U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia Community Outreach Programs
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia (USAODC) has long believed that a problem-solving approach to law enforcement is essential for reducing crime, enhancing public safety, and improving the quality of life in the District of Columbia. Our Community Prosecution Initiative connects with stakeholders to understand the needs and gaps in services within our local communities. This community-based strategy, under the leadership of the Executive Assistant United States Attorney for External Affairs, enables community prosecutors and community outreach specialists to work directly with residents, local business, nonprofit organizations, and other community stakeholders to develop a comprehensive approach to fighting crime and protecting the rights and interest of city residents. Our present strategy focuses on building bonds of trust between the Office and the community, enhancing public safety through education, and encouraging community participation in the criminal justice system. This strategy is implemented by the Community Outreach Staff through community outreach programs, youth engagement, and reentry initiatives.
I. COMMUNITY OUTREACH PROGRAMS
Clergy Ambassador Program
The mission of the Clergy Ambassador Program (CAP) is to formalize a working relationship among our Office, Washington, D.C. clergy, and community leaders. Our goal is to form a partnership that will promote trust and mutual respect between law enforcement and the community.
The CAP is open to all faith-based and community leaders. Last year, participants attended an initial training, followed by six bimonthly meetings, where area scholars and practitioners made presentations to the clergy ambassadors about various topics geared towards fostering dialogue between the community, clergy, and law enforcement. The presentations included getting involved in policymaking; trauma-based care; effective faith-based re-entry programs; assessing clergy privilege under the law; and understanding the inner workings of law enforcement and the criminal justice system.
Executive Assistant AUSA for External Affairs Wendy Pohlhaus speaks at a Clergy Ambassador Program meeting at Trinity Baptist Church.
3rd District Community Prosecutor, Roger Kemp greets faith-based leaders during a Human Trafficking Presentation at Shiloh Baptist Church.
Our Office has developed two important but distinctly different senior seminars: “Financial Crimes against Seniors” and “Elder Abuse and Exploitation of the Elderly.” We routinely conduct these presentations in senior dwellings and at senior programs throughout the city. The “Financial Crimes against Seniors” seminar is frequently presented in partnership with the D.C. Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking, and the D.C. Office of the Inspector General. These presentations are designed to educate and increase awareness of financial scams, such as advance fee loan scams, telephone scams, home lending and foreclosure rescue scams, and how-to-get-rich-fast scams. We have also expanded this financial scam awareness programming to members of our military who are frequently targets of various financial scams. The “Elder Abuse and Exploitation of the Elderly and Vulnerable Adults” seminar is designed to empower seniors and vulnerable adults to recognize, prevent, and report physical and psychological abuse and neglect. Participants are also provided with resources as to where they can find help in the event they become victims of abuse.
2nd and 4th District Community Prosecutor Trena Carrington at a Senior Seminar at Chevy Chase Community Center.
7th District Community Outreach Specialist Lenney Lowe and 3rd District Community Outreach Specialist LaToya Davenport at the Ward 7 Older Americans Month Celebration that was held at the Senior Wellness Center.
6th District Community Outreach Specialist Floyd Carson, in partnership with 6th District Metropolitan Police Department Officer George Hill, speaks to seniors at a Senior Wellness Event.
Domestic Violence Presentations
Domestic Violence seminars are designed to reach out to community members in order to educate them about the signs of domestic abuse. The Office also encourages citizens to report domestic violence while providing information about the various resources that the Office and other local agencies provide to domestic violence victims. We have tailored domestic violence presentations specifically for teens, women, and reentrants.
Child Abuse Awareness and Infant Fatality Prevention
In order to address the protection of the youngest members of society from trauma, accidents, and death, the Office, along with the D.C. Medical Examiner’s Office and The Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), developed a presentation that addresses child abuse awareness and infant fatality prevention. The topics covered in the presentation are infant trauma, shaken baby syndrome, and bed-sharing rollover deaths while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Smart and safe choices in caregiving and creating safe sleep environments are emphasized during the presentations.
The Child Protection and Infant Fatality Prevention Symposium planning team meeting hosted by External Affairs Specialist Melanie Howard, AUSA Cynthia Wright, 2nd and 4th District Community Outreach Specialist Baretta Francis, and 7th District Community Outreach Specialist Lenney Lowe.
Hate-Bias Task Force and Affinity Group Outreach
The Office makes consistent efforts to reach the various diverse affinity groups living in the District. These efforts are facilitated through our Hate-Bias Task Force. The Hate-Bias Task Force is a collaboration of agency and community partners in the District who focus on addressing the needs of the various affinity groups in the city and combating hate-bias crimes. In addition, the Task Force, in an effort to educate the community about the criminal justice system and to develop bonds of trust between these communities and law enforcement, has conducted various outreach programs.
In addition, USAODC participates in the District of Columbia’s Violence Prevention and Response Team (VPART). VPART’s mission is to address, reduce and prevent crime within and against the LGBT community in the District of Columbia. VPART seeks to achieve this by creating a strong partnership between the community and government, which enables it to focus on coordinating a community response to violence.
