Empowering Justice: Andie Moss on PREA, Culture Change, and Leadership
In this episode of the 360 Justice Podcast, Steve Carter sits down with Anadora Moss, the founder of the Moss Group, a criminal justice consulting firm. Ms. Moss has been at the forefront of implementing the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) and has been instrumental in developing culture change initiatives in the criminal justice system. In this episode, we delve into the origins of PREA and discuss Ms. Moss’s thoughts on the current state of the industry, as well as her predictions for the next 5-10 years. Additionally, we explore what it’s like to be a female founder in a male-dominated industry and the importance of a strong support network and work-life balance. Tune in to gain valuable insights from a true expert in the field.
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Andie Moss is the founder and president of The Moss Group. Through her organization, Ms. Moss manages multiple strategies to assist the field, including implementing the Prison Rape Elimination Act, working effectively with woman offenders, providing executive leadership training, assessing and supporting mission change and transition strategies, developing and leading culture change initiatives, delivering investigative trainings, and facilitating strategic planning. In 2003, TMG was awarded a multi-year cooperative agreement with NIC to manage its PREA initiative by providing training and technical assistance to the field, as well as present at professional conferences. Ms. Moss managed this cooperative agreement for seven years, providing technical assistance to nearly all 50 states, developing video toolkits for adult and juvenile corrections, developing an online e-learning training program, and publishing brochures and articles to assist the field with operational and policy issues related to PREA.
Additionally, Ms. Moss served as subject matter expert to the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission and the PREA Review Panel. Ms. Moss is published in professional periodicals and authored a chapter in a correctional administrator’s textbook on staff sexual misconduct. She is active in professional organizations, is the former chair for the ACA Women Working in Corrections Committee, and is past president of the Association of Women Executives in Corrections. Additionally, Ms. Moss serves on the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Advisory Committee on Family Residential Centers. She also chaired the NIC Institute initiative on women offenders for five years. Ms. Moss has received numerous honors for her work, including the NIC Executive Director’s Award and the Association of Women Executive’s in Correction’s Susan M. Hunter Award.
Steve Carter: Well, good day everyone and welcome to the 360 Justice podcast. I’ll be your host today. I’m Steve Carter, with CGL companies now for almost 50 years. And we’re looking forward to speaking today with our guest, Andie Moss, who is the founder and president of the Moss group. So, Andie, thank you so much for taking the time to be a part of our podcast series this afternoon.
Andie Moss: Well, thank you. I appreciate CGL inviting me. It’s a wonderful opportunity and I’ve listened to some of your podcasts and I think they’re making a contribution, particularly to thought leadership as we all work in this profession.
Steve Carter: Well, thank you for that. You and I have known each other for more than a decade now, and had the opportunity to work together on projects, various collaborations. You’re more than a professional associate to me, I consider you a personal friend. So I hope our discussion today will be one that is really just that, a discussion and perhaps an exchange of a few ideas.
The first thing that I would like to ask you is, since we have been at this for a good long time, do you think that we’ve made any difference in the world of corrections?
Andie Moss: Well, Steve, I think of you as a friend too and a colleague and feel like it’s one of the fortunate opportunities in my long career to have gotten to know you and to work together. I think we’re very like-minded.
I sure would like to think that we’ve made a difference, but I think both of us would agree that in this very difficult, complex world, making a difference requires making a difference with each other, with our organizations. I have really been challenged by our profession but always engaged and always thinking that we can move some of these systems, ideally all of them, to a more hope-based practice. And that’s what I appreciate about your work. But I think it’s a tall order for all of us to bring the humanity we need into corrections, and it takes everyone. But yes, I do think staying in the game, keeping each other hopeful, and believing that we can make a difference.
All we can do is our chapter and that’s frustrating. We want to fix it all. But I think you and I have had those kind of conversations where, where do we go from here? And I know we’re going to be talking about that some of the podcast in terms of the landscape of corrections and what’s needed.
Steve Carter: We all have our stories as you like to tell me. And I was very interested in how you got into this field in the first place. I mean, did you wake up one morning and just say, this is what I want to do, or was it really an evolutionary part of your development that brought you to corrections?
Andie Moss: I’m going to try to give you a short version, which is hard, but I think most of us don’t grow up thinking we’re going to work in corrections.
