“Leaders lead through tough times” – A quote that defined our day at the Kenosha County Detention Center and the Kenosha County Correctional Center. From walking the hallways alongside inmates/detainees to hearing their stories of hardship and renewed confidence, our Leadership Kenosha group explored a world foreign to many.
Metal detectors and secured doors greeted us as we began our day at the Kenosha County Detention Center on Highway H. Lieutenant Eric Klinkhammer welcomed our group and provided a delicious breakfast of coffee and donuts made in the Center’s very own kitchen. As we ignored our New Year’s resolutions and indulged, we celebrated several members’ successes in their jobs and personal lives.
Our conversation shifted as our colleagues AJ Chivell and Travian Franklin presented on the Leadership Truth: challenge is the crucible for greatness. Their presentation focused on approaches leaders should consider when they are faced with every day challenges. Instead of reacting to the “brick walls” of our work life, we should consider them as opportunities; opportunities to fail, grow and succeed.
Prior to our tour of the Detention Center we had a few moments with Captain Justin Miller, who gave us a brief history of the Center, current inmate/detainee statistics and typical challenges they face. We were then escorted by Lt. Klinkhammer into the secure areas of the facility. While I can only speak for my thoughts and feelings, I believe the majority of our cohort was silenced with nerves and wonder. From the segregation unit to general population, we were given the grand tour of the home to over 500 inmates/detainees’.
Robert “Bob” Beezat, author of Character Based Management, greeted us back in the administrative area of the Center to discuss conflict resolution. Bob gave us the first and most important piece of advice for any leader: shut up and listen. Often, we listen to respond. Instead, we should simply listen to what our colleagues and employees have to say. Following a group “bad” boss roast and “good” boss praise, we tackled different conflict scenarios of our peers. This was a wonderful exercise as it gave the group a variety of third-party perspectives to consider, which is helpful as it is simple to become “too close” to the issue.
As we approached the noon hour, it was time to make our way to the Correctional Center. There, Ann Krueger, Facility Superintendent, greeted and ushered us to enjoy a lunch prepared by her inmates. Full and ready for the next part of our day, we were excited to meet our next guests: Judge Mary Wagner, Deputy District Attorney, Angelina Gabrielle, Sheriff David Beth and City of Kenosha Police Officer, Michael Rombalski.
Each panelist shared their professional profile and the variety of programming initiatives occurring in Kenosha County (e.g. First Offender Program, Behavioral Court, Veteran’s Court, etc.). When asked to describe the primary concern in Kenosha County, the panel simply responded: the opioid crisis that is facing our nation today. A technique officers of the City of Kenosha and Kenosha County have adopted is the use of NARCAN, which has saved numerous lives in the community. While it is difficult to summarize our conversation with the panel, I observed that each panelist has a deep conviction to Kenosha County and works hard as a community leader to make Kenosha great.
Our last visit of the day was with three inmates of Kenosha County. While I cannot go into detail, I can admit the conversation was not only informative, it was inspiring. From the perspective of someone on their first incarceration to someone on their seventh, a component of the day’s theme seemed to resonate in each inmate: anyone can lead. Each inmate expressed interest of connecting with today’s youth to encourage them to maintain their education and avoid a life of crime. While a large undertaking, a final comment convinced me that these gentleman will be the ones to help our struggling youth: even during the tough times, the first thing to change is your perception. After you do that, everything is alright.
Thank you for reading.