Conduit Q&A with GOCCP Executive Director Glenn Fueston

The Conduit Street Q&A is our opportunity to get closer to the csqa-fueston-for-blog-copypolicymakers and public leaders who affect Maryland and its counties. We’ll ask questions about the person, the policy, and the politics – and let their answers bring you valuable insights on the biggest issues of today and tomorrow.

This week, we catch up with V. Glenn Fueston Jr., Executive Director of the Governor’s Office of Crime
Control and Prevention.

MACo: Glenn, thanks for taking the time to talk with us. Our readers at Conduit Street include county officials, but also a pretty wide swath of others who just follow issues and policy across Maryland. We’re glad you could share some things with us, and with all of them.

So first … let’s start with you. What’s your background, and how did you end up working in the Hogan Administration as a point person on criminal justice issues?

Fueston: Thank you very much for taking the time to sit down with me and learn more about the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention. There were many different routes that led me to the Governor’s Office. After graduating from Salisbury State University, I worked on several projects where I completed assessments for substance use disorders and advocated for juveniles who were on the cusp of entering the criminal justice system.

Then I moved to the Washington/Baltimore High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) in Greenbelt, Md., where I spent the majority of my career. This is where I learned more about the advantages of collaboration and coordination between federal, state, and local partners as well as interdisciplinary cooperation. I also learned the value of data and data-driven decisions. The Hogan administration has shown interest in the use of HIDTA’s data to provide timely, accurate, and valuable information to the public health and public safety community.

MACo: What about the Office of Crime Control and Prevention? Do you see its role changing shape in the years ahead, under your leadership and guidance from the governor?

Fueston: Yes, I think the role will continue to develop as a coordinating office that will assist in bringing together different agencies, organizations, and groups from multiple disciplines to help address the criminal justice needs of the citizens of Maryland. I believe one of the most significant changes under this administration will be our focus on data-driven decisions, evidence-based practices, and strategic solutions.

In the past, our office has been well-known for issuing and monitoring grants. It is our intent to continue to fulfill this vital need for the state, but we also want to focus on developing strategies to address specific criminal justice issue areas within the state. Currently we have six areas on which we are focusing our attention: (1) improving victim services; (2) reducing drug-related deaths; (3) increasing the availability of data to support data-driven approaches to criminal justice issues; (4) maximizing the public safety returns on corrections spending; (5) developing criminal justice strategies that are coordinated at the local, state, and federal level; (6) reducing victimization and criminal behavior in children.

Executive Director Glenn Fueston (right) meets with the Maryland State Police Forensic Sciences Division to recognize them for the outstanding service they deliver to the law enforcement community.

 MACo: By the way… we’ve heard the GOCCP acronym pronounced as both Go-COP and Go-CAP. Care to settle that bar bet?

Fueston: That’s great. I believe the pronunciation would be Go-CAP. That’s an interesting question on two levels. First, in an effort to ensure that government is truly accessible to the people, we are really trying to move away from the use of acronyms that many people simply won’t know. Second, people often incorrectly associate our office with the police, especially if they think the acronym is pronounced “Go-COP.” This is another perception that we are trying to change, although we certainly support a lot of law enforcement initiatives, and a large portion of our funding goes to support crime victims. As a matter of fact, the governor recently released more than $46 million to entities around the state to support these victims–to ensure they receive information, can access the proper channels to provide input, receive restitution, and are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.

MACo: Great, got it.

Now … you’ve talked about being more data-driven. Those are words that we hear tossed around a lot these days … “big data” and so forth. Can you break that down a bit, and tell us what that might mean for grant programs, or other areas where counties and our front-line efforts might feel it?

Fueston: I think there are two primary ways in which big data and data-driven decisions will play a role in our front-line efforts. We have seen countless articles about the use of data to make better decisions. I believe these same concepts can be applied to criminal justice issues as a whole. The key is using the data to provide meaningful, accurate, and timely information to the people who can and will take action; in other words, analyzing and synthesizing the data into meaningful parts. My hope is that we can begin a process where we are collecting data from many different entities around the state to produce information we can act on, while still being mindful of citizens’ privacy and civil liberties.

One way is using data in the opioid crisis. What if we could help identify communities that were being hit the hardest by this threat and therefore place more resources there? An example is a current effort that will help local health departments identify individuals who are overdosing multiple times due to their heroin addiction. By collecting and analyzing this data, we can identify these individuals, get this information to the local health department, and provide services that can save their lives.

Executive Director Glenn Fueston (right) joins Lt. Governor Boyd Rutherford (center left) at a workforce re-entry Luncheon sponsored by the Work First Foundation.

The second way is data-driven decisions through outcomes measures. By focusing on Governor Hogan’s desire to be the best fiscal steward of the funds we have, we can develop outcome measures that will help show the impact of the programs we are funding and coordinating. For example, by utilizing outcome measures versus simple outputs (counts), we can show how a particular program changed Maryland for the better by providing services to a crime victim. It’s the difference between feeling good and doing good. The data can also show us how we need to adapt a program so that we can have better outcomes. It’s all about providing the best possible services to the citizens of Maryland and improving quality of life. If we don’t measure ourselves, how will we ever know that we effected change?

MACo: So, data was a big part of the state’s recent move toward “justice reinvestment” – with legislation in 2016, and with a lot more work still ahead. We’ve covered this over time, but what do you hope we see out of these changes?

