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All justice systems work to combat crime, reduce recidivism, and ensure fairness. But, as a federal district, DC sometimes finds itself with unique legal opportunities. Kojo sits down with the District’s top judge to explore everything from experimental “fathering courts” to how social media may be used to improve the jury system.
- Lee Satterfield Chief Judge, District of Columbia Superior Court
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. It's the local hall of justice that serves the nation's capital. But D.C. Superior Court also doubles as a national testing ground for local strategies designed to curb crime and recidivism like an experimental program to help absent fathers become better parents, and a family treatment court that puts mothers on the path to sobriety.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIJoining us to explore what our local justice system looks like from the other side of the bench, if you will, is Lee Satterfield, chief judge of the D.C. Superior Court. Judge Satterfield, good to see you again.
JUDGE LEE SATTERFIELDAnd good to see you, and thanks for having me back.
NNAMDIYou've sat on this court for nearly two decades, but before that, as I mentioned earlier, you grew up here. You went to law school here. You did private practice here. What kind of window does the bench provide for you into the challenges facing the city, challenges that you've probably been observing for most of your life?
SATTERFIELDWell, the bench has given me and others a wonderful opportunity to give back to the community through creating programs, creating processes that are fair for residents and others, the folk who have to appear in court.
NNAMDIBefore we drill down into the details of those specific programs and issues, we should note that this is a job with influence far beyond the courthouse. You regularly negotiate with Congress and the D.C. Council behind the scenes. How would you describe the duties of your office? And what do you negotiate these political entities about?
SATTERFIELDWell, most of my responsibilities now are administrative in -- I work along with chief judge in Washington, chief judge of the Court of Appeals in our governing body, to work with Congress for, obviously, budgeting issues and then any other oversight issues they want to address with us. And we work with the city council on the laws that impact the residents here in D.C., the criminal laws and any type of human services programs.
SATTERFIELDCongress, we work with them on mostly budget and...
NNAMDIMostly budget issues.
SATTERFIELDMostly budget. And sometimes, they may want to see how we're doing in our family court, different operations, so we'll appear in Congress for those reasons. And then, with some of the programs that we have done, like the Fathering Court initiative that you mentioned, they've had interest in that.
NNAMDIIf you'd like to join this conversation with Judge Lee Satterfield, chief judge of D.C. Superior Court, call us at 800-433-8850. Where do you think absentee parents or deadbeat dads fit into the broader conversation about crime and justice in the District? We will be pursuing that conversation with Judge Satterfield shortly. But you can start calling now, 800-433-8850, or go to our website, kojoshow.org, join the conversation there.
NNAMDIJudge Satterfield, you know a thing or two about the impact of the law on families. You served as the presiding judge over both the family court and the domestic violence unit. Right now, D.C. Superior Court is running a pilot program that is essentially aimed at helping deadbeat fathers become better parents. How does that program work? And why is it providing parenting -- and why is providing parenting lessons a focus of the court?
SATTERFIELDWell, it's all about the children. And what we're doing is providing help for employment for folk who have served jail sentences outside of the District who are returning home and who have child support orders. And the program is really -- has a simple concept, help the men obtain employment so that they can financially support their children. And in some cases, we're helping them reconnecting mostly with their children.
NNAMDIHow are the men chosen to be diverted into this Fathering Court program?
SATTERFIELDWell, they have to consent to it, so this is not mandatory for all, and have a child support order and be willing to work hard. There's, obviously, limitations right now on capacity. And so those are the - that's the primary consideration. And then we'll work them hard to gain employment and to pay child support.
NNAMDIFor the past several weeks, we've been hosting discussions about the challenges facing ex-offenders in our region once they get out of jail. Based on your experience in the courtroom, where does reconnecting with the family typically fit into the challenges facing fathers coming back home?
SATTERFIELDWell, the challenges are huge. I mean, many of the fathers have not even seen their children in a while, and they certainly have not been able to provide financially and emotionally for them. And so -- but it's necessary, I think, for the children to be able to reconnect. And if the men come back and they're unemployed and they're not employable, then they're at greater risk to recidivate.
NNAMDIHow do you measure the impact of absentee parents on the kinds of crimes that come through your courts?
SATTERFIELDWell, I think that the impact can be huge if these things don't occur. I mean, employment and housing. Those are the key. And, you know, I mean, specific statistics on it, but I think we see that, time and time again, repeat offenders, most of them have not been able to get employed.
NNAMDIOne statistic that I find impressive is that the program for fathers that we just talked about has helped at least 50 men so far and only one graduate has been rearrested since the program's debut.
