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Correctional agency mission statements: can we do better.

As the empirical literature on the successful implementation and use of evidence-based practices (EBPs) continues to increase, corrections practitioners are increasingly being called upon to adopt and implement these practices in their respective fields. Corrections professionals must understand that the use of EBPs is not just a passing fad or trend within the correctional system, but it is a cemented expectation to further public safety through empirically driven programs and interventions. Ultimately, it takes more than just understanding that EBPs are here to stay to successfully implement these practices into an agency's daily routine. In most instances, it requires a radical adjustment to the culture of the target organization. Organizational culture is a widely studied phenomenon and has been appearing regularly in the empirical and trade literature since the 1980s.1 Organizational culture is defined as "a pattern of shared basic assumptions learned by a group as it solved its problems of external adaptation and internal integration, which has worked well enough to be considered valid and, therefore, to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think and feel in relation to those problems."2 Organizational culture consists of the following three layers: underlying basic assumptions; espoused beliefs and values; and artifacts, or what we often refer to as organizational climate--the behaviors and symbols of an organization.

Correctional practitioners often focus on the outward behaviors that take place within their organizations, attempting to change the way members behave, interact and perform their work. These things are important; however, human beings tend to resist such long-term changes, eventually reverting to the comfortable status quo. Thus, correctional practitioners must focus their attention on those underlying levels that drive the outward behaviors. This is often done through large-scale transformation initiatives, cultural interventions and the like, but such activities can be time-consuming and expensive to organizations that are operating on finite budgets with finite personnel resources. There is, however, an avenue correctional agencies can pursue to begin the cultural change process without much time or expense. Agencies can focus on the espoused beliefs and values of their organizations by transforming their mission statements to reflect the importance placed on the use of EBPs in pursuit of increased public safety through recidivism reduction. Though a mission statement will not alone change the underlying assumptions held by the organization, it will certainly signal a shift in cultural expectations, increasing the intrinsic motivation of organizational members to adopt EBPs in their daily work. The importance of mission statements--and the relative ease with which they can be adjusted to reflect the strategic and cultural direction of the organization--makes them "low-hanging fruit" that correctional agencies cannot afford to ignore.

The Impact of Mission Statements

Mission statements can be defined as "formal statements that are generated to articulate an organization's distinct and specific purpose or reason for being."3 There is a growing body of literature connecting mission statements to increases in organizational metrics, such as financial and individual member performance. The mission statement is a tool that should be used by leaders to promote organizational integration and to ensure all members are focused on the same objectives, outcomes, behaviors and goals. An organization with a culture aligned to its strategy will always be more effective than one with misalignment. Thus, the act of creating a mission statement alone is not enough. Organizations must ensure their culture, strategy and leadership are aligned with the mission statement to maximize the statement's positive affect. Agencies must integrate the importance of EBPs into new or existing mission statements to ensure organizational members can rally around a common purpose--the adoption and use of EBPs to positively affect public safety. Without an indication in the mission statement that EBPs are an integral part of the organization's operations and way of conducting business, members have little reason to diverge from the status quo and invest in such practices. Therefore, organizational mission statements are the outward manifestation of the inherent purpose the organization serves, and the mission statement can act as an influence mechanism for organizational members seeking direction and individual purpose. Correctional leaders can increase their influence on staff attitudes toward EBPs through mission statements focused on a commitment to the adoption, implementation and use of EPBs in offender management.

Methodology

To investigate the inclusion of EBPs in correctional agency mission statements, each of the 50 state corrections departments' and the Federal Bureau of Prisons' mission statements were reviewed by the author. The mission statements were accessed through each agency's public website or through annual statistical and strategic planning documents, which were also found on their public websites. For a mission statement to be counted as including EBPs, there had to be specific reference to EBPs, research-based practices, scientifically proven practices or similar terminology. References to only rehabilitation or reintegration were not counted as a mention of EBPs.

For instance, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation's mission statement reads as follows: "We protect the public by safely and securely supervising adult and juvenile offenders, providing effective rehabilitation and treatment, and integrating offenders successfully into the community." (4) Conversely, the newly-minted Connecticut Department of Correction's mission statement reads as follows: "The Department of Correction shall strive to be a global leader in progressive correctional practices and partnered reentry initiatives to support responsive EBPs aligned to law-abiding and accountable behaviors. Safety and security shall be a priority component of this responsibility as it pertains to staff, victims, citizens and offenders." (5) Though the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation's mission statement mentions rehabilitation and even treatment, there is no reference or importance placed upon the use of EBPs as the means to reach those ends. Alternatively, the Connecticut Department of Correction's mission statement clearly includes EBPs as a strategy and expectation within the department, specifically including EBPs in the body of the statement itself.

Table 1. EBPs Reflected in Agencies' Mission Statements

EBP Reflected in Agency's Mission Statement

                    Yes    No
                     5     46


Results

The review of the 50 state corrections departments' and the Federal Bureau of Prisons' mission statements revealed that the corrections system has some ways to go as it pertains to integrating the use of EBPs into its espoused values and beliefs. Table 1 illustrates the disparity in frequency between those agencies that do and those that do not include EBPs in their mission statements.

Though very few agencies included EBPs in their mission statements, there were several observed commonalities indicating many may be close to recognizing EBPs as an important strategic approach in their mission statements. The vast majority of correctional agencies included language or reference to offender rehabilitation in their mission statements, indicating they are committed not only to public safety and security, but also to reintegration. Additionally, it was clear that the vast majority of agencies found safety and security to be a priority, cementing their organizational commitment to one of the overarching purposes of any public safety agency and underlining the continued emergence of balance between the dual roles inherent in correctional practice.

Conclusion

Now that the importance of mission statements as a reflection of an organization's espoused values and beliefs is clear, the work to change the paradigm and include EBPs as an integral part of the correctional mission can begin. Organizational culture drives a large amount of individual member performance and behavior. Mission statements are an outward reflection of the espoused values and beliefs an organization

holds--an integral part of organizational culture that should be used to influence that performance and behavior. With EBPs increasing in prevalence in the correctional environment, it is time for correctional leaders to rework their agencies' mission statements and ensure that the correctional system is recognizing the need to integrate EBPs into fundamental correctional practices as a means to contribute to public safety.

ENDNOTES

(1.) Bellot, J. 2011. Defining and assessing organizational culture. Nursing Forum, 46(1):29-37.

(2.) Schein, E.H. 2010. Organizational culture and leadership. San Francisco, Calif.: Jossey-Bass.

(3.) Desmidt, S., A. Prinzie and A. Decramer. 2011. Looking for the value of mission statements: A meta-analysis of 20 years of research. Management Decision, 49(3):468-483.

(4.) California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. 2013. About CDCR: Vision, mission, values and goals. Retrieved from www.cdcr.ca.gov/About_CDCR/vision-mission-values.html.

(5.) State of Connecticut Department of Corrections. 2014. Mission statement and vision (administrative directive 1.1). Retrieved from www.ct.gov/doc/lib/doc/pdf/ad/ad0101.pdf.

Brandon Mathews, MS, is the program director of Intervention Community Corrections in Pueblo, Colo.
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Title Annotation:FEATURE
Author:Mathews, Brandon
Publication:Corrections Today
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2015
Words:1416
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