I really did, like so many people, fall into it. I also was a child of the 60s and always wanted to be involved in reform of some kind. My background academically was in education. Specifically, I was a physical education teacher because I was an athlete in high school, and it was before Title IX, and there were no opportunities for sports for women.
And so many of us went into physical education. That’s not really where my heart was. And so I actually ended up migrating into working in mental health, after a master’s degree, that got me interested in more psychology and I ended up being the director of activities therapy, which was expressive therapies, in a hospital in Atlanta.
And then through a quirk about deciding I wanted to go back for another degree, I took a part time job with my neighbor who was working with state agencies, moving them into new office buildings. And I met the folks in corrections and Dave Evans, who is the commissioner then for 14 years in Georgia, found out I had a therapeutic, recreation, and expressive therapies background and he hired me to work in training to write lesson plans for officers working with mental health, inmates in the mid 80s.
And so I almost was embarrassed to tell my friends I was in corrections, but I needed a job and then I fell in love with it. It really had so many challenges. So many interesting aspects to it, both programmatically and in terms of how as a society, we really work with those who are incarcerated. And so, I became hooked quite early in Georgia corrections and I was there 14 years.
Steve Carter: Did you actually work in institutions, or did you work at central office?
Andie Moss: I was one of those central office folks. My direct service had been in mental health before corrections.
And then when I was in central office, after I started in training, I began to,be promoted and asked to take on other responsibilities. But in 1992, after I’d been with the department for some time, there was a large lawsuit, really covering 15 facilities, one of those big class action ones in the early 90s. And, at the women’s prison, in terms of interviewing the women, the issues came out around sexual abuse and involvement with staff. And so at that point, this is a long answer, but I’ll say at that point, the commissioner assigned me to live on prison grounds and oversee the investigation there. And so my facility experience is quite unusual. I was there for a very intense 18 months. And then I also had a program when I was director of programs that each of my central office folks had to go out and do cross training in institutions. And I did that as a deputy of care and treatment to do my time. And I ended up staying at the facility for three months in one of the more violent men’s prisons. So I’ve had some of the facility experience, but it came through an unusual path.
Steve Carter: Quite unusual. The profession really knows the Moss Group from your landmark work with the PREA legislation, the audits that you did, the training that you’ve done for PREA, of which CGL was one of the recipients of that training way back when, over a decade ago now.
But the Moss Group does a lot more than PREA. Can you give me a little bit more background on what you’ve just told about how you entered the profession, then how you moved on through National Institute of Corrections and ultimately into the formation of the Moss Group. But what are some of the other things that you were involved with?
Andie Moss: Well, what an interesting path for me. When you get to this stage in your career, you can see the arc of your career and see how the pieces fit together. When I was in that experience in Georgia at the institution, I became very profoundly impacted that it was about sexual abuse, but it was not only about the sexual part. It was really about the culture of facilities, the leadership, the supervisory development, the lack of having a reporting environment, the poor practices in investigations that were not trauma informed or gender informed. So really from that experience in 92, I had the opportunity to go to the National Institute of Corrections.
And this was about 10 years before the PREA legislation, and I felt that it was a very systemic-lead management and leadership calling to look at sexual abuse, more holistically. And so I saw sexual abuse as a presenting issue, a horrific one, one that needed a lot of attention. But my work, really the foundation of my approach started back in those Georgia days.
And from there, and I often talk about this, if I’m training or, or coaching around PREA to think of it as how we’re doing business, not just compliance to standards, but PREA gives us the opportunity to ask the questions about how are we training staff? What is the best way to develop frontline supervisors and emerging leaders. And when you look at the standards, there’s a lot connected in there that really asks how are we doing business and, you know, example would be, there’s an awful lot of collaboration, a call for PREA, on a facility level.
I mean, mental health has to talk to medical who has talked to the investigators who has to work with the administration and if we can strengthen, for instance, collaboration and teamwork in a facility, PREA can be a vehicle to help us do that more. And so the Moss group from the very beginning has had the vision of working with practitioners throughout the country, practitioners, helping practitioners and best practice.
And so, I’m very grateful. We’re still involved in PREA. We’re a partner with the PREA Resource Center, and it’s an important part of what we do. But I would say the majority of our work is not necessarily PREA specific. We decided years ago during the development of PREA that we would not be an auditing company that we would be a technical assistance company.
