risk assessment tools. Risk assessments
tools are only as good as the data that are behind them, number one. Another limitation to risk assessments tools
that we all need to be aware of is that they’re never 100% accurate, and probably will never be 100% accurate.
They generally are what’s referred to as a moderately good predictor, but because of the nature of human behavior
and variables that we don’t know why people do the things we do, we can never gain 100% accuracy, which sometimes
gets us into trouble with say politicians who have very high standards for whether or not you want to use an instrument.
Sometimes so high that they’re really not practical.

POPE-SUSSMAN: What are the great strengths?

TURNER: Great strengths are that we normally discuss risk assessments tools contrasted with what we refer
to clinical judgment, or some people call it gut. The research has shown that actuarial tools or risk prediction
instruments are more accurate than gut or clinical experience. Many people don’t like to believe that because
they’re often trained in a clinical background, or you can imagine a parole agent with 30 years of experience
is sometimes looking askew at risk assessments tool, but they’re more accurate. They can also result in decision
making that’s more consistent, because you can imagine the great variability if everyone follows their own gut.
You have lots of different ways the same person might be scored, so there’s consistency. There’s also,
with some risk assessments tools the advantage of time. Some of them are automated so for large numbers of people
they can be scored pretty quickly, allowing an agency to be able to get actuarial tool on a number of offenders without
the resources that may be required for, say, 45 or 50 minute instruments that are collected individually.

POPE-SUSSMAN: What roles do you see for risk assessments tools in the larger project of decarceration?

TURNER: One of the things we’ve talked about here today was the use of risk assessment and one of the
things I mentioned was that risk assessment’s been around for a long time. It’s got a resurgence nowadays,
I think partly because we’re trying to reduce the current populations that we have incarcerated and we don’t
have enough money to be able to keep everyone locked up. Money is driving a lot of decisions and one of them I think
actually may be risk assessment. We need to decide who are the highest risk people, the ones that we need to devote
our resources to, our public safety resources, and to not spend the resources on the ones who are the lower risk.

POPE-SUSSMAN: How do we ensure that risk tools don’t show bias against individuals and communities
that may have disproportionate rates of established risk factors, like housing or employment or disability?

TURNER: Very good question. I think there are a number of people who are concerned with risk assessments
tools based on dimensions that may impact certain groups unfairly. Many risk assessments tools use an offender’s
prior record as a major variable in their recidivism outcomes. Then there’s obviously the question, if prior
records are somehow biased in their very creation within communities of color, what does that mean in terms of risk
assessments tools. It’s a very valid question. One of the ways that we help address this is when we develop
tools, we take a look at and see how well the tools works with the different populations of interest.

example, when we developed a tool for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, we were particularly
concerned about whether the tool predicted for females as well as males, because there’s a lot of work suggesting
that some of the risk factors for women are different and for men. Also, we were concerned about whether the risk
tool worked equally well for blacks and Hispanics and whites and other groups. What we do with those is that we separate
the samples into the groups of interest and check to see whether the tool is as predictive in each of the groups.
If you find a tool that doesn’t work very well in one of the segments that you’re interested in, then you
need to go back to the drawing board.

POPE-SUSSMAN: I’ve heard that misdemeanor populations
are particularly difficult to assess. Why is that?

TURNER: Well, the discussion of misdemeanor
risk assessments has really come into the light here in California with proposition 47. Traditionally, most of us
deal with risk assessments in the felony world. All the risk assessments tools I’ve done are pretty much predicting
felony recidivism. There is a question, are these tools good for misdemeanors. There are tools out there that have
been developed for misdemeanors. There’s a tool for misdemeanor DUIs and some tools that are developed by the
University of Cincinnati team have established one that’s for misdemeanors. They basically work the same as
the felony tools. They’re predicting a different kind of an outcome, which is maybe a lower level of behavior.
What we find with our risk tools is that these tools can be very robust to different populations and different kind
of outcomes.

POPE-SUSSMAN: Do you have any big vision going forward, the next step for risk assessment?

TURNER: Well, one of the risk assessment has always been used pretrial for a long time. It’s been used
the last 20 or 30 years at the probation stage. I think more recently it’s being considered at the sentencing
stage, which I think in many ways has a little more ethical issues, whether or not in sentencing actually considering
risk as opposed to the sentence type.

POPE-SUSSMAN: What do you mean by ethical issues?

