Victim Services Program Overview

In 2001, the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency for the District of Columbia (CSOSA) launched the Victim Services Program (VSP) to serve residents of the District of Columbia who have been victims of domestic violence, sexual offenses, traffic or alcohol-related crimes, or property crimes. VSP is committed to responding to victims of crime with compassion, understanding, and respect.

VSP works with Community Supervision Officers (CSOs) to decrease the incidence of recidivism and re-victimization. VSP also partners with victim service agencies to identify crime victims, provide education on victim rights, and deliver orientation and technical assistance to victims and the community. Additionally, VSP connects victims with resources to address the effect of victimization.

 

Success Story | Kenneth Baldwin

Kenneth Baldwin spent nearly three decades in the grips of an addiction that began at age 13. He turned to drugs as a means of dealing with the responsibility he felt for his parents’ divorce and escaping an abusive stepfather.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood experiences have a significant impact on health and opportunity throughout the course of a person’s life. Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), in particular, have been linked to substance abuse as well as an increased likelihood of experiencing violence as a victim or perpetrator. ACEs include physical, sexual, or emotional abuse; physical or emotional neglect; witnessing domestic violence committed against a parent; and divorce. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that ACEs are linked to an increased likelihood of early initiation into substance abuse.

For some individuals, like Baldwin, substance use issues can lead to involvement in the criminal justice system. The Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency’s Re-entry and Sanctions Center (RSC) is a holistic and multidisciplinary residential facility that provides intensive assessments and reintegration programming for high-risk individuals with extensive substance use and co-occurring mental health histories who are under the supervision of CSOSA or the Pretrial Services Agency. Those referred to the RSC receive a complete physical and psychological evaluation, counseling, treatment readiness, diagnostic, and referral services to other treatment facilities. The cognitive behavioral interventions offered at the RSC focus on treatment readiness and motivation.

CSOSA’s Faith and Community Based Mentoring Partnership (FCBMP) matches people under supervision with mentors from faith-based institutions and the community, who can provide prosocial support and guidance. The FCBMP also refers offenders to various resources to address their identified needs, thereby fostering an environment conducive to their successful completion of supervision. In years past, CSOSA has recognized mentors and mentees, like Baldwin, who have committed an exceptional amount of time or energy to their mentoring relationship over the course of the preceding year.

CSOSA’s community supervision officers use evidence-based strategies, such as cognitive behavioral interventions, to change the thinking, behavior, and attitudes of those under supervision. CSOSA partners with District and federal agencies, community-based organizations, and faith institutions to connect the justice-involved individuals under our supervision with resources to facilitate their success under supervision and in the community.

Watch the video to learn how these CSOSA programs played a role in Baldwin’s evolution. You can read more about Baldwin’s life in Recovery: “I Found I Had a Purpose,” a profile that appeared in the Winter 2018 issue of CatholicU Magazine.

Pathways to Supervision Success

As CSOSA works to effectively supervise adults on probation, parole, and supervised release in the District of Columbia, in order to enhance public safety, reduce recidivism, support the fair administration of justice, we collaborate closely with our criminal justice partners and the community. These partnerships are integral to promoting accountability, inclusion, and successful reintegration for those under CSOSA supervision.

One recent partnership began in 2018, when CSOSA joined forces with the District of Columbia’s Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement (ONSE) as it launched the first cohort of the Pathways Ambassador Program. The Pathways Program is a nine-month program that targets individuals who are at high risk of becoming either victims or perpetrators of violent crime. Pathways provides workforce readiness training and conflict resolution skills through a three-month workforce development module and a six-month, subsidized job training module.

In order to facilitate interagency collaboration and accountability among participants, CSOSA embedded a dedicated community supervision officer to supervise the program participants who were also under our jurisdiction. Moreover, CSOSA personnel were part of a team of on-site case managers, credible messengers, and other staff that provided the wraparound services that contributed to the efficacy of this program. Our partnership with ONSE is one way CSOSA places special focus on the highest risk individuals under our supervision.

The most recent cohort of 24 Pathways graduates included 19 who are under CSOSA supervision. Read more from the Washington Post about the recent Pathways graduation (February 2019).

Welcoming Our New Director

The Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency for the District of Columbia welcomes Richard S. Tischner as our third presidentially-appointed Director.

Mr. Tischner has been a public servant for more than 33 years. He has served as an attorney for the Federal Government of the United States at the Merit Systems Protection Board as well as the Federal Trade Commission. He has spent the last 30 years as an Assistant United States Attorney for the Department of Justice, most recently serving as the Chief of the Superior Court Division at the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.

Nominated by President Donald J. Trump in July 2018, Mr. Tischner appeared before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs in November 2018. His nomination was confirmed by the Senate in January 2019. On February 11, 2019, Mr. Tischner was sworn into his six-year term in office by United States Attorney for the District of Columbia Jessie K. Liu.

Returning Citizen Sunday in 4D

On Sunday, October 21, 2018, the Peoples Congregational United Church of Christ opened its doors to returning citizens in collaboration with the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA), Georgia Avenue Family Support Collaborative, and the Assembly of Petworth.

After Peoples Congregational’s morning service, justice-involved individuals received clothing; book bags; and information on voting, housing, employment, and other social services.

What originated as a desire from one of CSOSA’s Fourth District (4D) Community Justice Advisory Network (CJAN) partners, Reverend Venita George, to help a few of CSOSA’s clients “became much bigger when we pulled in more resources,” says Elba Gonzalez CSOSA’s Intergovernmental and Community Affairs Specialist for 4D.