SATTERFIELDThat's a good statistic that you just said, and I appreciate that. And that is true, and that is the goal because that means that these fathers are working whether they've reconnected with their children or not, they're working and paying child support.
NNAMDIAgain, the number to call, 800-433-8850. You can send us a tweet, @kojoshow, or e-mail to email@example.com. How would you characterize the relationship between parental relationships and crime? Have any personal experience in that regard? Do you think it's worth the time of our local courts to help ex-offenders become better parents or should they simply be in the business of punishment? 800-433-8850. It's my understanding that parental relationships are also central to your family treatment court program to put adults back on track to sobriety. How does the family treatment court program work?
SATTERFIELDWell, the family treatment court is designed for women who are charged with neglecting their children, and it provides an inpatient treatment program where they can have up to a certain number of children with them and is designed to reunite them with their children. And it's been going on for several years with we think great success.
NNAMDIThe family treatment court's been up and, you said, running a few years now. What evidence is there to -- as you mentioned, great success to support whether or not that approach is working?
SATTERFIELDWell, we've graduated over 100 women. And the key to that is you have to multiply that number by the number of children that a woman may have, whether it's one, two or three. And that's over -- almost 300 children who have been safely reunited with their mother out of the foster care system, out of the government's supervision.
NNAMDIThe other thing I read about that is that, again, as with the men, very few women, six, as of this writing back in 2008, had relapsed since graduating and two gave up legal guardianship of their children. But that, again, a relatively small number.
SATTERFIELDThat's a very small number and that speaks to the intensity of the program that's being worked with the court and child and family services agency and the -- and (word?) here in the District of Columbia.
NNAMDILast time we spoke, roughly two years ago, we spent an hour discussing the specific challenge of juvenile crime in the District of Columbia, some things have changed since then. The city opened a new juvenile detention center last year. How would you measure the progress or the lack thereof that the city has made on juvenile court?
SATTERFIELDI think we're all moving in the right direction. The city and the court, we supervise a number of juveniles on probation, juvenile offenders. And I think that we have to pass the issues, and I've always spoke of that serious capacity issues that, sort of, hinder some of the objectives. But I think we're moving forward in trying to work together and move forward in the right direction.
NNAMDIWhat's your opinion of the new juvenile detention facility operated by the District New Beginning?
SATTERFIELDI think that it has all the tools to help rehabilitate juveniles who need to receive rehabilitation while detained, while in secured settings. My view is it's too small for the needs, but the youth that are there, they receive great education to Maya Angelou and receive other types of services meant to help and otherwise.
NNAMDIWhat do you think are the consequences of the district now having a similar facility for young women?
SATTERFIELDWell, I think that the fact that we don't have one, that's something that we've not for years. And I think that should be corrected. I think we see an increase in girls offending, and girls have different needs than the boys, and I think that there are some that need the secured settings. Otherwise, we send them to some other state for their rehabilitation.
NNAMDISo you think that we should have a similar facility for women also?
SATTERFIELDI think that it wouldn't have to be as large as New Beginnings, obviously, but it would need to have the capacity so that we don't have to send our girls out of the state all the time.
NNAMDIOn to the telephones. Here is Kat in Washington, D.C. Kat, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
KATHi. I was just curious about what you guys thought about, you know, non-violent, first-time drug offenders and whether or not there should be some kind of court-mandated rehab. Currently, there's, sort of like a three months thing. But I've read that it takes about six times for someone to go to rehab before it sticks. And I was wondering what you thought (unintelligible)
SATTERFIELDWell, I think that for non-violent drug offenders, you have to have programs that will keep them from reoffending and using drugs, and we have, for many years now, operated successfully an adult drug court at our court for those type of offenders and have successfully graduated many offenders who have not returned to court or have not committed further crimes.
NNAMDIYour turn, Kat. Kat, are you there?
KATI'm sorry? Yes, I am.
NNAMDIAny follow-up question? Kat?
NNAMDII was asking if you had any follow-up questions for Judge Satterfield.
KATSorry, I'm in a parking garage. No. That -- I mean, that's something that I'm glad to hear about.
NNAMDIOkay. Thank you very much for your call. You, too, can call us, 800-433-8850. What concerns do you have about the role our local court system plays in the administration of justice in the district? Call us, 800-433-8850. Some members of the D.C. government, Judge Satterfield, have been critical recently of how local judges handle cases involving juvenile crime. D.C. Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham specifically wrote an e-mail to a LISTSERV a year ago where he said that, quoting here, "Young criminals think they have nothing to fear from the courts." You took issue with this. How do you see it?
