|ACA does Grapevine|
|By Ann Coppola, News Reporter|
The theme of the American Correctional Association’s winter conference, held last week, was “Work Force: The Heart of Corrections,” and the attendants took the title literally. Corrections professionals came out in full force and with heart for the ever-growing event. The five-day meeting at the Gaylord Texan Resort and Convention Center in Grapevine, Texas drew hundreds of practitioners from all over the United States to share their experiences, concerns and solutions regarding the biggest challenges facing the field today.
“The location was fantastic,” says Catherine Gross, director of business development for NaphCare, Inc. “There was a lot of vendor participation. It’s a great opportunity as a vendor to network and meet key decision makers.”
More than 200 vendors and exhibitors displayed their wares in the ACA exhibit hall, with more than 40 new exhibitors setting up booths for the first time.
“I was most impressed by the level of professionalism that I saw and the commitment to excellence of the people at the conference,” says first-time conference attendee Warden Carol Wallace, from Virginia’s Lunenberg Correctional Center. “I also was struck by the fact that the issues I as a warden in Virginia am grappling with seem to be those that other states or wardens are struggling with.”
With 90 workshops covering everything from MRSA to wrongful convictions to green facilities, there was a topic of interest for everyone.
“One of the biggest issues for me is reentry, and I attended a very interesting reentry workshop,” Wallace adds. “Lunenberg releases 600 people a year to the street. Reentry is increasingly becoming a challenge for us.”
There were 33 health care workshops and events, including a discussion on medical screenings at intake coordinated by Dr. John May, Chief Medical Officer for Armor Correctional Health Care.
“Some of the comments we heard from the audience were that it was nice to understand the justification for doing different screenings of inmates at intake,” May says of the nearly 100-person crowd. “There is no single checklist of conditions to screen for. You screen for the conditions that will impact the facility for which reasonable interventions exist, and for which a scientifically proven and practical to implement test is available.”
Another well-attended workshop was the presentation on safe inmate transports, coordinated by South Carolina Department of Corrections Director Jon Ozmint. Nearly 60 people listened to a five-member panel discuss the best practices and latest technology for the increasingly dangerous operation.
“It’s a relevant topic because across the country if you look at the most serious, bad outcomes over the past few years, they’ve all been transport related,” Ozmint explains. A Maryland hospital system is currently refusing to treat inmates, after a violent escape that occurred only three weeks ago.
“You have to ask if it’s really worth the risk to society to move a dangerous inmate when there’s telemedicine and teleconference court hearings,” he adds. “I think the reality and danger of these situations is going to drive people more and more towards technological solutions to eliminate as many transports as possible.”
In addition to the variety of presentations, attendees toured a number of local, state and federal correctional facilities in the Grapevine area. The Dallas County Sheriff’s Office opened its doors to conference-goers, as did FCI Fort Worth, once a U.S. Public Health Services hospital that treated drug addicts during World War II. Juvenile facilities welcomed the ACA crowd too, with the Gainesville State School maximum security facility and McFadden Ranch opening their doors.
And with a nod to up and coming members of the corrections community, ACA added a new three-day job fair in the exhibit hall. More than twenty correctional agencies had open positions posted in the booth, along with applications.
“I think the conference keeps getting better and better every year,” May says.
“ACA puts on a wonderful, well organized meeting,” Gross agrees.
Next stop for ACA is the even bigger summer conference located in New Orleans, Louisiana. This winter, the corrections community brought heart. Now everyone will be looking forward to the summer for a little soul.
More about the winter conference
Information on future conferences
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