Listen to CLA’s successes and struggles, its importance as a resource for new directors, and how it enables its leadership and members to stay as informed and engaged as possible.

The duties and expectations of a new DOC director can be overwhelming, even for highly qualified candidates. “Once correctional directors and leaders join the Correctional Leaders Association, they are empowered with information, able to confidently make changes, and can more easily adapt to unprecedented obstacles,” says Kevin Kempf, Executive Director of the Correctional Leaders Association.

Together with hosts Eli Gage and Ken McGinnis, Kevin discusses CLA’s successes and struggles, its importance as a resource for new directors, and how it enables its leadership and members to stay as informed and engaged as possible.

In this episode, we explore:

  • The immediate and long-term benefits of Correctional Leaders Association membership and participation
  • The extensive screening and vetting process for directors in consideration, and what directors can expect once appointed
  • Tools and techniques for effective planned or unprecedented transition
  • The importance of having independent evaluations during the first 90 days of your term, which will help you identify a baseline of issues and establish solutions
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Meet Our Guests

Kevin Kempf

Kevin Kempf

Kempf began his career in 1995 as a correctional officer at Pocatello Women’s Correctional Center in the State of Idaho. He went on to serve in a variety of positions including parole officer, investigator, section supervisor, district manager, warden, chief of prisons and deputy director. The Idaho Board of Correction appointed Kempf director of the department in December 2014.

As director, Kempf was responsible for the entirety of IDOC’s operations including its 10 prisons, four community re-entry centers and seven probation and parole districts. The department has an annual budget of $220 million and employs nearly 2,000 corrections professionals. They are responsible for the incarceration and community supervision of 22,000 felony offenders.

Under Kempf’s leadership, the Department of Correction experienced reform in almost every area. Projects like Justice Reinvestment, Justice Program Assessment and Restrictive Housing Reform continue to have many positive effects on the system and elevated IDOC as one of the best corrections agencies in the country.

In 2006, Kempf was appointed to the Interstate Commission for Adult Offender Supervision. The commission is the national organization that oversees the transfer and relocation of felony offenders across state lines. During Kempf’s six years as Idaho’s representative, his peers twice elected him to leadership positions. He first served as treasurer and later as vice president of the organization.

Kempf was an active member of the Correctional Leaders Association (CLA). Kempf served as Chairman of the Program and Training Committee and Treasurer of the Western States CLA.

In December 2016 Kempf was chosen as the Executive Director of the Correctional Leaders Association (CLA). CLA members are the CEO of Corrections for the United States.

The Governor of the State of Idaho, C.L. Butch Otter, named December 16th “Kevin Kempf” day in Idaho for his tireless work and dedication to public safety.

Kenn McGinnis

Kenn McGinnis

Ken has more than 42 years of professional experience in the management of correctional institutions, programs and organizations and has spent the last 14 years providing consultation to correctional agencies and organizations across the U.S. His governmental responsibilities have ranged from the management and administration of all facets of the Illinois and Michigan correctional systems to serving as warden and directing the operations of maximum, medium, and minimum-security adult institutions.

Ken served as the chief administrative officer of two of the nation’s largest and most complex correctional systems—the Illinois Department of Corrections and the Michigan Department of Corrections. His professional duties and responsibilities have encompassed virtually every aspect of the criminal justice system and included adult institutions, juvenile detention, probation, parole supervision, parole board decision making and guidelines, community corrections and alternatives, sentencing structure, sentencing guidelines, security technology, facility construction and design, accreditation, and detention standards.

Podcast Transcript

Eli Gage: well, hello everybody and welcome to the 360 Justice podcast. I’m your host, Eli Gage and I’m joined today with my cohost, friend, partner in crime, and corrections, operation and management expert. Ken McGinnis. Thanks for joining me again, Ken.

Ken McGinnis: It’s great to be here.

Eli Gage: Yeah, we’re excited today to talk to Kevin Kempf finally. The Executive Director of the Correctional Leaders Association and former Director of the Idaho Department of Corrections. Kevin you began your career as a Correctional Officer in 1995 at the Pocatello Women’s Correctional Center in state of Idaho. And went on to serve a number of different positions [00:01:00] in the Idaho DOC, before you were appointed to Director in 2014. So we really appreciate you making time for us.