SATTERFIELDWell, I took issue with it is because the way the law is set up. A young offender may feel that way in terms of a judge in the law, in the District of Columbia, we have power to place a individual on probation, or we commit them to the city for the city to consider whether they should be held in secured setting. But we do have power to dictate whether they'd be held in a secured setting and for how long once we have found them involved, guilty of the offense and sentenced. And so, yes, if a young person's in front of me, a young person may think that I lack certain powers as I would have in the adult system, where I can determine what the sentence should be whether it's jail or probation.
NNAMDIBut if that young person is in the juvenile system, you can either put that person on probation. But once you put that person into the custody of the District of Columbia, you have no say over the length of the sentence or where that person is held.
NNAMDI800-433-8850. Here is Peter in Leesburg, Va. Peter, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
PETERHi, Kojo, and I appreciate the topic very much today. I, for a long time, wondered about the question of the role of the connection between what are called attachment disorders of young children and subsequent lives of criminality. And I wanted to know if the judge is familiar with that diagnosis. It has -- essentially, it refers to the effects on young children who are either abused, neglected or, otherwise, did not receive the appropriate kind of parental love. And they developed a psychology, which is called attachment disorder, when they simply do not bond with human -- other humans in our ordinary way.
PETERAnd I'd be willing to bet that a large majority of all criminals in all of our jails have attachment disorder issues. And -- so, A, does the judge -- familiar with this diagnosis and, two, if so, is there's anything that can be done to provide the right kind of therapy and treatment? Because it's very, very difficult, once you get to an adult age, to deal with attachment problems. But, yet, if it's not even recognized, you're even worse off in your attempts to do that.
NNAMDIJudge Satterfield, attachment disorder.
SATTERFIELDI'm very familiar with that disorder. In fact, we make sure all of our family court judges are aware of it and trained on that because he's absolutely right, the lack of attachment early on. And that's why we have to, as a community, have early childhood development programs and make sure that parents are properly attaching and bonding with their children because it does have an impact later in life.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Peter. We're gonna take a short break. If you have already called, stay on the line. If you haven't called yet, we still have lines open, 800-433-8850. Where do you think absentee parents, deadbeat dads fit into the broader conversation about crime and justice in the District? If you have any personal experience or, for that matter, personal opinion, call us at 800-433-8850. Send us a tweet, @kojoshow. Or go to our website, kojoshow.org. Join the conversation there. Our guest is Lee Satterfield, chief judge of D.C. Superior Court. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back to our conversation with Judge Lee Satterfield, chief judge of D.C. Superior Court. Before I get back to the phones, Judge Satterfield, on the issue of juvenile courts and the options that are available for family court, would you advocate that D.C. law should give family court judges a wider range of options when it comes to juveniles who are involved with crimes?
SATTERFIELDI think we always want more tools in our toolbox to deal with holding juvenile offenders accountable and to help rehabilitate juveniles, so that they can be safe in the community so they can be -- the community can be safe when they're in it. And so, yes, I have always advocated for more tools in our toolbox for that purpose.
NNAMDIAnd what kind of tools would you like to have?
SATTERFIELDWell, I think, you know, if I'm going to sentence a juvenile offender, I'm gonna be familiar with that person's social history and, plus, I'm gonna hear from the victim of the crime. And so the judges are in pretty good positions to, I think, meet out fair sentences. And so I think we -- in the past, we've had control over how long a juvenile would be detained or in a secure facility. In the presence -- present day, we don't.
NNAMDIBack to the telephones. Here is Noelle in Fredericksburg, Va. Noelle, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
NOELLEOh, thank you, Kojo. I love your show. I am from Virginia. And currently, I have -- I'm helping a young lady who got jailed because, 10 years ago, she had a fight with her boyfriend, and the neighbor gave her a drink or something like this, you know? And, basically, the police arrived, and she insulted the policeman because I think maybe, I don't know, he gave her looks or something. The result of this is this young woman went to jail for at least eight months. And what happened next is, when she went to court, she was advised to take an Alford plea.
NOELLESo -- yes. Alford plea means you cannot expunge the record. So the result of the situation is she cannot find a job, because every time she goes to an interview, she's very straightforward upfront. She says she has, like, a record and it (unintelligible)
NNAMDIHas not been able to find a job since. And, Noelle, what do you think should be done about this?
NOELLEOh, I think the views are totally wrong. The views on the court, you know, the way she's been charged. She's been punished like an -- a horrible mother abusing her children because she had just a drink that day.
