Standing Together 

Most people are unaware of what happens behind the walls of the 21 adult and 6 juvenile correctional facilities in Indiana. These facilities house a variety of offenders, and are also the workplace of 7,500 Indiana Department of Correction (IDOC) employees.

As part of the workforce, a dedicated group of individuals emerge as a missing piece to the complex and dynamic puzzle of correctional services. Often referred to as specialists, generalists, managers or directors, IDOC human resources professionals are responsible for much more than standard or routine tasks.

It takes expertise to understand the complexities involved with supporting both offenders and staff. Fortunately, the challenge of navigating through the maze of correctional services is being conquered by Ms. Michele Gibson and a dedicated human resources team.

An HR generalist, located at the Indiana Women’s Prison/Indianapolis Women’s Community Re-Entry Center, and a veteran with IDOC for 3 years, Ms. Gibson’s responsibilities include providing all human resources services to employees, applicants, management and the community.

Ms. Gibson points out that although human resource professionals have a common bond, the similarities between ‘civilian’ and correctional services employees are not always parallel.

For example, all employees employed in a correctional facility recognize that safety and security comes first. Every employee, including HR staff, must have a general knowledge of custody operations and complete forty hours of Correctional Training which includes self defense.

When asked if she is concerned about her well being, Ms. Gibson confidently asserts that she does not fear for her safety. However, she does add that she is aware of where she is and tries not to become complacent about her surroundings.

To ensure safer facilities, keep offenders productive and reduce recidivism, IDOC takes impressive steps to promote re-entry success. For example, breaking down re-entry barriers by focusing on the whole person concept has proven to be successful.

Human Resources have directly contributed to this success by recruiting and hiring the best people to work directly with the offenders.  However, the hardest challenge involves finding funds to move forward with additional personnel.

As stated by Ms. Gibson, The biggest challenge we face at this time is of course budgetary concerns… However, if we are allowed to fill a necessary position, we have the opportunity to select from a large and talented pool of applicants’.

Enthusiasm has not wavered in the midst of uncontrollable circumstances. Declaring the reason that she stays enthused about the challenges of her career, Ms. Gibson noted ‘I work with great people, from the Custody Staff up to the Superintendent; their attitudes and dedication keep me enthused.  Overall, the staff with this type of operation is extremely dedicated.’

While the successes of several programs and services have been plentiful, there is much more to be done. Ms. Gibson, along with the rest of the HR staff has made it clear that they are ready to confront the challenges.

Article written by Jewell Carter, M.A., PHR
Special thanks to IDOC employees: Mr. Eric Reinert, Ms. Michele Gibson and Mr. Aaron Chandler