Kevin Kempf: Oh, Eli. I love this, and I’m not just saying this cause I’m on air with you guys. Really spending time with, with two people that I absolutely admire and look up to giants in the industry. I love it. So I was really looking forward to this today. Ah, serious.

Eli Gage: Well, we appreciate that and I feel the same way. So I want to start with the important stuff, the Bonneville Bees.

Kevin Kempf: Yeah. Are you still coaching for them? Yes, sir. I’m still coaching and Full disclaimer, in case anyone Googles, how we’re doing, we are, we’re not winning a lot on Friday nights. Let’s just put it that way, you know? But that said, man, I it’s, it’s the favorite part of my day to go and to coach these kids it’s a great school. Great kids. Absolutely love it.

Eli Gage: That’s great. I’ve coached a lot as a [00:02:00] father. When my kids were in high school, I coached lacrosse and I look back on that and I go, boy, I wish I had that over again.

Kevin Kempf: It’s great. I mean, as you know, corrections can be a grind sometimes. So I do my thing all day doing corrections, which I also love that, man. I it’s so nice just to be able to turn it off. And put on shorts and a t-shirt throw a whistle over my neck and just go be around, you know, 120 freaking great kids, man. I love it.

Eli Gage: Yeah. That’s great that you give back like that? That’s commendable. Kevin, I think I was trying to remember you and I met, I believe it was 2012 or 2013 and I think you were the deputy director.

Kevin Kempf: Yeah, I do. You’re exactly right. That’s I think that was the first time that we’ve actually. Right.

Eli Gage: And that was in your office and then you later a year or two, maybe even less than that later became the director. So walk us through your, your experience.

Kevin Kempf: Yeah thanks. So as you mentioned before, I started my [00:03:00] career in 1995 as a correctional officer. I come from a family of cops, so I’ve got uncles that were police officers, both my older brothers were police officers. And when I finished college, that’s certainly where I was going to go is, you know, I put in a bunch of applications for, for police officer jobs, but also put in an application for the department of corrections here in Idaho. The corrections called first, I went and interviewed and got a correctional officer job. And really, probably like a lot of people I was only going to use it as a stepping stone to where I thought I wanted to go, but I got into corrections and I fell in love with the job, fell in love with the people, the staff. Loved to have an opportunities to provide people to change and man it just it got into my soul and it’s all I’ve ever wanted to do since then. And so very, very blessed to, to work my way up through the department of corrections and in a variety of jobs, both in probation and parole and prisons.[00:04:00]

And ultimately, as you mentioned, ultimately, wind up in that director seat, which. Which is a pretty amazing two years to be, to be the director in Idaho. I absolutely loved it.

Eli Gage: And then now you’re the executive director of the newly named CLA.

Kevin Kempf: Yeah. Yeah. That’s right. So what’s crazy is, Eli, when I was the city director in Idaho, I’m telling you I could not fathom Leaving that job ever. I could not have been happier. And George camp and Camille Camp, they were the, you know, executive directors of ASCA, which, you know, those, those two are giants. I mean, they’re literally like have rockstar status with me, just I’ve loved them. It goes on and on and on with what they’ve provided. Corrections on a national level and, you know, they announced their retirement that they were going to be leaving the job. And, and so that opportunity just, it looked like a once in a lifetime opportunity because they they’d been doing that for 30 years[00:05:00] and so as I got approached and asked what my interest level might be. Again, I just didn’t think it would ever happen to her. I would leave the leave Idaho, leave the department of corrections, but that opportunity came about. And I just simply couldn’t pass it up because I’m a very close second at the time to Idaho of my love for people was ASCA.

I mean, I go to the, I went to all those ASCA meetings and conferences and, you know, you’ve attended a lot of those of course Ken as well. Yeah, you get to rub shoulders with the Ken McGinnis’s of the world on a national level and I mean, I just, I felt very, very blessed then to be able to do that. And I feel very, very blessed now to still be able to do it. And I just love it. I love the job. Love the people pinch myself all the time, that I’m in a role like this.