So we prepare people for audits. We problem solve with people around preparing for the audits, but we don’t audit. And so our work lends itself much more to leadership operations and really helping create a culture in a facility that creates a culture of safety. And so sexual abuse can be one presenting issue, but it might be racism. It might be gender issues. It could be other presenting issues. So, to me, it’s been a very natural progression to work with sexual abuse. And to unpack that in terms of, what does create a safe environment for our population and for the staff and how does that all fit in? So to me, it’s very systemic.
And again, I appreciate that we’re still involved with PREA. I have some great staff that are dedicated to the work in PREA throughout the country. But I also think it, it led us into a broader understanding of what are the components of a safe environment. Sexually safe, but also emotionally and physically safe.
So, yes, our work is very broad in that regard. A lot of it brings us back to the same core issues: how are we doing business?
Steve Carter: You have mentioned the word culture several times here. Would you say that the involvement with PREA gave you another perspective on the culture of a prison or jail environment?
You really are known for a lot of your work on what I simply call cultural change. But how did that come about? Was it through the PREA experiences or was it just through your long history of being involved in corrections going back to your early days in Georgia? What made culture such a stand out issue for you?
Andie Moss: So, I can remember the conference room I was standing in when I was in Georgia corrections and overwhelmed with this investigation. We indicted 17 staff members. We had over 200 Jane Does that were complaining not only about by any means sexual abuse, although we had plenty that were, but they were really angry about mental health care and continuity of care and that’s what started the lawsuit. But I can remember standing in that conference room and saying to myself, I have got to get out of this crazy profession or I have to dedicate my career to prevention and understand it and know what it takes to really create safety. And so I came to NIC in 1996, and there had been, in addition to the Georgia lawsuit, there were several other very visible women’s lawsuits, and women had not typically litigated much at all.
And so sexual abuse became very concerning and named, really, by those lawsuits and so, I will always be grateful for the leadership at NIC that felt that this was not just a southern prison issue or a poorly run facility issue. The facility in Georgia that I spent the time in was ACA accredited. It was clean. If you walked in, and many corrections people like to say they walk in and can tell the culture, but what, what was intriguing and has driven my work to this day is what are the norms below the policy level? If you think of an iceberg, you know, you can see a pretty clear picture of the iceberg above the water, but it’s below, it’s those norms and trends that really either create a safe environment or don’t. And so I really came with that motivation when I came to NIC and I wrote down 11 different things I thought should be addressed in looking at the culture of a facility. And I sort of munched on that, been involved in a lot of thinking and from that point, I developed a way to assess a facility. And I quickly learned it couldn’t be the Andie Moss model.
I needed some research behind it. I needed other people to really get interested in assessing culture. And so that continued to evolve at NIC. I think it was in 2002 if I’m not mistaken that we establish an institutional culture initiative at NIC and as funds have been challenging, that work has had good years and not so good years, but what PREA did especially in the early days, which were pretty rough, when we were trying to really name the law and help people with a bit of money into technical assistance. And the opportunity to work for a couple of years, there were, I can remember 400,000 grants that a system could have a multi-year plan to really implement PREA, but also look at culture.
And so there’s a lot of good work through the years, it’s uneven. And so when people talk about their interest in culture, I often wonder what that means for them. Because I think it’s really important. There’s a lot of discussion about it now. It’s really important to define it and also to look at how do you assess it?
But also, can we change culture? And an assessment is not enough. You have to know what the strategies are, what you need to anchor and ground in terms of changing a culture. So I would say since 1992, this has been the work that I’ve tried to continue to evolve my thinking on, but to also collaborate with others who are good thinkers and have good experience.
And we were fortunate to be able to do that while I was at NIC those 7 years, which is really how I got very interested in doing the work more in the field, rather than writing the grants and the opportunities.
The driving force for me has been to look at the culture and certainly part of that is how we care for, how we respond to the people under our care. What kind of support do we have when people are injured? What kind of support do we have for staff? So there’s a whole litany of things that emerge if you’re looking at PREA in a much more holistic way to say, yes, there’s standards and we’re one of the only professions that has the complexity and the depth of standards that we have to address sexual abuse. But the culture is the, the way I often say it, an operational issue is, do you know how to report? And most staff in corrections now, if they’ve been in the corrections any period of time know how to report, the work we do is will you report and I think that’s the description of culture is not just knowing the policy, but will you follow the policy?
