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Weekend Plans: Challenges of an Antiquated Facility and Outdated Technologies.

Updated: Jul 20, 2022

The Hampshire County Sheriff’s Office sits in a time capsule of antiquated technologies, out of touch training programs and disconnected job readiness plans.

“Weekend Plans”, where campaign platform points and specific plans for change will be laid out for voters, will focus this week on facility and technology modernizations as it pertains to streamlining operations, expanding treatment options and job readiness. The section will be lengthy, but effective leadership goals don’t happen in soundbites. This is a solutions based candidate and campaign. We encourage you to interact, here or on our website, 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 an ever evolving workplace, but one too often slow to keep pace with modern technology and innovative thinking. The common refrain of, “We’ve always just done it this way,” or “everyone knows how to do this and it would take too many resources to change gears,” are no longer acceptable answers to questions about archaic tools or disconnected methodologies. In order to excel in a modern world we must set ourselves, and the individuals in our care, up for success by providing everyone involved with the tools and skills required in today’s workforce.

The Hampshire County Sheriff’s Office sits in a time capsule of antiquated technologies, out of touch training programs and disconnected job readiness plans. Adding a part time grant writer to the staff, in order to access potentially millions in federal, state and local funds mitigates fiscal concerns regarding the following proposals.

1) Eliminate ink ribbon typewriter record keeping which presently exists as a primary records keeping tool. Software exists presently at the facility to replace this method and expand upon it exponentially. This change will allow for: digitization of records, streamlined and efficient audits, real-time area by area monitoring by supervisory/records/medical/treatment staff, increased accountability of staff and facility, risk mitigation by limiting human error, increased fiscal responsibility by reducing paper cost and eliminating the need for typewriter repair and allowing your staff to get back to the work of care, custody and rehabilitation instead of data entry.

2) Digitize training. Presently, staff are pulled off the floor from their posts and into a room to watch a PowerPoint training module, in many cases years old and out of date from both facility and best practices. The implementation of a digital training and compliance software system e.g. PowerDMS or Lexipol which would allow for in-area training, allow for staffing fluctuations while being able to maintain compliance, increase accountability, increase safety by keeping staff at their post and tracking of completion dates and test scores of individuals assigned training modules would better serve the present and future needs of the facility.

3) Modernize the training, education and workplace readiness methods for justice involved individuals. Individuals at the facility presently have limited access to tablets. Use should be expanded for education, programming and treatment. In the real world we write assignments digitally, apply for jobs digitally, use email and get our news from digital sources. The expansion of tablet use, which is already available to individuals, would allow them to practice real world, valuable skills in technology and communication and would give staff more opportunity for curriculum expansion, educational options and treatment accountability.

4) Justice involved individuals are frequently squeezed out of the job market solely for the fact they have a criminal record. This has become a societal issue. What CAN be addressed while individuals are incarcerated is best preparing them for success. All will learn: how to do an online job search, how to write a resume, job interview preparation and mock interviews, CPR/AED certification with an eye towards First Aid, how to complete an online job application compete with document uploading and how to access community resources e.g. public libraries, community centers and recovery drop-in locations in order to achieve these goals. The resources presently exist at the HSO to do this; it’s a matter of resource allocation.

5) Create education, vocational and technical training programs that provide individuals with marketable skills for THIS community. Hoisting certification, floor certification, farming, 10 and 40 hour OSHA certifications, amongst other possibilities, along with the present ServeSafe certification would give individuals viable options for employment upon release. These, combined with CPR/AED certifications, and the reinstitution of a work release program, will allow individuals to confidently present themselves to a potential employer knowing they have what the job requires. The expansion of Federal Perkins Grants along with recognized community partners in this program make this a fiscally feasible option.

A RAND institute study released earlier this year talks specifically about unemployment issues in the demographic represented in the individuals housed and sentenced at the Hampshire County Jail and House of Corrections. The post-pandemic job market is one favorable to labor and the population represented at the HSO is a valuable, untapped community resource. Years of minimal community outreach into the labor market has done a disservice to the individuals in our care. Small businesses, community employers and entrepreneurs need to understand the goals and objectives of the HSO as they pertain to job placement for the individuals in our care. The goals should be employment upon release in a position which is sustainable and meets the needs of decarcerated individuals in terms of pay, transportation concerns and marketability of learned skills.

The focus of the Sheriff, in terms of these points, should be the cultivation of an institution, and the programs facilitated within it, that are modern and address the requirements of the technological society in which we live such that recruitment and retention efforts are fruitful and the individuals in our care thrive not only while with us, but more so upon release because of the preparation they are gained through the programming received here. Rehabilitation is at its best when individuals no longer under our roof are successful on their own with the tools they learned and enhanced while in our care.

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