Forming partnerships in corrections

Missed chances for dialoging about universal obstacles translates to failure for capitalizing on opportunities to form strong partnerships

Public and governmental agencies are well-known for operating in isolated, silo environments.  The nature of the daily work and unique challenges often cause leaders to narrow their view of a problem, and not seek solutions beyond the internal, organizational culture. 

The bigger view, however, often reveals similar challenges among many agencies, often resulting in duplication of both human effort and budgets to find answers and implement better practices. Missed chances for dialoging about universal obstacles translates to failure for capitalizing on opportunities to form strong partnerships between even the most unlikely groups, and discovering ways all sides can benefit. 

One of the most mismatched, yet useful, of such partnerships can be forged between local school districts and departments of corrections.  Despite differences in missions, both groups find they share common operations, and there may be payoff for becoming more familiar with each other’s organization. 

Both agencies are responsible for population management, food service operations, physical plant maintenance, motor pools, recreation, health services, academic and vocational courses of study, state and federal compliance standards, special staff credentials, fire and life safety practices, emergency preparedness plans, and others. 

Mutual aid between these agencies may be realized by developing formal letters of agreement, or by simply relying on casual, informal relationships and assistance when needed. 

One specific way corrections agencies can assist schools is in sharing knowledge and providing training about the behavior of sexual predators.

Across the country, the number of incidents involving teachers or other school staff being prosecuted for sexually victimizing students has increased.

With experiences by departments of corrections for managing sex offenders, and understanding the nature of this criminal behavior, they are in a perfect position to offer expertise. 

Schools can apply what corrections agencies have learned over time:  staff predatory behavior requires immediate, leadership response, investigation and eventual prosecution.  Robust policy development and training help teachers understand signs and dynamics of predatory behavior.

Just as corrections professionals understand there is no such thing as consensual sex between staff and offenders, school staff should know and understand the same about students, and understand laws governing prosecution, incarceration, and long-term sex offender status. 

Families are horrified their children may be at risk, so students should also be trained about how to avoid being victimized, as well as how to report.

When such incidents become public, there is often collateral damage in the community.  Mitigation strategies to assist students, families and other staff should be swiftly implemented. To this extent, corrections can offer assistance in critical incident debriefing.

For children in America, school should be a place where teachers are trusted, and learning occurs in a safe and happy environment.  Social and academic experiences help shape long-lasting habits, culminating in young adults helping make communities a better place in which to live, and a better place to make a living.  Corrections agencies can provide mutual aid on a number of levels; however, helping schools develop staff training about the nature of sexual victimization is one of the most critical.

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