Steve Carter: And it’s my observation that when it comes to women’s correctional facilities, that culture is paramount as one is looking to make changes, whether they are physical changes or operational changes that it’s getting at that culture. CGL has had an opportunity, and I mean that sincerely, opportunity and privilege to work with the Moss Group now on three different women’s programs throughout the United States.
Am I correct that there is a different approach as it relates to understanding culture for women’s facilities than there is for men? Or should we be blending the two and say that there’s really no difference?
Andie Moss: Well, Steve, you’re asking me a question that I am likely to take on a long answer.
So you have to monitor me. I’ll simplify that to say gender makes a difference and the pathway of women and the pathway of men are equally important. I think when I got particularly hooked when I was in Georgia, I had the opportunity to work with really good therapists we brought into the institution and recognizing, for instance, that a good example would be both men and women need you know, treatment in substance abuse. The pathway men and women have are sometimes different about that and understanding trauma in terms of how many men, not all men, but many men experience it and many women.
And so a clinician once told me the research bears it out, I think. Is that when women have been abused they often get depressed, use drugs, want to disappear. And often for men who’ve been traumatized, their anger is more external. And so I think that if you put the pathways of men and women parallel together in terms of how they get into the system and how they get deeper into the system, there’s some difference.
But on a very practical level, what we try to help staff with is particularly if they’re in a heterosexual marriage, I mean, who has the biggest closet? Who goes to the doctor the most? I mean, try to help people understand that not to overly stereotype, but there’s just a difference in how women and men face incarceration and how they become part of that institutional life.
And so you’ll often hear people who’ve worked with men and women say, Oh my gosh, the women are going to talk you to death. And I can remember someone saying, you know, I’ve heard this over and over actually, they’re just so needy. They’re just so needy. And, you know, my answer to that is they are because they have needs and they’re often the single parent or the primary parent. And we fortunately, we’re doing parenting programs for men, but the reality, if you go to a men’s visiting room and a women’s visiting room, you know, in the men’s visiting room, you’ll see a lot of girlfriends. You don’t see a lot of boyfriends at a women’s visiting room. You see children and parents.
And so I don’t want to overgeneralize any of it. But, fortunately, again, NIC recognized that we needed to be clear, have the research be able to articulate this more. And so, in 2005, I think was the publication gender responsive principles to guide the field. In terms of what is different, it bothers me that we still have correctional administrators that say an inmate is an inmate, you know, you know, they all the same and I try to think about how I used to be a teacher.
I was in a small private school. Because I was the PE teacher, I had kindergarten through 12th grade. Now, my lesson plan for kindergarten was not the same as for 7th grade. And so, to me, it’s as simple as looking at who your population is, what does the research say in terms of the pathways, and how do they best have a chance for positive outcomes.
And so, to me, it’s absolutely clear that men’s and women’s facilities have some differences. The common thing is, at the end of the day, you want everybody to be safe. You want everybody to have treatment programs, you want operations to run well, but in addition to that, you wanna make sure that what you are offering and the understanding that staff really has is that they are working with a specific population.
Steve Carter: I like that view of the cultural differences. We need to take that on board with a lot more of our planning for correctional facility. Forgive me for a moment for coming back to PREA. I know that you were involved in initial legislation, and I know that you were involved as recently as a few days ago in testifying about the prior legislation. What’s happening out there as it relates to PREA that might be helpful for those listening to the podcast to understand?
Andie Moss: Well, I think there is a wealth of resources on the PREA Resource Center. And just for your audience, I haven’t recently testified for Congress. I did have the opportunity to go to the Capitol yesterday for a celebration of the 20 year anniversary with them. Again, the legislators were there. And so I think, Steve, to me what I would urge anyone listening is to be curious.
Everybody’s questions are really good questions and make us think more. I don’t think we, you know, the 20 year mark is marked with joy that we’ve made progress and concern that we’ve got so far to go. And so, there are questions that come up, particularly as we try as a profession and with our stakeholders and with the advocates and with people with lived experience.
How do we most respectfully, for instance, work with the transgender population? How do we learn productively to talk about diversity and underserved populations? So I think for people who want to know more about PREA, all they have to do is be curious. And I, I think the go-to website is really the PREA Resource Center.
