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3 Ways to Manage Your Correctional Facility’s Budget

Financial adjustments in correctional facilities allow agencies to reevaluate their budget. Instead of breaking the bank, there's now an opportunity to adopt new cost-efficient practices while still optimizing all facility operations.
Alyssa Pfaff
Alyssa Pfaff
Kenzie Koch | Sr. Marketing Specialist

Times are tough to say at the very least, especially with prices constantly increasing without added funds. Today’s correctional landscape makes it difficult to juggle maintaining the utmost safety and security of inmates while also managing budget constraints. Shrinking budgets are a stark reality for jails, prisons, and juvenile detention centers across the country, further squeezing resources and straining operations. But just because the budgets are becoming more restrained, doesn’t mean the facility needs to.

Even in the face of financial limitations, there’s an opportunity not just to survive, but to thrive. This involves locating the right tools and resources to improve operational efficiency while cutting down on expenses and reducing waste. So, among the seemingly hundreds of other responsibilities that accompany the job of a correctional officer, you can also add “Budget Officer” to your resume.

This blog is here to equip you, jail administration and front-line staff alike, and your organization with practical tips on how to stretch your budget, optimize efficiency, and foster a culture of resilience - assisting you in maximizing value and getting the most bang for your buck. 

1. Cost-Conscious Approaches to Manage Your Budget

When beginning your organization’s budgeting journey, it’s important to lay out some groundwork. This can be anywhere from priorities and goals to focal points of areas where costs need to be reduced. Knowing where your mission lies is the first step in assessing and planning a more efficient budgeting strategy. This allows your team to keep a big-picture mentality and avoid focusing on pet projects. 

Maintenance magic: Properly maintaining your facility long-term way to continuously save by promoting a well-functioning and cost-efficient facility. What does this entail exactly? This is accomplished by doing routine maintenance checks to help identify potential problems before they get too out of hand and too costly. Think about it in terms of your home. Say there’s a minor crack in its foundation, who cares right? It’s not that big of a deal. Until it is. What could have started as a quick and less expensive fix, could trickle into a far worse, and far more pricey problem. 

The same goes for a correctional facility. Even the smallest maintenance issues can spiral out of control, at which point you’re forced to hire an outside vendor to come in and do what you or your staff could have done when it was a smaller-scale problem. Implementing preventative maintenance routines and training staff on repairs can extend equipment life and reduce repair costs. 

Analyze inmate population trends and risk assessments: This helps to optimize staffing levels and reduce overtime. Of course, this is easier said than done. However, today’s advanced technology makes it simple to keep track of trends and assess potential risks. When you can analyze trends regarding facility components such as population growth or inmate behavior, managing employees’ workloads and schedules becomes much easier. Understaffed facilities and burnt-out staff members are not ideal for anyone. That’s when lines become blurry, costs increase, and unwanted issues arise due to fatigue. 

Resource sharing: This is a resourceful (and less costly) way to ensure inmates and staff are receiving what they need when they need it. As the coined phrase about kindness goes, sharing is caring. While it may be overused and annoying to hear, there is truth behind it. Just because budgeting might require cost cuts, doesn’t mean that programs beneficial to the inmates’ rehabilitation and well-being should suffer. Collaborating with other public agencies for shared services like medical care, mental health support, or training programs can help to outsource more convenient and cost-friendly options. 

“The corrections industry is a brotherhood united by a common goal: safety. Sharing ideas with neighboring agencies not only helps strengthen our profession but builds a strong support system with each other and ensures safer, more effective facilities for all.”

Chris Riedmueller
Director of Academy

Become expert grant hunters: Track down and apply for grants to increase your facility's revenue. Tap into available federal and state funding for specific programs or infrastructure upgrades that can help minimize what’s coming out of your facility's pocket. Piggybacking off the idea that budgeting doesn’t require sacrifice, there are grants specifically available for rehabilitation activities, such as receiving higher education opportunities for the inmates. If and when possible, take advantage of available grants aimed at ensuring the fulfillment of both inmate and staff needs. 

