20 Best Correctional Practices

The Hampden County Model
Guiding Principles of Best Correctional Practices

  1.  Within any correctional facility or operation, there must be an atmosphere and an ethos of respect for the full humanity and potential of any human being within that institution and an effort to maximize that potential. This is the first and overriding principle from which all other principles emanate, and without which no real corrections is possible. Read more  
  2. Correctional facilities should seek to positively impact those in custody, and not be mere holding agents or human warehouses. Read more 
  3. Those in custody should put in busy, full and productive days, and should be challenged to pick up the tools and directions to build a law-abiding life. Read more
  4. Those in custody should begin their participation in positive and productive activities as soon as possible in their incarceration. Read more
  5. All efforts should be made to break down the traditional barriers between correctional security and correctional human services. Read more
  6. Productive and positive activities for those in custody should be understood to be investments in the future of the community. Read more
  7. Correctional institutions should be communities of lawfulness. There should be “zero tolerance”, overt or tacit, for any violence within the institution. Those in custody who assault others in custody should be prosecuted as if such actions took place in free society. Staff should be diligently trained and monitored in “use of force” that is necessary and non-excessive to maintain safety, security, order and lawfulness. Read more
  8. The operational philosophy of positively impacting those in custody and respecting their full humanity must predominate at all levels of security. Read more
  9. Offenders should be directed toward understanding their full impact on victims and their community and should make restorative and reparative acts toward their victims and the community-at-large. Read more        
  10. Offenders should be classified to the least level of security that is consistent with public safety and is merited by their own behavior. Read more
  11. There should be a continuum of gradual, supervised and supported community re-entry for offenders. Read more
  12. Community partnerships should be cultivated and developed for offender re-entry success. These partnerships should include the criminal justice and law enforcement communities as part of a public safety team. Read more
  13. Staff should be held accountable to be positive and productive. Read more
  14. All staff should be inspired, encouraged and supervised to “strive for excellence” in their work. Read more
  15. A spirit of innovation should permeate the operation. This innovation should be data-informed, evidenced-based, and include process and outcome measures. Read more
  16. In-service training should be ongoing and mandatory for all employees. Read more
  17. There should be a medical program that links with public health agencies and public health doctors from the home neighborhoods and communities of those in custody and which takes a pro-active approach to finding and treating illness and disease in the custodial population.Read more
  18. Modern technological advances should be integrated into a correctional operation for optimal efficiency and effectiveness.Read more
  19. Any correctional facility, no matter what its locale, should seek to be involved in, and to involve, the local community, to welcome within its fences the positive elements of the community, and to be a positive participant and neighbor in community life. This reaching out should be both toward the community that hosts the facility and the communities from which those in custody come. Read more 
  20. Balance is the key. A correctional operation should reach for the stars but be rooted in the firm ground of common sense. Read more

Michael J. Ashe, Jr., Sheriff of Hampden County

 

Principle # 1
Within any correctional facility or operation, there must be an atmosphere and an ethos of respect for the full humanity and potential of any human being within that institution, and an effort to maximize that potential. This is the first and overriding principle from which all other principles emanate, and without which no real corrections is possible.
There are few roles in life that are as massive an exercise in disenfranchisement and discouragement as the role of inmate in a correctional institution.
Likewise, there are few roles in the workforce that receive less approbation across the board than correctional employee.
This principle speaks to giving both groups, inmates and staff, credibility and encouragement for their full personhood, for the positive aspects of their pasts and presents, and for the full possibilities of their futures.
Inmates or staff who do not respect themselves and/or are not respected by others will not be productive or positive with their time incarcerated or their time at work.
A correctional facility can be an environment that engenders and fosters personal growth, if the humanity and potential of all within it are respected. Back to top

Principle # 2
Correctional Facilities should seek to positively impact those in custody and not be mere holding agents or human warehouses.
If incarceration is allowed to be a “holding pattern”, a period of suspended animation, those in custody are more likely to go back to doing what they have always done when they are released, because they will be what they have always been. The only difference may be that they have more anger and more shrewdness as they pursue their criminal career.
It is a simple law of life that nothing changes if nothing changes.
Correctional practitioners are very cognizant of the admonition that they must avoid being perceived as administering a glorified hotel or country club. They must be equally conscious of avoiding the reality of administering a human warehouse that breeds stagnation, frustration and new crime.
Most inmates come to jail or prison with a long history of social maladjustment, carrying a great deal of baggage in the form of histories of substance abuse, deficits in their educational, vocational and ethical development, and disconnectedness to the mores and values of the larger community.
Given the time and resources dedicated to corrections, it is absolute folly in social policy not to seek to address these deficit areas that inmates have brought to their incarceration.
An offender who has begun to treat his addiction; has made up for deficiencies in literacy and education; has begun a habit of showing up on time, ready for a productive day; and has experienced a displacement of values is, sheer common sense tells us, less likely to re-offend. Back to top

Principle # 3
Those in custody should put in busy, full and productive days, and should be challenged to pick up the tools and directions to build a law-abiding life.
If we expect offenders to become positive and productive members of the larger community when they are released, the momentum of positivity and productivity must begin while they are incarcerated.
There should be a concerted effort to assure that those who are incarcerated put in productive days, just as they will be expected to do if they are to remain crime-free after release, and just as the taxpayers do who pay for their incarceration.
At Hampden County, there is a “40 Hour Work Week” policy for those in custody, whereby they are expected to be involved in productive activities — either work or life-changing programs — for at least 40 hours per week. The average inmate, at last count, was involved in these productive activities 47.16 hours per week.
The department doesn’t want inmates lying around all day watching cartoons, or drawing dirty pictures on the cell walls, or scheming ways to prey upon each other or beat the system. The department wants them working, or making themselves more ready to work, through vocational, educational and ethical development.
Rather than such an active inmate population being problematic to security, the department has learned that “good programming is good security.” Back to top

