Throughout April’s session, the most recent leadership truth we explored, “Leadership is an Affair of Heart,” was more significant than ever. As we met with representatives from Kenosha’s criminal justice system, we opened our hearts to sharing and listening to each other’s personal experiences.

Our first “visit” of the day was with the Kenosha Correctional Center (KCC). Michelle Hoffman, superintendent, quickly explained the technical side of things, such as capacity limits, goals for re-entry, and what exactly is work release. In this case, the word “quickly,” emphasizes how the remaining time was best spent talking directly to three people currently staying at the KCC.

When an individual reaches KCC, they can have the opportunity for High School Equivalency Diploma programs as well as potential offsite employment. These experiences can help prepare somebody for re-entry back home into our neighborhoods. We talked about how while re-entry is exciting and hopeful, it also comes with struggles and difficulties. Some struggles include overcoming automatic responses and learning sustainable, healthy physical and mental behaviors. Despite their wrongdoings, every person is just that — a person, and people are capable of making mistakes. Something everybody could agree on was when one of the panelists works in the KCC kitchen, the meals are always better.

In a previous LK session, Jen Freiheit, health director for Kenosha County Public Health, touched on Kenosha’s opioid epidemic. This topic resurfaced when each KCC panelist shared their own experience with substance abuse. At a personal level, many individuals in our community — right here at home — suffer because of the lack of resources related to impactful counseling and recovery. We’re not just talking about one-time therapy sessions either, we mean long-term guidance and person-centered support.

Next up, was an in-person judicial and law enforcement panel discussion, featuring Judge Mary Kay Wagner, District Attorney Michael Graveley, Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth and Kenosha Police Captain Brent Sagedal. Once again, Leadership Kenosha allowed us the opportunity to ask our leaders pressing questions and hear their thoughts. Topics and issues discussed included our community’s access to adequate family support resources, the inequitable rates of incarceration, law enforcement workload and priorities, and officer training.

It was a hard session. It was a heavy session. Sometimes, however, leadership is heavy. In these moments, we can refer back to Marvin Bembry, who posed the question of, “Who do I need to become in order to lead from a place of authenticity and effectiveness in this space?” In every moment, in every space, including the darker ones, all we can do is try to be our most authentic selves and lead from the heart.

By: Marisa Markowski and Leadership Kenosha team

Leadership Kenosha — April 2021