Fixing these problems is hard. It took years of lobbying, an act of Congress and the signature of President Obama this year to add two words—“and incentives”—in the agency’s federal charter. That insertion gives CSOSA the latitude to offer offenders not only punishments but also rewards for good behavior. The most-discussed incentive was $1.75 in D.C. bus fare to travel to job interviews.
It’s a stark contrast with rapid policy changes underway in states across the political spectrum, from Kansas to North Carolina, where in recent years officials have instituted programs that provide incentives but also, when offenders slip up, almost immediate overnight stays in jail.
In the District, court records show, it can take nearly two months for CSOSA officials to get a warrant approved and served.
When CSOSA lost contact with an offender, its employees were supposed to immediately begin a search, make phone calls to the offender and send a certified letter to the offender’s last known address.
The agency gave itself 21 days to complete the process—18 days to hear from the offender, and another three to file a report of the missing with a judge or the parole commission—to start the process of getting a warrant to pick someone up, according to agency policy.
Ware said officers can move more quickly than 21 days, if they determine it is warranted. But Williams, the former head of probation and parole, said the certified letter process is an embarrassment for the agency. The time frame for getting a warrant, he said, can stretch to 51 days because it can take roughly 30 days to schedule a hearing before a judge. “The timeline is just too long,” Williams said.