And there, they’ll list all the partners. The partners are the Moss Group, but it’s also academic scholars in this area and researchers. So you can follow your interests, I think, by going to the PREA Resource Center.
Steve Carter: Well, good. Over our years of working together, I would say on behalf of all of CGL we’ve been really impressed with your staff.
And I’m wondering if you could share a secret or two about your staffing model. And then, how do you find such talented energetic, passionate people to be a part of the Moss Group?
Andie Moss: Well, thanks, Steve. I’m really proud of our team. And I think the most important ingredient is that they care deeply about our mission.
We want to serve the field with experience that our practitioners bring, but with a real commitment to best practice and to creating relationships where they can really trust us. I think the greatest compliment we had was from Dora Shiro, when she said the Moss Group makes it safe to ask for help.
And I think in recruiting staff initially when I received a substantial multi-year contract cooperative agreement with the National Institute of Corrections, I had the opportunity to bring in a team of people to work on PREA. And that was early in the legislation, and I brought in people I’d worked with through NIC on various projects on staff sexual misconduct, because we worked on staff sexual misconduct almost a decade before PREA. And so I brought in those folks to be on my initial team, about 15 people that I really trusted, and knew the work.
And so just to back up a little bit, when I was at NIC, I was so impressed with people in the field that may not be known, be they researchers or practitioners, but they just did such dedicated excellent work.
And so part of the motivation for me to start the Moss Group is, I knew there was such talent out there that needed to be more involved. And so I would say I started with those 15. They knew people who knew people. I was out in the field quite a bit and met people I was impressed with. And so it has been 21 years of continuing to be open and look for opportunities when we can bring in very talented people, and that has created momentum for us. And I also committed myself to be a reentry employer, which is not very well known. I’ve had 5 folks that were reentering through the years, which taught me an awful lot. But I, I’m very fortunate you know, where we’re from, Steve, our good Southern roots, I have to say, I feel blessed.
I think that to the degree that we have any secret ingredient or edge at the Moss Group in terms of talent is, any survey I do on staff, any feedback I asked for to a person, they’re dedicated to our mission. And that mission is really very reform minded, but within the system, really trying to help people.
There’s so many heroes and heroines out there in our field that never get acknowledged but whatever we can do to help create a positive direction for those folks. Those are the kind of people I want on our team. And so the other thing is, I named it in the Moss group. Susan Hunter named it, actually. She’s now deceased, but she was the chief of the prisons division and, I wanted a group and I, it wasn’t going to be like, just me and associates. I intended from day 1 to create a team. I’m a team sports person. And so the other characteristic of our staff and who I recruit is they have to be team oriented.
We have stars, but they’re not stars that are not connected to the goals of the team and that brings me great joy to see us work as teams out in the field. And we keep meeting such fabulous people. I have 3 interviews this week with people who just want to see if there’s a project available.
So one of the hidden secrets, I think, about our field is how many people really, really care and have dedicated their career to it. I’m just very proud of the Moss Group team and they make me look good. At this point they should get all the credit because they work so hard and do such good work, but thank you for that.
They enjoy working with you as well.
Steve Carter: Well, I can sense your past coaching experience in the field of athletics coming forward in the way that you select and really involve your staff as a team in all of your correctional work. And some of my conversations with your staff, we always kind of come to this one point. Are we at a crossroads in corrections? I’ve been at this now for 50 odd years, But tell me if I’m wrong, I am sensing some kind of a sea change that is occurring in corrections, and maybe I’m just being a wide eyed optimist here, but I am seeing a focus on what is our real mission, and moving away from a more punitive approach to a more rehabilitative approach, and from the CGL side of it, doing that through the normalization of our environment, do you sense a change that might be occurring in corrections after all of these years of our being involved in it?
Andie Moss: I think you’ve given me a pretty difficult question. It’s an important question though. When you think about corrections at large, we have so many different characteristics of who we are.
I think that the effort in the last number of years around normalization, the trips many leaders have taken to Norway and other countries, and the work of CGL and others to say we can normalize an environment, the physical environment, I think that’s such important work. And I think it gets supported a lot by leadership and as that trickles into systems where folks other than the directors are also getting the opportunity to, to see how corrections could be done differently.
