During the American Correctional Association's 2016 Winter Conference, Executive Director James Gondles acknowledged me because, since 1966 (two years after I became involved with corrections), I have been a member of ACA--50 years. During that time, I missed one mid-winter meeting, so the 2016 Congress of Correction in Boston will be my 100th ACA meeting. The purpose of this small article is not to pretend 1 am a corrections expert and to spew forth the collective wisdom I think I have. The longer I'm in corrections, the more I begin to understand how little I know and how ridiculous some of my firmly held beliefs really are. However, 1 do know some things that I think are worth talking about --namely, the contributions of our professional association to the field of corrections.
I am writing this article more to myself than to a larger audience, and I am writing it because, on occasion, I think that our correctional system is broken and has not progressed beyond the days of dungeons and forced labor. I am writing this to remind myself how far our profession has come in terms of improved custody, care and treatment. I am writing to remind myself that I, like just about all who 1 have met in corrections, have contributed to some pretty substantial improvements to our system and to remind myself how powerful individuals can be when we join together for a common cause--in this case, using ACA to improve our own careers as well as to make corrections a profession and a leader in change.
This will not be a long article and it will not mention jurisdictions, individuals or institutions by name. If a reader is interested in who or what specifically I refer to, contact me and I'll tell you. This small article is not about specific people or places, rather it is about how corrections in general has changed for the better over the course of my short 50 years working in it. 1 also give much of the credit for the positive changes within our business to the collective efforts of those who have worked within the structure of ACA.
So I Begin
In 1964, when I first became involved with corrections on a part-time basis, few people working in the system had formal training, and in many jurisdictions, even a high school diploma was not required. Females working in male facilities were rare, and their work was usually menial and kept them in towers or other places away from inmates. That changed in the early 1970s. Now, many systems have a large percent of very effective female correctional officers working in all areas of male facilities as well as being wardens and state directors.
Training of staff, 50 years ago, was more often than not a matter of following the instructions of a senior...