Principle # 4
Those in custody should begin their participation in positive and productive activities as soon as possible in their incarceration.
The optimal time to impact someone during their incarceration is at the beginning of their sentence. That is when they are withdrawing from everything and everybody that sustained their wanton lifestyle on the street. That is when the full impact of where they have taken their lives hits home, when they are left high and dry, with no place to escape to and no one to enable their malfeasance. That is when they are thus most open to change, to a displacement of their understandings, perspectives and attitudes.
Traditionally, correctional facilities squander this optimal window for openness to change, instead putting new inmates on waiting lists to become involved in programs that can help them change their lives. While waiting to become involved in these programs, the offender is introduced into the informal system by other inmates, and the edge for a new direction dulls as he becomes more comfortable in his new role and circumstances. Thus, while waiting to begin a journey down one road that offers hope and change, a new inmate slides down another road that leads back to where he came.
In an attempt to best take advantage of this optimal window of time for the willingness to change, the Hampden County Correctional Center instituted a mandatory “Basic Inmate Intensive Regimen”, or “Transitional Program”, beginning immediately after the completion of the 7 to 10 day orientation and continuing for four weeks. This program assures that all offenders are involved in basic core programs at the front end of their incarceration. Offenders must meet the expectations of each program to receive additional privileges and lower security consideration.
This Transitional Program can perhaps best be understood as analogous to a basic introductory survey course in college (although one hesitates to compare anything in jail or prison to college, lest he be subject to a knee-jerk backlash), perhaps appearing in a college catalog of courses as “Life Change 101”.
The basic core programs offered in this Transitional Program include the following: Substance Abuse Education; Pre-employment Training; Learn to Earn; Violence Prevention; Conflict Resolution; Cognitive Thinking Skills; Victim Impact; Parenting Skills; and Educational Orientation.
The Transitional Program provides a foundation of services for every sentenced offender. This foundation is seen as enabling offenders to build a successful community re-entry throughout their incarceration and beyond into the community.
After completing the Transitional Program, each inmate is required to participate in mandatory programs outlined in his Individual Service Plan. This Individual Service Plan is the result of a LSI (Level of Service Inventory) screening and psychological assessments completed by counselors during the inmate’s participation in the Transitional Program. These programs outlined in his Individual Service Plan are designed to challenge the offender to “pick up the tools and directions to build a law-abiding life” by addressing his areas of social maladjustment. Back to top

Principle # 5
All efforts should be made to break down the traditional barriers between correctional security and correctional human services.
For the work of “corrections”, and not just “warehousing”, to take place in a correctional setting, there cannot be a chasm between security and human services staff. They cannot see themselves as being at cross-purposes to each other, or as being in an “either/or” competition for the operational philosophy of an institution.
Good programming is necessary for good security; good security is necessary for good programming. Inmates who are given the opportunity, challenge and responsibility of positive and productive activities in their day are less likely to immerse themselves in negative thinking and actions, or to smolder in anger which can erupt at any moment toward staff or other inmates. Any edifice of human services effort that is constructed must be built on a foundation of order and lawfulness.
To bridge the all-too-frequent chasm between security and programs in corrections, the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department has implemented the following practices:

  1. Most counselors are no longer hired directly into counseling positions. Instead, college and graduate school graduates are hired into correctional officer positions, with the opportunity to work themselves into a counselor position when one opens up. Thus, if they do become counselors, they understand first-hand the perspectives and difficulties of security staff. In addition, security staff have worked with them as officers before they became counselors.
  2. The department has created a bridge position between correctional officer and counselor, which we call Correctional Case Worker (CCW), combining duties traditionally performed exclusively by a security person or exclusively by a counselor. The CCW position, still a uniform position, is thus essentially a “hybrid” position. Those in CCW positions can choose to move into a counselor position when one opens up; to remain in the CCW role; or to seek promotion to Sergeant, thus moving on from the hybrid position back to the security ranks.
  3. Any individual who is hired directly to a counseling position or to a kitchen or maintenance position goes through the Correctional Officers Basic Training Academy with those hired directly as correctional officers. This togetherness in training creates bonds and connections between officers and other staff that continue during their years of service. Back to top

Principle # 6
Productive and positive activities for those in custody should be understood to be investments in the future of the community.
Far too often, a sensible, balanced effort at corrections is misrepresented, misunderstood and misinterpreted as some kind of coddling of inmates.
As stated earlier, the Hampden County Correctional Center has a “40 Hour Work Week” policy for those in its custody. Inmates are expected to work within the institution – housekeeping, grounds maintenance, kitchen, laundry etc. –, or to participate in programs that make them more work-ready — substance abuse education and treatment, GED preparation, vocational training, etc. — for a minimum of 40 hours every week.
The Hampden County Correctional Center’s philosophy is that the true coddling of inmates is when such work and productive activities are not provided and inmates are left to languish in their cells all day.
To understand why positive and productive activities for inmates should be seen by the community as investments in its future, the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department makes an analogy between jails and hospitals. We all wish that the reasons for the existence of a hospital in a community – namely illness, disease, interpersonal violence, and accidents – did not exist, but that does not stop us from wanting the best possible hospital in our community to address these unwanted occurrences, or from respecting the work that the hospital does. Likewise, we all wish that what necessitates a jail or prison – namely crime – did not exist, yet we should also want these institutions to be the best possible to address that crime. We would not suppose that just by putting someone in a hospital bed, without treatment, we would be making our best effort to address illness and trauma. Likewise, we should not suppose that just by putting someone behind institutional fences, without productive corrective activities, we would be making our best effort to address crime. Finally as regards this analogy, we do not blame hospitals for the illness and trauma that they seek to address. Likewise, we should not blame correctional institutions for the law-breaking and criminality that they seek to address.
As a result of its concerted effort at providing positive and productive activities, the Hampden County Correctional Center has been able to serve its community by fighting recidivism. Despite the fact that offenders are brought to the door of the facility in shackles and chains after long histories of social maladjustment, with a substance abuse problem, educational deficiencies, no appreciable job record and no marketable skills, more than eighty-five percent have not been re-incarcerated for new crimes one year after release and more than two-thirds have not been re-incarcerated for new crimes three years after release. This despite the fact that crimes for which one is sentenced to county jail – drug and property crimes – traditionally have among the highest rates of recidivism.
A great deal is made of how expensive it is to incarcerate an individual. It is even more expensive to society to have an individual in a criminal pattern of activity on its streets. By lessening recidivism, the Hampden County Correctional Center is providing a good return on the investment in positive and productive activities for inmates. Back to top

