“Effective reentry programs, and helping reduce recidivism, are at the heart of our profession and our company’s mission.”
--Damon Hininger, President and CEO, CoreCivic
Call it a “day one” priority, a core cultural value, or just part of the working DNA.
The process of helping each inmate successfully carry through his or her personal reentry into the working world is an objective at CoreCivic that brings shared honor to the company and those it serves.
Success makes it all worthwhile. But success takes a lot of people, time and commitment by all involved.
To create the best environment, CoreCivic floods the process with professionals of every variety. They work hard to create a learning and training environment that opens a new world of possibility.
As CoreCivic President and CEO Damon Hininger sees it, successful reentry and recidivism reduction are the “heart of the profession.”
Many company roles are obvious — vocational instructors, chaplains, counselors. What may be less obvious is the important role that CoreCivic’s Quality Assurance team plays in advancing the objective. They are the professionals who work to create a safe backdrop for learning and training.
“Safety and security has to be the number one priority for every facility,” said Don Murray, managing director of Quality Assurance. “Once that’s in place, CoreCivic has a responsibility to deliver education and work programs. We work to create opportunities to interact with community volunteers. These are the things that really have a dramatic impact and change lives."
Murray, a licensed clinical psychologist with more than 20 years of experience at the Federal Bureau of Prisons, manages a team of quality-assurance professionals at CoreCivic.
The team is tasked with ensuring compliance with federal, state and local laws and regulations, accreditation by the American Correctional Association (ACA) , detailed contracts with government partners and CoreCivic’s own high internal standards.
In his career with the federal government, Murray helped develop the concept of Residential Drug and Alcohol Programs (RDAP). The model plays an important role in many CoreCivic facilities.
He knows the challenges inherent in any human being’s journey through the correctional process. He has helped hundreds live it, and see the process through to successful reentry.
“There is a huge responsibility to direct a well-run facility,” Murray said. “It dramatically impacts the climate for staff and residents. When staff and residents feel safe, it creates a positive environment for everyone. Residents can better engage in educational programs."
“They can focus on learning as they are going out and getting treatment in RDAPs, participating in community-run Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, and spiritual and religious programming.”
Subject-matter experts from many disciplines populate Murray's Quality Assurance group, which spends more than 35 weeks a year auditing CoreCivic facilities across the country. Customized audit tools are designed by data analysts and auditors who study the laws, regulations, accreditation standards and contracts that govern CoreCivic’s operations.
Site visits are conducted by former corrections professionals, many with more than 30 years of experience as wardens and other senior facility leaders. Supporting them are seasoned professionals in facility operations, such as safety, security, food services and transportation.
“We are very self-demanding and have high expectations for performance,” Murray said. “We’re always searching for opportunities to improve. Every great organization does. We get better by looking at ourselves honestly, candidly and objectively.”
In addition to technical reviews of fire safety, building maintenance and health services, CoreCivic internal audit teams conduct “climate surveys” of staff and inmates. “We randomly select staff and inmates and ask them questions like, 'What is the level of safety?' 'What is the level of quality?' 'How do you feel about the education programs, food services and medical services?'”
Whenever an opportunity to improve is identified, a team is put into place that addresses the matter at the facility level while another group tracks system-wide data to identify trends. Best practices are shared across the company.
In January, seven CoreCivic facilities were up for accreditation by the ACA. All passed. The average score was 99.5% compliance to ACA standards.
“The ACA represents all corrections professionals throughout the country at the highest possible levels with the highest possible goals. Validation from them says we are getting it right. And doing it right in the eyes of strict outside professionals gives us a surge in confidence. It set us up to ask how we can do it even better.”
Murray's team is viewed as a resource for innovation and support by operations professionals in the field. “That’s a big source of pride,” he said. “In most companies, there’s a culture that dreads the appearance of an audit team. Not here.”
Murray said the company’s “day one” priority focus on successful reentry especially prompts managers to see his team as a needed resource.
“Our wardens request our help in safety, maintenance, health services and other areas to find ways their facilities can get even better. They see us as an honest broker, part of the team, supporters of all that we are trying to achieve as a company, and as professionals who believe we are making a difference in people’s lives.”