Appreciating workforce diversity: perspectives on 21st century correctional leadership.

Author:Ploumis-Devick, Evelyn
Position:Professional Development Update

The rapidly changing demographic, cultural, gender and racial diversity in the U.S. is a growing reality. From the very core, it impacts the makeup, direction and leadership of communities, schools, social institutions, workforces and criminal justice systems. Maintaining a diverse environment is vastly important, a task that often falls on the leadership of an institution to uphold. Thus, within an increasingly global and diverse society, people pursue more consistent results as well as character-based qualities in their leaders. They seek trustworthy leaders who decrease uncertainty and influence the maintenance of balance and progress within governmental, community, civic and social environments. (1)


The environment also expects cultural competence from those in leadership roles that might impact the health, safety and welfare of the public. A leader's cultural competence and mindfulness of existing organizational cultures is central to gaining trust among diverse groups. That leader's ability to influence a workplace climate of mutual respect significantly impacts interpersonal relationships, productivity, staff recruitment, retention and overall organizational success.

Correctional organizations have a responsibility to protect the public by providing administrative and operational systems for the safety of staff and by the safekeeping of individuals who are committed for supervision and treatment. Important for leaders in this system, however, is the ability to find more effective and cost efficient ways to respond to public expectations of what safety and security entails. (2)

For corrections professionals, communication and efficiency matter greatly to the institutions and communities they serve. Achieving an individual public safety mission by cultivating respect and appreciation for diversity as a value-added asset can impact the safety of staff and inmates directly, as well as support offender reentry collaboration and the quality of life in the community.

Demographic differences

In his book, "The Next America," Paul Taylor, senior fellow at the Pew Research Center, states, "Demographic transformations are dramas in slow motion. They unfold incrementally, almost imperceptibly, tick by tock, without trumpets or press conferences. But every so often, as the weight of change builds, a society takes a hard look at itself and notices that things are different." Taylor points out that the young and old in America today show more significant differences demographically, economically, socially and technologically than at any time in living memory. (3) A 2015 U.S. Census Bureau Report projected that between 2014 and 2060, the U.S. population will increase from 319 million to 417 million, and it will reach 400 million by 2051. By 2030, one in five Americans will be 65 and over; by 2044, more than half of all Americans will belong to a minority group (any group other than non-Hispanic/white); and by 2060, nearly one in five of the nation's total population will be foreign-born. (4)

What are the implications of these demographic changes for individuals and organizations in America? What can correctional leaders do now to ensure a progressively responsive, efficient and effective intra-relationship between organizational infrastructure, security operations and professional development, as well as interagency and community collaboration? Leaders must be prepared to listen with empathy and foresight to support the growth of all people in their...

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