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Practical Perspectives: Realizing Profound Change requires Collaboration
By Major Clifford G. Tebbitt, Jail Administrator, Scott County Sheriff's Office
Published: 09/06/2010

County jail
Editors note: The following is the second in a series of articles written by Major Clifford G. Tebbitt, of the Scott County Iowa Sheriff's Office. Mr. Tebbitt is a Jail Administrator and a PhD candidate. The series includes: contemporary issues with jail/corrections administration. The series uses the fictitious County name of Acme County.

The genesis of any plan for change that is intended wide scale transformation within your jail operation would be best advised by embracing a collaborative effort. A collaboration that folds any and all possible stakeholders within the community that change is intended and/or desired. From this author’s perspective having experienced total transformation involving the adoption of a rehabilitation model and the abandonment of a punishment inmate-management model of, leaders should see the aspect of involving more in the process a necessity in strengthening likely outcomes. Paving the direction-finding for your future and identifying the change goals, in order to be successful demands an inclusion strategy assigning participation within your steering formation. The course is sure to yield a much greater comprehensive plan then not. To bridge this very academic description of what is essential in the process of introducing change within a jail operation, a look at Acme County’s experience can offer example of the concept’s application.

The Acme County government operates within a rich landscape that offers jail leadership theory, many shades of philosophy, concept, and at times from the practitioner’s perspective invaluable examples of application in the field. The backdrop is rich with data that provides numerous examples that are tremendously influential on the community’s citizenry when contemplating significant change within various county government organizations pursuing assessed public sector solutions for problems many twenty-first century organizations are experiencing all over the country. In an ever-growing competitive global environment demanding excellence and quality in public service, the greatest challenge for Acme County was to cut through the inertia in pursuit of meaningful change; especially within the Sheriff’s Office, Corrections Division – Jail organization and performance.

From a jail leadership perspective at the time, the process should challenge to the organization to “see” the practices of the past that had been reinforced within the organization for generations in a new light. The practices of the past that were suspect and assumed to be contributing to the current time ills and problems plaguing the jail’s image and reputation appeared so pervasive potential solutions seemed almost impossible. The existing internal and surrounding support systems within the County’s jail organization were performing so poorly that all of Acme County’s stakeholders were demanded change, as an assumed lack of systemic synchronization of resources and operating philosophy of past practice were now suspected to be so significantly contributing to the system’s failure that practices of the past were forecasted to bankrupt the County in a relatively short time in the future. Although not yet definitively measured from an initial glance the current operating model was assumed to be contributing to what was realized a number of serious crime categories to be an almost 40% greater recidivism affect when compared to like size jail operations when comparing with recidivism outcome. The question that was on everyone’s mind that needed to be answered was why and what distinguishing differences in our operation existed that maybe contributing to our poor performance.

From a global standpoint in the process of addressing our situation, the County established the Community Jail and Alternatives Advisory Committee (CJAAC) in 2001, involving a full spectrum of stakeholders including city/county government officials as well as civilian representatives from the surrounding communities. Their mission from the outset was to evaluate jail needs from a standpoint of offender/inmate management system issues and to assess outcomes that affect the jail and the overall local area criminal justice system. The primary objective was to guide the development of construction options for the public to vote on. Charged with the mission to develop community-based solutions and develop a comprehensive service plan to manage the County’s criminal population that would reduce recidivism to at least a national average level. In addition, the CJAAC needed to address why the incarcerated rate was significantly higher than average when compared to other jurisdictions (Anonymous, 2004). Statistics indicate jail admission data was higher than average return-to-custody rates when compared to jails throughout the country that operate within a best practices model framework (Welsh and Farrington, 2005).

CJAAC’s work successfully ushered a plan that addressed the inmate management issues surrounding a jail facility that was no longer capable of accommodating the need after receiving a federal magistrate decree to reduce crowding. Chartered to develop offender/inmate management options that would offer community based solutions CJAAC’s mission in part was to facilitate future strategies for the use of and programs within the jail. The effort transcended in the steering of a public referendum for a new larger jail that went before the voters of Acme County in 2004. This information developed construction options for the public to vote on. From a standpoint of offender/inmate management, CJAAC facilitated evaluation of the County system issues and outcomes that directly affect the jail facility. Acme County’s criminal population management strategies to reduce recidivism appeared to be weak and had not adopted “evidenced-based” recidivism reducing practices in targeting some of the basic causes of recidivism. Acme County began to realize the need to consider adopting recidivism rate benchmarks to judge its organization effectiveness, but further discussion in this area will come later within this series of articles.

Much of the County’s effort as of late focused on transition from a liner facility to a direct supervision facility. Consequently, much of the last 3-year’s attention has gone to managing the jail population and training the officer supervisory personnel in direct supervision principles and understanding how to operate within their new facility. These efforts have been very successful with no major incident of staff and or inmate injury or escape to date.

Solutions to Acme County’s offender and inmate management problems are not linear. A solution to the foretold problems challenge appears to be impenetrable fifteens of control that operate with singularly focused agendas, which calls for a multifaceted unifying solution. The new jail facility replaced an old antiquated that had served years beyond it operational obsolesces set in, and a result instill generations of damage when considering the influence a jail and the inmate management system surrounding it can have on its user. Clearly the modernized facility by-itself is not an end to the County problems, but is a cornerstone to solutions in the future. Further development of collaborative programming and reinforced lines of communication that address criminal behavior in the community rather than using the jail as a primary means to adjust behavior should be the County’s future focus.

References:

Anonymous. (2004). State Rates of Incarceration by Race. The Sentencing Project 2004. Pg 3. Washington DC. Article/abstract retrieved August 6, 2010, accessed from: http://www.sentencingproject.org/Admin/Documents/publications/rd_staterates.pdf.

Welsh, Brandon C. and David P Farrington. (2005). Evidence-Based Crime Prevention: Conclusions and Directions for a Safer Society. Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice, 47(2), 337-354. Retrieved August 9, 2010, from Research Library database. (Document ID: 838759641).

Other articles by Tebbitt:



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