A Three-Phase Training Protocol for Correctional Administrators

By Marchese, Joseph J. | Corrections Today, December 2009 | Go to article overview

A Three-Phase Training Protocol for Correctional Administrators


Marchese, Joseph J., Corrections Today


The term "born leader" is misleading. It implies that some leaders have all the skills they need from birth. In actuality, leaders must be developed through training, coaching and mentoring to foster the development of recognized management skills and competencies. It is for this reason that correctional systems and individual agencies create a leadership development continuum that provides newly appointed and incumbent administrators with the knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary to manage agency staff in an effective and efficient manner.

The effectiveness of correctional administrators can be measured by their ability to plan and implement policies and procedures that sustain operational activities. A correctional manager's effectiveness can also be measured by his or her ability to direct and inspire staff to accomplish assigned duties and tasks in a manner that achieves the mission of their department. Operational directives promulgated by agency administrators are meaningless unless they are properly implemented.

Many correctional agencies rely on on-the-job training and experience to train new managers. However, such training fails to give new managers leadership perspectives, skills and best-practice strategies to enhance their performance. In addition, manager-generated operational problems can occur when ineffective management techniques are transferred from veteran managers to new managers--thus embedding bad management practices into an agency. Recognizing the need to harness and pass along effective skills and discourage ineffective skills requires a fundamental management skills training program that establishes a foundation of sound principles and serves as a basis for future leadership development.

Recommended Training Protocol

Many correctional administrators across the U.S. indicate that they have received little, if any, management training. In fact, it is often reported that the only formal management training correctional administrators received was in regard to specific topics, such as the Prison Rape Elimination Act and cultural diversity. Some managers report receiving formal leadership training from the military, and on their own initiative have applied it to their present job. Most felt that military training was helpful, but not always applicable.

A lack of preparation for vital management functions invites operational problems, personnel problems and even disaster. For example, operational problems that arise when a new manager is in charge of a facility (nights, weekends or holidays) can be further exaggerated when he or she is not properly trained and the advice or counsel of other managers is not readily available.

Many correctional managers characterize their first days on the job as "hit the deck running." Execution of administrative duties is left to the perception of the new manager and what he or she has learned by observing previous managers. The critical nature of management positions demands competent performance and requires a proper orientation and management skills training program. In addition to setting a knowledge foundation, managers will always need additional training that improves their operational knowledge, equips them to respond to special needs, and prepares them for other leadership positions. Therefore, there is a demonstrated need for a structured management/leadership protocol for agencies that do not have one. The following protocol, developed by the author, is recommended for agencies without a structured management/leadership development program.

The Three Phases

Phase I: Management/leadership orientation and transition. This should be provided in-house, and occur prior to or immediately upon assuming management duties. Such training in most cases involves structured coaching or on-the-job training by other managers. New manager coaching activities should require new managers to complete defined operational tasks while working under the tutorship of a designated coach. …

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