President's Commentary

A Bright Future

The jail was a canvas that provided me with unlimited opportunities to be part of a team and to problem solve.

It is my honor and privilege to serve as the 41st President of the American Jail Association (AJA). Let me begin by thanking you for placing your trust in me to lead this great organization that is dedicated to our nation’s jails.

I also send a thank you to my wife and children, whose unwavering support has provided me with the strength and courage to accomplish much in my professional career and service with AJA.

I have received tremendous backing from my sheriff, colleagues, family, and friends. Throughout the years, the AJA headquarters staff have been nothing short of spectacular, and I thank you for you hard work, dedication, and assistance. To all corrections professionals, vendor partners, and volunteers, you have served our nation’s jails with honor and dignity during one of the most difficult periods in modern history.

My Focus The focus of my term is to provide you with resources to improve your mental and physical health as well as to provide jail administrators with innovative tools to recruit, hire, and retain employees. These issues complement each other and can lead us to an improved future for our industry. The AJA Board of Directors, committee members, headquarters staff, and I will be working diligently on these initiatives. I can assure you that we are drawing on the expertise from variety of sources to meet these goals.

AJA continues to work relentlessly to offer the highest quality training, leadership academies, certification programs, webinars, and conferences. If you haven’t already done so, I challenge you to get more involved in the association through participation in these offerings and through volunteering to serve on a committee or as a trainer. My wonderful experience with AJA began as a conference attendee and subsequent presenter.

My Journey My journey in corrections began at Florida State University as a criminal justice major. (Go Seminoles!) Shortly after graduation, I had a brief two-year introduction into the criminal justice system by working with juvenile offenders who were diverted from court after committing minor crimes. This was a rewarding experience as I was able to assist at-risk youth and their families by assigning sanctions and services, along with attempting to gain restitution for victims.

When I decided to relocate in 1995, I applied and was hired by the Broward Sheriff’s Office Department of Detention. Twenty-six years later—and too many stories to tell—I found myself in a fantastic profession where I could make a positive contribution in a highly dynamic environment. The jail was a canvas that provided me with unlimited opportunities to be part of a team and to problem solve.

Anything is possible if you work hard and push yourself, even when it feels uncomfortable. The relationships and contacts that you make through participation with AJA offer peer support, knowledge, and networking—and all of these can last a lifetime. AJA offered me a way to grow professionally and personally. Through training or attending AJA’s Conference & Jail Expo, I could share industry best practices with my colleagues and staff. Presenting at conference afforded me the ability to showcase my agency nationally. And gaining Certified Jail Manager status demonstrated my commitment to the profession and meeting the highest standards for a jail professional. All of this has added to an incredibly rich career.

Behind the Scenes of AJA AJA continues to advocate on behalf of our membership through partnerships and agreements with governmental agencies such as the National Institute of Corrections, PREA Resource Center, Bureau of Justice Administration, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to name just a few. Additionally, we provide subject-matter experts and technical support regarding initiatives on public safety.

AJA also continues to work with other nonprofit groups such as the Council on State Governments, state jail associations, universities, and other organizations. Our Legislative Committee along with our lobbyist work tirelessly to inform national legislators about the needs of jails that require their support. There is a lot of work going on behind the scenes to enhance our profession.

Last Words My career motto and advice to other corrections professionals is this: Be your best, do the right thing, and treat people how you would like to be treated. As jail professionals, we have a duty to those whom we serve and serve with. This is an honorable profession that each of you should be very proud to have chosen for a career.

AJA is your partner for all that is jails, training, certification, leadership academies, and much, much more. The Board of Directors, AJA staff, and I are working diligently to serve you. I challenge you to reach out and be a little uncomfortable.

Thank you and be safe. DARREN SIEGER, MS, CJM President American Jail Association

Darren Sieger, MS, CJM