Eli Gage: I got to say that I’m speaking from the supplier service provider community, we did ASCA for years prior to it becoming [00:06:00] CLA and from a supplier side, all they ever wanted to do was to have time to get in front of the director so that they could help, because I think that the supplier vendor community really does believe that they have a service to offer and, and want to be a part of it. And one of the things that I’ve noticed since the transition has been your awareness of that and making that side of the business more encompassing.

I got to tell you, thank you from our side of the business your awareness of that and making it a conduit to get there because all these guys want to help. That’s really the basis, you know, they’re not trying to shove product down somebody’s throat. They really want to help. And so thank you for that.

Kevin Kempf: Well, yeah, I mean, I appreciate you acknowledging that. And, and I also wholeheartedly know this to be true that our partners are true partners and they do come to the table with solutions [00:07:00] to our problems. But just kind of going back on what you just said, and I know this is going to sound like i’m, kind of blowing smoke your way, I don’t mean for it to sound like this, but it’s not lost on me and nor would we be as successful as we are right now, if it wasn’t for, for you Eli and you Ken. It’s if it was yesterday, you remember pulling me aside a couple of years ago, we went to dinner and, you were just very honest and said, look, is there some things that, that you guys should be doing, here’s some concerns from our perspective. That was good to hear. I mean, those are the types of things that we need to hear to make sure that we’re doing it the right way, and keeping, frankly important people like you happy. And so, I mean, I just appreciate that because a lot of, a lot of people, as you know, they’ll spend their days murmuring behind your back and really won’t confront you.

And, and when that happens, you know, not much change will take place. You and Ken have any ability to kind of pull us aside as an association and say, Hey, here’s, here’s some suggestions on what you can do different. [00:08:00] Here’s some things you probably should be aware of because some of the things that we were doing, maybe it wasn’t consistent with what we should be doing and, and again, that allows us to get better and to improve. And so I appreciate that and appreciate what you just said, kind of where we are.

Eli Gage: Well, you pulled it off. Good job.

Ken McGinnis: Hey Kevin while we’re talking about that, I was telling Eli what a success the Midwest directors was and one of the things that I think you’ve looked at and people have commented on is during the pandemic, most organizations like CLA have really struggled because of inability to meet as a group, lack of access CLA seems to really done a great job during the pandemic. How have you done that? Do you have suggestions for other organizations?

Kevin Kempf: Yeah. Well, thank you for saying that. Yeah, you’re right. It’s pretty remarkable. Through that past 18 months we had, we’ve actually grown, not only [00:09:00] grown and corporate partners but, in attendance through the virtual conferences and things like that, that we’ve been able to pull off. I think first and foremost, the credit should be given to our CLA board. Once things started to look bleak for us, and started to look like we weren’t going to be able to meet face to face, as both of you know, I think one of the things that makes CLA unique to a lot of other associations is, we are a pretty close family. Our members love each other. Our associates love each other. We’ve been in, in very, very challenging and difficult circumstances with each other, which I think brings about some level of, of brotherhood and sisterhood. So once it was determined that bleak times were ahead, our board did a great job of gathering up. We started talking about ways in which that we can stay engaged with our membership. And so early on we frankly contracted with an [00:10:00] organization that puts on large virtual conferences. That’s what they do. And we felt like that was a good investment for us to partner with them.

And I think what we were able to pull off in some of those virtual conferences that was great. Our members were able to interact with each other. Our associates were able to stay engaged and our corporate partners, to a large degree, we’re still able to have access to our members. Even more than that, we started to use this free technology, like the WhatsApp app.

And we put every single one of our members, into regions. And with their cell phone numbers in there and sometimes multiple times a day, if they had a question or a governor contacted them and said, Hey, I need to know what we’re doing with this or with that, as it relates to COVID. Or I need you to come down here to this, this cabinet meeting. It happened all the time. We would have a commissioner in New Hampshire get on that regional chat room that we created and say, “Hey, I’m heading down to the governor’s [00:11:00] office. What are you guys doing in your receiving in diagnostic unit right now about keeping COVID numbers down?” and they would get just instantly six and seven, eight, and 10 different responses back from their colleagues, and then be quickly armed with having information, to be able to change, to be able to adapt to what’s what’s happening and those types of things that I think we did early on and through the pandemic, I think allowed us, and I say us as an entire organization, to stay engaged as much as possible. And to arm our folks with information that they needed. As I look back, I think those were some of the more successful things. And there’s, there’s many more that took place, but I think it started with the leadership of our board, understanding the importance of not losing touch with our partners, our associates and our members.