Principle # 7
Correctional institutions should be communities of lawfulness. There should be “zero tolerance”, overt or tacit, for any violence within the institution. Those in custody who assault others in custody should be prosecuted as if such actions took place in free society. Staff should be diligently trained and monitored in “use of force” that is necessary and non-excessive to maintain safety, security, order and lawfulness.
The Hampden County Correctional Center does not tolerate, overtly or tacitly, the preying of inmates upon other inmates.
Rape is not part of the culture of the institution.
Any inmate suspected of violence toward any other inmate, or towards staff, is prosecuted as if such actions took place in the community.
The wearing of gang colors by inmates, the use of gang signs or signals and participation in gang meetings is forbidden and subject to disciplinary action.
Drugs are not tolerated and are vigorously pursued as contraband within the institution. As proof of this, targeted and random drug testing consistently turns up less than one-half of one-percent (.003) positive results. It is the firm belief of Sheriff Ashe that in an institution in which the beginning of recovery from substance abuse is most always an essential element of successful community re-entry, the availability of drugs and alcohol within the institution works against that success. One of the ways that was utilized to achieve this near-total absence of controlled substances within the institution was the implementation of a non-contact visiting policy, with visits taking place with a glass partition between visitors and incarcerates (mothers with children have special contact visiting times with their children). The administration of the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department firmly believed that drugs were entering the institution through contact visits, and the dramatic lessening of positive drug test results after the implementation of non-contact visits verified that belief. The administration believes that the privilege of contact visits in lower security is one of the “carrots” for those in its custody, inspiring them to seek to earn lower security status. In a correctional institution in which inmates are serving longer sentences, such as state prisons, the non-contact visiting policy might be adjusted to reflect this reality of longer separation from loved ones.
This assiduous vigilance against violence, gangs and drugs in the institution is strongly believed to be consistent with preparing individuals to be law-abiding members of society. We cannot expect those incarcerated to grow away from violence, gangs and drugs in an atmosphere filled with these very things.
Staff is trained in the proper use of force, closely monitored for adherence to said policy, and subject to appropriate penalties if said policy is violated.
There should be less lawlessness in a correctional institution than in free society, as the controls are so much greater. A correctional institution should be a place of lawfulness, although it is filled with lawbreakers. Back to top

Principle # 8
The operational philosophy of positively impacting those in custody and respecting their full humanity must predominate at all levels of security.
Disciplinary Segregation or Maximum Security units should, as much as is practically possible, provide opportunities for positive and productive activities by inmates.
One of the overriding operational philosophies of the Hampden County Correctional Center is that good things – greater freedom, greater privileges – will happen to an individual who takes care of the business of conducting himself in a positive, productive and law-abiding manner, and less desirable things – less freedom, fewer privileges – will happen to someone who does not. If this “carrot and stick” ethos stops at the door of segregation, and there is only the “stick”, the segregation unit becomes a source of stagnation, frustration and new crime.
Common sense tells us that the number of freedoms and privileges on a segregation unit must be necessarily less than in general population. At the same time, if no path is provided for greater freedom on the unit, or for release from the unit contingent on good behavior, an individual has no incentive for good behavior.
In short, segregation units should not be devoid of hope.
In addition, every effort should be made to fight against mental decomposition in an individual due to isolation and sensory deprivation.
Several years ago, the Hampden County Correctional Center instituted changes to its disciplinary segregation unit to assure that there were incentives for positive, productive behavior, and not just disincentives for negative, counter-productive behavior. Educational opportunities are provided for individuals to work on in cells, and individual counseling is offered. Carefully selected groups of individuals who have earned the privilege are allowed group recreation once a week. In addition, changes were instituted to work against possible mental decomposition of inmates due to the effects of isolation and sensory deprivation, including the utilization of MP3 players as an earned privilege. An article entitled “The Utilization of MP3 Players in Correctional Segregation Units” about the use of MP3 players at the Hampden County Correctional Center appeared in the December 2012/January 2013 issue of Corrections Today magazine. Back to top

