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Innovations In Corrections
By Terry Campbell, Professor, Purdue University Global
Published: 01/13/2014

Inovation Our first corrections.com 2014 topic focuses on innovations in corrections. We can begin by defining innovation and why this is necessary in corrections. Innovation- a new idea, device, or method The act or process of introducing new ideas, devices, or methods. (Merriam-webster.com/dictionary). Corrections can no longer continue with the mentality: “This is how we have always done it.” This attitude is haphazard to corrections and inhibits innovative and progressive ideas. At the same time, state budgets continue to be tightened and the competition for these revenues is becoming more competitive. If corrections are to ensure their fair share of the revenue, then innovation is a must.

The premise behind innovation is improvements without sacrificing the overall safety and security of the institution. Corrections managers have to begin researching current trends in corrections and identify what works and what does not work. Along with this research, we must identify potential changes and develop an action plan outlining the necessary steps and time frame to implement these changes. In addition, we need to consider that some innovative ideas in one state or system may not be practical in another. No. Along with this are other considerations: What are the politics and political climate? Have you considered future expenditures and allocations? Who are the team members? These are only some areas to begin considering and are not a conclusive model. Do not hesitate to contact other agencies to see what steps and processes they used. You can also ask if they encountered any obstacles and if they have any tips they can share.

By having a proven and creative approach, you have an ideal opportunity to be innovative and create positive change within the agency. I also suggest you begin by researching credible references and online resources. In addition, complete a thorough review of your agency and identify potential areas of change. Once these are identified, they can be ranked and prioritized. Then research each area and begin to identify components necessary to assist with these changes. Reminder, never sacrifice ‘safety and security’ to affect change.

All you have to do to begin is to take the next step and begin our research. Those agencies willing to dedicate time, personnel, and resources to begin with will be ahead and prepared for the future. This can occur with innovation. There are many 2013 Innovative Programs and I selected only four areas to discuss: Corrections/Jail Innovations of the Year Award; California Prison Overcrowding, West Virginia Mock Prison Riot, and Innovations in Community Corrections.

The Corrections/Jail Innovation of the Year Award is for the Loudon County Sheriff’s Office, Virginia. This award was presented during the NSA’s Annual Conference in Charlotte, North Carolina. This particular county, like many across the nation, is experiencing capacity concerns, staff issues, increased complaints (inmates and staff), inmate transportation concerns, old equipment and/or lack of security equipment, reentry issues, and lack of adequate number of inmate mental health workers. The sheriff’s office created and implemented the following program to help resolve these areas. STEP UP Initiative- improved Service, Technology, Efficiency, and Professionalism.

The sheriff delegated this task to the major who immediately began to implement this initiative and resolve these issues. Problems were identified and solutions developed for corrective action. By taking immediate steps to correct these areas, overall morale improved with the replacement of old computers and new security equipment. In addition training was improved, an emergency response team was created, and an additional caseworker was hired. Were these dilemmas corrected overnight? No. However by developing a plan and implementation of the STEP UP Initiative, best practices were developed and implemented. (Problems resolved).

The State of California is facing severe prison overcrowding and the Federal Courts issued rulings for mandatory release of some inmates. This is to help ease the prison overcrowding dilemma. These actions by the courts need to be monitored by other states experiencing overcrowding and those state without overcrowding can begin to consider and develop a plan as well.

One proposal developed to help with this problem is to research and review the number of inmates who return to prison. In California recidivism rates are above ‘65%.’ Contents of this proposal “provides performance-based grants to county drug and alcohol programs; and mental health programs that can document their success in keeping formally incarcerated people from returning to prison.” This is going to require states to revise the way we look at prison overcrowding, develop a plan that is not just short-term but long-term as well, revamp sentence laws, and determine who goes to prison, and support considerations for inmates release that also address costs to incarcerate versus community supervision.

The West Virginia Department of Corrections and the West Virginia Corrections Training Foundation host each spring a mock prison riot. The former West Virginia Penitentiary is used and provides an environment for real-life scenario training. This allows law enforcement to attend and participate. Many agencies attend this four-day training program and support the training, technology, and competition. Attendance at this annual training “ranges from 1,200 to 1,700 participants.” Each training session is critiqued along with participant’s recommendations.

This annual training provides agencies with valuable interaction, role playing opportunities and updates on latest training techniques and technology. Also, this annual event generates additional revenue for the community. The West Virginia Department of Corrections and West Virginia Corrections Training Foundation, received the 2013 Innovation Award from the International Association of Correctional Training Personnel.

The Bureau of Justice released Prisoners in 2012- Advance Counts (NCJ242467), data reflects the 2011-2012 prison population declined 1.7%. Some states experienced an increase in prison population. Corrections administrators recognized prison costs continue to escalate while facing budget reductions. To help control for this, many states have taken some proactive measures. Some states have more inmates being released than number being sentenced. There has been an increase in expanding community-based corrections.

I found the following idea to be innovative. Some states are creating state grants available and awarded to counties. The initiative presented is for counties to be rewarded for implementing and improving the use of community-based interventions to assist communities with successful offender’s reintegration, and other program assistance.

I only identified four innovative approaches and there are many more out there. Hopefully, I ignited a spark and interest for you to take the next step to be creative and innovative in the corrections field.

Terry Campbell is a criminal justice professor at Kaplan University, School of Public Safety and has more than 20 years of experience in corrections and policing. He has served in various roles, including prison warden and parole administrator, for the Arkansas Department of Corrections. Terry may be reached at criminaljustice@kaplan.edu.

Other articles by Campbell


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