Eli Gage: And you guys have a busy fall planned as I was looking at your schedule events?

Kevin Kempf: Yeah. Yeah. We’ll be in New York next week, for our Northeastern regional meeting. We just had a zoom meeting [00:12:00] with all of our Northeastern members about two hours ago that the attendance is going to be fantastic.

They’re all going to be there and we’re gonna be up in Niagara falls and then we’re going to turn back. We just finished as, we talked about before we just finished a Midwestern meeting and then we were in Nashville, just, I don’t know, four weeks or so ago for our summer conference. And then we’re going to close things out 2021 in November, we’re going to have our all directors and our new directors symposium, and that’s going to be in South Carolina. So we’re really, really looking forward to, to that because as you know, we have a lot of brand new directors out there. And again, another challenge for us, through COVID was there was a lot of director changes through that time period. And it was challenging to make sure that we were able to tap into them right away, get them engaged in to CLA and hook them up with mentors, even albeit, virtually, that would kind of start to grow roots into [00:13:00] CLA. This is my first time being in an executive director of an association, I didn’t know this beforehand, but I could tell you now it’s my greatest fear, the thing that keeps me up at night is first and foremost, having memberships, not happy or not finding, being a part of this association useful.

And as you know, it would just be a domino effect. If you have members that just aren’t engaged, don’t want to be around, then everything else would suffer. When we went through that this past 18 months, we made it a very, very important focus for us that when a new director came on board and we bombarded them to make sure that they felt welcomed, that they understood what CLA was and, and the value that it provides them as a director.

All of that to say, Eli, busy fall. I’m very much looking forward to it, and as you can imagine, keeping our fingers crossed that this Delta variant doesn’t derail anything for us. [00:14:00]

Eli Gage: So to put that number in perspective, and I actually had written that down and I don’t know when the change over was, but I think you, you had 26 new directors at one point last fall?

Kevin Kempf: That’s that’s about right. It’s a lot. And we do some things, Ken will know, you guys know that when you become a new director, you just get inundated with emails and phone calls and all these different things. And so it’s hard for an association to get in there and get their attention right from the get go. So, we changed some things up, you know, and we’d started starting a couple years ago, we create this, swag packet, really. And we put like, you know, CLA pins in there. We put this like super nice folder in there that has all of these, colored photos and our committees. And it’s awesome. And, and also this leatherback filofax that has CLA right on it. The department of corrections in Colorado makes all this stuff for us. And anyways, and then we FedEx that to them deliberately, [00:15:00] overnight. So along with the little cards and notes and all that good stuff that a new director, we’ll get when their name is announced, they’ve got this big old FedEx thing that’s sitting on their desk. And we know that that’s generally going to get more attention than the other things that are on their desk. And, and that’s why we do it. We want them to rip that open, pull that up and say, man, this is the association that I’m now a part of because I was just named commissioner, secretary, director.

And get them feeling special and excited about being a part of it right away, you know, early, early on after that announcement. The other thing that we do, we immediately send a handwritten letter to the governor and expressing congratulations to him or her about their recent appointment and that we’re excited for them to be a part of the correctional leaders association and what value that’s going to bring to there governor not to that person. So we try to kind of catch it on a couple of different levels. And again, all in the interest of educating decision makers, back there about who we [00:16:00] are.

Ken McGinnis: Everything in corrections is cyclical and there seemed to be a period of time where while you’re talking about new directors, where most new directors were coming from outside the corrections community,

But in the last couple of years, it seems like it’s shifted back to where we’re getting now, again, appointees, who have extensive corrections experience. In your position, you treat those any different or you give some extra attention to the ones who aren’t necessarily familiar with CLA in the organization?

Kevin Kempf: Yeah. Yeah, we do. Anne Precythe is a great example. She’s the elected president of CLA and she’s the director of Missouri department of corrections. So Anne and I go back 12 years back when she was with North Carolina and I was coming up through Idaho, we were both part of the interstate compact commission both as deputy commissioners. And then later as commissioner. And just so, so Ann’s been around the business for years and years and years and years.