And of course, we’ve got our nonprofit groups, Vera Institute, Urban, a number of places that really promote what we can do. It goes back to what I would have called the last number of years, a hope based environment and bringing in more humanity and respect. And so when people talk about re-envisioning prison, I think we, if we just would use respectful language that would, you know, really go a long way. So I think that there’s a little bit of a cultural collision and that’s probably understated that we are so impacted right now by our lack of workforce capacity, and so we are facing our workforce crisis in corrections in terms of recruiting people in all of our positions, but particularly line officers.
And then we also are crippled, I think, in terms of bringing them in and not only recruiting staff, but retaining staff. And so we know that people don’t leave necessarily for money, although it’s been great, a couple of systems have really made a difference in their entry level pay and their correctional officer pay in that series and that’s good but we, we are learning and have learned that people leave because of poor supervision and among other work conditions. So, to me, there’s the vision and the aspiration of what we want to be, which is incredibly important and through all of our careers, if we didn’t have hope and excitement and curiosity and commitment to doing better, it would be a difficult career to want to live at the same time.
I think as we implement our notions of normalizing, I think we’ve got to put more effort into, what does that mean for staff up and down the line? And what do we need to do to help them? Engage and engagement is such an important part of keeping people as well. So, to answer your question, I think, yes, we are in a time that people are open to, a more respectful way to run our facilities to more research and programmatic success. And at the same time, if we don’t carefully and intentionally work with the staff on all levels, it’s going to be very hard to sustain cultural change that is socially significant.
Steve Carter: I was going to ask you what you thought were the 3 biggest issues that are going to be facing us over the next 5 to 10 years. I think you’ve just given me 2 out of the 3 right there as it relates to the staff side of it but beyond staff and the culture associated with staff development, do you see anything else on the horizon that we as a country or as individual states and local jurisdictions are going to be taking on over the next 5-10 years, that’s going to make a significant change in, corrections?
Andie Moss: I think it’s very interesting to learn more about what’s happening with technology. How that might change the landscape for us. And if we can be intentional about how to bring in more technology to be helpful,.I know you want me to talk apart from workforce, but it’s dramatic to me that we have 5 generations working in the workforce.
And so, I think that as we grow in our comfort with technology, with tablets with security measures that I wouldn’t be an expert on, but can imagine us increasingly being able to use technology to be helpful and to help us solve some issues of short staff. I also think technology is going to be a big player in better staff development, because I think using a hybrid of online training, if it’s well done, we can look at ways to, really work with younger generations who, it’s not enough just to stick a computer in front of them, but what can we really learn about the best use of technology? And I don’t think we’re there, but I think we’re interested. And I think people are trying things. So the other thing is, I would hope in the next 5 years that we have more conversations deeper and more useful and in true reentry. And what are the challenges, barriers to reentry? How can we work more productively with that? How can we support as we say in DC, returning citizens? And I think we can’t have fear based correctional environments and then say we promote reentry because reentry really is, other wiser people have said, needs to start the day they walk in the door. And so I think in some ways, I feel like the next 5 years, there’s a bucket of things that we’re currently doing that in the next 5 years if we could do them a whole lot better. It’s not finding the next shiny object, it’s just how can we create humanity, how can we create respectful language in our facilities, how can we have the resources for staff to do their work.
There’s a lot of emphasis on staff wellness, as there should be. Suicides are up in corrections, both with inmates and with staff. And so, I think in the next five years we’re going to be very challenged with running facilities. I’m all for those advocates that are, who have the insight of having lived experience.
I’m all for what are the alternatives to incarceration? Who gets incarcerated? What can we learn from our research? How can we have a better system, a more fair system? I think in the next five years, I would hope that we find ways to talk better about the diversity in underserved populations. I think with the current discomfort and controversy with language, whether it’s diversity and equity and inclusion or or how we can be an inclusive profession and be a profession that studies who is incarcerated and who should be incarcerated or not? And so I’m kind of bouncing around it, but it just strikes me having 40 years in this profession. If we look at those core values that we say we’re committed to, if we could get better at those core values that people do deserve a second chance, that we do need to have the support systems as they get out and diversion on the front end.
You know, why are people coming into our system, and I think the collaborations that I’m seeing between corrections professionals and some of the advocates encourage me in many cases, I think when we get into who’s right and only one person’s right, I think we, we lose the opportunity to really grow together.
So, yeah, I guess I could write out my strategic plan for the next 5 years that’s what it would probably look like. Some of the same goals that I’ve had in the past, but with more intentionality about some aspects of it.