Fueston: I believe that we are going to see the largest, most comprehensive criminal justice reform in a generation. I believe the Justice Reinvestment Act that garnered wide bipartisan support will enable Maryland to better help families, restore communities, keep our streets safer, and move Maryland’s economy forward. This legislation strikes a balance between our most important duty of protecting public safety and the cost savings that result from a more efficient and right-sized criminal justice system. It holds individual offenders accountable for their actions and the government accountable for its responsibility to ensure safe communities. It emphasizes treatment for those struggling with addiction while holding drug traffickers accountable. And it provides an opportunity to elevate the voice of victims and takes steps to help make them whole again. The Justice Reinvestment Act will lead to better outcomes for the taxpayer and, most importantly, better outcomes for the safety of our communities.

 MACo: Where does GOCCP fit in going forward?

Fueston: I think our role moving forward will be to work with the Justice Reinvestment Oversight Board, Local Government Commission, and the Advisory Board to ensure that the legislation is properly implemented and that the savings generated from the Act will be properly reinvested to stop the cycle of incarceration.

MACo: Clearly, a big part of justice reforms are connected to substance use disorder. This has been a top issue for MACo in recent years – as you know we have a crisis on our hands. And the data isn’t good, right? We are seeing numbers of overdoses and deaths increase in many parts of the state. Where does GOCCP have a role in all this?

Fueston: Unfortunately, you are correct; the data isn’t good, but I think it’s important to focus on the positive outcomes that have occurred due to all of the efforts of the state and local partners that have been placing attention on the disease of addiction. I believe GOCCP’s role moving forward stays consistent with our general mission to create a safer Maryland. Our role is to help develop strategies that will result in positive changes and reduce this threat over the short and long term.

In the 2016 legislative session, the governor acted on the recommendations of the Heroin and Opioid Emergency Task Force and signed legislation to expand the state’s Good Samaritan Law and Prescription Drug Monitoring Program. To date, Governor Hogan has committed nearly $9 million to help eradicate the heroin epidemic in Maryland. Of the $9 million, $931,371 went toward funding a heroin coordinator in law enforcement agencies in every region of the state, while a total of $2,070,397 went to nine jurisdictions to continue the Safe Streets Initiative, an offender-based program that tracks down and arrests the most serious, violent, and repeat offenders while connecting those offenders struggling with substance use disorders with health care, education, and other services. This year, five Safe Streets sites will be funded to hire peer recovery specialists to integrate treatment into the model.

Our role is consistent: to continue working with jurisdictions to ensure the efforts we have in place are successful, measure their outcomes, and adjust as necessary.

MACo: For counties who are struggling with this issue – are there any under-used resources that you control that we ought to know about? Any tips for our member counties?

Fueston: I think that there are many resources available for the counties that could be utilized more effectively. The Heroin and Opioid Emergency Task Force put forth 33 recommendations for expanding access to treatment; enhancing quality of care; boosting overdose prevention efforts; escalating law enforcement options, reentry, and alternatives to incarceration; promoting educational tools for youth, parents, and school officials; and improving state support services. I encourage decision makers and stakeholders in every jurisdiction to review these recommendations and see where they might improve within their areas of responsibility. As they do this, they should call upon our office to assist in collaboration between jurisdictions and partner agencies, and if funding is necessary, we can have that discussion as well.

MACo: The office also has a role with victims’ services. Not everyone knows about your engagement there – can you talk about that a bit?

Fueston: Yes, thank you for bringing this up. This is an effort we are trying to highlight. A large portion of our funding goes to support crime victims. As I mentioned before, the governor just recently released more than $46 million to state and local agencies and nonprofit organizations that provide assistance, services, and treatment for Maryland citizens who have been victims of crime. Our office provides support to sexual assault and rape crisis centers, domestic violence programs and shelters, child abuse programs, mental health services, and programs for under-served victims. Hospitals and emergency medical facilities that offer crisis counseling, forensic examinations, and other victim services are also eligible for the grants. Criminal justice agencies such as police departments or state’s attorneys’ offices use these funds for victim crisis units, victim advocates, victim registration and notification, and victim-witness programs.

Executive Director Glenn Fueston (center) meets with the Park Heights Safe Streets team in Baltimore.

And last spring, our office was proud to sponsor the first-ever Maryland Governor’s Crime Victims’ Rights Conference to provide valuable training and to recognize those who have contributed to the victims’ rights movement in Maryland. The governor delivered some great opening remarks, affirming his commitment to helping individuals rebuild their lives, and to creating a criminal justice system that does not exclude crime victims.

MACo: MACo and local law enforcement are working on legislation to deal with body cameras – trying to make sure that footage doesn’t become a free-for-all public document. Part of that is protecting victims, obviously, and their advocates are helping us to pass a good balancing bill. Any thoughts on the emergence of this technology on the front lines of law enforcement?

Fueston: I believe that this can be a great tool, but understand the concerns regarding privacy for victims as well as the general public as they interact with the police department implementing this technology. In fact, the Commission Regarding the Implementation and Use of Body Cameras by Law Enforcement Officers made a strong recommendation to the General Assembly that it should consider amending the Maryland Public Information Act to incorporate provisions to specifically govern the release of audio and video recordings captured by a law enforcement officer’s body-worn camera to include, but not be limited to, those recordings that depict victims of violent crimes and domestic abuse.

MACo: Okay. This has been helpful. Anything else you’d like to get across to the teeming millions of Conduit Street readers?

Fueston: Just that I sincerely look forward to working with each of them for a safer Maryland. Our doors are always open and we are looking for opportunities to discuss and develop collaborative efforts to address criminal justice issues around the state. I’ve worked with MACo for many years and look forward to the continued collaboration in my new role with the state. And as for Governor Hogan, well, you already know that you have his full commitment as well. He has said that no governor can effectively govern without a strong partnership between the state and all of our local leaders working together. In the Hogan-Rutherford administration, you will always find a great partner.

MACo: Thanks so much for your time, Glenn. We hope to see you at future MACo conferences and meetings. We obviously have a lot of common goals to work on together.