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Education and Training
By Terry Campbell, Professor, Purdue University Global
Published: 10/26/2020

Prison tower 1 The topic for October is ‘Education and Training.’ Due to COVID, training has taken on a different dimension with uncharted areas. COVID has certainly presented problems with corrections. This contributed to disruptions in daily corrections activities, and additional safety and security concerns. Some of these areas include, and are not limited, to the following; medical and mental health care; treatment and housing concerns; spread of disease and attempts to control for this; not being prepared to deal with the magnitude of COVID, disruptions in all activities including visitation; corrections staff working double shifts, and in some prisons, being housed in visitation centers and unable to go home; and other. This in itself is an educational learning experience and ongoing. More training is needed in emergency preparedness and how to protect all from contracting COVID. Talk about a tough year so far and still ongoing. Staff as well as inmates have been pushed to the limits.

Unfortunately, we have seen some deaths from COVID and this includes inmates as well as staff. Corrections is a 24 hour, seven days a week job, and we were unprepared to deal with the medical cases overloads. No one is at fault; we learned from this and continue to do so daily, and make adjustments accordingly. We have seen some decrease in COVID cases across corrections and we have seen some increases. Not only is this a problem in the United States, but also globally. At the same time, research is being conducted and we know no one is immune from COVID and the disease itself is deadly, yet some people fortunately only had minor symptoms.

Corrections and the inmate population will continue to make adjustments and, yes, lifestyles have changed in some ways. Again, every day is a learning and training experience. Precautions and sanitizing is a priority. Some correctional systems experienced tremendous increases in COVID cases, while others not as much. Just our daily contact, interactions, communications, and attempts to maintain safety and security, and housing for so many affected with the disease has been overwhelming and traumatic for many. COVID has changed the way we interact in many ways. We must be aware of ‘social distancing’ and be prepared if cases increase in the near future.

In July 2020, The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and prevention provided the following: “Interim Guidance on Management of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Correctional and Detention Facilities.” https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/correction-detention/guidance-correctional-detention.html

CDC continues to revise this information. If you are not familiar with this resource, please check it out. Also, remember to adhere to your department policies and procedures for COVID. Again this is an ongoing process and often revised.

We know correctional staff have a minimum number of training hours and required training to complete yearly. Many conferences and other trainings have been cancelled or some offered in an online environment. Precautions have been taken, even with annual corrections conferences.

Many of our corrections staff are older and may not be that familiar with technology. Due to the pandemic, they found their children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, friends with children now faced the problem of children attending classes at home. Needless to say, this also created a lot of additional stress, not only for the parents, but the children and education system. Someone had to be at home to assist the children. Again, some additional obstacles such as not familiar with or limited technology experience; not having adequate laptops; teachers having to learn quickly how to teach effectively online; band width limitations; in some cases no internet connection or low speed; and the list continues. Officers face challenges not only at home, but also in the workplace. Even today, some of our children are still at home having to attend online classes; some children are back in on-ground schools; and some are a percentage online and on-ground. Schools have experienced some positive cases requiring additional people to be quarantined. Imagine the pressures on you, your family, and work while many are struggling during these difficult times. A little more patience by all of us and additional support of our children is a must.

Training academies are still in place with recent graduates. These academies were involved in developing training overnight for our staff and inmates. Disruptions to daily routines often escalated into incidents. Even with new advancements daily, we still face uncertainty for the future. Education within our careers and for our children has changed abruptly and education and training departments are struggling to put out current and relevant literature. Is this going to cease soon? I personally think it’s not likely. What we have come accustomed to may not return to life and education we knew prior to the pandemic.

We know the importance of education and support. This does not prohibit us from staying current with recent findings and announcements. However, some concerns I have are with some of the social media outlets delivery of information and question how accurate is the information. On top of this, we are in an election year and politics is involved. We must come together and be creative in recognizing we have some ‘catch up’ to do. Due to the in classroom learning experiences, many of our children and adults may not be at the educational level they should be. This opens additional doors to consider. Let’s all step back and take a breath of fresh air and come together to be proactive and work through these difficult times. Continued education is a must and together we can overcome this.

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 tcampbell@purdueglobal.edu.

Other articles by Campbell


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