Webinar presenters Michelle Turner, Camie Borsdorf, and Laura Farmer answered a number of your questions after their presentation, A Proactive Response to Domestic Violence: Addressing Victim Safety and Offender Accountability (Part 2). Here are just a few of their responses.
Audience Question: So, what does your group do for self-care?
Camie Borsdorf: That is a great question. We do lots of different things. One of the things that we as an office has started in the last eight months is that all staff have an hour of self-care a week. So that is a time in which we all do something that helps us to recharge. Some people work out, some people use that as a day. They come in a little bit late, and maybe they sleep in or they stop and grab a cup of coffee, do a longer lunch, whatever that is that really fills them up. We encourage them to do that as part of their normal work routine. We also have some staff and encourage staff to, you know, go and talk with a therapist, to talk with their supervisor about their self-care plans. We talk about those regularly in supervision. We want it to be more than just a one-time thing. We talk a lot about self-care being a way of life, so we talk about all the different things that we can do and give each other examples of that. We have folks who do a lot of journaling. We share those kinds of things with everyone, with each other as well. We try to do calls about every week or every other week that we call teatime. Now that we’re all working from home because of the pandemic, we actually tried about every other week to get together where we all kind of can be in the same space when we talk about things that have nothing to do with work. We’ve shared recipes, we’ve shown pictures of pets. We played Bingo once. We also show Wednesday wins as a team. So, we try to focus on the positive as well and really supporting each other, but really encouraging each other to do those things that they needed to take care of themselves. We also talk about self-care as part of being in service and being an advocate and that is an expectation, as part of your job, is, that you’re going to take care of yourself that it’s an ethical responsibility to do so. So, we really see it as something that is 100% necessary and really woven into how we do our work every single day.
Audience Question: Camie, how big is your team? And then kind of a tag-along to that? How many victims does each of your team members typically work with at any given point in time? So maybe start with the first part and then go to the second.
Camie Borsdorf: How big is our team? So, the whole team total is about 33 people. We call it liaison land, lovingly. Liaison Land is 14 team – I’m looking at Laura and Shelley on FaceTime or around 14. Average caseload, like I said, for last year, we average a little over 300 at any one time, liaisons could be managing 45, 50 cases. It kind of depends on what’s going on. They could have 10 that are super high risk where there’s a lot of intense things happening but there could also be a case where maybe it’s two phone calls and that’s all the services that are provided. It really is just dependent upon, kind of about victims’ needs and safety concerns and risks and locality assessments that are done that really kind of drive what that work is. So, it varies from day to day and week to week.
Audience Question: What was the name of the video, again, I know it was Kid President, right? But what was the name of the video?
Camie Borsdorf: It’s called A Pep Talk. There are part one and part two, and that was part one.
Host: Oh, good. Thank you for letting us know that. I will also try to put a link to that video on the webinar recording page on the justiceclearinghouse.com website, too, so thanks for asking that.
Audience Question: When there is a no-contact protective order put in place and the offender continues to write the victim while in custody. How do you intercept that mail from being sent to the victim? She goes on to say, I’ve noticed that some offenders won’t include the victim’s name but we’ll put the address where the survivor is residing and on the mailing envelope. What are the penalties that that offender faces for violating?
Michelle (Shelly) Turner: That’s a great question and this is Shelly. Since I work as a Facility Liaison, I can address that. It is against KDOC policy, once that this communication is in place, they are subject to disciplinary report and disciplinary reports will compound, taking away good time, restricted housing and eventually they start to violate state statutes regarding stalking. So, we referred to it as being sent downtown but that means it’s being sent to the district attorney’s office to file new criminal charges if the behavior continues. I think the first part of that question is really interesting too. How is that intercepted or how do we know? And I have to say with, you know, 10,000 inmates an offender’s across the state of Kansas. We don’t have the staff to read every single letter but we do review many of them. We also have access to phone calls and their jailpay(?) communication. So those can be monitored as well. They can be labeled as readable mail. If there’s an ongoing issue, EAI will read all mail that they send out. Obviously, there are ways to circumvent the system. So, we are also dependent upon victims to report that contact when it occurs. If that continues to be unwanted contact, our information is very available to them as a resource of a way to follow up on that.
