In our current era of email, texting, Facebook and tweets, it’s more important than ever that we make time to connect with colleagues face to face. And, if those meetings can take place in a world-class resort with well-appointed rooms, five-star dining venues and other relaxing amenities like swimming pools, spas and a pro-caliber golf course, all the better to enhance the experience. The attendees at the National Correctional Industries Association 2017 Training Conference in Tucson, AZ, last April enjoyed just such an experience.
The conference opened with a keynote session in the packed Tucson banquet hall emceed by NCIA President Mike Herron, Director of PEN (Indiana Prison Enterprises). After the presentation and posting of the colors by the Arizona Department of Corrections Honor Guard, Honor Guard Commander, Lieutenant Katina Murphy, gave a stirring rendition of the Star Spangled Banner.
Vendors and Suppliers (Conference Sponsors)
Mr. Herron recognized representatives from four of the important sponsors of the conference, whose companies work with many of the CIs and Corrections agencies around the country. For these organizations, as well as the hundreds of exhibiting companies at the conference, CIs are more than just customers. Many of them provide training support in the proper use of their products, often certifying offenders who have successfully completed that training and shown high levels of competency.
3M has very strong partnerships with many CIs as the supplier of the vinyl used on most license plates. Here in Arizona they also provided much of the equipment (hardware and software) that is used in the tag plant to manufacture hundreds of thousands of license plates each year. Professional Services Manager, Steve Edwards, spoke about 3M’s continuing commitment to their CI programs and some of the ways they will be working to improve them in the coming years.
Keefé Group is a major provider of commissary services to correctional facilities nationwide. Martin Jennen, Vice President for their SecurePak division, announced that Keefé and the Arizona Department of Corrections had just finalized a contract for services in the coming years that includes locating a brand new distribution warehouse in Tucson. They will also be partnering with Arizona Correctional Industries, who will be providing an offender workforce of between 50 and 75 to provide a majority of the staff necessary to run this new facility.
VF Workwear is a new sponsor that works with corrections agencies around the country to design offender and correctional officer clothing to the rigid specifications required at each location. Business Development Manager, Len Ebeling, spoke about their desire to create even stronger partnerships with CIs in the years to come.
Nightingale Corporation has been working with CIs for decades, providing quality office chairs and components as well as face-to-face training on their proper assembly. Vice President of Special Accounts and Customer Relations, Gerry Adam, thanked the assembled group for their enduring partnership over the years. As the Keynote Speaker Sponsor, he was looking forward to hearing from the other presenters in the program.
Interagency Cooperation (Conference Hosts)
After thanking the sponsors and other exhibitors for their support of the conference, Mr. Herron next turned his attention to hosts of the 2017 Conference. Brian Radecki, CEO of Arizona Correctional Industries (ACI), in turn recognized the many staff members (civilians as well as offenders) who worked so diligently to make sure that everything came together to make the conference a success. Hundreds of signs were created and CIs from around the country shipped gift bag items (including the gift bags themselves) and printed programs to ACI’s central office in Phoenix in the weeks before the conference. They were assembled and shipped to Starr Pass resort on schedule, much to the relief of Gina Honeycutt, NCIA Executive Director, and her staff from Baltimore. He told attendees that they were in for many pleasant surprises in the coming days from the workshops, exhibits, hotel amenities, the many attractions in the Tucson area and a tour of several ACI operations in nearby Florence after the conference.
