The COVID-19 pandemic has posed a significant challenge for correctional agencies in our country. However, practical information on how to respond to this crisis has been scarce. As a result, correctional leadership has had to be innovative in keeping their staff and populations safe while maintaining operations. To complicate matters, many state departments of corrections have faced reduced budgets, making these challenges even more difficult to overcome. This report, produced by the National Institute of Corrections (NIC), CNA, the Correctional Leaders Association (CLA), and the National Sheriffs' Association (NSA), sheds light on the modifications made by correctional facilities across all 50 states in response to the pandemic. The report includes an overview of these modifications, their impact on operations, and the innovative responses taken by correctional facilities. The report's key findings will be discussed in detail.
Key Takeaways include:
- Staffing shortages:
Respondents noted that correctional agencies need expanded capacity, staffing, supplies, and resources to operate effectively both during public health emergencies and under nonemergency conditions.
- Community trust:
According to the respondents, it was crucial to develop policies to address vaccine hesitancy, especially during the pandemic. This included creating policies to address hesitancy among incarcerated individuals to receive vaccines and follow COVID-19 protocols that further limited their freedoms. Establishing peer ambassadors and monitors was an effective strategy to encourage policy buy-in and information sharing.
- Implementing public health guidelines:
Effective collaboration among personnel, institutions, agencies, and community partners was considered crucial for the success of operations during the pandemic, according to respondents. They believe that such collaboration must be nurtured and expanded in the future. To achieve this, agencies should be committed to expanding information-sharing capabilities and fostering a culture of interdisciplinary collaboration and networking.
- Disruptions to programming and services:
Respondents used technology to adapt to the pandemic, such as video visits and remote court hearings. Expanding technology use should continue as it demonstrated value. Despite the stress, the pandemic was seen as an opportunity for growth. The report captures the effects of COVID-19 on correctional operations and provides innovative approaches. Correctional leaders can use the findings to improve operational readiness for future outbreaks and emergencies.