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Excellence in corrections: moving beyond buzzwords.

At every conference and meeting I attend these days, I hear the same buzzwords: leadership, empowerment, Total Quality Management, teamwork, diversity. I have come to realize that what these words have in common is a concern for the pursuit of excellence in all we do.

Excellence. What does it mean? Does it apply to corrections? And when do we know if we have succeeded in getting there?

For ACA, excellence is more than just a tacit or open-ended contract with our members in which we dedicate ourselves to helping corrections achieve its mission. It is present in everything we do or try to do to benefit this profession.

Some may argue whether our society can afford the cost of correctional excellence as we envision it, but the reality is, we cannot ignore the needs that exist. We may perceive our field's circumstances and problems as being uniquely difficult, but this does not give us an excuse to ignore the necessary changes we must make to achieve excellence.

The more I participate in conferences and meetings outside corrections, the more I realize that people working in this field and those involved in ACA are like other business professionals in many ways. Excellence in any organization is tied to its core values, needs and goals--whatever they may be.

The willingness and determination to strive for something as intangible as correctional excellence is probably at the heart of all we accomplish in corrections. But we must remain mindful that while excellence begins with the mission of our profession or organization, it also must be included as part of each individual's personal mission if we are to create a collective vision for the future of corrections.

As ACA continues to strive for excellence in corrections, we have learned that it is not good enough to merely talk about being better at what we do. We must demonstrate it, practice it, live it and expect it of others.

In the past couple of decades, this profession has made many advances. Two such advances--unit management and direct supervision--have used the concept and practice of empowerment to allow staff to perform their jobs more efficiently, without needless bureaucracy.

Another major advancement, the development of professional standards and the accreditation process, has provided a means for ensuring organizational improvement through self-regulation and independent evaluation. Additionally, motivational training programs such as The Pacific Institute's "Achieving Correctional Excellence: A New Horizon" are providing corrections professionals skills to help them better cope with the challenges and stresses of their jobs.

I realize that the benchmarks I mentioned often go unnoticed. The measuring sticks most often used to demonstrate excellence in corrections are recidivism rates and successful program completion. It may be difficult to prove or disprove theories pertaining to whether excellence can be found in this profession when it is viewed in these limited contexts.

If we want to continue to improve the corrections field as an association and a profession, we must all do our share to make excellence what we stand for--in words and in actions.
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Title Annotation:Editorial; need for excellence in words and in actions
Author:Gondles, James A., Jr.
Publication:Corrections Today
Date:Jun 1, 1993
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