[00:17:00] And when she became the director of Missouri, she sent me this text message that said, now it said now comma what’s ASCA. And that was a light bulb moment for me. I’m the executive director of ASCA at the time. And here is a lifelong corrections. That doesn’t know what ASCA is and it just screened. It screamed to me that we are not doing a good enough job of growing roots and into organizations.

We’ve got to get to those deputy directors and those chiefs of staffs and those prison administrators, we’ve got to grow roots into these organizations for a variety of reasons. But going back to what you just said, we do a kind of variety of things right now to try to get more well routes into organizations. And you probably saw it in the past few years. We’re inviting deputy directors to our meetings. We invite the public information officers to our meetings. Tomorrow we’re doing a nationwide. A zoom call with every [00:18:00] single one of the human resources directors across the United States. We do it for a few different reasons, but one of those reasons is to educate them. Back to your question we spend a little bit more time with those directors that are getting chosen from like a county sheriff. As opposed to maybe one that’s coming up through the corrections ranks. Just because, you know, as you’re well aware, those counties sheriffs, they have a lot of detention experience and they certainly have a lot of experience being a sheriff.

So the political side of things that they typically get better than someone would if they came up through the corrections ranks. But as you know prison is just, it’s just different. A prison is just a different animal than it is. You know, the longterm, you know, people that are going to stay incarcerated there, there are incarcerated there and it just, everything is different.

And so we account for that when we start assigning mentors to people like that, to make sure that they have maybe a richer corrections background, if you will, that can help [00:19:00] someone that’s. Yeah, again, stepping into the role this is a little different than being a county sheriff.

Eli Gage: I have a question for both of you guys and it just kind of dawned on me, but I assume that once you get appointed director that you kind of know what’s coming, right? You have an idea.

Kevin Kempf: Ken, you want to take that one first?

Ken McGinnis: I’ve probably been around a little longer than Kevin. Yeah, I think you certainly know the opportunities coming, whether you’re going to get selected or not as another thing, but I think, it doesn’t come out of nowhere in most cases.

And I’ve heard new directors talk about it recently. It’s a very extensive screening process. You’re vetted in a lot of different ways. And so you’re very well aware that you’re under consideration. So it doesn’t come out of nowhere anymore, and may have been the case 30 years ago, but not anymore.

The vetting process, even as far back as when I was appointed, a couple of times was pretty incredible. And I was just talking to a [00:20:00] new director the other day about the vetting process. That individual went through and it’s very extensive.

Kevin Kempf: On a national level now, Eli, we have a, director opening right now and in South Dakota and, Tennessee, has a commissioner opening. And I can’t remember the last time that we had a commissioner, secretary or director position open where I didn’t hear from the national governors association, I get contacted by NGA and they say, man, who’s out there?

What do you think? Who would be a good for the good fit for this role? Which is frankly all by design. I mean, we’ve spent a lot of time partnering with NGA and wanting to have some level of influence there on, on who’s going to get chosen. But I think I agree with Ken, I think to some degree you maybe know what’s coming and then I think you get into those shoes and I, you know, I was a deputy director for, for quite a while. And, and I remember I would go into my director’s office at the time was Brent. [00:21:00] And he’d be white knuckling it, and he would have having a terrible day. And frankly, as the deputy director, I would hmm and I would ha and I’d make the same noises he would make.

But then I’d walk out of his office and go, man, it sucks to be him and I’d be off to doing whatever. And then when I, when I became the director, I had that same deputy director coming into me and he would hmm and ha and make the same facial expressions that would make. And when he would leave, I would always think, I know exactly what that sucker’s thinking right now, man. Like it’s just, it’s a different animal when you’re in those.

Eli Gage: That’s a good answer. I know Ken and, I’ve talked about this and I want it. The question that I have is what do you do first? Especially the men or women that are coming in outside of the field? I know Ken has always clued me into the, to the incoming directors that he said this guy’s is gonna do well, because he’s called not just us, but he’s set a baseline for where he is. So in other words, [00:22:00] what do I have now and how am I going to improve that? So in rudimentary terms, where do you start? And I’ll ask Ken first, but what’s the first order of business.

