What do you think are today’s primary concerns and challenges facing the correctional sector?

BL: Some current concerns are global. Migrations and extremism are growing issues that pose challenges to the day-to-day operations of justice system organizations. In particular, correctional agencies worldwide need
to address language, cultural and religious barriers.

A second area that has been very challenging is the COVID pandemic. Some countries chose to keep their staff at work for a few months, but that would never work in the United States. In the US, although we suspended visitation, staff still came in and out of facilities, which created a significant challenge.

Another big challenge is creating prisons as a more humane space. As the rest of the world knows, the US is the leader in punishment and incarceration. We have to rethink our prison system and what it’s used for – and rethink how we use corrections on the backend. We’ve flirted with this rehabilitation perspective up until the ’80s and ’90s. As we got tough on crime, we wiped away those spaces dedicated to treatment, education and services.

Ultimately it resulted in correctional environments that are designed poorly for rehabilitative efforts. Individuals
who are incarcerated are not in any better space when they come out! Although there’s been a push for “re-entry begins in intake”, we’ve focused too much on that. We need to recognize there is a loss, a mourning period
when people come to jail and prison.

There’s an adjustment period for people coming to prisons and jails – one that we should not ignore. We can’t think of the future before taking care of the current.

Read the whole interview here