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AJA in review
By Sarah Etter, News Reporter
Published: 06/05/2006

Last week, almost two thousand jail administrators, sheriffs, corrections officials and vendors made their way home from the American Jail Association's 25th Annual Conference and Jail Expo in Salt Lake City, Utah.

The conference gave attendees a chance to mingle, discuss topics pertinent to the field of local corrections, and participate in workshops that dealt with issues like inmate behavior management, suicide prevention and direct supervision. For vendors, it was a chance to display their corrections products and technologies to a specific audience.

This year's theme was ‘Celebrate the Silver, Reach for the Gold' and offered a special reception for former AJA presidents.

Officials from Massachusetts to California exchanged ideas and networked during luncheons, speeches and receptions. Those from the Philippines and Bermuda also made the trip to attend. Corrections.com caught up with Jim Hart, AJA President-Elect, and Chief of the Hamilton County Sheriff's Department in Chattanooga, TN; Tim Ellwood, marketing manager of Pacific Concepts in Greensboro, NC; Peter Perroncello, Superintendent of Operations at the Bristol County Sheriff's Office in North Dartmouth, MA; and Cliff Holder, marketing manager of PVAC in Manitoba, Canada.

Corrections.com (CC): How many years have you been attending the AJA shows?

Hart: My first conference was in 1993.

Ellwood: Our company has attended AJA for 15 or 20 years and this is my second show personally. This is about my 24th correctional show.

Holder: This was our second year at AJA. We went back to AJA this year because we had a great experience with the organization, and the conference last year in Kansas City. The people at AJA make a big difference when it comes to this conference.

CC: How long did you stay at AJA this year?

Perroncello: I spent a total of two full days in Salt Lake City and I taught [workshop] sessions on Sunday and Monday. I spoke and moderated a panel of expert sessions on the Principles and Dynamics of Direct Supervision Inmate Management, and Strategic Accountability Management Systems with our Sheriff and staff.

CC: Who did you attend this year's conference with?

Hart: I took one of my Lieutenants to the conference.

Perroncello: I attended this year with seven of our staff members and we socialized with many people together. I had my picture taken with 13 of the 25 past presidents of AJA and it was by far the largest collection of all of us in many moons!

CC: What's the most important part of the AJA show?

Hart: The first important part is the training and the second important part is the networking. There were some really good workshops. There was one on Leadership through Social and Emotional Wisdom that I moderated that I thought was done really well. I got to see not only the people that I know but I also got to meet new people. It seems like after every class, you're trading notes with other officials about what's happening in their facilities and you develop some new ideas. I also liked the Inmate Behavior Management workshop. I thought it was done very well.

Perroncello: AJA is the only organization solely dedicated to advancing the professionalism of the men and women who toil silently in America's jails. This 25th Anniversary Conference once again showcased our best and brightest!

CC: Were there a lot of people at the show this year?

Ellwood: It was a very busy year; most of the shows you go in and you are busy for an hour and then you sit down for six. At this conference, you were busy for four or five hours. It was a very steady flow of people which surprised me.

CC: What were you selling at AJA?

Ellwood: We were promoting our new in-cell organizers which are clear and cannot be weapon-ized, which, unfortunately, can be done with most other organizers. I got about twenty or thirty direct leads to people that make a difference in corrections. All in all, it was a great experience.

Holder: We market and manufacture vehicle gates for corrections. It goes over really well at AJA.

CC: Would you recommend the AJA? show to other people?

Hart: Certainly and I have, quite a few times. We have a tendency to get wrapped up in our own agencies sometimes. Each state has their different programs and opportunities for training and this is a chance to share those concepts.

Holder: I would certainly recommend this event to other vendors. I've made friends at AJA but to me it's a very good networking opportunity that you only see at trade shows. It renews those networking contacts. I've also had a chance to establish new contacts as well.

Ellwood: It was a really incredible show, and I talked to more captains, sheriffs, and purchasers than ever before. I would certainly recommend this to other companies that are interested in finding a corrections market. To me, AJA is very important. We generally do three or four correctional shows a year and I think that AJA is our main exhibit trade show. We will still attend other ones, but AJA is the one we want to exhibit at. That's the one I like the most personally, as well.

CC: What does AJA have to offer to a new attendee?

Hart: We have various trainings throughout the country on an annual basis that agencies can co-host or members can attend. The conference just offers a lot of opportunities. It's a training conference and expo and our focus is to provide some jail training in a variety of tracks whether it's health care, mental health, operations or programming. It's to provide these different tracks by professionals in the fields. These are the people walking in the same shoes as the participants.

We also offer a big focus on direct supervision. For agencies that are exploring this concept or are in it, it's a refresher training year after year of what's working and what isn't. Sometimes it's about getting back to the basics, sometimes it's about learning new things. We also have an 8-hour NIC sponsored program that's a Legal Issues Seminar and it's worth its' weight in gold. Year after year, it's put on by attorneys that have their hand on the pulse to provide us an idea of what's going on in America.

There's also an opportunity to see facilities in that area. Part of our program is to tour jail facilities in that region. I have really enjoyed my involvement with the AJA. And I have to give a great plug for the staff at the AJA. They work all year long and the planning for next year's conference started on Thursday last week.


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