Ken McGinnis: It’s almost different in every situation, depending upon where you came from and what the challenges are. You know, when I became director in Illinois, I was like, Kevin, I already knew that organization. So I didn’t have a learning period hours or already there. When I came to Michigan, really, I spent a considerable amount of time learning who the folks were what the organization was about and what the challenges were. And I think most directors are probably in that situation where they’re trying to learn their organization and what the challenges are they faced, and then trying to develop some immediate steps to respond to those challenges.

But I think it’s different in virtually every state depends on where you come from [00:23:00] your background and your knowledge is that system.

Kevin Kempf: Yeah. And, and Eli, I’ll give you an example I’m a firm believer in the interest of transparency and, and gaining trust with elected officials. We brought in outside groups, outside organizations to help us determine to evaluate where we were. And you might remember CGL is one of those organizations you guys came in, you did an excellent job with a large staffing analysis of, of where we were kind of evaluating what we needed to do. What our inmate population was doing, where it was trending. Inmate population-wise and this is what we need. And so to gain trust and to be more transparent, you know, we asked you guys to come in and do that for us. And, and I think that document, that report and because it came from the outside there wasn’t any suspicious eyes on it. And so our elected officials, our decision-makers, our governor’s office were able to kind of sink their teeth in. And then help provide the resources that we needed at [00:24:00] the time, because, you know, we could see where we were going, but we didn’t really know how to truly measure it. And so I say all that to say, I think one of the best things a new director can do, especially if he or she is coming in under challenging circumstances is to get someone from the outside to come in and help them. Bring in a partner from the outside and steer them in the direction of where you think they need to go. The types of things that you want to evaluate or measure. And then use that type of report, use that type of information to be able to then go to a governor’s office and our legislature to, to get what you need to get the job done.

Ken McGinnis: It’s interesting. You say that because. One of our mutual friends. Harold Clark taught me a long time ago about the value of having independent evaluations during the first 90 days of your term. Particularly if you’re coming from outside of the organization, because you just [00:25:00] simply don’t have time to get up to speed on all the issues you need to get up.

And he routinely, he moved from three or four states and he routinely. Somebody in a couple of times us come in and, and establish the baseline of what the issues were, identify some recommendations mainly to help educate him very quickly. So within 90 to 180 days, he was up to speed. Whereas if you tried to do that yourself, you’d be at the two year mark before you had all that information on your desk. I think what you say is applicable to the situation with a lot of new directors. Yeah.

Kevin Kempf: Yep. Agreed.

Eli Gage: So let me switch gears real quick. Kevin, you’re interacting with these guys probably more than anybody. Ken spends a lot of time at the CLA events and talking to the various secretaries, directors, commissioners. Can you give us, maybe the two of you, give us a kind of a state of the market, because what I was thinking about when you were [00:26:00] just talking about this baseline study kind of figuring out where we are now and where we want to go as a trend in our market right now from a, from a planning design program management facility, maintenance company perspective we’re in this I guess it would be a planning mode right now, Ken knows this better than anybody. A lot of the states that, a lot of the counties are, are planning their work, which always says to me that, you know, it doesn’t necessarily mean that building is coming, but they’re getting their ducks in a row. So that, you know, when the pandemic ends or whatever happens next, that they’re prepared for the next step. And so we see that as a company that we’re kind of in that mode right now, but I’m curious, you know, having just come from the Midwest directors or wherever else, just your interaction, what is top of mind to these guys right now? What are they talking about?

Kevin Kempf: Yeah. I’ll tell you the number one topic right [00:27:00] now is staffing. The number one topic, I think without question, that is a significant, significant concern for our directors right now, it’s it dominates the conversations. As you know, it’s challenging under normal circumstances but now COVID absolutely stressed that, and now, with the testing, you know, matter of fact, again, just spent the last hour with our Northeastern, directors and a lot of states are talking about this mandatory testing for staff and mandatory testing and, or, vaccination. If decisions like that are getting made at a level that truly doesn’t understand corrections, then, then they’re missing something significant because what’s happening is we have a lot of, we have a lot of correctional staff out there that are just not coming to work there. They’re not going to do it.