TURNER: I mean, what’s the purpose of sentencing and some people say the purpose of sentencing is that
it should be proportionate to the crime that was committed and that our statutes are based, sentences are based on
perceived severity of violent offences being more serious that property offenses and you reserve the highest sentence
lengths for the more violent. If you move to a risk based system and you say, well as we found in our research, people
convicted of violent crimes are not necessarily the most likely to re-offend, so you basically a conflict going with
what is the justice based, in terms of the offense, versus a risk based, which is about future behavior. That’s
sort of conflict that you’ve got to figure out how you’re going to deal with. In our own development of
the risk tool for the State, in our training and discussion of the tool, we’ve come across people who are very
perplexed by our findings that show that people who have convictions for violent offenses, there’s actually
what we refer to as negative weights on that, so that people with violent offenses are actually less likely to have
recidivism than those that don’t, which is very counter-intuitive.

that would also get to people’s ideas about what the justice system is supposed to do. Is it supposed to be
punitive? Is it supposed to be rehabilitative? Is it supposed to be utilitarian?

I think, as I teach my students, a couple things you have to remember. If you remember a couple of things, you go
out after school it’ll be very helpful. One of the them is to remember always the different purposes of punishment.
One is deterrence, and that’s what we we think risk based decision making is based on. But there’s retribution,
incapacitation. Yeah, there’s many philosophies of what the goal of punishment is. I think risk prediction sets
you straight in the cross hairs of some of the other theories of punishment.

thank you. I really appreciate you taking the time to speak with me.

TURNER: Thank you very much
for the opportunity.

POPE-SUSSMAN: This is Raphael Pope Sussman, of the Center for Court Innovation,
and I’ve been speaking with Susan Turner, Professor in the Department of Criminology, Law and Society at the
University of California, Irvine. For more information on the Center for Court Innovation, visit


‘Evidence-based Practices for Community Corrections’: San Diego County Chief Probation Officer Mack Jenkins

In this podcast recorded at the Courts,
Community Engagement, and Innovative Practices in a Changing Landscape
 symposium held
in Anaheim in December 2015, San Diego County Chief Probation Office Mack Jenkins discusses the importance
of risk assessment and how his department uses evidence-based practices to tailor its responses to offenders on probation.

following is a transcript

This is Raphael Pope-Sussman with the Center for Court Innovation. This podcast is part of a series of dispatches
from the Courts, Community Engagement, and Innovative Practices in a Changing Landscape symposium held in
Anaheim in December 2015. The conference focused on justice reforms including recent developments in California,
public safety realignment, and proposition 47. Public safety realignment refers to changes brought about by 2011
legislation that shifted responsibility for certain populations of offenders from the state to the county level.
Proposition 47, a ballot initiative passed by referendum in 2014, reclassified certain low level felonies as misdemeanors.

Today I’m speaking with chief Mack Jenkins, chief probation officer San Diego County. Mack, thank you
for speaking with me today and welcome.

Jenkins: Thank you for having
me. I look forward to the conversation.

After proposition 47, what’s the role of the probation department? How has your job changed and how is the job
of individual probation officers changed?

Jenkins: With 47, what
happens is a number of individuals that we’re responsible for supervising may be eligible to be re-sentenced.
If they’re re-sentenced, some of them might actually leave our workload as it were. In that sense, we really
don’t have a role. Part of what we do right now in San Diego County as a state actually as well, is going through
the process of trying to identify individuals who are eligible to be re-sentenced under prop 47. We cooperate with
the court, with the public defenders office, and with the district attorney’s office in trying to identify individuals
who again may be eligible to be re-sentenced.

Pope-Sussman: Can you
talk about your work on community supervision? I know you’ve worked on supervision programs for DV offenders,
sex offenders, substance offenders.

Jenkins: Sure, happy to. The
great role that the probation department plays in the criminal justice system is a community supervision role. What
that means is I actually think we are very key players and sometimes understated players because folks don’t
really have general public and sometimes even other system stakeholders, don’t have a great awareness of what
we do. What we do is critical because when you think about the American criminal justice system, law enforcement
is very well known. The courts are really well known, but law enforcement’s role really ends at arrest. The
court’s role in the traditional system ends at this position. Those individuals who are in the juvenile justice
system, probation is the most common judicial sanction in this country in the criminal justice system.

What that means is individuals who’ve committed crimes get arrested and are adjudicated come to probation.
Our role there is to work with those individuals, hold them accountable for orders that the court may have imposed
on them, then this is the most important part of our role. Our role is to help them make changes in their behavior
so that they can leave system better than how they came to it. That’s what we do. We, probation as an entity,
as community corrections practitioners I think are critical in recidivism reductions and keeping our public safe
and restoring troubled lives.

Pope-Sussman: How do you deal with
maybe some of those particularly challenging demographics?

