|Program:||Security and Institutional Operations|
In 1999, the department began a reorganization that focused on standardization, centralized operations and decision-making, increased efficiencies, cost reduction, and redirection of institutional employees’ time to the mission of security.
The effort began with the introduction of regional service centers that served as the cornerstone of the reorganization plan. Functional areas removed from prisons and consolidated into the service centers included Accounting, Purchasing, Personnel, Staff Development and Training, and Maintenance and Construction among other field services. In theory, this would relieve the warden of the burden of managing administrative functions allowing him/her to concentrate on mission critical responsibilities.
Although well intentioned, the removal of all the support services from the direct authority of the warden created a vacuum that negatively impacted the overall operation of a prison. Although it seemed cost effective and efficient at the time to centralize certain aspects of a prison's administrative operations, it is clear now of how critical the relationship was between these offices and the warden in ensuring that the daily business of running a prison was done smoothly.
The primary role of the business office was oversight of state spending. In that regard, it was key to the identification of fraud, waste and abuse. The business office monitored usage and consumption of goods and services, inventory levels, purchase requests, phone bills, travel vouchers, fuel logs, cash receipt documentation, bank deposits, recycling manifests, etc.
The personnel office was critical in tracking attendance, addressing payroll issues, assisting with benefits and ongoing replenishment of the staffing pool through careful, planned recruitment efforts. Removal of the personnel function from prison has been compounded by PeopleFirst with its emphasis on a web-based system. Security staff have limited access to computers in the work environment and consequently over 15,000 correctional officers still submit manual timesheets. Warden's offices still provide assistance to staff on attendance, health, retirement and new employee orientation issues.
Recruitment is the biggest hurdle in the personnel area. The department hired almost 3,000 entry-level correctional officers last year, coupled with numerous promotions, terminations and reassignments, all of which create a significant workload. Associated activities such as accepting and reviewing applications for completeness, determining eligibility, interviewing and scheduling pre-employment testing was handled at each prison. If problems arose, they could be handled quickly at that level. With the transfer of these functions to the service centers and the advent of PeopleFirst, any efficiencies of the process were lost. This created backlogs in the hiring process which prisons addressed by taking a correctional officer from the compound to function as a prison recruiter. Along with the aforementioned activities, recruiters also conduct background checks, attend job fairs and work with local schools and One Stop Centers. While these recruiters have helped maintain prison staffing, they cannot replace a professional human resource staff member.
As with other areas, training positions were eliminated in the reorganization to the point where wardens are forced to pull from security staff to provide training. To fill this gap, the department has developed internet courses, which allow employees to read and sign that they have received training. The department is discovering that read and sign courses do not provide sufficient opportunity for employees to ask questions and for instructors to gauge student comprehension. In order to continue to meet the needs of a more specialized and diversified workforce the department needs to have a professional staff dedicated to training only, particularly in high liability areas such as use of force and chemical agents.
The current structure requires wardens to temporarily assign critical certified and other staff to handle issues outside their assigned duties. These employees, along with wardens and assistant wardens, spend considerable amounts of time dealing with issues such as training, contract management, canteen, food service, personnel, maintenance, budget, etc. Any time officers are pulled off post to address such issues is undesirable and can put an undue strain on the security of the prison.
An independent review of the department and its operations was conducted in July 2006. The study confirmed that the regional services do not effectively support institutional and field operations as intended. The study identified the critical need for key positions located in and around institutions to provide oversight and accountability and assist wardens in providing the leadership required to ensure compliance with procedures and performance objectives in meeting the agency mission.
Accordingly, the department requests 54 positions for the business function, 54 for personnel functions other than recruitment, 36 dedicated to the recruitment function, and 54 for staff training. In order to avoid a potential conflict of interest, these positions will work indirectly for wardens and report directly to the Regional Office.