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Weekend Plans: Staffing Crisis

Updated: Jul 20, 2022

Staff do not quit bad jobs, they quit bad leadership.

#SepedaForSheriff will begin a new weekly series, “Weekend Plans”, where campaign platform points and specific plans for change will be laid out for voters. The sections will be lengthy, but effective leadership goals don’t happen in soundbites. We encourage you to interact and if you’d like to know more, reach out to the campaign to schedule a meet and greet with Caitlin for your friends and colleagues where you can learn more in depth.

Corrections is facing an unprecedented staffing crisis. Where once corrections was a viable and desirable career path, now lies a job market favorable to workers and law enforcement opportunities abound, many potentially more appealing than corrections. Without staff, primarily security, to facilitate the safety and security measures mandated in corrections, all other programming comes to a standstill. Staffing is essential in the implementation of all programming and treatment. Full stop.

Conditions at the Hampshire County Sheriff’s office are no different. Years of administrative stagnation, incentivizing retirements combined with a failure to backfill those positions, a lack of effective or devoted recruitment plans, sporadic hiring practices and a staff who feels unheard, unsupported and overworked, has caused burnout and fiscal instability as the overtime budget has skyrocketed in the past 5 years. Staff should always be the most successful recruitment tool available to the Hampshire County Sheriff. But a staff who are overworked, unsupported, concerned for their safety and who want more training but can’t access it due to staffing insufficiencies and administrative favoritism, creates an environment where recruitment is unsuccessful and long term retention efforts fall flat.

Staff do not quit bad jobs, they quit bad leadership. Caitlin, and a number of other long term Hampshire County Sheriff’s Office staff, are proof of this statement. A career in stagnation under an administration disconnected from staff and operations caused Caitlin, and several others across departments, not to change careers, but to change location. Seeking an opportunity to continue the important and valuable work of corrections in an environment supportive of staff and correctional progress, valuable to both justice involved individuals and employees, were primary factors which lead Caitlin to her current employer and to a campaign for this position. Change is needed.

This is a solutions based candidate and campaign. Complaints about working conditions, lack of training opportunities and deficiencies in staff safety serve no purpose without solutions. Likewise, dreams for what the facility could be are just that, without effective strategies to bring them to fruition. Staffing concerns will not be solved overnight, but that is no excuse to not have a plan. Administrators should be proactive rather than reactionary, anticipate issues, collaborate with staff to create strategies for solving problems and be humble enough to know when to pivot. These are all things that Caitlin will bring to her role as Hampshire County Sheriff.

  1. Security and non-security recruitment teams should be visible in our community at job fairs, veterans events, community and public gatherings and in our local universities. Staffing insufficiencies, as noted by the explosion of overtime and unfilled or underfilled vacancies in security and medical, create an unsafe environment for both staff and justice involved individuals. Vacancies need filling. Targeted, aggressive recruitment efforts are one of several ways to do this with minimal cost.

  2. The creation of a Field Training Officer (FTO) program for security staff and extensive, well organized orientation and training with senior staff in all other departments. Staff in the infancy of their careers should feel supported and competent with their on the job training and be well connected with senior staff so uncertainty of task is quickly addressed. Safety of all individuals within the facility is paramount and the creation of a program like this, where none exists, helps set staff up for success, offers lateral career advancement opportunities and comes at minimal cost and maximum results.

  3. Supervisory staff get supervisory training at every level, across departments. The effective management of staff and cultivation of loyal, career-long employees is a learned skill. This type of training should be mandatory and ongoing, which it presently is not. There is no easier way to snuff out the flame of ambition than to create an environment rife with lack of support, scapegoating and double standards. All levels of supervisory employees need to be effectively trained.

  4. Create an array of support options for staff. Staff wellness, mentorship programs, opportunities for formal and informal suggestions to administration, formal debriefings after critical incidents with regular mental health check ins, creating a meritocracy based on hard work and personal growth. Staff need to feel heard, respected, valued, safe and supported. An administration disconnected from the practical day to day functioning of the facility does not serve as effective leadership. A leader like Caitlin, who understand the legal obligations overseeing corrections and has a firm grasp on the day to day functioning of the facility, as is illustrated by her 10 years of front line correctional work, is most poised to lead.

  5. Training will become collaborative and multi-agency. Training in isolation, which Hampshire County has done for too long, does not serve to advance the field of corrections and the effects of that mentality can be seen at Hampshire County in the antiquated records keeping, training and knowledge base. Officer Training Academies, in house training and community outreach training will be organized collaboratively, by reaching out to sister agencies, and will become the new normal. There are a number of staff with excellent training certifications in Critical Incident Training (CIT) and Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERTT) who are unable to share that training with other staff, other agencies or other community partners because of Administrative blockades. Information should be shared, not sequestered.

The term of a Massachusetts Sheriff is 6 years. That is a long time to work towards these goals and create new ones as we see success. There are a number of other plans in the wings, some more staff specific, some more justice involved individual specific. All of these goals serve a singular purpose: Progress. Corrections is a forward moving, ever evolving industry, one not well served by the antiquated practices of Hampshire County. Caitlin will bring pride of work back to the facility and cultivate an environment in line with the values and innovative spirit of Hampshire County.

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