Principle # 9
Offenders should be directed toward understanding their full impact on victims and their community and should make restorative and reparative acts toward their victims and the community-at-large.
In addition to the many deficits in education and employment that individuals bring with them to jail and prison, they often bring with them a history of narcissistic, self-pleasuring behavior that takes no account of the effects of their actions on other individuals or on the community as a whole.
Restorative Justice addresses the impact of crime and the actions needed to repair the harm done. This process holds offenders accountable for their behavior, while offering them the opportunity to actively participate in making amends.
As part of the Hampden County Correctional Center Restorative Justice effort, a Victim Impact Program (VIP) was designed, using an existing curriculum developed by the California Youth Authority, the Office for Victims of Crime, and Mothers Against Drunk Driving. The goal of the program is for the offender to gain an understanding of the physical, emotional and spiritual effects that their crimes have had on victims and the impact of crime throughout the community, often referred to as the “ripple effect”.
Upon completion of VIP classes, offenders who are classified to lower security have the opportunity to meet with community members to discuss their particular crime and the impact that it has had on others.
Communities are represented by Community Accountability Boards, comprised of volunteer members representing various components of the community (i.e. business, human services, elderly, etc.).
Each board has four to six members that meet with offenders on a monthly basis to develop an “Offender Responsibility Plan”. The goal of the plan is to deepen the offender’s understanding of the reaction of the community to crime, to learn ways to avoid repeating the same behavior, and to once again reinforce the understanding of the ripple effect.
It is important to note that neither the institutional Victim Impact Program nor the Community Accountability Boards require identification of, or participation by, the actual individual victim of the offender. The Community Boards are seen as representing the victimization of the entire community or neighborhood, including the victim.
The curriculum utilized for the Victim Impact Program is currently available online at this web address: https//www.ovcttac.gov/victimimpact   Back to top

Principle # 10
Offenders should be classified to the least level of security that is consistent with public safety and is merited by their own behavior.
In some ways, Principle #10 runs counter to many people’s knee-jerk beliefs.
The supposition can be that the higher the level of security in which an offender is kept, the greater the community is protected. After laboring for over 38 years on the front lines and frontiers of community corrections, Sheriff Michael J. Ashe, Jr. has concluded that this belief does not result in optimal public safety.
At the Hampden County Correctional Center, the policy and practice is that the least level of security in which an offender is held at the end of his sentence, the less likely he is to return to crime. An offender should be at the least level of security that is consistent with public safety.
The first and foremost reason for this policy and practice is the fact that when an offender gradually re-enters the community on a continuum of lesser levels of security, he is given time to be closely monitored and strongly supported while he involves himself with community recovery groups/and or faith-based groups, finds and begins a job, seeks to involve himself with community resources to continue to correct his educational deficits, seeks housing, repairs his relationship with family and community, etc.. This supervised gradualism fights recidivism. The percentage of those in the custody of the Hampden County Correctional Center stepped-down to lower security prior to release rose from 44% in 2001 to 63.1% in 2012; simultaneously, the one-year recidivism rate dropped from 30% to its present 17.4%.
In addition, when individuals are given the incentive of lesser security as their sentence progresses, the positive and productive behavior required for entrance into, and continued participation in, these lesser levels of security becomes a self-selection process for habits of law-abiding behavior. Thus the incentive of lesser security produces the result of behavior most likely to keep an individual from re-offending. Back to top

Principle # 11
There should be a continuum of gradual, supervised and supported community re-entry for offenders.
As stated in the previous principle, it is the operating understanding of the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department that the least level of security that an offender is on at the time of release; the less likely he is to return to crime.
Proceeding out of this understanding is the implementation of a continuum of gradual, supervised and supported community re-entry.
At the Hampden County Correctional Center, this continuum begins in medium security, behind the fences, and proceeds to the Minimum Security/Pre-Release Center, from which inmates can find and hold a job, attend an off-site substance abuse education and treatment program, and attend community recovery groups and church with staff, as well as participate in community service restitution crews.
Another minimum security option that may be utilized before or after Minimum Security/Pre-Release is the Western Massachusetts Correctional Addictions Center. Originally begun for third offense Driving Under The Influence offenders, it now serves those with substance abuse problems who are serving time for offenses other than DUI. In this substance abuse treatment facility, intensive in-house programming is combined with attendance at community recovery groups with “escort” volunteers from those groups. Community restitution work is also an integral part of the program.
The next step after minimum security is the Day Reporting Program, through which those still on sentence are closely monitored and strongly supported as they live at home and follow a closely scripted daily schedule of work and approved community activities. A system of human and technological monitoring assures that schedules are followed. The Hampden County Sheriff’s Department established the first such Day Reporting Center for those still on sentence in 1986, and it has since been replicated throughout the country.
The final point in the continuum of lesser security is the After Incarceration Support Systems program by which, despite there being no statutory obligation to do so, the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department stays involved with individual offenders in the crucial first months after release. Offenders are invited to attend groups, meet with caseworkers and utilize an array of services, even after they are “off the count” at the correctional facility.
This After Incarceration Support Systems (AISS) program is seen as a bridge between the positive momentum begun in offenders’ lives while they are in the various security levels of the Hampden County Correctional Center and successful, positive, productive, law-abiding community re-entry. The decisions made by an offender in the first hours, days, weeks and months of re-entry determine whether he will fall off a cliff into a chasm of old ways.
This program is so successful that a graduation is held each year which honors not only those who have participated in the program during that particular year, but also those graduates of previous years who are still successfully law-abiding in the community and who come back for a “reunion.”
Who could have imagined that a correctional department would hold an annual reunion of hundreds of successful former inmates who willingly return to celebrate their success? Back to top