NNAMDIWell, Judge Satterfield, one of the things we've been discussing in all of the segments we've had so far is the stigma attached to being an ex-offender, regardless of the specific circumstances of Noelle friend -- Noelle's friend's case. In the first discussion we had, people talked about considering themselves returning citizens as opposed to ex-offenders. And I'm wondering what your thinking is about how we can erase that stigma or what we can do about that stigma, particularly in terms of the efforts to find employment because this is one of the things the D.C. Superior Court does, find employment for people with some success.
SATTERFIELDWell, we do it for the fathers in that limited program because, obviously, that's not our primary mandate. But what the caller is really referring to is a need for a legislative fix in that area because that's not something that the -- we just apply the rules that are given to the court, the law that is given to the court. But, obviously, the more types of cases that you can seal, the better off the offender is gonna be when they go out to jail because they don't have to mention that fact. -- excuse me, when they go out to for employment because they don't have to mention that fact of having been an offender. But obviously, information regarding offenders are sometimes necessary depending upon the type of employment that a person may be seeking.
NNAMDIBut you're saying that that would have to be a legislative fix. They would have to be written into the law. And I know that the D.C. City Council is considering a measure along these lines, that people would not necessarily have to reveal the fact that they're ex-offenders unless it came in -- unless it was specifically relevant to the job they're seeking.
SATTERFIELDThat's right. I think they've reviewed these laws over time because they have expanded the number or type of matters that a person can seal under our law recently, and that's gone into effect for that very reason that you speak of. And they continue to review that.
NNAMDIHere is Kim in Arlington, Va. Kim, your turn.
KIMHi. Thanks for having me. I just wanted to follow up on the gentleman's comment from Leesburg about attachment disorders. I think that he hits it right on the nose. And, unfortunately, by the time these kids get to see Judge Satterfield, it's too late for most of them. By the age of 15, over 90 percent of inner city kids have experienced, witnessed, been victims of violent crimes, and most of them suffer from some sort of posttraumatic stress disorder, which, in kids, manifests itself in acting out in bad behavior. And so by the time they may be 10 or 11, they have this diagnosis of oppositional defiant disorder, and then they're on the slippery slope down. You know, the focus really needs to be on these early intervention programs.
KIMWe throw a lot of money away in these programs. I've worked in them. I can tell you, there's a lot of money wasted, and it's just a shame. Because if you look at these same kids that judge Satterfield is seeing, you know, when they're 16 and 17, if you saw them on the playground when they are 4 and 5, these are not bad kids. These are kids who want the same things that all of us want. But because of, you know, multitude of circumstances, which I don't need to go into, I mean, there's just, you know, sort of, layers of factors, a lot of them just don't have a chance. And so, I just -- I think the psychological component, the family component, the early experiences really, really, really need to be addressed much more seriously and intensively than they are.
NNAMDIJudge Satterfield, what do you think about what Kim just said?
SATTERFIELDWell, I agree 100 percent. You have to remember your court system is on the backend of everything. And so we're -- we get matters that have gone too far, and we try to help resolve them in a fair and in an expeditious way. So I agree with the caller 100 percent.
NNAMDIWe got this comment posted on our website from newmom. "I'm interested in learning more about the type of parenting classes that are provided to participants in the fathering court. Is there a curriculum used or what types of parent education is provided? What type of follow up is there to see if the parents are using the new parenting skills?"
SATTERFIELDWell, we have parenting classes through different referral organizations that we use for our adults. And we also have parenting classes for our juvenile offenders who are parents, and we do that through our court social services division. In terms of the men in the -- on that child support fathering court program, there's continue to be follow up because they continue to -- would appear in court if they were not paying their child support. And, you know, we're hopeful as the future goes for them that they become more improved parents.
NNAMDIIn case you're just joining us, our guest is Judge Lee Satterfield, chief judge of the D.C. Superior Court. And we're taking your calls at 800-433-8850. How would you characterize the relationship between parental relationships and crime? Do you think it's worth the time of our local courts to help ex-offenders become better parents? 800-433-8850. Or you can send us a tweet, @kojoshow, go to our website, kojoshow.org, or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Here is Hillary in Alexandria, Va. Hi, Hillary.
