PSA Director Welcomes NAPSA to the Nation’s Capital

Posted October 2012

In September 2012, Washington, DC, hosted for the National Association of Pretrial Services Agencies’ 40th Annual Training Conference, which had the theme: “Honoring our Past, Soaring into the Future.” PSA Director Cliff Keenan welcomed the 650+ participants from around the nation with these opening remarks:

"I am proud and honored to be standing before you as Director of the Pretrial Services Agency for the District of Columbia, one of the finest law enforcement agencies in the United States. Our mission is to promote pretrial justice and community safety by assisting judicial officers in making appropriate pretrial release decisions and providing supervision and services to those who are released to the community - I am so proud of the staff of PSA who live by and carry out that mission every day. On behalf of all of the men and women of PSA, welcome to our town.

I am also proud to be a part of the D.C. criminal justice system, one of the best criminal justice systems in the country when it comes to pretrial justice because we do it right – money doesn’t control who’s in jail and who is not.
And it’s not just me who will say that – tomorrow you will hear from Chief Judge Eric Washington of the D.C. Court of Appeals, the highest ranking judicial officer in the city. And on Tuesday you will hear from United States Attorney Ronald Machen, the top prosecutor and chief law enforcement officer for the city. They too will say we do it right.

For those of you who don’t know me, I always had an interest in criminal justice and started my career in law enforcement in this city over 38 years ago as a D.C. cop. After almost 11 years there, I became an Assistant U.S. Attorney, a prosecutor, here in D.C. and stayed with them for almost 20 years. My job during all those years was to enforce the law.

Eight years ago the Operations Director position at PSA became open. While I had worked with Pretrial during my years as a cop and a prosecutor, and knew what a great Agency it was, I didn’t really know what I was getting into when I decided to join them. I hadn’t drunk that “Pretrial Justice Kool-Aid” as of yet.

My colleagues at MPD and the USAO started asking why I would be joining the “Dark Side,” you know, getting people out of jail rather than keeping them locked up. It didn’t take me long to realize that folks who work in Pretrial, as Judge Bruce Beaudin always says, are law enforcement officers – the laws we enforce are the bail laws. And we do it right and we do it well.

Some of you may say, “Sure – you’re D.C. You’re so big, you have so many resources, you have so many FTEs. We can’t do that.” 

I can’t, and won’t, apologize for where we are today. But I do congratulate those who came before me, those who had the vision and the ingenuity and the talent to make things happen the way they have. We started as the D.C. Bail Agency 47 years ago with a supervisor and 5 interviewers, one of them being Bruce Beaudin, one of the pioneers of pretrial justice for whom NAPSA has named one of its highest awards. And through the years, it was individuals, people like you and me - the Bruce Beaudins, the Allen Henrys, the Tim Murrays, the John Clarks, the Jay Carvers, the Susie Shaffers - who brought us to where we are today. And they weren’t just handed what we have – they begged and scrapped and fought for the resources they needed to do the job of doing pretrial justice right.

For the work they did to get us here, I am so very grateful.

Our vision at PSA is to be a leader in the field of pretrial justice. We have always supported NAPSA, most recently through the wonderful work done by Miranda Boozer, Spurgeon Kennedy, and Susie Shaffer. I commit to you, as Director of PSA, to do all we can to further the goal of achieving true pretrial justice throughout these United States.

Last year, Attorney General Eric Holder convened the second Pretrial Justice Symposium, which came some 47 years after Attorney General Robert Kennedy convened the first Bail Reform Conference, both of which took place here in D.C. I’d like to read to you what Bobby Kennedy said on the opening day of that conference: “There is a special responsibility on all of us here, a special responsibility to represent those who cannot be here, those who are poor, those who are unfortunate – the 1,500,000 persons in the United States who are accused of a crime, who haven’t been yet found guilty, who are yet unable to make bail and serve a time in prison prior to the time that their guilt has even been established. For these people, for those who cannot protect themselves, for those who are unfortunate, we here, over the period of the next three days, have a special responsibility.”

“We here have a special responsibility.” The same can be said for us, not just over the next three days, but when we get back to our jurisdictions. My question: What are we, collectively, going to do about it? Better yet, what is each of us, individually, going to do about it? Are we going to seize this opportunity, given all that is going on in the field of pretrial justice, and finally get it right everywhere in the U.S.?  

Out there among you is seated the next Bruce Beaudin, Joe Olgiatti, Jay Carver – it’s up to you - seize that opportunity.

Thank you, let’s have a great conference, and again, welcome to D.C."