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Correctional Training – An essential function of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice

By TBCJ Vice-Chair Pierce Miller

Pierce Miller
TBCJ Vice-Chair
A safe, effective prison system and the development of strong correctional supervisors are two (2) key goals of the Correctional Training and Staff Development Department of the Correctional Institutions Division (CID). To obtain these goals in today’s criminal justice arena, the Correctional Training department provides comprehensive pre-service and in-service training and focuses on the development of new operational and supervisory training initiatives.

For incoming correctional candidates, the CID Pre-Service Academy provides core instruction on offender management, emergency procedures, health and wellness, safe prisons, use of force, and firearms. The academy is offered at six (6) regional sites across the state as well as off-site at four (4) colleges and universities. Accelerated, part-time, and special unit-hosted academies are also held if necessary based on the applicant pool. During Fiscal Year (FY) 2007, over 4,000 trainees completed this intensive five (5)-week training program.

Following graduation from pre-service, the training of new officers continues at their unit of assignment. The On-the-Job Training Program provides valuable hands-on experience, while the Mentorship Program, which spans the officer’s first six (6) months of employment, connects the individual with a veteran officer to share their knowledge and answer questions.

The CID In-Service Program provides an annual 40-hour program of instruction for the uniformed and non-uniformed correctional staff. It is offered at six (6) academies and 24 unit-based sites, and reaches the largest number of agency staff over any other training initiative - more than 27,400 in FY 07. It provides an opportunity to enhance performance in core functions, such as communication, supervision, and report writing, and to develop teamwork among employees. This past year the curriculum for the In-Service Program was revised to incorporate 14 elective workshops covering a wide array of topics to include personal finances, security threat groups, and advance defensive tactics. With the inclusion of these workshops, well received by participants, additional electives are being developed for future implementation.

The Sergeant’s Academy, established in 2005, teaches newly promoted sergeants the professional and leadership skills they need to undertake their supervisory responsibilities. This academy is a 12-day program that combines the agency’s required Principles of Supervision and Human Resources Topics for Supervisors training with position-specific instruction vital to the new correctional supervisor. All newly promoted sergeants are required to attend and successfully complete this academy before they can be placed in a supervisory role. For tenured sergeants, the Sergeant’s Retreat focuses on enhancing already-learned skills and improving performance as a supervisor.

A Lieutenant’s Command School was established in 2006 to further develop the skills of veteran lieutenants and prepare newly promoted lieutenants to more effectively perform their duties as supervisors of supervisors. The program’s main focus is on the command of a unit, the staff, and critical situations. School instructors evaluate participants on a daily basis to allow the training to progress at each student’s pace for successful completion.

As to the next line of correctional supervisors, an intensive captain’s training program is under development through the use of needs assessments and input from focus groups. Anticipated implementation of this training course is set for the spring of 2008.

Keeping the Good Ones, an official agency training program, became an essential part of the Correctional Training program. Developed by the Human Resources Division, Keeping the Good Ones addresses employee retention issues. It allows supervisors, from the lowest level to the highest, an opportunity to provide a positive impact in the careers of agency staff. From January through August 2007, over 1,100 supervisors received this training, to include CID regional directors, wardens, assistant wardens, and majors. Additional training sessions continue for remaining CID supervisors. For new correctional supervisors, Keeping the Good Ones was added to the Sergeant’s Academy curriculum in June 2007.

By focusing correctional staff training on unit operations, teaching essential core functions and developing strong supervisory staff, the CID Correctional Training and Staff Development Department is an integral part of an efficient criminal justice system that is safe for both officers and offenders.

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