|By Terry Campbell, Professor, Purdue University Global|
Our topic this month is innovation. Working in the corrections field, you may have many innovative ideas to improve your job efficiency while maintaining safety and security. Innovation can be ideas that move corrections forward. These may be technology improvements, results from critical incident reviews, creative thoughts, research, participation in committee’s suggestions and recommendations, etc. We have to ensure we do not remain stagnant and in a rut with the analogy ‘this is the way we have always done it.’
I support all staff (uniform and non-uniform) be provided the opportunity to submit suggestions. Change is often beneficial. All too often line staff are told what to do and how to do it. These staff are performing the duties yet quite often had limited or no participation in the changes. We tend to forget one of our most valuable resources is you. Utilize them, who is in the best position to determine what works, does not work, or where improvements can be made. Management and leadership also play a role in innovation. Again, there must be input at all levels. After all, we are a team. I often look at technology innovations and am amazed with most of the technological advancements. A good site I often use is the Justice Technology Information Center https://www.justnet.org.
Law Enforcement Technology, Courts Technology, and Corrections Technology are free resources on this site. All three areas are relevant and contain additional information. You can subscribe and it is free and you do not receive junk mail. There may be some ideas for innovation that you or your facility may not be aware of. Perhaps you can make a suggestion and share with others in your agency. Speaking of suggestions; do you know if you agency has some type of suggestion policy and/or a suggestion box. I have made suggestions over the years and always encouraged staff to do the same.
I always found it important to stay current with technology. Technology is always evolving and when it comes to safety, we must stay current with what is available. You are well aware of the daily challenges in controlling for contraband and safety concerns. We need all of the advantages we can use. At the end of the day we want to go home to our families. There are certainly many resources available to you. There are specific sites for your respective corrections areas, please take a little time and do some research. Also, you can contact your training department for any updates they have regarding technology, legal issues, and other relevant areas.
Something I strongly recommend, is to start communicating with other officers and staff. This may also include communication and collaboration with other units and personnel. The sharing of ideas and identification for improvements are a must. We have to be current and stay ahead of the inmates. You know all too well, the inmates are communicating and sharing ideas that may lead to safety concerns. We must take the blinders off and be aware of our surroundings and not become complacent. Do not ever hesitate to make suggestions to improve security, improve job performance and narrow down the ‘one best way’ to accomplish something. Remember, the inmate population has time to review our actions and responses, and then tailor their plan. Then we wonder why something occurred that we did not see coming. Daily you deal with assigned duties and duties will vary somewhat from shift to shift. This reinforces why it is imperative that supervisors and management also communicate with the line officers and staff. One shift may have a better and safer way to perform a particular activity. Sometimes we also learn from trial and error, however the environment we work in often does not allow for this.
If your unit does not have a critical incident review, do some research and submit a proposal or suggestions. The incidents must be reviewed and see if staff/officer decisions were within policy, are there any training recommendations, any safety and security concerns, being able to determine why the incident occurred and how to prevent in the future, any disciplinary, and other. I think you get the idea and the pertinent questions need to be asked and answered. All of these areas are related to synthesizing data.
Something else I learned over the years is to take time and identify potential problems and security concerns prior to an incident. This also includes any emergency response training we received. We have all kinds of emergency manuals and procedures. Yet I am willing to say, does anyone know the last time the manuals were used and updated. Do we even know they exist and their location, or when was the last time we received emergency management training? Have policies changed and have the post orders, policies and procedures, emergency manuals and administrative manuals been updated? This is an easy suggestion for efficiency, safety, and training updates.
Now do not get me wrong, I am also familiar with some administration that may not take suggestions in a positive way. We are told we are part of a team, yet often decisions from management contradict this. If we want to improve, we have to start at all levels within the organization and encourage participation and input from all employees. When this occurs, we will then start to see positive results. Do not ignore this and encourage all employees to be creative and innovative to improve their agency.
Thanks and stay safe out there.
Terry Campbell is a criminal justice professor at Purdue University Global 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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