Principle # 12
Community partnerships should be cultivated and developed for offender re-entry success.
The Hampden County Sheriff’s Department has established nearly 300 partnerships with public and private non-profit community agencies, organizations and institutions to further its mission of corrections and successful law-abiding re-entry of offenders into the community.
Consistent with, and concurrent with, its belief that a correctional facility should not be an isolated fortress in the woods is the belief that the facility should welcome into its efforts, and align itself with, positive and productive people and programs in the community. By “community” we mean not only the host community of the correctional facility, but also the communities or counties from which its inmates come.
The Hampden County Sheriff’s Department believes that it takes a community to successfully re-enter an offender.
In Principle 11, we talked of the After Incarceration Support Systems program serving as a bridge between the positive momentum in an offender’s life begun within the facility and positive, productive and law-abiding community living. The open arms of the community take the form of these nearly 300 community partners. By establishing these community partnerships, the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department extends the tentacles of its corrective accomplishments into the community.
Obviously the most basic partnerships of a correctional department should be with other criminal justice and law enforcement agencies, and the Hampden County Correctional Center seeks a seamless involvement with these agencies to help ensure and enhance public safety.
In October 2006, Sheriff Ashe implemented a “High Risk Offender Re-entry Program”. This program focuses specifically on inmates who have been sentenced on firearm charges, have very violent criminal records, or have been a serious management problem while incarcerated.
One component of the High-Risk Offender Re-entry Program is getting such offenders connected with an After Incarceration Support Systems staff member who specializes in work with this high-risk population. In addition to this utilization of re-entry staff who work closely on the re-entry plan, the department uses external mentors to meet with and encourage offenders to choose a different path after their release.
When a high risk offender is about to finish his sentence, a specific “Release Notification” is sent to law enforcement agencies, notifying them of very specific information about the individual, including his place or places of residence.
In addition to this Release Notification, the Sheriff’s Department holds “Public Safety Exit Meetings” quarterly, to network with other criminal justice and law enforcement agencies regarding the offenders to be released in that quarter.
The soon-to-be released high-risk inmates are brought before the criminal justice agents at these meetings. They are given an opportunity to learn both that those in the criminal justice community wish to support any effort by the offender to build a law-abiding life and that those in criminal justice are ready, willing and able to protect the community from the offender if the offender returns to his old days and ways. Basically what is conveyed to the re-entering offender is “we’re rooting for you, but we’ll be aware of you and watching you closely!”
The following week these high risk offenders are then brought before a second group of individuals representing service providers in the community. These service providers can assist the offender in getting connected to specific resources in the community. Areas of service include: housing, job development, career placement, mental health, education, vocational instruction, After Incarceration Support Systems, mentoring, faith-based involvement, and family support.
Another tool used to discourage high-risk inmates from re-offending after release is presenting them to police roll calls on the day before release.
Without these service provider and criminal justice community partners ready, willing and able to assist community re-entry, the bridge built by After Incarceration Support Systems becomes a bridge to nowhere. Back to top

Principle # 13
Staff should be held accountable to be positive and productive.
Grade B prison movies are full of corrupt wardens, brutish, sadistic “guards”, and improbably innocent inmates.
What this principle speaks to is the vision and the reality of having dynamic, enlightened leadership and a staff that is held accountable to discharge their duties with industry, integrity, teamwork, efficiency, and an overriding sense of professional honor.
Rather than “guards”, the department employs modern correctional officers. This is in concurrence with the policy of the American Correctional Association, which considers the word guard to be “offensive and outdated” in referring to the correctional officer position, because, among other reasons, “it implies the job is inherently passive”. In the direct supervision/unit management mode of supervision, these officers are professional managers of the locales to which they are posted and the incarcerants within those locales. Modern correctional officers are really “community police” in a community of convicted and accused lawbreakers.
The department seeks to hire and inspire men and women who believe in the philosophy and the possibility of impacting offenders positively, and are committed to leading by example, to being role models, and to working to assure a positive and productive climate in the facility.
In keeping with this expectation of positive and productive professionalism, 51.5% of the Hampden County Correctional Center uniformed staff possess a degree in higher education, including 14 who have Masters Degrees. 53.1% of total staff have degrees, including 87 individuals who have Masters Degrees and 7 who have Doctorate Degrees.  Back to top

Principle # 14
All staff should be inspired, encouraged and supervised to “strive for excellence” in their work.
Just as the Hampden County Sheriff Department does not believe in only negative reinforcements with the incarcerated population, the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department does not believe in only negative reinforcements for its workforce.
It should be communicated to staff that their work is not just “process”, that the goal should be the optimal climate throughout the correctional center and the optimal effort to serve public safety by lowering recidivism. The “product” of any correctional institution is a positive, productive, law-abiding community life by those who have been in its custody.
The Department has a good track record of promoting from the ranks, so that staff know that excellence in the uniform and/or non-uniform ranks will result in greater opportunities.
The Department has a system of pins and medals awarded for good job performance, and these are worn on the breast of the officer’s uniform, as in the military.
During National Correctional Officers Week, the Department has designated awards for an outstanding officer, an outstanding supervisory officer, and an outstanding officer with longstanding service. The Department also awards “Professional Excellence Award” certificates on each shift. The three winners of the outstanding officers awards and three randomly selected officers from among the Professional Excellence Award winners are given cash bonuses. The Department also awards a one year college scholarship to the son or daughter of a correctional officer. The monies for all of these awards do not come from the public budget, but rather from a special “Sunshine Fund”.
It is said that only approximately 10% of those who sign a professional baseball contract will ever play in the major leagues. Only a similar percentage of those who start out as blue-shirted correctional officers will achieve the white shirt of a supervisory officer (Sergeant, Lieutenant, Captain, Primary Captain, Major). The Department has instituted the position of Corporal between the position of Officer and Sergeant. Corporals are not supervisors, still wear a blue shirt, and remain in their regular officer rotation, but they get extra pay and two stripes on their arms. It is a way of positively reinforcing the sustained good performance of officers, even though the numbers do not allow promotion to Sergeant.  Back to top

