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Implements Executive Leadership Development Training

The world of corrections is becoming more technical, legalistic and political. Electronic communication and offender monitoring and control have changed the way corrections does business. While freeing managers from their offices, new technology requires a new breed of managers that can process vast amounts of information and make sound decisions in rapid succession. Executives and managers are required to have a basic understanding of computer-based com-munication and an even greater understanding of how electronic technology can enhance or disrupt their operations.

The number of lawsuits, from offenders and victims alike, have increased significantly in recent years, and court decisions are mandates equivalent to law for corrections officials. Further, hardly anyone runs for public office without promising constituents to take action against crime and to influence sentences imposed on offenders.

More than ever, corrections is in the limelight of public interest and subject to public scrutiny. This is occurring at a time of explosive growth in offender populations and greater demand for better offender supervision and treatment.

N.C. DOC Responds

Newly appointed directors, wardens, superintendents and managers need education and training that will help them cope with the demands of leadership and change. In response, North Carolina's Department of Correction (DOC) has established a comprehensive management development program that is both challenging and demanding. The Corrections Leadership Development Program (CLDP) runs for nine months, using classroom instruction, mentoring, research and action projects. It combines theoretical and practical applications that require participants to apply ideas and techniques to specific correctional issues.

Prior to designing the program, three separate needs assessments solicited comments from existing middle- and upper-level managers on the abilities of newly promoted managers to take initiative and generate new ideas. All interviewees expressed the view that correctional leaders of the future must learn new skills, be able to work in a flattened organization (one with fewer layers of midlevel management), take more risks and be more entrepreneurial. They reported being asked to perform more like managers in the private sector, able to adapt to rapid change and exercise creative decision-making, rather than acting as officers in a highly structured, lockstep, paramilitary organization.

These insights were validated and many more generated in a series of six focus groups conducted by the Institute of Government at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The focus groups consisted of middle- and upper-level management representatives from all five divisions of the DOC. Representation came from minimum, medium and close security units and institutions, as well as community corrections, from diverse geographical settings. Pro rata gender and ethnicity representation also were ensured within each focus group.

In rapid succession during a two-week period, the focus groups met and provided input to the Institute of Government. This was done to prevent contamination of data by discussion between members of the focus groups concerning the information that was being gathered. Information collected about training needs at the executive and management levels was consistent and indicated that the needs were significant. Using the information gathered, curriculum design and implementation were completed and the maiden training series conducted under contract with LETRA Inc., a criminal justice and law enforcement consulting firm based in Campbell, Calif. There also were substantial input and oversight in all phases from the Office of Staff Development and Training Curriculum Office.

Welcoming the Mavericks

In the past, risk takers in government often have been seen as mavericks. It now is believed that failure to take appropriate risks can keep an agency from being as progressive as it should be. State agencies no longer can afford to pay managers to be spectators. As changes occur in cultural, social, technological, economic and management environments, corrections also must change. Corrections cannot maintain a separatist attitude, assuming that it is not part of the larger culture and society, or that it is not impacted by changes occurring in the social and technical environment. Managers must recognize that their institutions, offices, employees, inmates and probationers/parolees cannot function as a closet society. Corrections is a major player in the economic, social, political, cultural and technological arenas of the larger society.

Correctional managers must effectively and positively interact with the entire human environment in which they carry out their missions. They should have insight into their surroundings and develop innovative -- and, if necessary, unique -- responses to them. "What works" will be an important new measurement of success. Innovation no longer will be automatically deemed "maverick."

Some people in corrections are entrenched in tradition and don't want to change, while others who desire change must realize that it usually doesn't happen overnight. Present leaders must nurture and invigorate the next group of leaders, encouraging them to be innovative. A major focus of CLDP is to help future departmental leaders develop skills to cope with external change, to promote appropriate change within their facilities and to solicit support from within their communities and states to implement beneficial and necessary change.

Varied Viewpoints

The program's participants say it is challenging because it forces them to look at corrections from varied perspectives, then allows them to exercise unconventional thinking in a safe environment. They report it has helped them develop new skills in disciplines as diverse as budgeting and accountability, resource development, and effective and creative use of information management systems. They also applaud the fact that they have gained new insights into the wide-ranging nature of corrections.

Planned diversity in each class of 24 ensures proportionate representation from institutional and community corrections, correctional industries, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, and the fiscal and administrative offices. What students learn is shared in frequent class discussions. Cross-pollination of expertise brings knowledgeable people from diverse subject areas into the classroom so that discussions are realistic and meaningful.

