“What are we doing here…?” was the theme of conversation on January 16thas the 2019 Leadership Kenosha group emptied their pockets, removed smart watches and unfasted belts to proceed through the metal detectors at the Kenosha County Detention Center. The group would spend the rest of the day venturing behind bars to reveal a world unfamiliar to us all.

Our day began with Leadership Kenosha participant, Louis Rawley, discussing Leadership Truth #7 – Challenge is the Crucible for Greatness from our Truth About Leadership text. Louis led a hearty discussion covering figurative brick walls, resilience, grit and learning through failure.

As with all of our passionate conversations, we exceeded our time limit, as it was time for Lieutenant Eric Klinkhammer to detail the workings of the Kenosha County Detention Center. Lieutenant Klinkhammer is the administrator of the massive facility at 4777 88thAvenue.

Fun Facts about Kenosha County Detention Center:

  1. 100 correctional officers.
  2. 550 inmates.
  3. Houses local offenders, Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees and U.S. Marshall Captives.
  4. Delicious donuts.

Lieutenant Klinkhammer led us into the secure area of the facility. The group was led on a tour of the living quarters, classroom, kitchen and religious facilities. Some of the group members equated the building to their high school with heavy doors. Others noted that it was much more modern than how prisons are portrayed in the movies. Ultimately, it was an unforgettable eye opening experience.

After our tour, Mary Waid of UW-Parkside joined Leadership Kenosha for a discussion about conflict resolution. Ms. Waid explained the five types of conflict resolution: accommodating, avoiding, collaborating, compromising and competing. The group then took a small survey to determine their common type of conflict resolution followed up by a small amount of roleplaying performing the five types.

Leadership Kenosha then traveled to the Kenosha Correctional Center, where the group faced our hardest challenge to date. The facility has a strict no cellphone policy. We faced 270 minutes without internet, text messages and emails. Luckily, Superintendent Michelle Hoffmann was a gracious host at the facility, which kept our minds occupied.

Fun Facts about Kenosha Correctional Center:

  1. 115 adult male inmates.
  2. Houses state-level offenders, regardless of where crime was committed.
  3. Offers work release programs with local employers where inmates earn wages to pay off fees, court restitution and personal use.
  4. Delicious hot-lunch chicken cooked and served by inmates.

After a quick lunch, Leadership Kenosha was introduced to the criminal justice panel: Judge Mary Wagner, District Attorney Michael Gravely, Sheriff David Beth and City of Kenosha Deputy Chief Eric Larsen.

Each panelist shared their professional profile and the variety of programming initiatives occurring in Kenosha County. The overwhelming themes of the conversations were the situations children are living in which leads them into the criminal justice system and the ongoing opioid crisis in Wisconsin.

Superintendent Hoffmann then led us on a tour of the Kenosha Correctional Center, which was surprisingly low security. Leadership Kenosha was allowed to walk through the shared spaces and toured the typical living environment.

Leadership Kenosha’s finale was a group discussion with a panel of four inmates. The inmates spoke of their past struggles which led them to incarceration, but then spoke on their plan for recovery and redemption. There is a true struggle for these inmates transitioning to civilian life. Listening to them speak allowed my own personal reflection of recovered felons and how I can possibly help incorporate them back into society through employment.

When Leadership Kenosha’s day behind bars came to end, everyone scurried to check our phones and get reconnected with the outside world.

—Gregory M. Strzalka

Leadership Kenosha — January 2019