Principle # 15
A spirit of innovation should permeate the operation. This innovation should be data-informed, evidenced-based, and include process and outcome measures.
There can be a tendency to look upon corrections as a static, tired, “grey” sort of endeavor, to be done without enthusiasm or energy. In this scenario, changes and innovations must come from above or outside the department.
Sheriff Ashe believes in an “entrepreneurial attitude” about corrections, where innovation is driven by creative responses to the problems and possibilities of the day, and is data-informed, evidenced-based, and includes process and outcome measures.
The Hampden County Sheriff’s Department instituted the nation’s first Day Reporting Center, whereby those nearing release can live at home and participate in positive community activities, while being closely monitored and strongly supported in their efforts to re-enter the community.
The department also instituted the nation’s first After Incarceration Support Systems program, wherein the department offers an offender the opportunity to utilize its re-entry services after release, although they are no longer in the custody of the department and there is no statutory obligation to assist them.
The department began its Basic Inmate Intensive Regimen or Transitional Program to assure that the window of time at the beginning of a sentence when an offender is most open to change is not squandered.
The department implemented changes in its disciplinary segregation unit which involved positive reinforcements for positive behavior and efforts to prevent mental decompensation resulting from isolation and lack of sensory stimuli.
The department instituted a Public Health Model In Corrections that won an Innovations in American Government Award. The model uses public health doctors and clinics from the neighborhoods from which the inmates come, establishing a continuity of care from the institution into the community. It also takes a pro-active approach to preventing, finding and treating illness.
The department established a restaurant in the community at a local Industrial Park, called the “The Olde Armory Grille”, with a workforce made up of offenders re-entering the community from lower security, supervised by department staff.
The department has been in the forefront of prison industries. The chief priority of the Hampden County Correctional Center Prison Industry Program is offering offenders the opportunity to develop the habit of showing up each day for work, on time, and ready for a productive day.
Another priority of the institution’s Prison Industry Program has been the development of innovative businesses over the years. These businesses include the making of office furniture, wooden household chairs, mattresses, laundry bags, household sheds and inmate uniforms; as well as silk screening, embroidery, and upholstery.
The above are just some examples of the “game-changing” innovation that has resulted from the Hampden County Correctional Center’s aforementioned “striving for excellence” with an entrepreneurial attitude.  Back to top

Principle # 16
In-service training should be ongoing and mandatory for all employees.
The Hampden County Correctional Center staff training effort is consistent with the belief that staff should stay connected to training year-round.
In the past, the department had conducted once-a-year blocks of training for staff. When this burst of condensed training was completed, there would be no other broad-based staff interface with training for the rest of the year.
A response to this less than desirable, but perhaps typical, scheduling of training was the conception and inception of the “Bi-weekly Training Regimen”.
Coordinated by our Training Department, staff from all areas of expertise and all department facilities “step up” to develop twenty-six bi-weekly trainings during the course of a year, each of one-hour duration. These trainings are available at various times of day during a two-week period, to accommodate all shifts.
Bi-weekly training topics have included the following in the last two years: Drugs and Testing, Use of Force and Tactics, Report Writing and Analyzing Written Communication, Research, It’s Not Just Statistics, Homelessness and How It Impacts Corrections, Stress Management, Special Needs Inmates, Conflict of Interest, Gang Update, Untold Stories of Truancy, Direct Supervision, Pod Leadership, Youth Culture, Process Addictions, Contraband Update, Social Media, In the Line of Duty Situations, Domestic Violence, Bomb Search Techniques, How to Read a BOP, Suicide Prevention, STD’s, Advanced/Personal Communication Skills, Direct Supervision, and Sex Offender Treatment.
Beyond this Bi-weekly Training Regimen, all staff are required to do a day-long eight hour training based on American Correctional Association and Department of Corrections Standards. Topics include Americans with Disabilities Act, Code of Ethics, Conflict of Interest Law, Cultural Diversity, Direct Supervision, Emergency Plans, Fire Prevention, Inmate Rules and Regulations, Interpersonal Relations, Key Control, Medical Topic/Safety and Hygiene, Report Writing, Rights and Responsibilities of Inmates, Security Procedures and Regulations, Sexual Harassment, Sexual Misconduct, Social/Cultural Lifestyle of Inmate Population,
Special Needs Inmates, Supervision of Inmates, Use of Force Policy, Tactics and Regulations.
A second full day of training follows, which is mandatory for staff in academy trained positions. This training includes CPR-First Aid required reviews.
In addition to the above trainings, staff can choose from a smorgasbord of training opportunities to fulfill their required training hours. These trainings include: Roll Call Trainings, which involve a mixture of live presentations and thirty minute taped trainings provided to all correctional officer staff during roll calls, Counselor Training, Leadership Training, Supervisor Training Meetings, Workshops, On-The-Job Rotation Training, Uniform Supervisor Cross-training, POD Net Training, and off-site trainings.
Security, maintenance, food service, counseling and health services staff are expected to train for forty hours each year. Administrative and clerical staff are expected to train for sixteen to twenty-four hours each year, depending on the position.
In addition to all of the above, in order to acclimate new security staff to a correctional environment, new staff are assigned an experienced staff person in a mentor/mentee relationship.
The training department includes a Wellness program, with staff involved in an intensive and extensive effort to achieve the best possible fitness and wellness of both staff and inmates. The benefits of the fitness and wellness of both staff and inmates extend not only to the individuals themselves, but also to the department as a whole and to the taxpayers who fund both the medical care of indigent inmates and staff sick and compensation benefits.  Back to top

