Updated: Aug 10, 2022
The primary objective will be to address staffing, in all its facets. Every function of the facility depends on adequate staffing, which there is not presently. The facility is unable to provide adequate safety, medical care, mental healthcare, treatment programming, recreational opportunities, education, training or wrap-around, and reentry services without enough staff. Full stop. The facility, like many other correctional facilities and branches of law enforcement, is facing a staff crisis, and on top of that, staff retention is at an all time low. The staff that remain are overworked, burnt out, and frustrated.
Aggressive staff recruitment needs to take place:
Recruitment teams, made up for both security and non-security staff will be present at local job fairs, recruiting events, MassHires events, college campus, and high school career days, community event information booths, correctional conferences, events involving former military officers, nursing schools etc.
All present staff need to be fully academy trained. Presently, staff are hired and, in some cases, spend more than a year working at the facility prior to obtaining full correctional officer training. Without that training, their abilities at the facility are severely limited and it handcuffs senior staff in terms of day to day facility staffing and function. A priority will be made to fully train all present staff as soon as possible and in the future, make the correctional officer academy the beginning of the hiring process rather than the end.
Nurses need to be courted. The facility has struggled for a very long time finding enough nursing staff to cover 24 hr coverage and all needs of the facility. Particularly as the MAT program grows under the new OTP license, local nursing school graduates as well as experienced nurses must be actively targeted.
A mental health department must be created and staffed. This means licensed mental health personnel need to be recruited. Like other departments of the facility, out of the box options for staff need to be looked at: part time, per diem, and full time staff options all need to be on the table in order to address current shortcomings and to meet present needs.
Staff retention must become a priority:
A traditional 5:2, 8hr shift and 40hr work week is not presently tenable in the current staff climate. A full review of post duties and facility needs must be urgently completed to see where adjustments can be made in order to cover shifts, allow for time off, cover sick/FMLA/PFMLA leave, and still run the facility. Different shift lengths, days off, schedule rotation must all be on the table. Staffing must reflect the needs of the facility while not overburdening staff. Corrections is a 24hr/7days/356days endeavor and must be treated as such across all departments.
Training must be fully overhauled in order to keep staff at their posts, modernize training modules, create dynamic training opportunities for more than just a select few, and allow trainers to train.
During and after staffing level increases, opportunities for lateral movement in staff need to be considered. In all departments, staff need to feel as though the opportunity exists for a future and for career expansion, advancement and change. Staff need to feel motivated and interested in the possibilities their job could hold as long as they work hard.
Consider creating part time and per diem staff positions in order to fill the gap. As staff who remain, and have not been given an appointed position with specialized hours, dwindle, the need for relief remains particularly acute in the security department, but also in medical. My administration will think outside of the box about how to provide what the facility needs, while providing high quality services for the individuals in our care that exceed the standard and allow staff to get relief.
Address staff morale so the staff we have stay and grow with us:
I will be present at each roll call for the first month of office and regularly thereafter. For too long, administration has been divorced from the day to day operations. I will know my staff and they will know me.
I will be present in the housing units and treatment areas daily for the first month and regularly thereafter. I care about this facility and those it houses and treats. Just like I do every day as a nurse, I will round on my patients and learn how they are. Those in my care will know who I am and I will know them as I have every day since my career in corrections began. I will see staff in their units so that I can understand issues first hand.
I will have regular meetings with staff at all levels. For too long, upper management has been the only voice heard. I think that each employee should be afforded the opportunity to speak and be heard. That will be accomplished through regular area walk throughs, meetings and open opportunity for suggestions. The staff have not felt heard for a very long time. That changes on Day 1 of my administration.