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Celebrate the journey
By Ann Coppola, News Reporter
Published: 10/13/2008

1006wecandoit6698846 The 12th National Conference of Women Working in Corrections and Juvenile Justice is coming to Des Moines, Iowa this October. Co-sponsored by the Iowa Corrections Association, organizers are looking to “celebrate the journey” of the growing number of women who are contributing to criminal justice progress and reform.

“We would encourage any women working in prison, community corrections, jails, or juvenile systems to attend,” says conference co-chair Jeannette Bucklew. “Any women at the line or management level who are looking to further their professional growth and make connections with other women across the nation in the corrections workforce.” .

The first National Conference of Women Working in Corrections and Juvenile Justice was held in 1985, just a few years after women began entering the corrections workforce in greater numbers. Since then, the conference has traveled to twelve different states, and it now meets once every two years. .

“As women started being hired in the corrections system, there became a need to have some way of supporting them, because they were such a minority in the workforce,” Bucklew explains. “There’s been tremendous growth in the number of women in the corrections workforce over the years and that’s why this conference really exists.”

This year, the conference will provide a variety of workshops, along with tours of local Iowa correctional facilities and programs, all with a focus on female staff and offenders. Attendees will hear from the Des Moines Women’s Residential Program, a 48-bed facility that houses only women and provides a wing so offenders’ children can live with them. The F.A.S.T. program, an Iowa-based initiative helping offender families deal with guilt, substance abuse, grief, and other emotions also will be spotlighted.

The conference’s 29 workshops will deal with five major themes: “Leadership at all Levels,” “Offender Journey,” “Corrections and the Community,” “Workplace Climate,” and “Living a Balanced and Healthy Life.” Discussions on the unique choices women face during their careers are anticipated to be a big draw, especially now since Alaska Governor Sarah Palin’s run for Vice President has opened up a national conversation on working mothers.

Additionally, many sessions will focus on working with juvenile girls in the criminal justice system. Some of the issues up for discussion include anger and girls in the juvenile justice system, and the increasing rate of incarceration of girls.

The meeting will also include a day-long intensive session on gender responsive research, which will explore the evidence, philosophy, and core elements of a case management model designed specifically for women.

“That’s one of our strongest features this year, and it is really unique to our meeting,” Bucklew says.

Dr. Marilyn Van Dieten of Canada will present the topic, sharing results from the model’s implementation in two states. The conference also will feature keynote speakers such as former Iowa Attorney General Bonnie J. Campbell and 98th American Correctional Association President Gwendolyn C. Chunn.

“We are going to have extensive training, focusing both on developing women as leaders in the correctional system as well as providing opportunities to network and connect with other people,” Bucklew adds. “Our goal is to be supportive.”

The conference will be held the week of October 26.

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