Governor’s Advisory Commission on Corrections Reform
02/25/04 Testimony of Kathleen M. Dennehy, Acting Commissioner
Thank you for the opportunity to testify today. As you know, Secretary Flynn appointed me as Acting Commissioner effective December 1, 2003. On December 10th, I appeared before this commission and provided my impressions of the critical challenges facing the Department of Correction.
When I was appointed, Governor Romney, Lieutenant Governor Healey, and Secretary Flynn directed that I begin the work of effecting meaningful, measurable change in the DOC’s culture, philosophy and practice. The work began with clarification of the DOC’s vision and mission statements. An all important value statement was also created by a cross-section of DOC employees – including representatives from most of the collective bargaining units. The Departmental rollout of this culture awareness campaign begins in March. A core team of managers and Superintendents have worked with me to define what the agency does, determine how we should measure it and to identify performance gaps. These individuals are committed to fostering a culture that looks to the future, embraces change and is committed to continuously improving performance. Many of these people are in the audience, and like me, are looking forward to hearing the valuable input provided today. Our challenge is to clarify the DOC’s future direction and to develop a plan to realize it.
Initial priorities have revolved around systems issues regarding investigations, inmate and staff discipline, inmate grievances, classification and the operation of protective custody units. Several short-term workgroups are addressing each of these critical areas.
Classification Workgroup – Supported by technical assistance from the National Institute of Corrections. This workgroup’s goal is the development of an objective, reliable, validated classification instrument – one for male and one for female offenders. After the committee completes this phase of the project, we will be reaching out to stakeholders (SORB, Parole, MCLS, County Corrections) to invite their participation in the revision and rewrite of DOC policy.
Disciplinary Workgroup – Chaired by a Superintendent, membership includes DOC disciplinary staff along with stakeholders from the Harvard Prison Legal Assistance Program and the Northeastern University Prison Assistance Program who are involved in the inmate disciplinary process. These folks are the most familiar with the process and their feedback and suggestions will provide the basis for much needed policy revision.
Investigations Workgroup – This group is reaching out to points of contact in Police Departments and DOC’s in other states to identify best practices that can be incorporated into policy to better triage, assign, track and follow up on investigations.
Staff Discipline – An analysis of staff discipline, which includes a review of the trends as they relate to the fair, consistent application of progressive discipline has begun.
Protective Custody (PC) Units – Procedures were developed to normalize the operation of the Department’s PC units. Staffing revisions were made.
Grievance System – An evaluation of the inmate grievance process has been completed. A fully re-organized grievance process is under development. An inmate correspondence and grievance office, reporting directly to the Commissioner that will be responsible for the oversight, review and analysis of inmate grievances, is being created and staffed.
For each of these priority areas, we are establishing goals, identifying performance gaps, and establishing immediate, short and long-term tasks. The impact on staff, training and policies is being assessed.
The issues confronting correctional administrations are among the most complex in the public sector. This Commission will play a critical role in guiding corrections into the future. Please know that I share Secretary Flynn’s commitment to facilitating a comprehensive and open review of the Department, it’s culture, philosophy, policies, procedures and management practices.
As we roll out our cultural change and systems initiatives, I will keep this Commission apprised of our progress.