Incorporate Strategic Planning

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Strategic Planning is the cornerstone of implementing and sustaining the Correctional Industries Best Practices Model. Strategic planning is an organization 's process of defining its direction, goals, and strategies , and making decisions on allocating resources pursuant to those strategies. Strategic plans identify what an organization is striving to achieve and map out the necessary steps needed to be successful. Developing a strategic plan is a multi-step process with one step building off of another.

In Correctional Industries (CI), having a strategic plan is vital. A strategic plan shouldclearly define goals and measurements to assess both the internal and external situations. Formulating a strategic plan, implementing the strategies, evaluating progress and making adjustments as necessary will keep the CI’s purpose and direction on the right track.

A strategic plan includes having vision and mission statements that describe what you are doing and where you want to go. The vision and mission of a CI organization should include a focus on training and reentry, as well as the business aspects of the organization.


Strategic planning is a very important business activity that can be highly effective when incorporated in CI. No matter where your organization is in its development, it is always important to evaluate where it is currently, where you want it to be, and when. Strategic Planning is the process used in setting goals that will help lead the organization to success.

A strategic plan is dynamic, yet practical, and serves as a guide to implementing programs, evaluating how these programs are doing and making adjustments when necessary. A strategic plan reflects the needs of the organization and customers, and will integrate them with the organization's purpose, mission, and vision into a single document. The development of a plan requires much probing, discussion, and examination of the views of the leaders who are responsible for the plan's preparation. It is an excellent process in evaluating an organization and will provide a plan for incorporating best practices into daily processes.

The purpose of strategic planning is to assist CI in establishing priorities that will better serve the needs of incarcerated individuals, employees and stakeholders. 


1. Determine the current state of your Correctional Industry

In order to determine the future direction of the organization, it is necessary to understand its current position and the possible avenues through which it can pursue particular courses of action. This is harder than it looks. Some leaders see their organization how they want it to be, not how it actually appears to others.

Generally, the strategic planning process starts with at least one of four key questions:

  • What do we do?
  • For whom do we do it?
  • What do we want to look like?
  • How do we excel?

For an accurate picture of your Correctional Industry, conduct external and internal analysis to get a clear understanding of your organization’s competencies. Reviews may include conducting a SWOT (Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities, Threats) analysis, as well as reviewing departmental goals/strategies, legislation, core values, stakeholder and customer feedback, etc. The review should include an analysis of the focus of each industry and its culture. 

2. Identify what’s important

Focus on where you want to take your organization over time. This sets the direction of the CI program over the long term and clearly defines the vision and mission of what your future organization should look like. From this analysis, you can determine the priority issues—those issues so significant to the overall well-being of your CI program that they require the full and immediate attention of the entire management team. The strategic plan should focus on three to five key goals. Remember to include safety and security within CI operations, as they are critical to the sustainability of the CI program.

3. Define what you must achieve

Define the expected goals that clearly state what the organization must achieve to address the identified priority issues. Review validated research and proven programs to help define objectives, strategies and performance measures. Define the what, how and when of data collection. Reach out to other agencies, universities and research institutes to determine data availability.

4. Evaluate long-term sustainability

Define the resources and budget necessary to continually fund efforts to achieve the goals. Evaluate revenue, reserve fund balance, future capital investments, and ability to obtain grant funds.

5. Determine who is accountable

This is how to get to where you want to go. The strategies, action plans, and budgets are all steps in the process that effectively communicate how you will allocate time, human capital, and funding to address the priority issues and achieve the defined goals and objectives. It is recommended that each goal is assigned to an individual or group to champion its progression.

6. Obtain Buy-In

Involve staff, incarcerated individuals and stakeholders in the creation, implementation and progress of the strategic plan. Success towards goals will be difficult to achieve without the cooperation of these core groups.

7. Review, Review, Review

To ensure the plan performs as designed, regularly scheduled formal reviews of performance measures must be completed. Review the process and refine as necessary. Champions should meet regularly, at least quarterly, to report on progress, barriers and successes. Progress should be reported to key stakeholders continually, but not less than annually. Clear and concise reporting can be accomplished through the use of dashboards, providing textual and visual summaries of key indicators.


Identify key data sets to track, report and gauge success. Sample measurements include:

  • Incarcerated individual jobs available
  • Recidivism rate for CI-trained workers at one and three years after release
  • Certifications awarded to incarcerated individuals
  • Portfolio of accomplishments for incarcerated individuals
  • Incarcerated individuals trained in soft-skill training programs
  • Incarcerated individuals receiving job readiness training
  • Job readiness assessments conducted
  • CI worker referrals to business community
  • Incarcerated individuals securing employment within 90 days of release.
  • Incarcerated individuals retaining employment at 6 months
  • Earnings received at 6 months after entry into employment
  • Post-release employment services
  • Letters of reference issued
  • Collection of restitution, room and board, victim’s funds, family support, etc.
  • Employee satisfaction
  • Community and State partnerships
  • Customer satisfaction rates
  • Customer complaints
  • Sales
  • On-time deliveries
  • Safety violations
  • Employee training hours
  • CI worker training hours



Antonowicz, D.H., Ross, R. R. (1994). Essential Components of Successful Rehabilitation Programs for Offenders. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 38 (2), 97-104.

Blanchard, K. (2009). Leading at a Higher Level: Blanchard on Leadership and Creating High Performing Organizations . Upper Saddle River, NJ: FT Press

Bradford, R., Duncan, P., Tarcy, B. (2000). Simplified Strategic Planning: A No-nonsense Guide for Busy People Who Want Results Fast! Worcester, MA: Chandler House Press.

Collins, J., Porras, J. (1994). Built to Last. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.

David, F. R. (2009) Strategic Management (14th Ed.). New York: Macmillan Publishing Company. (Dr. David also maintains a strategic planning web site, Checkmate Plan)

Flaherty, Carol and Zonis Associates. (2007). Building Culture Strategically: A Team Approach for Corrections. Available at

Waal, A. A. (2010). The characteristics of a high performing organization. Business Strategy Series, 8 (3) 2010. Available at

Washington State Institute for Public Policy. (2006). Evidence-Based Public Policy Options to Reduce Future Prison Construction, Criminal Justice Costs, and Crime Rates. Available at

Workforce Investment Act (WIA) Performance Measures


Baldrige Performance Excellence Program website

Achieving Performance Excellence (APEX)

U.S. Department of Justice Strategic Planning


SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) is used to analyze internal strategic factors, strengths and weaknesses attributed to the organization, and external factors beyond control of the organization.

ACA Standards, an additional tool used in organizational analysis

Balanced Scorecards create a systematic framework for strategic planning.

Dashboards, or visual web graphics, are tools to display progress towards goals.

Sample Dashboard

sample dashboard

PEST analysis (Political, Economic, S ocial, and Technological)

Root Cause Analysis (RCA): Used to understand the threats, barriers, and challenges to achieving the end state.

Scenario planning : originally used in the military and recently used by large corporations to analyze future scenarios