Steve Carter: I’m so pleased to hear you say that as we look towards corrections over the next few years that we just may be expanding the conversation to say what values are driving the choices that we’re going to make, be it on the operation side and management or for us on the planning and in the design side of it.
So values driven is operative word here. I want to ask you a couple of things and then we’ll conclude here. These are going to be a perhaps a bit more personal. You’ve received a lot of awards going back to the Susan Hunter award. You mentioned Susan earlier, and all that she did at NIC. I had the wonderful pleasure of working with her in a number of situations, the National Academy of Corrections at NIC. You won that award. You recently won the CASS award. You won the AJA Lifetime Achievement Award. And you’re a women owned business. You got any particular suggestions that you might make to any woman who is listening to this about the challenges of becoming a women owned business?
Now, I’m not trying to suggest that any of the CGL women, and we have some outstanding women on our staff, take your advice and run out and start for companies, but, there are others who will be listening to this podcast that wonder how do you do this?
As a woman with all of the barriers that somehow seem to get put in place about women who have aspirations and intellect and want to form a company and actually run something. So what were your secrets? How did you do it? And what advice would you have for anyone else that wants to do this?
Andie Moss: Call me for coffee first.
You know, Steve, I look back over the last 21 years of the Moss Group and I had the support at home to say, I wonder if I could. And so, nurturing your support system, whatever that is, is always so important. And a lot of times in corrections, we forget the people who love us and don’t lean into that enough.
And so, I’ve been very fortunate to have support at home and as well as the supportive family overall and great friends. I spent a good bit of time before I left NIC talking to people I had respect for and I had a really, very unsettling early career. I couldn’t decide what I wanted to be.
You know, I taught school. I was in mental health inpatient work. I started in corrections. I started in training, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do. And I finally settled down when I decided who I wanted to be instead of what I wanted to be. And so, if you are thinking about starting your own thing, it’s really important to say why, you know, why would I start something?
And what would be my vision for that? And so it became apparent to me in my Georgia years, in my NIC years, that there was so much work to be done, kind of boots on the ground work, really helping people and that in government, it moves slowly. And you may plan something that doesn’t get funded and it’s difficult.
And so, for me, again, I was inspired by people who were in the field doing great work. And so, I would say a significant number of my promotions or responsibilities through the years had to do with, I find a gap in something and I offered to do it. And so, when we were changing, we were building 10,000 bed facilities in Georgia, I was director of programs, but I felt like we were redoing the startup every time, and I wanted to develop a manual for startup of mission change and our opening facilities. And so that got me some attention with the commissioner and blah, blah, blah. So I think looking for opportunities, whether you have your own business or you’re in a traditional field or organization.
The other thing is, know your why, why you want to do it. Have some practical input from people you trust, those that would challenge you as well as those who would support you, and then assess your willingness to take risk because the Moss group was a, a big risk. I wasn’t bankrolled. I had to create it and it’s, it’s been incredibly rewarding and continues to be. I would encourage anyone that has the interest in a particular set of issues that they feel they can contribute that is a niche or adds to an area that really needs more capacity, but to and this is very personal, I mean, for me, even though it’s a bit nontraditional, it’s been really important for me to have a grounded appreciation of a spiritual practice. I’ve already mentioned the support system and as one person told me, one wise person when I was scared of something, I mean, I was very fearful when I started the Moss group. The advice I got was, it’s only terror, you know, it’s only terror so, you have to have some pretty strong, components in your toolbox and those to me would be the support and love of whoever’s in your orbit and if you can articulate what you want to do and you have people who can see that and really say, it’s not just an okay idea, that’s really a good idea. That helps a lot. And I was fortunate to have that. I certainly had criticism as well.
And then I’d have to acknowledge that early on, I was in the first class of NIC’s Executive Women’s Program, which was in 1994. And many women in the class were first, because it wasn’t until ‘75 that women could work in men’s facilities. So many of them were the first wardens of a men’s facility, or the first deputy, and there were 18 of us, and we just found each other and found such great, great common ground.
And we talked NIC into adding a second year, and then we talked the class into starting an association with the class behind us. And so that’s the Association of Women Executives and Corrections. Twenty, I think, seven of us started it maybe 26 years ago. We now have over 700 members. And so, knowing who you can pick up the phone to talk to, who will absolutely be honest with you, who you will trust and finding both your laughing place, which we do a lot, and your crying place.