Audience Question: Piggybacking along those lines, sometimes, offenders use others to “contact” or intimidate their victims, or just have a person always around whether it’s stalking them at the grocery store, or, coincidentally, they’re there at church, where the victim is, etc. How do you include those individuals in your safety planning process? Or how do you address those individuals in the safety planning process?
Laura Farmer: I think that is one of the most challenging aspects of third-party contact. That’s how we would refer to it on supervision. We do have a special condition that’s specific to domestic violence offenders that talks about not only are they not to contact, but they also are not to engage a third party in any contact or stalking-like behaviors. That being said, It’s really, really hard in most cases to pinpoint that offender specifically is having this person may contact — Sometimes it is there. We work with victims if there is somebody that is constantly in contact, or is making their presence known, or maybe sending messages to them that are unwanted that in itself could be stalking. So, we do ask victims to create a stocking log, we refer to law enforcement. So, we encompass the mileage by looking at our options. I think with the safety planning is really thinking through about there are children in common, where are the children, who are the people that they trust? And really focusing on what the victim sees as the risk to them. That’s a great question, but it is more challenging.
Audience Question: Do you ever utilize victim-offender dialogue processes in your work related to domestic violence?
Camie Borsdorf: Oh, wow, that’s a tricky question, Nick. Yes and no. Yes, we have looked into that. There’s not a lot of folks in the United States right now that are doing that. We actually have a new restorative justice staff person who’s really doing some more research on that. There are a couple of really good publications that I’ve read and looked at. When we have done that it’s been on more of a case by case basis, really looking at that case and really looking at, like you would, with any other —- What is it that the victim would like to happen? What are the safety concerns? What’s the history of that case? What’s the history of abuse? Is that that she just wants to have a one-time type of contact are going to be ongoing? Because if it was ongoing, Then, that’s going to be more of a family re-integration situation and not something we would do in a victim-offender dialogue type of setting. So, yes, Sometimes, maybe, and only on a case by case basis. How about that?
Audience Question: Well, you mentioned restorative justice. What have you looked at in terms of including restorative justice philosophy into your program?
Camie Borsdorf: So, all of the liaisons are trained on restorative justice, and we’re in the process of training all of our liaisons on how to facilitate victim-offender dialogues as well. We try to offer those services where appropriate. Within those restorative justice processes are things like apology letters. So really looking at some of those things, sometimes it is, folks are interested, even as far as restorative justice, in being on a panel or a victim impact class. So, it can be a lot of different ways in which folks are interested in really being involved in some sort of restorative justice programming.
Audience Question: Interesting. So, it sounds like one of the things you might have just answered this next question. In a 12-step program, one of the steps is to make amends if the other person i.e., the victim as willing. If an offender’s trying to make amends, how is that contact handled? And it sounds like you said it’s very much a case by case basis.
Camie Borsdorf: So, I will say, as long as under supervision by policy, they can’t make contact with the victim of the crime of their conviction. That has to be victim initiated. So, if the victim isn’t interested in that, then that’s where an apology repository is an option. Any offender can write a letter to the input. We’ll store that indefinitely in the apology repository. We let victims know that those letters were there and victims have the choice of whether or not, to see if a letter is there. We’ve had some victims that have even ask for a letter and we will go to an offender and talk with them and see if that’s something that they’re interested in as well as part of, like, an alternative. We, you know, we’re not going to reach out to them and say, Hey, you have a letter you know, batterer Joe wants to apologize to you, Susie. That is up to a victim to decide if that it’s something that they desire, that they want. So, it’s all completely victim initiated.
Audience Question: Are there programs available to misdemeanor offenders? How about those not on the Department of Corrections supervision.