Mr. Radecki then introduced City of Tucson Mayor, Jonathan Rothschild who began his remarks by thanking NCIA for bringing its conference to Tucson:
One of our best partners is the Arizona Department of Corrections, its training facility and ACI:
Mr. Radecki thanked the Mayor for his support of the conference and the Department and then acknowledged all the support that was provided by the Arizona Department of Corrections as he introduced its Director, Charles L. Ryan, who reinforced the message of partnership with other agencies and municipalities:
Like Mayor Rothschild, the Department of Corrections has made significant strides to improve the lives of our brave veterans. Their struggles upon returning home have landed way too many of them in our prisons. In recognition of their unique challenges, we began the Regaining Honor Program here in Tucson in December 2015 to instill discipline and a sense of camaraderie among veterans at the prison. Participants get help with reentry into society through programs like Release and Reintegration, Money Management, Criminal and Addictive Thinking, and Socialization. The Regaining Honor program has brought Resource Fairs into the unit so that these veterans can directly meet with organizations like Veteran’s Services, Pima Community College, and Primavera to learn about positive steps to take after release. It has made a huge difference in their reentry outcomes.
Tucson is also home to the Department’s first Community Corrections center, opened in December 2012. Its goal is to ensure the accurate release, effective re-entry, transition and supervision of offenders released to the community using a continuum of supervision services, strategies, evidence-based programs and meaningful incentives and sanctions. Community Corrections facilitates the swift return to custody of those offenders who violate conditions of supervision and who represent a serious threat to the safety of the community. Community Corrections provides meaningful interaction with victims to maintain public protection and an alternative to incarceration for community placed high risk offenders that will reduce recidivism rates, prison admissions and taxpayer subsidies while at the same time address violations of supervision in lieu of incarceration. Housed within the facility is a sanction/work release program for community supervision offenders, inpatient drug treatment program, and shelter services for homeless offenders released from ADC facilities.
The success of Tucson’s Community Corrections program has made it a model for our new Reentry Center in Phoenix, where we hope to dramatically reduce recidivism rates in our most populous county.
For years, the City of Tucson has been employing inmates to help with street and environmental work in and around city buildings and facilities.
By working together with Tucson and the other communities where the Department operates, we are helping to turn around the cycle of re-incarceration that has plagued this state for decades.
Similarly our close relationship with NCIA and the other correctional industries across the country, constantly exposes us to new programs and approaches to real-world, jobs skills training opportunities. During a visit to the Colorado CI, we learned about BLM’s wild horse program and created our own here in 2013; another very successful program that many of you will be visiting on the facility tour next Monday. I know that our ACI staff has benefitted from the many insightful NCIA webinars, in fact, during my tenure as Department Director, I’ve witnessed the positive growth in ACI sales and, more importantly, inmate employment.
Both of these trends are enhanced by ACI’s aggressive private sector outreach. I’m personally very proud of our success in this area, as it is vividly illustrated by our 22-year partnership with Hickman Family Farms that you will hear more about in a few minutes.
When we all work together, toward our shared goals of building safer communities, we all win. Our partnership with Tucson provides a local view, while our NCIA membership gives us insights into the diversity of approaches our peers are using.So thank you, Tucson, for your support here and thank you, NCIA, for allowing us to host this gathering in the desert. Together we are making a positive impact on our communities.”
Private Business Partners
After completing his welcoming remarks, Director Ryan then introduced the keynote speaker:
He was a driven man even at a very young age, and at 19 he left college to run and manage the family farm with his mother and father, Gertie and Bill Hickman, Sr. Two years later, younger brother Billy followed the same path, and soon Clint and Sharman joined the ranks.
Hickman’s Family Farms began on Grandmother Nell Hickman’s porch in 1944 in Glendale, Arizona. Growing from an enterprise with an original flock of 50 chickens, Hickman’s Family Farms is now the largest egg company in the Southwest. Together the Hickmans have transformed the small “backyard” egg operation into a multi-million dollar family enterprise. Considered an Arizona success story, Hickman’s Family Farms has provided fresh eggs for 72 years. Arizona Correctional Industries has enjoyed a 22-plus year partnership with Hickman Family Farms, providing labor and a variety of custom built products from ACI shops.As you will see in Glenn’s presentation and the video, Hickman’s support for ADC, ACI and the inmate workers has been unwavering. They are truly a model of a public/private sector partnership that works. I have been personally blessed to have been able to work with them over the last eight years.