HILLARYHi. I have a question for the judge. A few years ago, I was -- I had my iPod snatched from hands at the L'Enfant Plaza Metro Station. I was on the train. And as it happened, there were two undercover FBI agents on the train who apprehended the young man. He's a 15-year-old juvenile offender. And the FBI agents told me that it's actually fairly common for crimes to happen on trains at that station because it's the last station before you enter Virginia southbound. And they said that penalties are so much stiffer in Virginia than in the District for juvenile offenders that that, sort of, the crime line where the crime stops.
HILLARYSo I guess have two questions for the judge. One is are the penalties in the District so lax for juveniles that they're -- that we're, sort of, encouraging juvenile crime there? And my other question was that it occurred to me that this young man may -- was probably not working on his own accord. When he emptied his pockets, he had about six iPods. And it all -- it just made me wonder if we have -- juvenile punishments are so lax, do we actually encourage adult criminals to, sort of, wrangle in young people to commit their crimes for them knowing that they will not face heavy punishments?
NNAMDIThe latter, as my understanding, has been going on forever.
SATTERFIELDI agree. I was gonna say that same that thing. That is, sort of, an old sort of trick that adults do by engaging the juveniles because the juveniles, no matter whether their penalties or harsher or lacking, they're not as severe as in the adult system. But in terms of your question about whether or not our penalties are lacking here in the District of Columbia, I don't think they are. And I think that's evident by the fact that our detention facility and then our long-term facility for juveniles who are detained as part of their sentence are both overcrowded.
SATTERFIELDAnd I do think they're smaller than they should be, but I don't think that the penalties are lacking. I think that what you've seen is behavior that you'll see in most parts of the country when it comes to youth in that type of area.
NNAMDIIsn't there however a general perception that Virginia is tougher on crime than the District of Columbia that southern states in general tend to be tougher on crime whether it's at the juvenile and adult level? Whether or not that's true, I know -- I seem to know that that perception exists.
SATTERFIELDI think that if you're talking about charging juveniles as adults, you'll see that that happens more in other states than in the District in terms of the age. In some states, they allow for 15-year-olds to be charged as adults. So you may see that that is tougher in that respect. The thing about the other states is that, you know, we don't hear about what happens there. And they have some similar issues that happen there with their juveniles that's happened here in the District of Columbia.
NNAMDIBut they don’t get reported here. But, Hillary, thank you very much for your call. We move on to Derek in Washington, D.C. Derek, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
DEREKHey, good afternoon, gentlemen. I'm a human service professional in the area of workforce development. I concur with the last caller in regards to language, that the language that we use does shape the discussion and also shape how these men are viewed. As we say, they are deadbeat dads. There's a negative connotation with that, that it's gonna be a challenge for them to get services because of the negative connotation. One of them, being incarcerated and having that on their record, and then also having the stigma of being a deadbeat dad.
DEREKBut I had two questions. My questions were, how can a program service provider like myself get connected to provide quality workforce training both to the kids and those adults? And my second question is who was putting funding behind such efforts? And I'll take my call off the air. Thank you.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call. Judge Satterfield?
SATTERFIELDWell, our programs are either funded through our operating budget or through grants that we receive, whether from the Department of Justice or other governmental agencies that provide grants. In terms of getting involved, you know, we also work in conjunction with the city, the District of Columbia government, and their particular agencies that relate to employment services, as well as some of the other social services agencies.
NNAMDISo if somebody like Derek, for instance, wants to go to the Department of Employment Services in the District of Columbia and talk about the service that he is able to provide, they would be able to link him with D.C. Superior Court?
SATTERFIELDWell, they will be able to possibly -- if he wants to work with D.C. Superior Court, he should contact us directly. If he wants to see if there's opportunity through the city, he can go to Employment Services, and they often provide grants and other types of contracts to folk who would help in this area.
NNAMDII'm getting a lot of calls here, so allow me to stick with the phones for a while. This caller from Suburban Maryland. Go ahead, please. You're on the air.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMANYes. Good afternoon...
WOMAN...Judge Satterfield and Kojo. For almost 30 years, a member of my family was hung up on a crack cocaine addiction. Thanks to the intervention of the criminal justice system in the District of Columbia -- with superb follow-up, I might add, from Court Supervision Services over on Taylor Street, Northwest -- he is now on a very good footing for full and complete recovery from his addiction. We are a middle-class family who have dealt with the horror of the impact of drugs on not just one family member but a family member and his wife and, of course, the victims, the collateral damage of immediate family and the children. The children are adults now.
