Hurricane delayed PACT Conference gets rave reviews from attendees
By Byron Hays
Even though Hurricane Katrina tossed Texas Department of Criminal Justice planners a “delay of game” curve ball, the Fourth Annual Public Awareness Corrections Today (PACT) Conference still earned rave notices from attendees who traveled to Huntsville on Saturday, March 4, 2006, for the day-long event.
|Bryan Collier, left, speaks with a participant at the PACT conference.
Photo by Bambi Kiser
Originally scheduled for the fall of 2005, the conference had to be postponed due to emergency response demands on both TDCJ staff and hotel accommodations created by Katrina, and then amplified a short time later by Hurricane Rita.
The PACT Conference was inaugurated in 2002 with the objective of providing a vehicle focused entirely on providing families of incarcerated individuals with direct access not only to information they need about TDCJ programs, services and policies, but also to provide an opportunity for them to go “one-on-one” with top agency leadership, unit wardens, and rehabilitation program providers.
This year's program content may have been the most exciting and inspirational yet, according to both written evaluation responses provided by attendees, as well as, on-the-spot recorded interviews. As in previous conferences, the opportunity to discuss concerns "in-person" with TDCJ leadership and staff was perhaps the most impressive feature of the conference setting. Wardens, regional managers and agency leadership from across the state traveled to Huntsville to be available to respond to participant queries.
This year, the conference centered around TDCJ's initiative to strengthen the bond between offenders and their families. Many of the presentations and informational booths highlighted programs identified as resources under the "Giving Offenders' Kids Incentive and Direction to Succeed," or GO KIDS initiative launched by TDCJ in 2004.
"I am tremendously proud of GO KIDS and was happy to have the opportunity to share information about this initiative with families of TDCJ offenders they are the very ones this program is designed to help," said Christina Melton Crain, Chairman of the Texas Board of Criminal Justice, the nine-member board which overseas TDCJ. "GO KIDS touches the lives of both the offenders and their families, in particular their children. This initiative can make a significant difference in the lives of children, which ultimately impacts the future of Texas."
|More than 18 different program information centers spread over 3 exhibit rooms were popular stops for the approximately 250 participants.
Photo by Bambi Kiser
"I was especially excited about this year's conference as our focus was on the Agency's GO KIDS initiative," added Kathy Cleere, TDCJ's Conference Chairman. "Most of our presentations involved programs and services that are available to the families and children of incarcerated offenders. We heard from Big Brothers, Big Sisters of North Texas; No More Victims, Inc.; and Chuck Norris' KICKSTART program, as well as TDCJ's own Storybook Project."
"What was most inspiring was hearing from children who have participated in these programs and gone on to become successes in life," said Debra Liles, TDCJ's oversight director for Administrative Review, which includes the TDCJ Ombudsman Program. "There were several times during these presentations that there was probably not a dry eye in the room. It is wonderful to know that there are people dedicated to helping these children break the cycle of crime in their families."
The next Public Awareness Corrections Today Conference is scheduled for sometime in 2007. Although the exact dates have not yet been set, ideas and concepts for the 2007 event are already being discussed. More information will be available as conference dates and content become firm.