Mr. Hickman brought sights and sounds to his presentation, starting with the iconic opening of the song “Money” from Pink Floyd’s 1972 album The Dark Side of the Moon featuring the sounds of a cash register signaling another sale. “Just to remind us all that, whatever other motivations we may have, we are all driven by the bottom line. We need to make money,” Mr. Hickman stressed, “to take care of our families and to invest in our business’s future. Without that nothing else is possible. And I’m very proud to say that from day one, way back in 1995, our partnership with ADC and ACI has always made financial sense for Hickman’s as well as the Department.”
He then cued up a video from Mike Rowe’s Discovery Channel TV series “Dirty Jobs,” filmed at Hickman’s Family Farms back in 2008.
This was the first of two episodes that featured Hickman’s Eggs, though Mr. Hickman insisted that, “I didn’t play this to show off about the ‘famous’ folks we know, but to illustrate the nature of the work that needs to be done at an egg ranch. It is dirty work! It’s work that I’ve personally done, as have my parents and brothers and sister over the years. But as we began to expand our business 22 years ago, we soon discovered that it was very tough getting people to come work with us to do these dirty jobs.”
“That’s why our partnership with ACI is so vital for our business,” Mr. Hickman continued. “Raising chickens is a 24 hour a day job, every day of every year! We need to be able to rely on work crews who show up each shift. If the power goes off and the 3 million chickens in that coop will either freeze to death or dry up in the Arizona heat, we need people who can get the generators going. The work crews that arrive on the buses from the various complexes each day provide that kind of dependable staffing.”
As the company grew, these dependable crews grew also; in size as well as range of job skills and responsibilities. “From the beginning,” Mr. Hickman explained, “we’ve always encouraged and helped our employees – civilians as well as inmates – learn new operations and procedures if they have the desire.”
To illustrate just how his inmate staff has learned and grown over the years, Mr. Hickman then played a video they had made as part of the celebrations surrounding the 20th anniversary of their partnership with ACI in 2015.
It went into some of the history of the long-term partnership and featured several inmates who spoke about the many skills they had learned while working for Hickman’s and their desire to continue working there after their release. Several other current civilian workers and managers then told their stories about how they began as part of an inmate crew, were asked to come back and work with Hickman’s after their release and now play important roles as line and plant managers.
As the impactful video ended, Mr. Hickman summed up his feelings about working with inmates by relating an incident that happened earlier in the week.
Mr. Hickman concluded his address by reiterating that without the support of ADC and ACI and the thousands of offenders who have worked with them over the years, there would not be a corporate jet or distributors across the country. “By working together,” he emphasized, “providing opportunities to learn real-world job skills; we’re giving people who want to change the course of their lives that very precious choice. They can make of that choice what they will. We’re proud to have witnessed hundreds of positive transformations in those who chose to embrace the opportunity and use it as a starting point on the way towards new lives as tax-paying citizens!”
The conference opening ceremony ended with a flourish of guitars as a mariachi band played and traditional dancers twirled across the room. Attendees followed them down to the exhibit hall, where a ribbon was cut to officially start the three day event.
Throughout the conference, attendees and exhibitors exchanged business cards, learned about new products and partnership opportunities and forged important new business connections during exhibit hours and at the various receptions hosted by exhibitors.
Many of the conference workshops focused on the importance of Correctional Industries partnerships with private businesses:
Non-profits were presented as important partners for developing new offender work programs:
At the end of the conference, two busloads of attendees were able to tour a few of ACI’s programs in the Florence, AZ area. The success of each of the programs depends on some important partners:
The success of Correctional Industries depends on the greater business community beyond the razor wire topped walls. Business organizations, non-profits and a broad range of private industry organizations all play important roles. With partnership and patronage, they provide the kind of support necessary to enhance the CI mission to provide job skills training opportunities.
By focusing on these vital relationships, the 2017 NCIA Training Conference helped to reinforce the importance of establishing and continuously reinforcing public and private partnerships.