5th District Community Outreach Specialist Monica Veney with boxing legend Larry Holmes and his wife at the “Our Community, Our Responsibility: People of Faith Coming Together to Stop the Killings,” hosted by Masjid Muhammad Mosque in Ward 7.
Know your Rights Forums
During the past several years, USAODC has hosted numerous police-community forums which were designed to improve the community’s relationship with local police. During these forums, USAODC emphasized the importance of getting to know your local police command staff by attending community meetings; calmly asserting your rights during police encounters; and how to make formal complaints against any officer who has violated your rights. We generally conducted these forums in conjunction with MPD. During these forums, attendees were able to ask questions and express their concerns about police conduct.
1st District Community Prosecutor Doug Klein conducting a “Know Your Rights Presentation” at Caesar Chavez Public Charter School.
Executive Assistant AUSA for External Affairs Wendy Pohlhaus with sign language interpreter speaks on establishing positive police and community relationships at Gallaudet University.
Drug Prevention Outreach
In response to a devastating opioid epidemic here in Washington, D.C., and consistent with the Department of Justice’s focus on opioid abuse prevention, USAODC established the Heroin and Opioid Working Group. This Working Group, which consists of mental health and drug abuse treatment providers and numerous community-based and governmental organizations, was created to bring a greater awareness to the community about the dangers of opioid abuse. The Working Group’s first event was a Heroin Awareness Day in Marvin Gaye Park. This park was chosen because it was a hot-spot for heroin usage. During this event, numerous mental health and drug treatment providers were on hand to provide drug abuse and mental health treatment information and take direct referrals to both in-patient and outpatient programs. In addition, a musical group, which consisted of recovering addicts, gave testimonials and provided entertainment during the event. Since hosting this event, the Working Group has hosted a similar events at locations that have experienced recent upticks in heroin overdoses. In addition, the Working Group has hosted numerous community discussions and film screenings on the perils of opioid abuse at schools, recreation centers, churches, and other community gatherings. Finally, USAODC has not only conducted drug prevention presentations on the dangers of opioids but also on the dangers of using marijuana and synthetic marijuana.
Supervisory Community Outreach Specialist Brenda Horner, Metropolitan Police Department Officers George Hill and Natalie Thomas, and Dr. Mary Gaffney at USAODC Heroin and Opioid Awareness Day at Marvin Gaye Park.
USAODC Heroin and Opioid Awareness Working Group meeting with Supervisory Community Outreach Specialist Brenda Horner, Rev. Sue Taylor, John Standard and others at the Church of Scientology National Affairs Office.
6th District Community Prosecutor Leutrell Osborne conducted a presentation on “The Dangers of Opioid and Heroin Abuse” at a community forum that was hosted by USAODC, Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency and the Friends of Ridge Road.
Property Manager Group
Our Office, in partnership with MPD, facilitates Property Managers and Owners groups in several districts. The Property Managers meetings are specifically designed to address the concerns of property owners and property managers. During these meetings, property managers have an opportunity to meet and network with other property managers. Through these meetings, they are able to discuss ways to address commonly shared public safety and quality of life issues, as well as any additional problems and concerns that may be present.
The Court Report is a monthly newsletter that USAODC created for the community in each police district. The report contains a synopsis of significant cases where the defendant has been indicted, pled or been sentenced for a crime that occurred in their district. The Court Report also provides a list of adult arrests papered by our Office during the previous month. This report is disseminated to the community via email and at community meetings. Community prosecutors and community outreach specialists encourage the community to review the report to see if any offenses occurred in their neighborhoods and then assist the community in writing community impact statements to be presented to the court at the time of sentencing.
II. YOUTH ENGAGEMENT PROGRAMS
In an effort to foster positive decision-making and to deter youth from criminal behavior, USAODC has implemented various youth engagement programs. It is the goal of our Office to expose youth to the inner workings of the criminal justice system and to discourage them from engaging in drugs, gangs and gun violence. We hope to accomplish this through a variety of programs and events that have been specifically developed for this targeted audience.
Youth Court Restorative Justice
USAODC hosts a Youth Court Council program at Ballou High School and Johnson Middle School. The Youth Court Council reviews infractions that occur within the school and makes recommendations to the school administration for restorative justice. The Youth Court Council is a peer driven group that functions to allow for fair review, discussion, and deliberation. The school administrators receive the peer recommendations for improving student life and the school environment. The Youth Court Councils utilize restorative justice best practices from a student perspective to help identify solutions to problems and make change.
Youth Motivation Program
USAODC Youth Motivation Program is designed to expose at-risk youth to the inner workings of the criminal justice system and to discourage them from engaging in gang and gun violence. The program includes a visit to the courthouse where students watch a court hearing; meet with a judge for a question and answer session; and hear a presentation by a homicide detective, prosecutor and/or the U.S. Attorney.
Seventh Annual Youth Summit
For the past seven years, USAODC, along with Project Safe Neighborhoods Task Force agencies and numerous community-based organizations, have hosted the “Breaking the Silence on Youth Violence Summit.” Last year’s summit reached the venue’s capacity with over 600 youth participants and focused on opioid abuse prevention. Through a film and the testimonial of a former heroin addict, we sought to teach our youth participants that heroin and other opioids are highly addictive and dangerous drugs which can lead to death. We also provided runaway and human trafficking prevention training during this year’s summit. The Summit concluded with an educational entertainment segment which reinforced the positive messages of the Summit. The Summit also included a youth informational fair in which numerous non-profit organizations provided information on youth development programs, mentoring programs, and educational youth activities.
