APA Center for Organizational Excellence: National Winner

The Awards

Government/Military/Educational Institution Category

Federal Detention Center, Honolulu

Honor Guardians

Hawai’i – With 200 employees housing around 400 offenders, the Federal Detention Center, Honolulu (FDC Honolulu) protects public safety by ensuring that federal offenders serve their sentences in facilities that are safe, humane, cost-effective and appropriately secure. Employees do all this while also providing programming to ensure offenders’ successful return to the community. Despite the challenges inherent in such a tough environment, many employees view working for the Bureau of Prisons here as a career and not just a job, largely because the center’s management treats them with dignity and respect.

Employee Involvement

FDC Honolulu staff can provide input in many ways and are actively involved in day-to-day decisions. The Ideas for Dollars initiative is one example. Staff members submit formal suggestions for improving operations that then are given blind review by the Incentive Awards Committee. Employees whose suggestions are implemented are rewarded with monetary bonuses or, occasionally, by step increases on the pay scale. Plus, multiple staff-run committees discuss complex policies and supervise programs on various aspects of diversity, such as ethnic identity, military veteran status and sexual orientation.

Health and Safety

Employee safety, a major concern in a prison environment, is an important component of the facility’s initial two-week training program and annual update training. FDC Honolulu has three staff specifically assigned to the Safety Department who provide additional trainings in areas such as self-contained breathing apparatus operations. In addition to an array of regular federal health benefits, FDC Honolulu has a fully staffed medical facility onsite.

Employee Growth and Development

Continuous education, training and mentoring keep staff in prime shape. The employee assistance coordinator orients new hires on the risk factors of burnout and “immunizes” them against stress by identifying protective factors that can help their transition to the facility. While employees all take correctional-techniques training during their first six months and annual training thereafter, internet coursework is available for deeper studies. FDC Honolulu also offers specialized trainings for specific positions, such as crisis support team and CPR trainer.

Work-Life Balance

At FDC Honolulu, the comprehensive Federal Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is available to both staff and their families, providing referrals to licensed EAP counselors in the community who can help with short-term problem-solving, coaching, crisis management and counseling with regard to work relationships, family, child and elder care, health, finances and substance abuse. The institution also employs three full-time EAP psychologists who are available for immediate staff use. Along with counseling services, legal and financial services are available free of charge to staff members through the EAP.

Employee Recognition

FDC Honolulu is generous in dispensing monetary and nonmonetary recognition like the On the Spot awards. All supervisors carry On the Spot chits that they can hand out as they interact with employees to acknowledge special performance. These chits can be redeemed for various items in the employee store. Monetary awards include quarterly incentives for service and performance (which are voted on by the employees themselves), Special Act Awards and Sustained Superior Performance Awards.

The Bottom Line

Through its efforts, FDC Honolulu has seen a significant decrease in burnout rates and built meaningful employee involvement through the Institution Duty Officer (IDO) program. Each supervisor is required to be an IDO for three one-week shifts per year. For direct input, the IDO walks the institution to check security, talk with staff, interview inmates, and meet face-to-face with each employee. Although all Federal Bureau of Prisons facilities offer an EAP, FDC Honolulu’s providers have local cultural knowledge unique to its workplace demographic as well as a nuanced understanding of correctional work and the demands it puts on staff members and their families.

"Winning this award has validated the hard work all our staff put into their work every day. In an industry that has high staff burnout and turnover and is usually in the press for failing, Green Chimneys strives to change that paradigm. We celebrate our successes and learn from our failures."

Joseph A. Whalen
Executive Director
Green Chimneys