Principle # 17
There should be a medical program that links with public health agencies and public health doctors from the home neighborhoods and communities of those in custody and which takes a pro-active approach to finding and treating illness and disease in the custodial population.
About 75% of those in the custody of the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department come from four neighborhoods within the county. These neighborhoods are inner-city neighborhoods. Each of them has a public community health center.
Traditionally in corrections, institutions or departments contracted with private doctors.
The Hampden County Sheriff’s Department decided that since most of those in its custody came from what it called the “same zip codes”, it would seek out a partnership with the public health centers from those neighborhoods, through which dedicated public health professionals would come into its facility and begin relationships with patients from their neighborhoods; relationships that continued after release.
The Department believed that jails were effectively “reservoirs of illness”, including many public health diseases that are communicable such as HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, sexually transmitted diseases, tuberculosis, etc..
What was meant by “reservoirs of illness” is that most of its inmates are not in any health care system before they come to the correctional facility. Thus their illnesses are often undetected and untreated. During their jail time, incarcerants are in a “holding pattern” during which their illnesses can be diagnosed and treated, and treatment can continue after release.
As a result of this program:
1. Offenders’ serious and often unmet health care needs are addressed and ongoing treatment is maintained.
2. Offenders establish relationships with health centers and with health care providers at the health sites. These health care providers are often from the local community and represent the culture and best values of the neighborhood. More than 88% of HIV/AIDS inmates, for instance, keep their initial medical appointment at a designated community health center.
3. The educational element of the program helps make inmates aware of how to reduce the spread of communicable disease and manage their own chronic diseases, such as diabetes.
4. Poor young people who are largely uninsured and under-educated about health issues, individuals who have existed outside the health care system, are connected to that vital element of society.
5. Public Health improves because of immediate care of offenders after release. Education, early detection and treatment of infectious disease prevents spread and costly complications.
6. There is significant downstream savings in community health care costs. Early detection and effective early treatment saves costs in the future.
7. When a person is healthy and receiving proper and adequate care, he is more “socialized”, more connected to the positive elements of the community, and truly less likely to be living a criminal lifestyle. To put it simply, someone who is keeping a medical appointment at 9:00 AM to take care of their health with competent, caring health center staff is less likely to be someone climbing in a window at three o’clock in the morning to rob someone.
8. There is a drastic decrease in the use of emergency rooms as defacto primary care providers, with resultant huge cost savings.
9. Some patients no longer wait for symptoms to become severe before seeking care; treatment becomes less costly.
This program was awarded the Innovations In American Government Award, an awards program of the Ford Foundation, administered by the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, in partnership with the Council for Excellence in Government.  Back to top

Principle # 18
Modern technological advances should be integrated into a correctional operation for optimal efficiency and effectiveness.
As with other fields, modern technology opens up worlds of opportunity in corrections.
The Hampden County Sheriff’s Department’s vision for its Management Information System (MIS) is quite simple in its approach.
The Department does not merely capture data. The Department acts on the belief that you must know from the onset what you will be doing with the captured data, if anything. The Department seeks to understand how vital the information can be to any area of operations or any user.
MIS staff understand the process flows of all Sheriff’s Department missions, and are thus able to determine where to begin with data capture, and to whom to pass that captured data without duplication of effort.
Gathered data is analyzed thoroughly and shared. The data can be scrutinized to ferret out trends which can help make the best decisions in planning. With the existence of solid data, reports can be written to fit the needs of staff.
MIS can reduce many person-hours in all departments by doing efficiency sweeps.
The Hampden County Sheriff’s Department is invested in barcoding strategies. It has incorporated wristbands and ID cards for respective security levels. Barcoding is very simple, very inexpensive, and pays high dividends when it comes to the control and capturing of data. A simple scan of the barcode, which represents the inmate person ID, is the catalyst into the multitudes of data captured on the respective inmate.
Officers posted to the visiting areas scan 2D barcodes off the back of a visitor’s driver’s license to automatically load data into the visiting database.
The Hampden County Sheriff’s Department was approached on a daily basis by police departments from throughout the county looking for vital data about specific inmates, released or active, within its system. A simple, interactive website with the department’s backend data was set up for these external agencies to do investigative work. What started out as a one county project, (JEDI – Justice Exchange Delivery Infrastructure) became a federate project of the four Western Massachusetts Sheriffs (WMSIN – Western Massachusetts Sheriffs’ Information Network), allowing correctional and law enforcement personnel to access information from all four counties. The project grew yet again, when all 14 sheriffs of the commonwealth and the Department of Corrections founded a statewide system that mirrored the Western Massachusetts product (MIDNET – Massachusetts Inmate Data Network), which can be accessed by police departments, District Attorneys, the Registry of Motor Vehicles, the Probation Department, and other appropriate agencies from throughout the commonwealth.
In the Hampden County Re-entry Project, Sheriff’s Department data is presented to service providers in the community. This data helps the provider understand the background and needs of the offender before his/her release. The offender is referred to a particular agency, and this message is relayed to an inbox at the service provider’s level, stating that an individual in custody is scheduled for release and has been referred. The provider, within their inbox, can click on the particular referred offender and receive all non-classified, non-confidential assessment data.
The MIS Director says: “We are tool makers in the rawest sense. What we pride ourselves in is making the sharpest, most precise and easiest to use tools. Our tool box is not cluttered with rusty, antique tools, but shiny well-honed utensils, at the ready for any task, big or small.”  Back to top