WOMANAnd in a, sort of, Ted Williams type of story, this family member is attempting to reconnect with his children, to make amends and to rebuild shattered relationships all around. He does not seem to have a great deal of support from the spouse or from the children, who have received a steady diet of parental alienation since we helped their mother get off of drugs many years ago. So my question is what to do, what services might there be available? Do we turn back to court supervision or social work agencies? Or how do we support someone who has made a great effort and succeeded in getting off the drugs and simply wants to move forward and repair the damage and rebuild?
NNAMDIAnd this someone is a member of your family.
WOMANIn fact, a sibling.
NNAMDIOkay. Here's Judge Satterfield.
SATTERFIELDWell, I think -- first of all, thank you for sharing that story because I think, too often, we hear about the failures and not about the many successes that occur in some of the programs that we do at the court and elsewhere. Ma'am, I don't know that I can answer your question from -- with the respect of where I work with the court system, but I know that the key to anything is connecting to the community-based programs in your community that may be able to help you and your family help the individual repair the relationships.
NNAMDIIt seems to me that they are likely to be nonprofits in your community, caller, to which you might make a connection. Have you tried that?
WOMANWell, I live in Maryland. He lives in D.C. I think that's a good way to go. I'm not quite sure how to proceed, but I'll see if I can contact the...
NNAMDILet me ask you to do this. Can you leave something, like an e-mail address...
NNAMDI...with our phone facilitator, so that if we get a call from somebody else who's offering that service, we can pass it on. How about that?
WOMANI would greatly appreciate that. Thank you.
NNAMDIOkay. Then I will put you on hold so that our phone facilitator may be (laugh) able to speak with you. Judge Satterfield, The Washington Post reported last year that when shelter space reaches capacity, victims of domestic violence are sent to stay in motels. The Office of Victim Services among other things, distributes money to nonprofits that provide services to victims of domestic violence. Each year, that office has received a smaller percentage of the court fees channeled to the city. In 2006, according to The Post, they received $3 million. In 2010, it was $1 million. If indeed shelters are always the first choice destination for victims of domestic violence, then why has the Office of Victim Services seen its funding cut?
SATTERFIELDWell, they may have seen their funding cut in their own D.C. budget, but the way it works for us is that we operate the crime victim compensation fund. And that's for any individual who has been a victim of a violent crime, not just domestic violence victims, and that's for expenses such as counseling, medical care, out of pocket expenses if you'll lose employment, in the tragic cases for families who need funeral expenses. We often provide housing or hotels to temporary housing for victims of domestic violence who need to escape that violence. But over the years, we have -- at the end of the year, we divvy up the money between -- that's left in the fund between the D.C. government and the courts.
SATTERFIELDAnd each year, we have done much better at outreach. This year, we -- last year, we spent $9 million for over 3,500 victims of crime. And so, each year we do much a better job in outreach and that results in a decrease in the amount of money that we share with the city. But over the last 11 years, we have provided the city $38 million.
NNAMDIGot to take a short break. If you have already called, stay on the line. When we come back, we will have you join the conversation with Judge Satterfield. If you're still looking to call, the number is 800-433-8850 or you can send e-mail to email@example.com. Where do you think absentee parents or so-called deadbeat dads fit into the broader conversation about crime and justice in the District? 800-433-8850. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. We're talking with Judge Lee Satterfield. He is the chief judge of the D.C. Superior Court. And taking your calls at 800-433-8850. We go this e-mail from Jackie in Mount Pleasant. "I think it's good that the court system is taking up the costs of putting a dent into the deadbeat dad problem. I know it's something that Attorney General Eric Holder and President Obama talk about quite a bit, I think, I recall, in the event a few years ago on Father's Day at the White House. But what worries me more is how the entire system lets young people down.
NNAMDIThe schools don't serve the kids well. The juvenile justice system doesn't serve the kids well. Lord knows the child protective services don't serve the kids as well as they can. I'm still rubbed raw by the whole Banita Jacks fiasco. To what extent does the judge think that failures are the result of a system-wide failure?"
SATTERFIELDWell, that's a difficult question, I think, because I think that the system overall has improved over the years. I think that we continue to have to meet challenges, but I think that different agencies and governmental entities are working better together and coming up with better solutions. We're never gonna be able to parent the children and so we always have to focus on what happens on that front end when the children are younger. But I think that we have improved, and I think that the homicide rate going down. You know, years ago, there used to be 1,400 filings of neglect cases a year. We're down to 700 now. And that's over the last eight years.
NNAMDIBack to the telephones. Here now is Stacy in Anne Arundel County, Md. Stacy, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
STACYHi. How are you? Thank you for taking my call.
