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Weekend Plans: Leadership, Women and Advocacy

Updated: Jul 18, 2022

Countless hours, over more than a decade, through the opioid epidemic and the COVID-19 pandemic, Caitlin has led from the front.

Effective leadership consists of many facets. And effective leaders, particularly women, possess a particular set of traits that makes them innately successful. In a recent Harvard Business Review study it was shown not only are women more effective leaders, but they are even more so during crises. Women are frequently brought in as leaders when organizations are already failing and the chance of success is slim, the proverbial “glass cliff”. And time and again, women succeed in these situations because women are inherently better at leading, particularly through a crisis. Women frequently score significantly higher in employee ratings than their male counterparts and it is not lack of capability that women don’t claim more leadership positions, this study posits, but a dearth of opportunity. Caitlin is here to be that opportunity.

Caitlin has spent a lifetime in preparation for this role beginning with her post-secondary education and research, to her time in public service as a multiyear member of the Pelham Conservation Commission and finally as a nurse who, as defined by the profession and showcased in her actions, has spent nearly 12 years helping others achieve their personal goals by acting as a strong patient advocate in their drive towards success. This race marks an effort by this campaign to expand that definition of “patient” from a singular person to the entity of the Hampshire County Sheriff’s Office. Nurses like Caitlin spend their lives serving as advocates and leaders. Rolling up their sleeves, stepping into the trenches and getting to work. Countless hours, over more than a decade, through the opioid epidemic and the COVID-19 pandemic, Caitlin has led from the front.

In the 10 years Caitlin has spent working in corrections she has time and again proven herself a well-respected leader by her peers and supervisors. Whether it’s while managing a critical incident, suicide attempt or medical emergency, being chosen to sit on the institution’s Inmate Review Board (IRB) by security supervisors, volunteering to create the data collection system at the inception of the Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) Program or during COVID where Caitlin took the lead and chose to work the COVID unit consistently, she has shown a willingness to act, make decisions, take initiative and collaborate with other team members.

Strong leadership at the highest levels is lacking in the current Administration. The leadership training for new and mid-level supervisors is sparse at best. This creates a power vacuum where information and skill is sequestered rather than shared. A Sepeda Administration will:

  • Require supervisory staff to complete annual leadership/manager training specific to staff oversight, team building, effective communication and problem solving. The National Institute of Corrections has a multitude of free and low-cost training options and guides aimed at supervisory development and leadership skills. Staff should be encouraged to learn and cultivate effective leadership skills from the top down.

  • Create a framework designed around succession planning. The Hampshire County Sheriff’s Office is bleeding staff. Not only good staff, but experienced, knowledgeable staff. There has been little to no effort over the years to prepare new staff to step into roles vacated by senior staff, thus leaving the institution scrambling for who to slot in or begging the would-be retiree to stay just a little longer and having to hand out promotions to make that happen. Long term planning objectives, of which there are presently none, that are made clear to the team and shared with all staff, will help to create a sense of calm knowing that all aspects of facility management are taken care of when the next generation of staff rise through the ranks. There should be an effort at cross training staff and recruitment efforts should be targeted: desired skills and deficiencies within the organization need to be identified so that prospective candidates can be assessed on these needs. The goal is hiring staff capable of rising through the ranks who can be developed into the next generation of leaders.

  • Create a Field Training Officer Program (FTO). Presently, on the job training of new staff, either before or after the completion of a Correctional Officer Training Academy is haphazard at best. There is little to no formal training program so the quality of training is fully dependent upon which senior staff do the training and there is no formal leadership training program for them. The creation of an FTO Program is a win-win in terms of creating a formalized training rubric for all new staff to ensure standardization of knowledge. It also creates an avenue for leadership learning for senior staff as well as an opportunity for lateral job mobility. This is a no cost program that will positively affect both staff and the individuals in their care by creating a system of fundamental organizational understanding leading to less conflict so no one can answer shop and staff are available to work all areas effectively and seamlessly depending upon facility need, not who’s on shift.

  • All departments should prepare their staff for leadership. Leadership isn’t solely a requirement of Security. Treatment, Education, Medical should be encouraged to develop leadership skills in their staff. Team leaders, which rotate, should be encouraged. Each department has regular staff meetings, a simple opportunity to lead a meeting is a great way to provide some leadership opportunity where frequently there is none. Allowing for varying perspectives to have a voice leads to a deeper understanding of the overall work being done.

We are also encouraged by the selection of Colette Peters as the new Director of the Bureau of Prisons. She is a reform minded woman, in the same vein as Caitlin, who puts the needs of others ahead of her own and is focused on bringing positive change to a beleaguered system, not unlike the Hampshire County Sheriff’s Office though on a much larger scale, while focusing on accountability, rehabilitation and staff wellness and retention. Women in law enforcement leadership, while becoming more common, are still the exception rather than the rule. The choice of a woman to run that organization is encouraging to all women in that with hard work, experience and drive, recognition at the highest level is not only possible but expected. A similar choice made in voting for Caitlin as Hampshire County Sheriff, a seasoned professional with a track record of advocacy and teamwork, will bring about meaningful, tangible change to a system mired in “old ways” of thinking and doing.

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