Modern Day Heroes
Friday, July 1, 2022
by: Darren Sieger, MS, CJM

Section: President's Commentary

Darren Sieger, MS, CJM President American Jail Association

This edition of American Jails highlights our first in-person conference in three years. If you attended AJA’s 41st Conference & Jail Expo in Long Beach this past May, then you were surrounded by heroes—including yourself.I want to send a special thank you to all those who were involved in the planning and implementation of one of our best events. We could not have provided this conference without the help of our exhibiting partners, sponsors, the planning committee, and especially our host agency, the Los Angeles County Sheriff ’s Department. Why are those who work in corrections heroes? Read on….

The Challenge
No one could have scripted the devastation caused by COVID-19 on the globe. Even as the virus began to take hold in January 2020, many of us thought we were insulated. This was not, unfortunately, just another Ebola virus false alarm. We could not predict the impact of COVID-19 on every aspect of our lives or how jails would need to change their operations during the next two years and beyond. Most jail professionals experienced the greatest challenge of their careers, living a roller-coaster of exhaustion and stress while worrying for their families. I am most proud of how corrections professionals continually showed up for work to serve our communities and adapt to the “new normal.”

Strength and Resilience
To survive, jail administrators relied on their expertise and abilities to adapt and overcome. Success required collaborating internally and externally while still establishing new relationships. Jail leaders rose to the challenge by developing improved supply chains and obtaining out-of-the-box resources to fight the virus. These actions kept those within our facilities safer and mitigated the risk of spread. They worked diligently with their vendor partners to ensure quality healthcare and food services, while providing support during unprecedented staffing shortages. Incredibly, despite these obstacles, innumerable inmates and staff  were tested and vaccinated by the same fatigued medical providers.

Lessons Learned
Today we are stronger. Our pandemic plans have improved. We know where and how to acquire supplies, and we have developed the relationships to get the job done. Many acts of individual initiative and problem-solving furthered our networking contacts to deliver no-cost services and equipment. The individuals who shined during our darkest days have proven themselves to be the next leaders within our agencies. As a result of this experience, jail staff are much better prepared and resilient for whatever the future brings. I am so very proud of the exemplary work and services that have been provided by jail staff  under such difficult circumstances.

AJA’s Support
Throughout the pandemic, AJA stayed at the forefront, supporting the industry by delivering expert webinars, clinical updates from key partners, and shared experiences through AJA iConnect. I am very excited about many of the great initiatives that are yet to come in 2022—especially in October 12–14, when AJA holds its second Fall Summit in Columbus, Ohio. This year’s summit focuses on staff  recruitment, hiring, and retention. I look forward to seeing all of you in the spectacular city of Columbus, Ohio. More details will be forthcoming on our website,

Be safe and best regards.
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