CSOSA has CJANs in each of the District’s seven police districts. CJANs are comprised of residents and key stakeholders, such as Advisory Neighborhood Commissions, faith-based institutions, schools, non-profit and civic organizations, businesses, government agencies, and local law enforcement entities. CJANs meet regularly and mobilize community resources concerning public safety; identify and address community public safety issues; share information about the challenges justice-involved individuals face; and educate the community on public safety issues and the work of CSOSA. CJANs create an environment where issues are resolved at the community level and community resources can be leveraged to enhance and expand services that support the successful reintegration of justice-involved individuals into the community.

Returning Citizen Sunday was the fruit of the Fourth District’s Community Justice Advisory Network. Rev. George and Ms. Gonzalez called on sponsors and solicited support from DC Councilmembers. CSOSA community supervision officers participated giving those under supervision an opportunity to earn community service hours and contact credits.

Gonzalez recalls, “The most powerful part of the day, was the message from David Bowers. He highlighted that we are all returning citizens, we are all returning from a sin or a wrong doing and asking that we be received. He stressed for us to think of how we can be proactive in reentry and to talk about reentry more.”

 

COMPLAINTS

Overview

The Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency’s (CSOSA) Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) investigates possible instances of internal violations of laws or regulations, mismanagement, gross waste of funds, abuse of authority, substantial and specific danger to public health and safety, and allegations of misconduct by CSOSA employees. The OPR is an impartial investigative body that reports to the director of the agency and performs its administrative investigations without influence from any other component or employee within the agency.

If, after the administrative investigation, the OPR determines that the allegations are substantiated, CSOSA’s Office of the General Counsel (OGC) reviews the investigative report for legal sufficiency. Once OGC deems the report legally sufficient, OPR forwards the report to the appropriate associate director, who provides the report to the appropriate management official. The management official, who acts as the proposing official, recommends the proper remedial action after consulting with the Office of Human Resources, Employee and Labor Relations.

How to File a Complaint

You must submit complaints against CSOSA employees in writing to CSOSA’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR). Complaints should contain as many details as possible. Your complaint should, at a minimum, answer the following questions:

  • Who are you?
  • Who are you making a complaint against?
  • What happened?
  • When did it occur?
  • Where did it occur?
  • Who are the possible witnesses?

You should also attach to your complaint copies of any evidence that might be useful to the investigation. We recommend that you keep copies of any documents you submit to OPR, as this information will not be returned to you.

As part of the preliminary analysis stage, the OPR will interview anyone who submits a complaint to determine whether a full investigation is warranted. This helps to ensure that employees are not investigated due to frivolous complaints. A complaint may be accepted from an anonymous source if there is enough factual information to support the claim. Anonymous complaints are not preferred, because OPR will not be able to follow up if additional details are needed.

Where to File a Complaint

Please submit your written complaint in one of the following ways –

By regular mail or hand delivery to:

Director, Office of Professional Responsibility
Court Services & Offender Supervision Agency
800 North Capitol Street NW
Suite 6000
Washington, DC 20002

By fax to (202) 442-1965 for complaints against management or senior officials or to (202) 442-1966 for complaints against non-supervisory personnel.

Obstacles to Employment

In a recent publication from the DC Policy Center, Robin Selwitz explores the myriad obstacles individuals who have been involved in the criminal justice system face when seeking employment.

Involvement in the criminal justice system leads to a litany of aftereffects, commonly known as collateral consequences, which can result in unanticipated burdens to those trying to reintegrate into society and lead productive, law-abiding lives. These collateral consequences can make it difficult to secure stable housing and gainful employment, among other issues. Mounting research indicates that there are significant benefits for our communities in helping justice-involved individuals overcome barriers to employment and other collateral consequences.

In the District’s highly competitive and saturated job market, gainful employment remains an intractable challenge. For some, it is further compounded by the additional challenges posed by their history of involvement with the justice system. One promising mechanism to address unemployment for men and women with criminal histories is entrepreneurship. Watch our latest episode of DC Public Safety to learn more about the innovative approaches to addressing this issue in the District.

Read more on Obstacles to Employment for Returning Citizens in DC  on the DC Policy Center website.

Success Story | Anthony Hopkins

After 27 years of substance abuse and living a life he described as “lost,” Anthony Hopkins found himself in police custody once again after avoiding his community supervision officer. With the support of many, including two CSOSA community supervision officers who worked diligently to keep him on the right path, Hopkins was able to turn his life around.

The challenges Hopkins faced were not unique to him. Eighty-three (83%) of those entering supervision in 2017 reported having a history of substance abuse. Half of CSOSA’s employable population is unemployed. A person is employable if they are not retired, disabled, suffering from a debilitating medical condition, receiving Supplemental Security Income, participating in a residential treatment or sanctions program, or participating in a school or training program. A little more than one out of every 10 individuals under CSOSA supervision had unstable housing in 2017. Those living in a homeless shelter, halfway house, transitional housing, hotel or motel, or who have no fixed address are considered to have unstable housing.

CSOSA’s community supervision officers use evidence-based strategies, such as cognitive behavioral interventions, to change the thinking, behavior, and attitudes of those under supervision. CSOSA partners with District and federal agencies, community-based organizations, and faith institutions to connect the justice-involved individuals under our supervision with resources to facilitate their success under supervision and in the community.

Watch the video to learn more about Anthony Hopkins’ journey and to find out how his life has changed.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month | October 2018

Domestic violence is best understood as a pattern of abusive behaviors–including physical, sexual, and psychological attacks as well as economic coercion–used by one intimate partner against another (adult or adolescent) to gain, maintain, or regain power and control in the relationship. Batterers use of a range of tactics to frighten, terrorize, manipulate, hurt, humiliate, blame, often injure, and sometimes kill a current or former intimate partner.

For more general information about domestic violence, including potential warning signs for emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline‘s information page: Is This Abuse? Get the Facts.

(From the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence)