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A Tribute to IACTP
By Joe Bouchard
Published: 11/14/2011

Nashville a This past week in Nashville, Tennessee, the International Association of Correctional Training Personnel held its annual conference. This is a collection of correctional trainers from all over the nation – and the world – who meet annually and share modules, techniques, and tactics for the very important job of educating corrections professionals.

Though the scope is international, I was not aware of IACTP until about seven years ago. Bill Hudson, former IACTP board member and corrections training head for Michigan, advised me of this Association. On his recommendation, I attended my first IACTP conference in 2005.

I admit that I was apprehensive prior to the meeting. Although I work under the larger umbrella of corrections, my sub profession is that of a prison librarian. And though I am an adjunct instructor of corrections for a community college, I went to the first conference with a self-imposed inferiority complex. At the risk of self analyzing, I wondered how a prison librarian who teaches part-time would fit in with veteran corrections trainers.

My self-doubt was quickly put to rest by the friendliness of this group. There was a great vibe of inclusion and curiosity about new members. And I witnessed a healthy intermingling of groups – not at all a clique-laden proposition.

It seems to me that IACTP attracts a creative and extroverted type. To be certain, there is a bell shaped curve of personalities. From the shy to the gregarious, IACTP runs the gamut. But even the quiet members seem to have talents and drawn out of them during training sessions. It is the mixing of various specialties in getting goals accomplished seems almost magical to me.

In addition, I attended many programs with different presenters. This allowed me to view a variety of techniques and tactics in teaching adults. One presenter was able to reel in a group of enthusiastic and gregarious participants/trainers with a soft voice and finger chimes. Another wielded a slideshow of dogs set to music during intermission. This was a creative and effective way for her to entertain the crowd while arranging her notes and getting a drink of water. A third dropped funny, self-deprecating lines that were not only amusing – they also buttressed his points.

IACTP is not just about teaching techniques. The Association also features presentations of great varieties. A few among them are: working with an intergenerational workforce, writing in corrections, professionalism, icebreakers for staff relation modules, avoiding set-ups, copyright concerns, and legal issues.

As a prison librarian, I can relate to the working conditions of your average institutional training officer. This is a person who is the only one of a kind in an institution. There may be training sergeants, for example. However one person is usually responsible for the training in a facility. Because of this, the problem professional isolation is not far away. But this is rectified through the IACTP network and through the annual conference. The training world is brought closer together the quarterly journal The Correctional Trainer.

There are lots of corrections organizations in the field. And though the scope and size varies, I have always felt that home at a corrections conference. Quite simply, this is a place for professionals to gain new ideas, enjoy professional camaraderie, and relate to others about the stress of the profession. However, of all of the conferences I have attended, I am most at home with IACTP. If anything, this Association has taught me the power of individual initiative and the benefits of pooling talents. I hope that Nashville was successful and enjoyable for all who attended.

For more information on IACTP, please check out www.IACTP.org.

Editor's note: Corrections.com author, Joe Bouchard, has been with the Michigan Department of Corrections since 1993 as a Librarian for the Baraga Correctional Facility. He also teaches criminal justice and corrections classes for Gogebic Community College. He is the editor of The Correctional Trainer, the official journal of the International Association of Corrections Training Personnel and MCA Today, the official journal of the Michigan Corrections Association.

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