I began my criminal justice career as a Maryland State Trooper. I left my State Trooper position to complete my Bachelor’s Degree in Law Enforcement and Criminology at Towson University in Towson, MD. I later completed my Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice and Criminology at the University of Baltimore.
I worked in corrections as a Gang Counselor on the streets of Baltimore and then as a Job Corps group leader and as a Counselor in the Maryland prison system. During the ‘80’s, I moved into the public relations and media field working for the National Justice Reference Service (NCJRS) and then the National Crime Prevention Council. In both of these positions, I had the opportunity to play a major role with the “McGruff- Take a Bite out of Crime” national media campaign- one of the most successful anti-crime efforts ever undertaken.
The next stop on my correctional and law enforcement career was serving as the Director of Public Information for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. This was a very large state agency combining state law enforcement functions, corrections, and emergency management and it gave me the opportunity to work in two major functions of the criminal justice system.
We created, produced and hosted an award-winning radio and television network devoted to the activities of the field and were able to generate thousands of hours of positive exposure for the work of our departments. We were one of the first government agencies to engage in social media by putting our radio and television shows on the Internet and engage in conversations with partners throughout the state and nation.
In addition to a small professional public relations staff, we created and trained a corps of volunteer spokespersons to meet our crucial needs and to more effectively carry the word of the law enforcement and correctional activities in our state.
Before being asked to join CSOSA, I spent a short period of time working for the Sergeant Arms of the United States Senate developing security plans for the offices of US Senators.
Although my corrections career has involved only limited direct client involvement, I feel we have made a significant contribution to the field. Approximately 60-70% of our CSOSA television and radio shows and national articles feature the work of line staff. It has been fun to promote parole and probation professionals who would otherwise labor in obscurity. We have thousands of good people serving as community supervision personnel throughout the country that deserve attention.
Mine has been a very rewarding career with many opportunities to exercise a creative influence on how the field of corrections is viewed an understood by the public. Whatever success we have had is due to working for media savvy agencies that understand the value of proactive public relations and social media and how it helps to accomplish operational objectives. They understand that being proactive improves our relationship with the media, partners and public.
Like the American Probation and Parole Association (APPA) we view ourselves as “A force for Positive Change.”
The thought I would like to leave with those reviewing this website and considering a career in corrections is to stop fearing what the media can do to us and start taking control of what they can do for us. We control our own futures and reputations.
The public see us as experts they can trust. We need to use that trust to expand issues important to us. If we believe in reentry, we need to talk about it. If we want lower caseloads or resources to better protect public safety, we need to engage the media and public in a proactive conversation.
I and CSOSA are proud to have contributed in a small way to the reputation of the community corrections field and I’m sure that APPA feels the same way about its public relations efforts. Our wish is that additional states and counties will join us and engage in social media or proactive community outreach efforts.
We are all collectively proud of who we are and what we do. We need to express that pride.