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Mayor Greg Fischer Newsroom

Abramson: Changes Needed to Move Corrections to the ‘Next Level’

Friday August 8, 2003

Mayor Jerry Abramson today released the results of a comprehensive, outside review of the Corrections Department that recommends significant changes in management structure and operations at the jail.

“In short, the report concludes that Corrections needs a more streamlined, effective management structure and a more proactive leadership approach,” Abramson said during a morning news conference Thursday. “I agree with that central finding and I believe new leadership is necessary to develop a new structure and approach to running Corrections.”

As part of that effort, Abramson announced Corrections Chief Michael Horton will retire effective Sept. 1. Abramson also announced that Deputy Mayor William Summers IV will convene a Corrections Transition Team that will conduct a search for Horton’s successor and make recommendations on other changes suggested in the audit.

Abramson added that the audit concluded that there were “no issues that raise constitutional or life safety issues.”

“The good news is we have a jail that is meeting the basic needs of the community and that provides a safe and secure environment,” Abramson said. “The challenge is to move this facility and the department to a higher level of excellence.

“I am committed to taking us there.”

The audit was conducted by John Rees and Associates, a consulting team with more than 100 years of combined experience in the corrections field.

Abramson said he asked Horton to stay on as chief at the beginning of the administration while “an independent, comprehensive review” was conducted. Abramson added that Corrections was one of the few departments that he had not been familiar with from his time as mayor of Louisville for 13 years because it was a county-run operation.
In addition to management changes, Summers said the transition team will closely examine the need “for a change in the identity and philosophical approach of Corrections.”

For example, Summers said there are clear differences between police officers and corrections professionals. Currently, however, the training processes and many of the policies between the two departments mirror one another.

“We ultimately may need to make changes in the training processes, the policies, even the uniforms to allow corrections professionals to do their jobs more effectively,” Summers added. Abramson said many of the changes recommended in the report are already underway, including:
 · An examination of policies such as sick leave and family leave – two areas where the report found higher use than at jails in other cities.

· A reduction in the number of vehicles assigned to Corrections employees and changes in how the vehicles are used.

· The establishment of technology linkages to do more thorough background checks for outstanding warrants when prisoners are brought to the facility.

“The changes in the Corrections Department won’t happen overnight,” Abramson said. “They will take some time, a lot of focused effort and the good work and good will of the employees who have chose what is clearly a tough, challenging career.”

Highlights of Recommendations

§ Streamline command structure and eliminate some mid- and upper-level management positions

§ Take a more proactive, problem-solving approach to management to move toward “best practices”

§ Clearly define responsibilities for each top management position and structure personnel accordingly -more-

§ Make a philosophical change to view roles as correctional professionals rather than as police officers, which should include changes in training, uniforms, policies and procedures

§ Make transition to direct supervision style of jail management (in all areas except maximum security, segregation, and administrative segregation)

§ Consider shifting some positions from sworn to non-sworn and focus on a building a more unified team of correctional professionals

§ Improve communication and coordination with user groups such as judges, attorneys, police and community agencies
§ Improve communication and relationships with union representatives
§ Update/standardize policy manual and procedural guidelines

§ Reevaluate policies related to sick leave, family medical leave and allowing all senior staff to be off on weekends and holidays

§ Reduce number of vehicles assigned to the jail and individual personnel

§ Institute internal/external facility inspections (security, sanitation, fire safety)

§ Review use and training of Corrections Emergency Response Team (CERT)

§ Reevaluate use of jail space

§ Review delivery of contracted services for inmates including medical, food service, telephone access and treatment

§ Continue progress on establishing video visitation program, process for checking local warrants and technology improvements in citation process

§ Consider cross-agency contracts across Metro Government for common functions such as drug testing, polygraphs, medical evaluation and psychological testing