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Sergeants Academy provides training for first line correctional supervisors

Basic lifestyle changes can lower risk for chronic illnesses

PACT conference rescheduled in wake of Hurricane Katrina

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Sergeants Academy provides training for first line correctional supervisors
By Hank Moody

"People Are Our Business” is a core value of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) and the slogan for the Correctional Institutions Division’s Correctional Training & Staff Development (CTSD) Department.

portrait of William H. Moody
William "Hank" Moody
Providing high-quality training that will prepare correctional employees to operate effectively within the prison setting is critical to the mission of the agency. In advancement of this mission, the CTSD has renewed its focus on getting training programs back to the basics. Because training for correctional officers is at the heart of CTSD, pre-service programs designed to orient new officers to the correctional environment have been greatly expanded and improved over recent years. One such modification has been the addition of a mentoring component to the On-The-Job Training program to provide much needed guidance and support to new correctional officers for a full four months. Another modification was the development of new courses for experienced staff to enhance their level of competence in areas related to identification of inappropriate relationships between staff and offender, detection of offender sexual assault and extortion, and critical incident management.

TDCJ’s pre-service and in-service training programs combined with these new training programs serve to prepare and educate the line officer. However, they do not provide the training needed to help develop supervisory skills. Consequently, first time supervisors are required to attend 40-hours of pre-supervisory courses, Human Resources Topics for Supervisors (HRTS) and Principles of Supervision (POS), which teach policies, procedures and interpersonal skills related to employee management.

Given the vital role sergeants play in the day-to-day operations of correctional facilities, opportunities to provide additional training for these front line supervisors are of particular interest to the agency. With this in mind, staff from the Training department, assisted by Support Operations, created a training program for newly promoted sergeants. The goal for the Sergeants Academy is to improve the quality of the supervision the agency’s correctional officers receive by increasing the success of first line supervisors.

Utilizing input from agency leaders, needs assessment surveys, and focus groups of both wardens and existing sergeants, a list of essential functions for this training. Among the technical topics selected for inclusion in the academy were legal liabilities of supervision, the sergeant’s role in the use of force, the Safe Prison Program, how to conduct a thorough investigation, count procedures, critical incident management, and procedures related to the Emergency Action Center. Interpersonal topics include management by roving, the importance of training, mentoring and coaching staff, the Back-to-Basics Program, as well as the impact of the sergeant on other unit departments, like Food Service, Education, Agriculture and Industry. The required 40 hours of pre-supervisory courses (HRTS and POS) were also incorporated to make the training an all-inclusive program.

Lesson plans and training aids for the academy were devised to best convey information on the targeted knowledge and skills, employing various teaching techniques such as hands-on, practical application drills; interactive scenarios and role-plays; facilitated group discussion; table-top exercises; and individual student presentations. Notable training blocks include the use of the simulated prison environment at the Eastham Unit’s Old Camp to conduct mock hostage and riot situations. Students also complete turnout rosters and conduct a shift briefing and a count exercise that requires the participants to take and clear count from an actual, pre-recorded unit count.

Visits by the leadership of the Correctional Institutions Division have also been incorporated into these sessions, allowing attendees to obtain a clear understanding of the vision for the Sergeants Academy as well as the agency. The result is 86 hours of highly specialized training that is complemented by the use of management trainers and knowledgeable guest instructors including wardens, assistant wardens and various department heads. The two-week session culminates with a graduation and pinning ceremony which further emphasizes the value placed on sergeants and their critical role in making our prisons a safe place in which to work and live.
Since the Sergeants Academy debuted in March 2005, 184 newly promoted supervisors have been trained. With the implementation of this academy, the agency has filled a need in one more level of preparatory education within its course structure, a structure that includes courses for newly appointed wardens and mid-management training for captains.

Increasing both the proficiency and confidence of our correctional supervisors will greatly aid employees and the public we serve, while ensuring the continued success of the agency.

Basic lifestyle changes can lower risk for chronic illnesses

illustration collage with fruit and vegetables, woman in gym clothes holding a dumbell, and pills and the medical emblem.Basic changes in diet and exercise can lead to a dramatic drop in a person’s risk for chronic illnesses such as diabetes, cancer, and heart disease in as little as six weeks, according to a study by Brigham Young University Professor of Exercise Science Steven Aldana in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

“This is not a diet, not a trend, not a fad that will go away,” said Aldana. “It’s adopting a nutritious way of eating and exercise that causes very important positive changes in your body’s health in a short period of time.”

Study participants experienced significant reductions in body fat, cholesterol levels and blood pressure as they adopted a diet emphasizing unrefined “food-as-grown,” like grains, legumes and fresh fruits and vegetables and implemented a 30-minute-a-day cardiovascular exercise program (such as walking with a pedometer).

“Although the notion that proper nutrition and exercise is good for you is not revolutionary, it’s important that people know that major health benefits can come quickly,” said Aldana, who set out to show there are no magic solutions to the health problems in today’s world. “Best of all, by making similar changes you can enjoy similar benefits.”

What’s the secret? There is no secret.

“It really doesn’t matter which lifestyle change program you go with,” Aldana said. “This is about healthy living. Make a decision, get the right information and tools and involve people to show you how to change, and then great things can happen.”

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PACT conference rescheduled in wake of Hurricane Katrina

Due to complications caused by Hurricane Katrina, the Fourth Annual Public Awareness – Corrections Today Conference scheduled for September 17th at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville has been moved to March 4, 2006.

TDCJ Ombudsman Program Coordinator Kathy Cleere said an influx of several hundred evacuees from the Gulf Coast region to Huntsville in early September led to a lack of hotel/motel room availability.

"Approximately 300 evacuees from Louisiana have been transported to American Red Cross shelters in Huntsville," Cleere said in announcing the rescheduling of the conference. "In addition, between 500 and 600 individuals and families displaced as a result of the hurricane are currently residing in hotels and motels in Huntsville and will probably remain in the hotels for at least the next month. Many TDCJ employees are volunteering their time to assist at designated shelters during the week and on weekends. We appreciate your understanding as the citizens of Huntsville and TDCJ employees help our neighbors in need."

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