And so they don’t want to get tested every week and, or they don’t want to [00:28:00] be vaccinated. Right, wrong or indifferent it’s just, that’s what’s happening right now at alarming levels across the United States. So that of course is only intensifying the staffing issues that these directors are having. I think that right now is what’s dominating, their talks, their conversations, their concerns.

And so again, I think the approach is, as you would imagine, it’s talking about how can we retain staff? How can we recruit staff? Those types of things. But I think we need to put as much energy and effort into doing other things to, to tackle this issue and that, and that’s regards to facility design, what is proper staffing? What kind of technology can we use? And I guess to that facility design piece, I’m a major, major advocate. I I’ve been converted when I, when I went across the seas and, and took a look at prisons that were in Norway. I’m telling you, I walked into [00:29:00] prisons and I’m not even talking about prisons that we would never build here. There’s just some unrealistic things that are happening over there. But I’m talking about prisons, right in the middle of Oslow that you know, is a prison that was built in the early 19 hundreds. It looks like a prison that would be built here in the United States. It’s old, it’s been converted to different things, but you walk into that prison.

It smells like Starbucks. I mean, there’s paint everywhere on the walls. There’s art everywhere on the walls. And I don’t know. I know that sounds maybe whatever, but I was just converted to that to think, man, our staff by and large. And I’ll just use Idaho as an example, you know, or going into, to kind of cold, gray, loud environments every day for the next 20 or 30 years.

You know, it smells like a prison. When I went back there, I was just converted to, and there’s, there’s gotta be a different way that we can provide a better work environment for our staff and a better living [00:30:00] environment for people that are incarcerated. I think all of those efforts and paying staff more, doing all the things that we have to do to try to retain staff, but also equal amounts of efforts in creating a work environment for them.

That you know, frankly is a lot more enjoyable to, to work in. I think I mean, I’m pretty passionate about that. So I don’t know if that answers your question, Eli, but that’s certainly what came to mind is I is I think about right now, what are directors you’re talking.

Eli Gage: Well, the labor shortage is real. Everybody that I’ve talked to has had a problem with that. And, and maybe that ends soon. I don’t know. But it’s a challenge for sure.

Ken McGinnis: Yeah. I was listening yesterday to the budget hearings in Florida and the data that deputy secretary Dickson was doing the presentation on staffing and the impact of staffing, or lack of staffing on their day to day operations is just staggering. And I don’t, I think though [00:31:00] the legislators on that committee were taken aback by the information he was providing. But quite frankly, I’ve heard the same story as you have, Kevin from virtually every jurisdiction. It’s just everywhere. It’s not. It’s not a Southern problem. It’s not a Northeastern problem. It’s a national problem that really impacts everything. And I think systems are looking at realigning, their entire systems based on staff availability, as Florida has done closing multiple facilities just simply because they don’t have the staff to operate. Yeah.

Kevin Kempf: Eli, can I ask you a question?

Eli Gage: You bet.

Kevin Kempf: From what I know of you, I mean your background, your very successful in media and marketing or whatnot. I love this idea that you’re doing podcasts. I think in my pain, there’s a huge space right now for this, a podcast that, you know, can focus on corrections to talk about corrections.

And I think there’s a big market for it personally. [00:32:00] But just curious, what do you think we should be doing right now? I mean, I know the pay stuff and all that kind of stuff, but any ideas from a marketing perspective or, or ways in which the we can get our industry out there more to attract different people or anything come to mind about.

Eli Gage: Yes.

Kevin Kempf: Well, and if you want to hear it.

Eli Gage: Listening to you I think we have a narrative problem. I mean, certainly it’s no surprise to you that in the last year our industry, if you will, has been a bit under siege the advocacy groups want to shut down prisons. They want to I’m blanking the word un-incarcerate?.

Kevin Kempf: Oh, D incarcerate

Eli Gage: incarcerate. One of the things that I’m very passionate about is kind of what I said earlier is that our market, and I look at CGL as an example of that, everybody at CGL is super passionate about what we do, [00:33:00] and they’re not about locking up and throwing away the keys. Your comment earlier about color, you know, gray. It doesn’t cost any more to paint, as an example of Las Colinas in San Diego, an orange paint is no more expensive than a gray paint.