Modernize with a technology transformation: Ditch the old methods of recordkeeping, communication, and training and start embracing the digital revolution. Cloud-based software, E-learning platforms, streamlined workflows, and machine-learning tools have digitally transformed facility operations. These tools go a long way to further improving facility efficiency, safety, and security. While you may have to invest in new technology, it pays back quickly with time and resources saved. Stay mindful of the saying, “We are too poor to afford cheap things”, as it rings true for many agencies when determining what new tools to implement in the facility for the long haul. 

2. Investing in Your Team Invests in Your Facility’s Future

First and foremost, your corrections team is the most valuable resource in the entire facility. They are the ones experiencing the consequences of poor budgeting first-hand. For example, say budget cuts result in dropping a rehabilitation program and inmates are not too fond of this decision. The correctional officers are going to be the ones dealing with the damage control. These officers are who the administration needs to be investing in. Whether it is training opportunities or resource availability, providing staff with the tools to optimize or promote a healthy work environment is essential.

So, when it comes to staff optimization, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Transparency matters: Keep your staff informed about budgetary challenges and involve them in brainstorming cost-saving measures. They are the boots-on-the-ground members dealing with the direct repercussions of budget shifts, so keeping them aware of updates helps build trust and relationships between the front-line staff and upper management.

  • Communication counts: Open communication establishes trust and fosters a collaborative spirit between everyone in the facility, it pays (no pun intended) to be on the same page. Regularly communicating successes and challenges helps to maintain morale and keep staff on the road to combined success.

  • Training tonic: A skilled team is an efficient team, and an efficient team saves money and improves the overall functionality of your facility. Invest in staff training on budgeting, resource management, and alternative solutions to expand their skill set to accomplish more, faster, and better.

  • Wellness wins: A healthy team is a productive team. A job in corrections comes with stressors that can make it difficult for the employee to do their job with full due diligence. Prioritizing staff well-being through stress management programs and support networks benefits them but also the entire facility's well-being. 

Putting your team first is crucial to the well-being and culture of your facility. This promotes a high-functioning workplace and assists in reducing burnout, inadequate work, or worse, a letter of resignation. Having the skills, training, and resources needed to be successful in the workplace helps improve efficiency and assists in reducing unnecessary costs and overworked staff. 

3. Utilize Community Connections to Enhance Budgeting

Public perception and support are crucial components in securing funds and limiting costs. This is why a facility’s public image and reputation are such a critical part of corrections management. While some may think, “Oh who cares what the general public thinks of us?” that mentality is only damaging to your facility’s success. 

There are two main ways in which the public can assist with maintaining your correctional facility budget: 

  • Partnerships for progress: Build relationships with local organizations for volunteer services, education programs, or job training initiatives. This eliminates the need for hiring outside vendors or companies to come in for these services, which can be more costly without the support and volunteering from the public.

  • Diversion strategies: Advocate for and actively participate in pre-trial diversion programs to reduce inmate populations. If many low-risk people are waiting on a trial, why not advocate for more pre-trial diversion programs? This helps in saving resources and cutting costs within your correctional facility.

Having a positive relationship with the public can not only assist with budget management but can also promote a better work environment. We’ve seen facility budget cuts result in societal protests (which were also triggered by negative public perception and insufficient support), leading to a more unfavorable workplace. Prioritizing community connections helps avoid these situations and strengthens the gap between facility and society. 

Remember, even the smallest adjustments can yield big results. Adopting a proactive approach instead of a reactive approach, as well as embracing innovation and fostering a collaborative spirit goes a long way. Facilities have opportunities to navigate budget challenges while continuing to provide a safe, secure environment for inmates and staff, it’s just a matter of doing it correctly. Stay resilient, resourceful, and connected to improve your correctional facility budget strategy.