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Cut costs and enhance communication with social media

How new web-based technologies can expand department outreach while protecting budgets


(AP photo)

An audit of your workplace may reveal that technology can help implement cost-cutting measures while developing relationships and enhancing communication with other corrections and criminal justice organizations. The following is an overview of how technology – especially the internet and social media – has assisted in developing a “greener” approach at the Correctional Management Institute of Texas (CMIT) while building relationships to bring more information to a broader portion of the corrections field.

Founded in 1994, CMIT, one of the many institutes at Sam Houston State University (SHSU), provides training and technical assistance on a wide variety of correctional leadership and professional development programs across the state and on the national level. CMIT also serves as a crossroads for encouraging academic and practitioner partnerships to produce meaningful research for the field. Delivering such programs entails organizing disparate resources to ensure that all program requirements are met. These include human resources (speakers, exhibitors), material resources (conference handouts, publicity), and infrastructure (meeting space, equipment), and others.

Just a few short years ago, the process of preparing for a training or conference would have centered on opening reams of paper, printing brochures, folding them by hand, stuffing them into envelopes, and sending them through the mail, a costly endeavor in both staff time and financial resources. For example, reproducing all conference handout materials for CMIT’s Annual Gangs Conference held in Austin two weeks ago would have required in excess of 30,000 sheets of paper, costly ink, and staff time. Instead, all materials were provided on a CD. This, along with other measures, has allowed CMIT to keep program fees stable during difficult economic times.

By now, web-based technology, particularly email and websites, are well established as tools to enhance communication and reduce expense. Publicizing upcoming events has become quick, inexpensive, and user-friendly. Regular email updates and reminders about upcoming programs can be sent in just a few moments at little or no expense. Links to training calendars are included in the email, reducing the need to reproduce and mail calendars.

Ultimately, though, the goal is to provide increased value to the field in terms of information, enhanced tools for practical application, and research that can lead to more evidence-based practices. The newsletter you are now reading is an example of that. It grew out of the relationship between CMIT and and brings leadership and management information that may not have been available otherwise. The newsletter capitalizes on the hard-earned experience of correctional professionals to capture best practices and reduce the need to reinvent the wheel.

Likewise, social media can take information sharing to a new level. At the basic level, CMIT trainings are announced on its Facebook page and programs discussed on its Blog. To realize even greater benefits from the relationship, CMIT has a dedicated page on the Corrections1 website. CMIT now directs its program participants to the Corrections1 website which contains a vast array of fascinating videos, commentaries, and practical application for the practitioner.

All of this has occurred in a timeframe and cost range that would have been unheard of a few years ago and impossible had CMIT been working independently. Through the websites, blogs, videos, this Leadership eNewsletter, and most importantly a strong relationship between CMIT and, more people are brought into the discussion to share experiences, challenges, and best practices. In the end, it helps fulfill the mission for which CMIT was established.

Relatively straightforward, simple measures have been taken to realize significant cost savings and improve programming at CMIT. What basic steps can you take in your organization that might help curtail expenses and build relationships to provide improved services to your client base?

Dr. Joe Serio is a popular and sought-after criminal justice speaker and trainer. He is currently delivering a series of classes on time management, emotional intelligence, leadership, customer service, and other topics at the Harris County (Houston) Sheriff’s Office Training Academy. Dr. Serio is a featured speaker at SHIELD, Sheriff Institute for Ethical Leadership Development, at the Travis County (Austin) Sheriff’s Office Training Academy. He also speaks at adult and juvenile probation departments as well as police departments.
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