Yeah. Explaining to people that if you don’t have programming space, there is no place to be programmed. And I don’t think we do a very good job. And this was actually going to be one of my questions to you is what can we do as an industry to make sure that these people are realizing that, Ken’s heard this a million times, but I use the phrase if not us, then who?

Kevin Kempf: Yeah.

Eli Gage: and I just think the narrative is skewed so that we become the bad guys. When in fact we’re the ones that are the biggest proponent of change. And by the way, it’s not just for the inmates. And it goes back to the staffing piece, which is it’s a [00:34:00] lot for the correctional. Yeah, a better place to work, a safer environment someplace where the inmates can not sit in their cells all day. And so I feel like the oil and gas industry right now in some ways, and that we’ve gotten a, a black eye and we don’t know how to get out of it. And I, and I’ve seen some of the correspondence, some of the outreach that you’ve done, which I think was really gutsy by the way.

I think that’s the right move. And Gary Moore was on with us not long ago, and he’s kind of saying the same thing and we just do it. I think we need to do a better job of standing up for, you know, what Gary Moore calls the most undervalued. I can’t remember exactly the word he used, but he basically was talking about these correctional officers go in every day and probably have more conflict than a police officer on a day in and day out basis.

Kevin Kempf: Oh yeah. Agreed.

Eli Gage: These guys are the real heroes and we’re not supporting them, I don’t think. [00:35:00] And it’s sad because we’ve all spent our lives. I’ve spent my life doing this work and being a proponent and we seem to become suddenly the bad guys and I hate that for everybody in our industry. So, good question.

Kevin Kempf: You want to know? Well podcast? No, no, no, no, but I just, I thank you for that answer because I mean it, it’s meaningful coming from you because you have a different perspective. I just think you’re spot on. I think, as an industry, you know, I don’t know, I’m not sure if that’s the right word, but as an industry, you are right, man. We, we need to tell our story better and louder. Because others are telling it for us. And many cases they’re not accurate and they’re painting a vulgar picture. When in fact, you know, we don’t have knuckle dragging leaders in these organizations, we have people that absolutely care and they care about providing opportunities for change and anybody, but I’m not going to try to restate it because you said it best.

Eli Gage: Well, [00:36:00] thank you. I feel very strongly about that. Like you do. And as I said, there’s not one person at CGL that’s not trying to make a difference. And we live and breathe that every day.

Kevin Kempf: Yeah. Agreed to that point, Eli, have you guys had, I apologize for not knowing this, but have you had some of our current directors, commissioners, secretaries on the podcast yet, or, or planning.

Eli Gage: Oh, yeah John Wetzel was one of our first, about a year ago. We’ve had several of them.

Kevin Kempf: Good. Yeah. That’s good. I was, yeah, because I was going to point you in the direction of some of them.

Ken McGinnis: Several who have agreed to do a podcast in the future. We’ve approached to so good.

Kevin Kempf: Yep. You know I’m a big time fan of these leaders and that some of them, many of them would be awesome, you know, on a, on a podcast. But, and yeah, you hit, you probably hit the best one. Wetzel I mean, good gracious, man. I I’d pay money to listen to him on a podcast.[00:37:00]

Eli Gage: Well, listen, I’ve been warned that my podcasts are too long. So I’m gonna, I’m going to wrap this one up. Cause I think we got a lot of good stuff here. Kevin, thank you so much for making the time. It was great to talk to you and I’ll tell you, I couldn’t think of a better leader for CLA and I, I mean that.

Kevin Kempf: Well, Eli, thank you so much.

And Ken thank you as well it’s an honor, literally, to be on this podcast with, again, two people that I deeply deeply respect your monsters in the industry. And I thank you for your friendship and thanks for the opportunity to be on this podcast today.

Eli Gage: Thanks, Kevin.

Well, that was fun. Kevin Kempf would a good guy and Ken McGinnis my buddy. Thanks everybody for listening today. You can find this and other episodes on the standard podcast platforms, Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, Stitcher, and Spotify. Or visit us at If you have suggestions for topics that you want to hear covered or interested in being a guest, please let me know at [00:38:00] Thank you.