In the mid 1990s, inmate-on-inmate violence was at historically high levels. Stabbings and slashings averaged over 120 per month. Gangs, growing in popularity in urban centers throughout the country, were recruiting heavily in DOC institutions, using fear and intimidation. The City had not authorized a new recruit class in five years. Overtime expenditures were running more than $75 million. Zooming sick rates also added to overtime costs. DOC's facilities were dirty and in disrepair, with promise of improvements dashed by bureaucratic delays and seeming indifference.
The TEAMS management process was initiated to address these and other challenges facing the agency. Its doctrine is that every unit within the DOC effects how the agency performs its mission - the care and custody of the inmate population - and that staffs should be agency-focused, not narrowly unit-oriented. All are expected to seek and work together to realize the Department's goals.
Development of this management method required defining areas of accountability, developing a system for the collection of timely and accurate data to measure performance, and establishing a forum in which to review the performance indicators and to address issues raised by such reviews.
Senior staff hold monthly TEAMS sessions with the frontline managers of the agency (wardens and certain other supervisors). At these meetings, the wardens describe conditions at their respective jails, explain variances in their performance indicators, and gain guidance on strategies to solve specific problems. Also participating in these interactive problem-solving sessions are civilian and uniformed administrators who lend their expertise at appropriate junctures.
Preparation and follow-up for the TEAMS forums is conducted by a support unit of civilian and uniformed staffers. They run analyses on critical areas of DOC operations, and work up a suggested agenda for scrutiny and discussion. The operational areas covered include security, maintenance, programs, mandate compliance, and morale. To understand how the process works, picture approximately 60 to 75 ranking officers and executives in a large conference room with most of the seating arranged perpendicular to a dais comprised of the Commissioner, Senior Deputy Commissioner and Chief of Department.
Working from an agenda prepared by the support unit, the dais directs individual wardens or other supervisors to make presentations and to answer questions on specific management issues. Large screens are strategically situated around the room to enable participants to view any charts and graphs that accompany the presentations.
While most of the Q-and-A takes place between the dais and the presenting managers, occasionally the dais will call on other managers at the tables to address particular questions prompted by the presentation and subsequent dialogue. At times the questioning can become intense as the top executives on the dais press for information, explanations and solutions. The TEAMS concentrated focus conveys a sense of urgency in solving the problems at hand and fosters a sense of partnership among uniformed and civilian staffs.
The initial emphasis was on reducing inmate violence, with 60 indicators that were tracked and monitored. At the TEAMS sessions, wardens and their staffs reviewed efforts to combat violence identification and separation of gang members and by the arrest of those perpetrating the violence. The discussions also provided opportunity to assess institutional procedures, introduce new technologies, and consider re-engineering facility layouts, all with an eye on combating violence.
Results have been dramatic. Inmate-on-inmate violence has been reduced by 96% since 1995. DOC is now averaging 2 & 1/2 stabbing/slashing incidents a month in contrast with 100-plus per month in the early and mid-1990's.
This success gave rise to expanding the TEAMS management process to all aspects of agency operations. Today, TEAMS monitors over 600 indicators dealing with security, inmate programs, administration, and capitol development. Each of these categories is sub-divided into dozens of indicators specific to the category.
Beyond particular problem-solving dividends, DOC reaps broader benefits from TEAMS. Enforcement of accountability, peer review of performance, and opportunity for open-forum input engender a new sense of professionalism and leadership among agency managers. Given the size, scope, and complexity of DOC, its management constitutes a tremendous challenge. Clearly, the TEAMS process has helped the Department meet that challenge with stunning results.