STACYOkay, this is my question. I am wondering for someone and it can be for anyone who has gotten in trouble in the past. And, you know, when they go out to try and work and get their life back together, how long is it before their record is cleared? Because that plays into it a lot when you, you know, when you go out to get a job and they do a background check. And let's say that you're a totally different person, you know, and some time has passed. But if that comes up, now that definitely will affect whether or not, you know, you'll be successful or not.
NNAMDIIs there a specific time limit, Judge Satterfield, when things are expunged from the record?
SATTERFIELDThere are some matters where it's automatic expungement after a year depending upon what the crime is. And then there are others that you can seek expungement after a certain period of time where there's three or five years. But at the worst, seek is the most important thing. People who want to expunge their record or have it sealed need to seek to do that. There's information available. You can contact in your jurisdiction the Public Defender Service. They try to ensure and provide information on how that can be done. But the person must seek to do it on their own.
STACYWonderful. Thank you.
STACYThank you very much for your call, Stacy. We move on to Nuri in Baltimore, Md. Nuri, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
NURIThank you so much for taking my call. I just wanted to know for a juvenile -- returning citizen, is there a service available, for example, like free membership to the Y, some kind of facility that they can continue to grow and redefine themselves and reeducate the field?
SATTERFIELDI'm not aware of all the services because we just take the small piece of that when it comes to our child support calendar. But I know the city does have an ex-offender department or agency or division. I forget how it's called.
NNAMDIAnd a lot of times, when juveniles are out of detention, they are still under the supervision of the Youth Services Administration in the District of Columbia.
SATTERFIELDThat's right. They're still under the supervision of the Youth Services, and so they can receive services and supervision in that matter as well.
NNAMDINuri, thank you for your call.
NNAMDIFor a lot of District residents, their primary experience with your court is jury duty. The Wall Street Journal published an article last month about how prosecutors and defense attorneys are now combing Facebook and other social networking sites for details about potential jurors. One district attorney in Texas is even considering a plan to offer people in the jury pool free WiFi access in exchange for them temporarily friending his office on Facebook so that prosecutors have access to more detailed profile information. What concerns do you have about how social media are being used to vet jurors and what guidance are you currently giving people in your own courthouse?
SATTERFIELDWell, we instruct jurors about social medias and how not to use them when they're on jury duty. We have a Twitter account, and, in fact, the Twitter account has helped us find jurors who have tweeted during their trial and have been able to have the judge address that because during the trial, you need to focus on what's presented in the courtroom and not discuss the matter until all the facts are in so that you can make a fair decision. So it's presented a challenge for us. We instruct jurors on the law. We have a specific instruction for that, and we continue to try to refine it. We have a Facebook account, and, as I said, we have a Twitter account. But they're designed to get information out to people about the court and the court process.
NNAMDIWhat guidance do you give jurors about how they use social media while they're serving on a panel? Don't.
SATTERFIELDDon't. Absolutely not. Stay away from it.
NNAMDIAnd the notion that prosecutors are asking jurors to voluntarily friend them so they can check out more information because when we do "Tech Tuesday" on this show, one of the things we've talked about and tell people about is that when you friend somebody, they not only look at your Facebook page, they look at your friends' Facebook pages to see what postings they have about you. And that's, presumably, what prosecutors want to do too.
SATTERFIELDWell, that's true. I mean, my daughter is on Facebook, and I went on Facebook just so I can check out what she's doing. And I had a long lost friend who asked me to be a friend, and I did. And I learned the hard way that I got all of her friends. Now all these folk that I haven't seen in a while are seeking to friend me. And so I think that's something to take into account, and I do.
NNAMDIHere now is in Pete in Washington, D.C. Pete, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
PETEOh, thank you, Kojo. Quick comment and a question for Judge Satterfield. Regarding the deadbeat dad view, I think that's probably more due to the fact that we have a deadbeat government that is constantly pushing wealth and income into fewer hands and can barely acknowledge, let alone feel, the Third World disparity of the District of Columbia. But more on a practical level, I wonder if Judge Satterfield will talk about the effectiveness of the Time Dollar Youth Court as it relates to nonviolent youth offenders and recidivism, if he could talk about that a bit, please.
NNAMDIWe discussed that once previously here, Judge Satterfield.
SATTERFIELDWell, the Time Dollar Youth Court is an absolutely wonderful program designed for youth to judge each other peer to peer. And we have used it. The police department have used it for low-level offenders, sort of a diversion program. And it's designed for the peers to hear what an offender has done and to literally pass sentence. And you'd be amazed at the impact that that has when one peer is addressing another peer in an area of importance.