Principle # 19
Any correctional facility, no matter what its locale, should seek to be involved in, and to involve, the local community, to welcome within its fences the positive elements of the community, and to be a positive participant and neighbor in community life. This reaching out should be both toward the community that hosts the facility and the communities from which those in custody come.
The desired product of a correctional facility is public safety. That safety is accomplished not only by incapacitating criminals, but also by returning to the community individuals who have the desire and the assistance to live positive, productive, law-abiding lives.
Jails and prisons, to be successful, cannot be isolated fortresses in the woods. They must be part of a community team.
Most inmates come to jail lacking any real sense of neighborhood cohesion or any connectedness to the mores and values, the means and ends, of the larger community. Part of any successful corrective effort, behind the fences or in community re-entry, must involve an attempt to facilitate in the offender a sense of connectedness with the law-abiding, positive and productive people and ways of their neighborhood and of the larger community.
Community corrections involves a correctional department both inviting into its facilities the positive people and organizations of the larger community and attempting to “plug in” offenders to these positive elements to utilize as part of community re-entry.
The Hampden County Correctional Center’s volunteer directory now contains 370 names of community volunteers who come into the facility. These volunteers represent a total of 77 different groups. In the year 2012, 50 college students completed internships at the Hampden County Correctional Center.
To be a good neighbor, the Hampden County Correctional Center oversees the performance of 80,000 hours each year of volunteer community service restitution by minimum security offenders who are out in the communities of Hampden County every weekday cleaning litter, weeds and bushes from streets and highways; assisting Departments of Public Works and Park Departments; working to maintain elderly housing complexes; getting children’s summer camps ready in the spring; helping clean up illegal dumping eyesores; helping with food drives; maintaining community gardens and cemeteries, etc. etc.. Sheriff Ashe considers this program a “double winner”, because offenders are given the opportunity to build “sweat equity” in their successful community re-entry by “giving to” rather than “taking from” the community, while, at the same time, communities get projects accomplished that would otherwise go undone.  Back to top

Principle # 20
Balance is the key. A correctional operation should reach for the stars but be rooted in the firm ground of common sense.
In dedicating a newly built facility, Sheriff Ashe said the following:
“We gather today in a new facility that reflects the balanced, realistic, progressive philosophy of corrections of this department. They tell me that there is a comedian who tells of going through life with a prayer book in one hand and a .45 revolver in the other hand. That is a humorous representation of our approach. We are vigilant and aware that our mission is to administer a safe, secure, orderly facility where staff and inmates are free from violence. But we also provide the tools and directions to build a law-abiding life to those who wish to do so. I’m not interested in administering a country club or a hotel. I’m also not interested in administering a cesspool that breeds frustration, stagnation and new crime. Our departmental motto of correctional supervision has been, and shall remain, ‘strength reinforced with decency, firmness dignified with fairness.’ This new facility enhances our capacity for both strength and humanity.”
The Hampden County Sheriff’s Department operates in the belief that the real coddling of inmates takes place when they are not challenged with a demanding regimen of productive activities that can help them change their lives.
The Hampden County Sheriff’s Department also operates in the belief that any such corrective effort must be built on a solid foundation of safety, security, order and lawfulness.  Back to top

Success
1. The recidivism rate of the Hampden County House of Correction is among the lowest, if not the lowest, of any urban county correctional facility in the nation. The one year re-incarceration rate is now 14.3% for new offenses and 3.1% for technical violations of parole, for a total of 17.4%. The three year re-incarceration rate is 33% for new offenses and 6.8% for technical violations, for a total of 39.8%.

2. The Hampden County Jail and House of Correction has reduced the number of those in its custody by approximately 40% in the last five years, without a resultant increase in the crime rate of the region it serves.

3. A report titled “Strengthening Public Safety, Increasing Accountability, and Instituting Fiscal Responsibility In The Department of Corrections”, by the Governor’s Commission on Corrections Reform, stated: “The Hampden County Sheriff’s Department has created a positive environment for both staff and inmates by paying attention to very basic management duties and by adapting ‘best practice’ approaches to managing correctional facilities and successful prison reentry. With the benefit of a long-serving Sheriff, Hampden County has introduced approaches to inmate and staff accountability that are mutually reinforcing and that dovetail with high expectations for management personnel. Inmates understand that their status in the institution and their progress toward community release are tied directly to their active participation in programs to prepare for release and to their institutional behavior. Similarly, correctional staff recognize that professional advancement depends upon performance.”

4. The Hampden County Sheriff’s Department has been awarded 27 consecutive scores of 95% or higher by accreditors of the American Correctional Association for its various correctional operations.

5. The Hampden County Sheriff’s Department was the first county correctional department in the nation to receive four separate accreditations by the American Correctional Association for four separate levels of security.

6. In exit remarks at the conclusion of American Correctional Association audits, Auditors, who are experienced practitioners of corrections, said the following:

  • Major Carlos Jackson of Colorado said: “The Hampden County Sheriff’s Department is a model for the corrections industry. I haven’t seen better anywhere in the country.”Julie Von Arx of Indiana said: “It is probably the best facility that I’ve ever been in. I hope the community and the public realize what a gem they have in the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department and what a gem they have in Sheriff Ashe.”
  • Gary Gremillon of Louisiana said: “I have never seen anything like this anywhere, in all my years of corrections, and in all my years of American Correctional Association auditing all over the United States. This is, without a doubt, the most professional, the most progressive Sheriff’s Department that I’ve ever seen in my life. The things that you are doing here, people only dream and hope for.”
  • Robert Young of Ohio said: “I wrote down the word ‘professionalism.’ It is realistic compassion. I don’t see any naiveté. I see no weakness in that compassion. That to me is professionalism.”

Contributing writers:
Sheriff Michael J. Ashe, Jr., Peter Babineau, John Brown, Tony Bryant, Edward Caisse, William Champagne, Nick Cocchi, Thomas Connor, Kevin Crowley, Monica Dominique, John Evon, Captain Jerry Frey, Paul Hegarty, Diane Jimenez, Sally Johnson-Van Wright, James Kelleher, Dr. Thomas Lincoln, Dr. Martha Lyman, Richard McCarthy, David Moorhouse, Joanne Morales-Harrison, Dr. Patricia Murphy, Dr. Daniel O’Malley, Stephen O’Neil, Jennifer Sordi, Deacon William Toller and Basil Tsagaris