Again, that’s a good question. I appreciate that you ask it because what we are learning in 2013, 2015 is that
in order to really deal with individuals that come into the system, we shouldn’t look at them by the crime that
they were convicted of. What we have to do is look at them to see who they are as an individual. See what has been
their history both in the criminal justice system but also outside of it. What have been their efforts at prior treatment,
other things in their lives so that we can have a better understanding of how that person got to where they are today.
Then craft an intervention, a case plan that addresses deficits that may have been in their life, and try and engage
them in a positive case plan or treatment plan to make changes.

That’s how we deal with them.
It’s not to say that folks that have been convicted of domestic violence offenses are the same as everybody
else because they are many times there are things related to individuals who and I’m just using domestic violence
as an example. Many times individuals who are domestic violence offenders do have some common traits. One of them
being alcohol. Alcohol is very, very common in domestic violence offenses. Again, we know that what we want to do
with individuals like that is focus on alcohol services, but at the same time maybe anger management and things like

Pope-Sussman: Something that I’ve been reading about in
this field of community supervision and I’m wondering your perspective is, how would you respond to concerns
that expanded community supervision makes it easier or more palatable to keep individuals under some form of correctional

Jenkins: Again, I think it’s a good question. Here’s
my thought, is part of what we do is we do use in my field right now the term evidence-based practices. I always
say evidence-based practices for community corrections. Some of the tenets of the evidence-based practices, in other
words, some of the basic tenets of using practices that show research, by research that they’re effective. One
of the tenets is recognizing who you need to spend time with and who you don’t. Not everybody that comes into
the criminal justice system is at the same risk or has the same likelihood of staying in it, or has the same likelihood
of continuing their behavior.

In terms of questions about community corrections keeps people under
correctional supervision, what we actually know is that even if somebody comes into the criminal justice system doesn’t
want doesn’t mean they need to stay there. Basically what I’m describing is the tenet of risk-based supervision.
What we do is we employ tools to help us identify who’s who. We try to identify those folks who are most in
need of intensive supervision. At the same time identify those folks who don’t need it. Those folks who don’t
need it, we call them low risk offenders. They might well be on probation, but they might be on an unsupervised probation,
because they don’t need intervention. That’s how I respond to it. We don’t treat everybody the same.

Pope-Sussman: Where would you like to see probation in your jurisdiction in
10 years?

Jenkins: What I’d really like to see is the rank and
file officers becoming in addition to as a part of being an impactful and effective deputy probation officer, behavioral
specialists. What I tell my staff now is that they are criminal justice [behavioralists 00:07:17]. What that means
is I think that the profession, the vocation, deputy probation officers can have a higher level of competency of
knowing more about what are some of the behavioral factors that or some of the factors that influence behavior of
the individuals that they work with, and can be across the board better prepared and better skilled at engaging with
those individuals and helping them change their behavior.

Sometimes it happens right now an experienced
officer might learn some of those things, I won’t say intuitively because it’s from experience, it’s
not intuition, it’s from experience and so they do that already. There’s a way for us to teach it. There’s
a way for us to teach those skills, to teach very specific interventions, to teach engagement techniques, that’s
what I’d really like to see and I think can happen. I’m retiring now so I won’t continue that effort
in my role as chief, but I do hope to continue where to try and take the vocation to that level across the board.

Pope-Sussman: Is there an idea of maybe of some sort of formal professional
development in that area?

Jenkins: I think so. I think we’re
already and a lot of individuals that become probation officers come with academic backgrounds in criminal justice,
but as many may come from academic backgrounds of social work or psychology and things like that. That just makes
the point that what a probation officer is is somebody who works with another person, who works with people. One
of the efforts that I’m already involved in is working on a way of changing criminal justice curriculum for
criminal justice schools around the country, to make sure that it includes a curriculum that better prepares future
probation officers to be behavioralists as it were.

That involves things like teaching motivational
interviewing skills so that criminal justice graduates I think should come out of the school with if not a level
of competence in motivational interviewing, a level of understanding about what it is, and so they may later can
get training to hone the skill. Again the effort is to really change criminal justice degrees around the country
so that we can take advantage of I’ll even use the word science of behavior change. The individuals that are
being educated right now are better educated and then later can be better skilled to employ some of the practices
that the research is very clear show is effective in behavior change.

Those are all my questions. I really appreciate you taking out the time to speak to me.

Thank you and good questions.

Pope-Sussman: This is Raphael Pope-Sussman
of the Center for Court Innovation and I’ve been speaking with Mack Jenkins, chief probation officer for San
Diego County. For more information on the Center for Court Innovation visit