The curriculum for the program, while employing examples specific to the technological, legal, political, social and cultural environments of North Carolina, includes learning objectives in a variety of topics. Some of these are: management styles; personnel administration; budget and fiscal planning and control; short- and long-term planning; strategic planning; public affairs and external relations; developing an organizational philosophy; culture-building and organizational change; setting the organizational climate; leadership; staff empowerment; personal and professional development; time management; ethics and professionalism; staff motivation and recognition; staff development and training; team-building; group processes; liability and litigation; managing human diversity; conflict resolution; managing information and technological change; emergency preparedness/office and institutional safety; and political and legislative processes.

Participants must continue performing their full-time jobs while taking CLDP, but the department authorizes them to devote one-third of their work hours to CLDP activities during the span of the course. These added levels of demand and stress test their abilities to manage and lead, to react and adjust in times of stress, and to delegate appropriate tasks to others. CLDP has been rated comparable to one and one-half semesters in a graduate-level college course. Upon course completion, graduates are presently awarded credit by Mount Olive College.


The most popular part of the training has been mentoring sessions in which participants may ask a mentor uninhibited questions and to sit in on any of the mentor's meetings or activities. The level of trust between the department's senior and junior managers has risen dramatically. Each participant spends time with at least three senior managers -- one in an institutional setting, one in a community corrections setting and the third in an administrative or support setting. Students report that this is the most eye-opening and stimulating experience of the course. Lasting mentor-learner relationships have developed, professionally linking junior managers with seasoned veterans who remain available to the junior managers for guidance and advice as needed.

Heretofore, junior managers would have been far less likely -- and perhaps even discouraged by the traditional correctional culture -- to directly contact senior managers or their deputies. Value-added benefits of CLDP include the founding of new friendships, the establishment and strengthening of new and existing professional relationships and increased awareness and respect for the tasks of colleagues in other divisions of the department.

All participants must complete a "research project" on a topic beneficial to the department. Each project focuses on an issue of current concern to the department or one of its constituent agencies and receives supervisor and instructor approval. The project requires participants to conduct research on the Internet, in libraries and in other state correctional agencies. Several projects have resulted in changes being made by the agencies that were studied.

Walking the Talk

Students also must tackle an "action project" that they plan, develop and evaluate, and about which they must produce a written report. Most action projects are related to the research projects, providing students with opportunities to put their research into practice. One such project, "Juris Monitoring: An Extension of Electronic Monitoring for Offenders," by Betty Beam, a community corrections judicial district manager, is now a pilot project of the Administrative Office of the Courts in one of the state's 43 district court districts. John Crawford, superintendent of Duplin Correctional Center, a minimum security facility where vocational training is a major activity, is working on a project titled "The Impact of Vocational Training on Recidivism." This project hopes to generate data to support or dispel the "conventional wisdom" that taxpayer-funded education and training of inmates has a direct, favorable impact on recidivism.

CLDP is designed to be demanding, with high academic standards, practical applications and job-related values. It already has begun changing the culture of the department. Dan Stieneke, deputy secretary of the DOC, notes that "there is a difference between risk-taking and stupidity and we have begun to give our managers the tools to make wise decisions and take wise risks."

Support for CLDP

Secretary of Correction Theodis Beck supports the program through frequent visits and "town meetings" with participants by himself and his executive staff. He has expressed confidence that those who complete the program are the people who "will make a difference" in the direction and climate of corrections for the next century in North Carolina.

Course participant Wayne Talbert, assistant superintendent at Dan River Work Farm, which houses 500 working inmates, says the time he has spent in CLDP is paying off. "The course is very demanding," he says. "While I am engaged in the course, my work stacks up. By the time I catch up on my work, it's time to go back to class or to another mentoring session. It's tough, but well worth it. What I've gained from the course is already having a positive impact on me and my work environment."

The new culture of the North Carolina DOC encourages an entrepreneurial spirit and supports the in-house development of department-oriented, high-level management skills through CLDP. These skills are indispensable for effective leadership and efficient, responsive correctional management in the 21st century.

Persons interested in learning more about CLDP and speaking with some of its developers, teachers and managers, are encouraged to attend Designing and Implementing a Correctional Leadership Development Program for Managers, a workshop to be conducted Monday, Jan. 10, 2000, 12:30 to 2 p.m. at ACA's Winter Conference in Phoenix.

Michael B. Evers, Ed.D., is curriculum director of the Office of Staff Development and Training in the North Carolina Department of Correction.
COPYRIGHT 1999 American Correctional Association, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Article Details
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Author:Evers, Michael B.
Publication:Corrections Today
Geographic Code:1U5NC
Date:Dec 1, 1999
Next Article:Invest in Corrections' Greatest Asset Your Staff.

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