The North Carolina Correctional Association gathered for its 42nd year of intensive training on handling gangs in prison, building leadership skills, supporting colleagues and more.
The Honor Guard opened the three-day training conference in Greensboro, and a brief memorial moment was held for staff who passed away over the preceding year.
Gov. Roy Cooper sent a video message of thanks for the essential work done by Prisons’ staff in jobs that are challenging and demanding.
Department of Public Safety Secretary Eddie Buffaloe earned a standing ovation for his remarks to attendees that centered on their professionalism and dedication.
“As corrections professionals, you are responsible for convicted criminals. Some are harmless, some dangerous. Far too many are burdened with mental illness,” he said. “But let’s be honest, one professional to others. The world has changed. The Department can’t afford to keep doing the same things the same way. Not anymore.”
Buffaloe asked attendees to be innovative and to hold everyone around them to high standards and accountability, including their leaders. He noted he served as a North Carolina corrections officer early in his career at the now-closed Odom Correctional Institution in Jackson.
Prison Commissioner Todd Ishee spoke to the audience of accomplishments made to the prison system over the past year, despite the consuming work of managing the coronavirus pandemic.
He pointed out the first wave of successful accreditation of facilities by the American Correctional Association (ACA), part of a five-year strategic plan to address a substantial number of issues facing the prison system.
“Take what you learn back to your facilities,” he said. “You may hear of a neat idea, or something new that you can try out.”
Guest speaker Harold Clarke, director of Virginia’s Department of Corrections, stressed to conference attendees that ethics are an important part of their jobs and help to build a culture of excellence.
“You don’t wish for excellence, you cause it to occur,” he said, noting he has worked in corrections departments in four states during his career. “Professionals make decisions for the benefit of the whole. Thank you for your choices you have made, to be a professional and to make a difference.”
The gathering was capped by keynote speaker James Gondles, the executive director of the ACA, the world’s largest corrections association. Gondles has run the organization for 32 years.