6th District Community Prosecutor Leutrell Osborne prepared for the Youth Summit with DJ Flav and Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Roger Mitchell.
3rd District Community Outreach Specialist LaToya Davenport moderated a panel with Darryl Bryant, Jr. and Brandi Martin from Black and Missing and Roxanne Farrow from The Exodus Project; and Onari Lynea, from Healing Broken Wings Inc.
Over 600 students attended the 7th Annual “Breaking the Silence on Youth Violence Youth Summit” at Friendship Collegiate High School.
Project Legal Enrichment and Decision Making (Project L.E.A.D.)
Project L.E.A.D is an initiative that partners our attorneys and support staff with D.C. Public Schools and charter schools to provide mentoring and an interactive curriculum to 5th graders. The program shapes good decision-making skills and teaches components such as conflict resolution, critical thinking and responsibility. During the academic year, mentors meet with students twice a month for an hour to implement an interactive curriculum designed for student participation.
External Affairs Specialist Melanie Howard at Payne Elementary with U.S. Marshals Service presenting a “Know Your Rights Kid!” presentation during a Project L.E.A.D. mentoring session.
Internet Safety Presentations
As a part of the Department’s Project Safe Childhood Initiative, our Office provides Internet Safety Presentations to the community. The presentations are designed to inform not only youth, but parents, educators, senior citizens and caregivers about the dangers and risks of the internet. Our presentations are aimed at establishing an awareness of all of the dangers lurking online. Internet safety presentations for youth are designed to create an atmosphere that encourages them to have a dialogue with trusted adults in their lives about their online behaviors. We also talk to our audiences about sexual predators, cyber-bullying, sexting, and social networking.
Our Project Safe Childhood Initiative efforts also consist of educating parents on what to do in the event that their child went missing. In partnership with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and MPD, USAODC hosted a Child Identification-Halloween Safety Event at D.C. General Hospital Family Homeless Shelter. During this event, children were able to enjoy a traditional Halloween party while their parents were educated on what to do in the event that their child went missing. Parents also had the opportunity to obtain an identification card for their child. This identification contained crucial information which would assist law enforcement in the event that their child was missing.
Youth Mentoring Programs
The USAODC Leadership Academy is a mentoring program for students who reside in the District of Columbia who are in grades 8-12. The goal of this program is to build leadership through interactive learning and service projects. Students attend monthly mentoring sessions. These sessions include guest speakers, public safety and law-based presentations, and field trips. In addition, students participate in community service projects which have included supporting veterans, homeless shelters, and senior citizens. In addition, USAODC supports two mentoring groups at Benning Park and Ft. Davis Recreation Centers. Some of the topics discussed during these meetings are internet safety, police-youth relationships, marijuana and heroin abuse, and gun safety. The objective of both of these mentoring groups is to encourage young people to make healthier choices, and illustrate what is acceptable behavior in today’s society.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office Leadership Academy with External Affairs Specialist Melanie Howard and Executive AUSA for Management Denise Clark on a tour of the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
III. REENTRY OUTREACH
USAODC has sought to be a leader in the Justice Department’s efforts to support the reentry of former offenders to the community following their incarceration. We recognize that returning citizens face serious obstacles to success, such as obtaining employment and housing, and that reducing recidivism requires community-wide collaboration. As a member of the Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee’s (CJCC) Reentry Steering Committee, USAODC has partnered with federal and local agencies and community-based organizations to implement a District-wide reentry strategy. We have also educated recently released individuals about the negative consequences of violating the terms of their supervision during Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency’s (CSOSA) Mass Orientations and the United States Probation Office’s (USPO) orientations for individuals beginning a period of court supervision. At the same time, USAODC has hosted forums to educate business leaders and the community at large about the importance of supporting citizens as they return from prison. We also hosted a job fair which resulted in several reentrants being hired by local businesses.
We have placed special emphasis on women’s reentry efforts. For example, we participated in CSOSA’s annual women reentrants symposium by holding a professional clothing drive in our office. We also supported CSOSA’s symposium by organizing a service provider fair. In addition, USAODC frequently provides a variety of educational seminars to women reentrants during CSOSA’s and USPO’s women’s meetings, and at Fairview Women’s Halfway House. Finally, in partnership with the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS), USAODC hosts a girls’ mentoring group at their secured detention facilities. During these mentoring sessions, USAODC facilitators present information on a variety of topics, including self-esteem, domestic violence, sexual assault prevention, human trafficking and substance abuse prevention.
1st District Community Prosecutor Doug Klein addresses a group of returning citizens at Central Union Mission.
1st District Community Outreach specialist Carolyn Crank joined Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency Intergovernmental and Community Affairs Specialists Michael Bond and Lawrence Jordan at the First District Community Justice Advisory Network meeting at The Faith Tabernacle Church.