Camie Borsdorf: I’m confused what for. If for batters’ intervention, yes. Most of the larger communities in Kansas, do have batterer intervention programs in their communities that are certified by the Attorney General’s Office. There are state requirements to be accredited to be a program in the State of Kansas for batters intervention providers. As far as, like, a VSO type of program, we did it one point in time, do a pilot program with community corrections in one area. But because there are so many different jurisdictions and all those jurisdictions have different rules and different ways of doing business, it’s not as easy to co-ordinate a VSO program on a statewide level. So right now, we’re only at the state level. We rely heavily on our partners within the community victim service program to really assess with some of those and really make those connections with probation and community corrections and those type of folks
Audience Question: I’m going to go back to the previous question here for a second. We had somebody write in a follow-up. Do you screen the apology letters before you give them to the victim? How does that work?
Camie Borsdorf: Oh, yes, actually, we have a whole, what we call an IMPPs. We have a whole procedure, policy procedure on how those happen. We actually have a brochure that is a guide to offenders on how to write an apology letter. So those are screened and if they are not appropriate, if they don’t meet those basic criteria then we send them back with comments and information about changes that they can make if they want to resubmit it.
Audience Question: You mentioned that the victim advocates can facilitate contact between the victim and the perpetrator while incarcerated. How does an order of protection come into play here?
Camie Borsdorf: So, that as a civil order in the state of Kansas, right? So, protection from abuse is put on as a civil order. So, the department sees that as we would like to see that that order is dismissed before the victim and the offender would have contact. But in Kansas, a protection from abuse order does not stop the victim from having contact with the offender. It prohibits the offender from having any type of contact with the victim. The victim chooses to write that offender a letter that is not something that would be addressed prior to protection from abuse order. In order for family re-integration to happen that protection from abuse order would need to be or protection from stalking order would need to be dismissed before the court before that process could move forward.
Audience Question: You mentioned a DV screening tool. I’m remembering, I think Janet and Audrey talked about it in the first presentation. So, but can you, again, kind of reiterate what was that screening tool that you talked about earlier in the presentation?
Laura Farmer: So, it’s there. It’s an RDU questionnaire and there are six questions on it. Everyone that goes are admitted through RDU at El Dorado. So that means that they are sentenced to the Department of Corrections. It’s when they are processed in. So, there are a lot of assessments, a lot of information that is required to provide but it’s a self-report. The questions include, have the police ever been called? Have you ever been arrested, charged, or convicted of a crime? These are all against a dating or intimate partner or spouse. There have been arrested, charged, convicted? Are you currently serving time for domestic violence? Is there a history of protection orders? Have you ever participated in like Batterer Intervention, Anger Management? We kind of widen that field knowing that offenders who commit domestic violence may not all be referred to as to a batterer intervention program. Some courts might send them to other services. Then finally, have you ever been sanctioned or reffed on supervision due to domestic violence? So those are the six questions and it really, it is self-report, but it’s pretty amazing the answers that we get.
Audience Question: Was it hard to incorporate that screening tool into the process? Was it difficult to do?
Laura Farmer: No, Janet Good, who’s our domestic violence coordinator, worked with RDU and really spend some time looking at, like, what is that process like really kind of evolved with some discussion from the folks that are engaged in that process. They said you know what, you’d make a generic form and hand it to someone, they’re going to complete it. We do have a process that if someone refuses, those are automatically looked up. So, if they’re blank there, they’re reviewed. Then also what we found is that sometimes as the staff members sitting across from that individual filling it out, they can look at it and go, oh, let me add these details. So, it’s really a collaborative effort between the RDU staff. Really are working individually with those offenders to get all of the information that we need.
Audience Question: So, if people were interested in that screening tool, can they follow up with you after the webinar and either get a copy or a restatement of what those questions are? Can I follow up with you guys?
Laura Farmer: Yes. Absolutely. We absolutely welcome all questions. If you’re interested.
Audience Question: Do you have a sense of the success of the Batterer intervention program in terms of being able to reduce recidivism? Have you guys tracked that?
Camie Borsdorf: We do and I’ll leave you with a cliffhanger because I don’t have the numbers in front of me. That is something that Danielle and Sheree (?) and Tia (?) will be talking about in January. But, yes, we are seeing the success of our program.
Click Here to Watch a Recording of A Proactive Response to Domestic Violence: Addressing Victim Safety and Offender Accountability (Part 2).