“The cornerstone of my career is really to help those in need,” says Alix McLearen, Ph.D., the newly appointed director (A) of the National Institute of Corrections (NIC). “I went into corrections to provide a bright home to lost souls.” Now as the director (A) of NIC, McLearen oversees the delivery of federal aid in the form of training, information, and technical assistance to federal, state, local, and tribal corrections.
Since taking office in December 2022, McLearen has been instrumental in helping NIC restore its budget and recover from lost staffing. The agency had experienced both dwindling and stagnating budgets for years, affecting its ability to satisfy critical requests from the nation’s correctional systems for help. Hiring freezes and staffing limits further slowed the agency’s ability to respond and to satisfy increasing demand for essential training.
Now, McLearen says, “I want to let the world know we are a good resource and a safe place. Now we are able to grow and make our work available to everyone. NIC is better than ever.”
McLearen has a long history of working in various positions of leadership. With a degree in clinical psychology and law from the University of Alabama, she began her career as a staff psychologist with the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) at Federal Correctional Complex Coleman. She then became the BOP Reentry Services Division’s Women and Special Populations Branch National Administrator before accepting the role of Assistant Director (A) of the BOP’s Reentry Services Division. Throughout her career, she has been extensively involved with gender-responsive practices, addressing the wide range of needs affecting incarcerated women such as pregnancy and child placement.
McLearen’s vision for the future is to highlight more NIC programs and explore new avenues. “Now,” she says, ”is the time to expand our audience beyond our immediate stakeholders, get in front of new topics, and identify what evolving topics and resources we need to focus on, [such as] staff well-being, the post-pandemic world, and gender-responsive work.”