Hosted by the Correctional Management Institute of Texas (CMIT), the conference allows county jail officials to learn about key issues in corrections, to hone their leadership skills, to network with other professionals across the state, to meet with vendors offering corrections-oriented products and to visit state prisons.
Doug Dretke, Executive Director of CMIT, welcomed the county correction professionals to the conference, recognizing their desire to enhance their professionalism by their interest in continuing to "learn the business of jail management and jail operations."
"To be good at what you do, you have to stay incredibly knowledgeable about operations," Dretke said.
CMIT is a statewide organization dedicated to enhancing corrections in adult and juvenile community and institutional agencies. Created in 1994, it provides training through a broad range of professional development programs and initiatives; technical assistance to professionals in the field; and research and program evaluations of interest to practitioners and policy makers.
During the three-day conference, participants attended a variety of sessions, including stress management, reentry and integration, a legislative update, behavioral health issues and suicide prevention, performance leadership, critical communications and understanding and managing people. The corrections officials were provided tours of state prison facilities in Huntsville, including the Estelle and Wynne Units at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, as well as a Dinner and Casino Night at the Walker County Storm Shelter.
The training tackled two hot topics in jail operations, including reentry and integration as well as inmates with mental health issues. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice, as well as several larger counties, recently began new programs aimed at preparing inmates for reintegration into society, including developing work skills and maintaining sobriety. The initiative could be used by county jails as a way to reduce recidivism and prevent overcrowding.
Another session addressed behavioral health issues and suicide prevention, providing tips on how to handle prisoners with mental health issues. With many mental health facilities closing, county jails are seeing more and more inmates with mental illnesses, and practitioners were provided tips on how to screen for mental health issues, manage inmates to protect themselves and fellow prisoners, and to use health professionals to medicate those that require it.
In addition, prison officials received the latest update on the Prison Rape Elimination Act from the Texas Legislature, which mandates changes to prevent sexual harassment throughout the corrections system.
The training also provided leadership skills training and featured Sheriff Gary Raney, who has developed a successful county jail program in Ada County, Idaho. Raney provided insight on his program, including a hands-on approach to management and strategic planning to plan and manage upcoming and unforeseen issues in the system. Another session, aimed at key executives, discussed time management and stress prevention, as well as the process of decision-making.
Finally, a workshop provided by Robert Schout, a New Mexico consultant, discussed stress management, burnout and compassion fatigue, outlining strategies to deal with these issues in themselves and in their organizations. Other sessions focused on employee relations, including how to effectively communicate criticism to staff, and how to understand personality traits in themselves and in their employees to better work together.
CMIT’s annual jail conference is one of a number of programs that are offered to county correction professionals each year at Sam Houston State University. CMIT also offers leadership training for mid-managers, senior leadership, new jail administrators and training in jail operations for executives leadership including Chief Deputies and Sheriffs.
Conference attendees could have earned up to 19 hours of credit from Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education.