NNAMDIThe Time Dollar program. Here's Rachel in Washington, D.C. Hi, Rachel.
RACHELHello. I am just interested on the judge's view of whether or not programs should be implemented while the fathers are incarcerated rather than waiting for them to be released.
SATTERFIELDI agree with you. There's no reason to have someone in jail if you're not going to try to rehabilitate them with programs while in jail because most people are going to return home. So that's the start. The program that we've been talking about is just sort of to enhance things that have occurred and to get them back on track with employment. I think you can gain some employment skills while in jail, and I think that that's what we want our jail programs to have so that it will make it much easier for you to obtain employment once you are released.
NNAMDIRachel, thank you very much for your call. President Obama was talking about bullying last week. And I know the court is holding a Youth Law Fair this weekend, and that cyber bullying is one of the things on the agenda, the president hosting that event last week, which included a partnership with Facebook. That's obviously something that the court is now itself concerned about.
SATTERFIELDYes, it is. This is our 12th Annual Youth Law Fair from 9:00 to 4:00 at the courthouse. We do this every year in partnership with attorneys from the District of Columbia Bar. And so we invite the youth to come down. We usually have a pretty good turnout. Cyber bullying is the topic this year.
NNAMDICyber bullying. Here's Barbara in Washington, D.C. Barbara, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
BARBARAYes. Thank both of you for a very informative discussion. I have a question for Judge Satterfield about the possible connection between the large percentage of veterans on the street and domestic violence. Could you give me some perception of whether or not there is a connection, and if so, what percentage you might have seen? The other aspect of this is that...
NNAMDIAre you talking in particular about veterans who might be suffering PTSD, post-traumatic stress…?
BARBARAIn D.C., in Washington, D.C. I lived in Washington, D.C. for a large number of years and served on the jury there for several times, and I live nearby now. So the question is -- well, we know that people in the African-American community are not receiving mental health services at the same rate as the majority population. So that's the reason where my question about, whether or not many of these veterans on the street, homeless veterans, are a part of the domestic violence issue.
NNAMDILet me -- allow me to add something to that, Barbara, 'cause we got an e-mail from Jane, who talks -- you talk about veterans. Jane talks about, "What level of literacy -- illiteracy does the judge see among men he is working with? Is there a literacy component to the program in place for the ex-offenders?" So we're talking both literacy and veterans.
SATTERFIELDWell, yes. I think literacy is a very important element that needs to be addressed more. I think that is part of some of the things that we do because you need it for employment. In terms of seeing veterans in domestic violence, I haven't seen a significant increase in that here in the District of Columbia. So I think that's gonna depend on what community you're in whether that occurs. In terms of mental health treatment, I see a fair amount of that being done through the Department of Mental Health.
SATTERFIELDWe work with them, along with our pre-trial services, to conduct mental health diversion court in there for adult offenders, and a juvenile behavior diversion program for juvenile offenders where we are providing direct services through mental health. And the expectation is that once the offender at least court supervision, they'll be able to continue that service with the Department of Mental Health in the community.
NNAMDIBarbara, thank you very much for your call. This e-mail we got from Eleanor. "Why aren't people ordered by the court to drug rehabilitation, provided with transportation money when they're living often in a shelter far from the rehabilitation facility?"
SATTERFIELDWell, we try to find rehabilitation facilities close to where the person lives, but they are often provided some transportation money to get there. I know that our juvenile offenders, we provide them with Metro access in order for them to get to the programs that they need to get to.
NNAMDIIt's been a year since the District put a law on the books authorizing the performance of same-sex marriages. It's my understanding that the number of marriage license applications during that time has doubled. How has the implementation of this law challenged your court, and how it's squared with whatever you expected when the measure was signed into law?
SATTERFIELDWe haven't had any difficulties carrying out the mandate by law. And in fact, it did double our applications and issuance of marriage licenses last year. The other positive side of that is all the fees that we received from marriage license go into the crime victims fund and are given out to crime victims under our compensation program. The only issue we have was a Skype wedding. It was done because the law requires that you have a -- you could marry here in the District of Columbia. It was done through video conferencing, and we had to invalidate that marriage. And they subsequently came to the District and were married.
NNAMDISo, bottom line here, no Skype marriages from other states can be performed in the District of Columbia.
SATTERFIELDThat's how we see it.
NNAMDIOur guest is Judge Lee Satterfield. He is chief judge of the D.C. Superior Court. Judge Satterfield, thank you so much for joining us.
SATTERFIELDThank you for having me.
NNAMDIAnd thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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