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Prisons Division Develops Programs.

The National Institute of Corrections (NIC) Prisons Division developed some interesting new programs for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1, 1999. NIC's strategic plan, which is the basis for the programmatic offerings of the division, reflects the growth and complexity of the changing correctional environment.

Institutional Culture

The Prisons Division has conducted work in the area of staff sexual misconduct with inmates for the past four years. However, there is a recognition that this type of problem is primarily a "symptom" of more systemic issues. Whether the symptom that presents itself is staff sexual misconduct or some other symptom, such as retaliation against inmates or harassment in the workplace, what is really going on is that the culture -- of the institution or even the organization -- has developed some dysfunctional aspects and needs to be improved. The Prisons Division is beginning a five-year plan to work with correctional systems that would like to change their institutional or organizational cultures.

Work Force Issues

Increasing prison populations and the resultant agency expansion have created one of the major growth industries in the country. This comes at a time of low unemployment, so filling the increasing number of correctional jobs and retaining existing employees are more difficult than before and have become problems in many parts of the country. Moreover, "Generation X" employees aren't like employees of yesteryear and pose quite a challenge to today's correctional leaders. The Prisons Division will begin a multiyear effort to address correctional work force issues by hosting regional meetings to identify some of the critical issues that impact the effectiveness of the prison work force. Plans will then be implemented to tackle the problems identified.

Institution Mission Change

Many of the crises that have occurred in prison environments have resulted from an institution changing its mission -- either formally (e.g., from male offenders to female offenders) or informally (e.g., housing higher security inmates in a medium security facility). The Prisons Division will provide assistance to five states during the next year to plan and implement mission changes or address problems resulting from mission changes. Additional states will be assisted in subsequent years.

Managing Violent Inmates

Changes in laws and sentencing practices have resulted in violent offenders being incarcerated longer, thus creating prison populations comprised of a higher proportion of violent inmates. The Prisons Division has added two training programs to its schedule that specifically deal with this type of inmate population. One seminar will provide an opportunity to discuss the many issues and practices involved in supermax prison planning and programming. The other will focus on the management and treatment of violent and hard-to-manage inmates.

Mental Health Services For Prison Inmates

The number of inmates with mental illnesses or mental health needs continues to increase as correctional agencies struggle to provide appropriate services and programs for them. The Prisons Division will bring together mental health and correctional leaders to identify existing programs and strategies for managing the mental health offender population and potential funding sources that could assist correctional agencies as they attempt to define their roles with, and services needed by, inmates with mental illness or mental health needs.

Ongoing Activities

The NIC Prisons Division will continue working in many of the areas in which corrections practitioners have come to rely on the Institute for assistance: prison security, executive leadership, warden's leadership, female offenders, security auditing, managing disasters and many other areas. NIC's programs, described in the NIC 2000 Service Plan, are intended to address some of the emerging needs of correctional agencies as they move into the 21st century.

Susan M. Hunter is chief of the NIC Prisons Division.
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Author:Hunter, Susan M.
Publication:Corrections Today
Date:Dec 1, 1999
Words:605
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