North Carolina Department of Correction

Article excerpt

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.

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