Work Force Issues and Trends in Corrections

By Watson, BeLinda P. | Corrections Today, February 2004 | Go to article overview

Work Force Issues and Trends in Corrections


Watson, BeLinda P., Corrections Today


In an attempt to assist correctional agencies with managing the changing work force, the National Institute of Corrections, Prisons Division has focused on work force issues and trends in corrections for the past three years. Issues that affect both correctional programs and operational projects ranged from recruiting new corrections professionals and downsizing to early promotions resulting from retirements and the "new" work force generation.

Recruitment, Retention And the Work Force

One of NIC's first projects on work force issues and trends in corrections focused on recruitment and retention. Focus groups were held in four different parts of the country to ascertain the measures being taken by corrections and other industries to address issues with recruiting and retaining employees. Focus group participants included individuals working in corrections, law enforcement, the military and various medical professions. Collectively, these focus groups represented a work force with 24-hour operations and similar work force issues.

Discussions provided the impetus for additional work force programming such as re-engineering retirement programs and addressing the multigenerational work force. As a result, NIC began two projects pertaining to these two topics. The first project examined the possibility of establishing a "transportable" retirement system for correctional workers. This system would be similar to the retirement program found in institutions of higher education that allows employees who relocate to another institution to continue to retain their pension eligibility. Because many employees and their families relocate for various reasons--job change or caring for aged parents--by suggesting the possibility of maintaining a retirement program for corrections professionals who relocate to other jurisdictions, it was thought that this could be one avenue to recruit and retain experienced workers. The outcome of this endeavor is pending, but it has sparked the interest of various professional correctional organizations.

The second project focused on the multigenerational work force. Using focus groups with representatives from the major age groupings--Veterans, Baby Boomers, Gen Xers and Millennials--the project team developed a training curriculum and manual. The resulting curriculum is designed to assist supervisors and managers with understanding the differences between generations, forging better working relationships that include generational diversity and using each generation's unique characteristics to enhance the work environment. The curriculum is multifaceted, consisting of a two-hour workshop that can be used as a component of other training programs, an eight-hour, in-service training segment for managers and supervisors, and a 16-hour train-the-trainers course. A pilot test of the training program is planned for early next year, and, once the pilot test is complete, the training program will be available for use by prisons, jails and community corrections professionals.

NIC's Training Program For New Wardens

In response to changes in today's work force, NIC also has updated its training program for new wardens. With constantly changing human resources issues and organizational requirements, today's wardens function as chief executive officers to a far greater degree than their predecessors. The 36-hour training program, Executive Training for New Wardens, was updated to include a focus on the changing leadership skills needed by today's new wardens. …

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