PEF’s united front at DOCCS conference helps resolve prison, parole issues
By DEBORAH A. MILES
The annual state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) conference held in Lake Placid prior to the Memorial Day weekend has earned a reputation for getting results.
Year after year, DOCCS managers and PEF leaders and members engage in frank and open dialogues about concerns and issues relevant to those who work in state prisons and with parolees.
Last year, the conference became a model for training throughout the state at 53 prisons and parole offices to strengthen issue-solving at the local labor-management level. This year, state Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon attended to see how the DOCCS statewide conference was structured, with the goal to find a new way to address the issues within DOL and other state agencies.
PEF President Wayne Spence said, “This conference is a testament to what can be accomplished when both sides listen to the issues, and often find themselves on the same page. Everyone wants a safe work environment, ways to decrease recidivism, and better communication. It provides all of us a platform to design a new agenda for issue-solving for another year.”
Several issues were discussed at length in Lake Placid, such as bullying.
Victor (Tony) Perez, PEF Division 236 council leader, said, “Bullying was addressed on both sides of the fence, at DOCCS facilities and community supervision. We didn’t come to a definitive resolution because the people being bullied fear retaliation. But we strategized on how to address this issue, such as with a confidential survey.”
Perez said the 160 conference participants also discussed inconvenience pay to finding a solution to the parking problem for parole officers who work at the Bronx office.
Steven Drake, PEF chair of the DOCCS statewide Labor-Management Committee, said the conference delved into the work performed by supervising offender rehabilitation coordinators and offender rehabilitation coordinators.
“We are still seeking more education and support from the department for these titles, and we pushed forward to create a subcommittee for teachers and vocational instructors so their issues can be resolved,” Drake said. “Another issue which is not new to DOCCS is the lack of nurses in correctional facilities. We have to work collaboratively with management on ways to recruit more nurses into the department and retain them. We also addressed pre-approved time off and being asked to work because someone calls in sick or has special circumstances.”
Drake described the conference as being very productive, focused on key issues with motivation on both sides to resolve them.
Perez added, “I was impressed with the energy and enthusiasm, especially from the stewards in community supervision who came out in full force. Twenty attended, and I believe that is the largest number to date. The new blood gave us a stronger sense of solidarity, so the issues we addressed with management were done in a unified and professional way. I also think management realized PEF is more unified now, than we ever have been.
“There is still a lot of work to do, and we will remain committed to following through to the agreements made at the conference.”