Yeah. Having those kinds of supports around me and then a wonderful staff but as you well know, you’ve done this yourself. A lot of this is not gender specific. But be prepared to have, wonderful, exhilarating good days and then disappointing days. And we have that no matter where we sit in our profession.
I think when it’s on your shoulders and it’s your organization, it intensifies in terms of, you’re really responsible for your vision. And I like that responsibility. I didn’t know if I would make it or not. Susan Hunter and I talked a lot about it at that time in the feds.
I don’t know if it’s the same. You have a three year window where you can come back to the feds without having to go through the same kind of application process as a new person. And so, Susan made it clear that I was welcome back at NIC. I think that because I also had, through the issue of sexual abuse in confinement, had been asked to go around the country talking about these issues again before PREA and that built muscles for me around my interest in culture change and that I didn’t see a place for the work and operating governmental organizations in the same way. So, so that’s a lot. But like I said, anybody interested, you call me for coffee. I, I certainly, I certainly have regrets. I have things I wish I’d done differently. At this point in a career, it’s much clearer to look back on decisions you made and say, what was I thinking? Or that was, that was an okay decision and somebody helped me with that. So it’s a wonderful time. People don’t talk about the, the joys of getting more senior in your profession. I think you and I have talked about this and you certainly have such a rich background and you have, you’ve been such an inspiration to me, Steve.
So, so I think I encourage people to embark on their dream, but sometimes your dream isn’t clear. Crystallize it with support and talking to other people.
Steve Carter: Oh, wonderful. I’ll just ask you one other one. How do you maintain that work/life balance? What gets you up in the morning and how do you maintain staying up in the morning? You still go out and shoot hoops on the basketball court or anything? How do you do this?
Andie Moss: Occasionally I’ve tried that. But then my knees are sore. It’s a great question that everybody has to answer.
How do you get up in the morning? How do you keep going? Sometimes it’s fear based because the to do list is overwhelming and frightening. Again, keeping that hope and believing that you’re making a difference or believing that you have the opportunity to make a difference.
As you know, Steven, I’m going to say this in case other people listening are struggling with it. As you know, I lost my beloved life partner during Covid and that was a personal setback that I, I’ve just never experienced that level of pain. I’ve had disappointments, but so when you talk about, how do you get up in the morning? I’ve had to really reevaluate that because it’s been so difficult.
And I don’t know of a better answer, whether you’re trying to get yourself up and motivated for a day in the institution, or if you’re trying to motivate yourself to go speak at Congress, I don’t know of a better framework than to remind yourself you’re serving others and that I’m not by any means perfect in doing that, but I think the only way I know how to significantly heal is to work with other people who appreciate what you’re trying to do to help them.
And that sounds a little bit kind of nice talk, but I think for those of your audience who may be listening, managing your life balance, I would say don’t do it like me. When you and I look at our frequent flyer miles, overwhelming. Make sure that you are paying attention to home. You don’t know how long you’ll have home and make sure that you have a practice that keeps you, periodically or daily, looking at your priorities. My own practice is that I write a lot. I journal. I read a lot. And I try to keep that laughing and crying place with the friends that I know are there for me.
But if you want a long career in corrections, I think these are really important things to pay attention to. You don’t have to talk about it. You don’t have to do it the way other people do it. But you’ve got to have something in your core that helps you keep going north.
Steve Carter: What an incredible professional and personal answer. Andie, I can’t thank you enough. You’re a wonderful friend. You’re a much trusted colleague. I like being at your side when we’re doing our work together. So, this has been a wonderful time to spend with you today and getting some of the insights and what, not only makes the Moss group tick, but more importantly, why Andie Moss is such an important part of our correctional community today.
So, I want to thank you. And I want to thank everyone who’s been listening to our podcast today. There are a lot more episodes that CGL has done on our standard podcast platforms, which includes Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, or you can visit CGLCompanies.com/podcasts.
And if you have some suggestions of topics you’d like to see us address or other personalities in our profession that you would like us to address then please do not hesitate to contact us. And you can do that at podcast@CGLcompanies.com. So again, thank you, Andie and thank all of you who have taken the time out of your day to listen to our podcast.
Have a good day.