Opening the Doors of Communication to Constituents

By Ledbetter, Donna | Corrections Today, September-October 2015 | Go to article overview

Opening the Doors of Communication to Constituents


Ledbetter, Donna, Corrections Today


Popular TV shows, such as "Oz," "Prison Break" and "Orange Is the New Black," are only partially accurate portrayals of the corrections profession; they don't typify the everyday experience of what it means to work in corrections. These fictional depictions exaggerate the workings of jails and prisons and downplay the hard work involved in providing education and rehabilitative services to justice-involved individuals. But some members of the public don't know this, and, for the most part, they won't --unless initiative is taken to empower an organization's communications staff to do the job.

A well-trained communications team can inform an organization's myriad constituents about the positive work and life-changing programming happening every day in correctional facilities. There are numerous reasons for building up a communications staff, but one of the most rewarding can be their ability to help tell an organization's story--whatever story that might be and in whatever form that narrative might take. The National Institute of Corrections (NIC) demonstrates its own commitment to regular communication with stakeholders through the variety of newsletters, e-blasts, publications, broadcasts and classroom and online training it provides. NIC has more than a handful of options for targeting audiences with the information most relevant to them.

Survey of State and Local Efforts

Even small agencies can develop a diverse and highly effective communications program. Jurisdictions at the state and local levels are making strides in communicating with their constituents and educating the public about their successes. Using a variety of methods, these jurisdictions demonstrate that reaching out need not be overly complicated; a simple, regularly scheduled publication, podcast or public meeting can be all that's needed for an effective program. Organizations that have implemented successful communications programs include:

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). CDCR has a very simple and effective Rich Rite Summary, also known as Really Simple Syndication, program to keep constituents informed while bringing them the most up-to-the-minute news. This communications program also features an award-winning newsletter, "Inside CDCR," which highlights correctional staff achievements. Visit CDCR's news page at www.cdcr. ca.gov/news.

Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA). CSOSA of Washington, D.C., estimates that Web page views for its radio shows range from hundreds of thousands to nearly 1.5 million each year. Its broadcasts, "D.C. Public Safety Radio" and "D.C. Public Safety Television," are both nationally recognized, award-winning programs. Visit CSOSA's media page at http://media.csosa. gov.

Kansas Department of Corrections (KDOC'). Demonstrating how an organization can use social media effectively, KDOC posts its Twitter feed on the home page of its website. Recent posts include job announcements and links to remarks by officials within the department. The agency shows that social media can be used effectively in corrections when part of a strategic plan for connecting with local communities. The Twitter feed also complements the KDOC "News & Announcements" blog, which is updated regularly. …

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