The Correctional Management Institute of Texas recently offered a professional and personal development program for women working in the criminal justice system, including those in corrections, law enforcement, and courts.
"I thought it was great," said Becky Henderson, a court administrator from the 198th and 216th Courts in Kerr County. "The speakers were wonderful and very informative, especially Victor Gonzalez. His topic (Females in Gangs) was very, very interesting, and I learned a lot."
During the 2-1/2 day conference, which was held in San Antonio, 137 women from sheriff offices; police departments; college police; adult and juvenile detention and probation; private prisons; and courts participated in sessions on ethics, wellness, cultural diversity, defensive tactics, professional image, and female gangs.
"The Women Conference is always about professional and personal development," said Natalie Payne, program coordinator with CMIT. "It provides topics they can use in their professional and personal lives. They see how it can benefit them at work or at home with their spouses, significant others or children."
The most popular session was on female gangs, presented by Victor M. Gonzalez Jr., founder of Gang Response Intervention Prevention Services. While there is little research available, female may make up 3 to 38 percent of gang membership, depending on the researcher, the gang and region of the country being studied. Women join gangs for acceptance, protection, money, boyfriends, power, abuse avoidance, friends, or drugs.
"Female gangs are very different from male gangs," Payne said.
Initiations for female gang members may include a beating, sex or crimes and can include a probationary period. Female gang members can be identified by tattoos or the color of earrings, pendants, rings, nail polish, compacts or lip stick holders, eye shadow, hair color, scrunchies or barrettes, blouses and bandanas. Females in gangs can be used for such things as relaying messages, gathering intelligence, setting up rivals, acting as accomplices in crime, carrying weapons or attracting new recruits. They are often overlooked by police, but commit crimes ranging from burglary to murder, Gonzalez said.
Women at the CMIT conference also learned how to develop their leadership qualities through self-assessment tools and how to maintain a profession image in the field through a fashion show of do’s and don’ts of a wardrobe for work. They discovered how to protect themselves through defensive tactics and discovered the ethical voices that guide them. They finally tackled cultural diversity by learning to accept the different races, cultures and sexual orientations they meet in their day-to-day activities.
"I really, really enjoyed this conference and plan to attend annually if you guys will have me," said Joanna Smith, a Court Administrator for the 429th District Court in McKinney
The Correctional Management Institute of Texas, created in 1994, provides professional training programs, technical assistance and direction, and research and program evaluations for the adult and juvenile correctional system.