Criminal Justice Fellows Program

The American Leadership Forum Criminal Justice Fellows Program is designed to join and strengthen leaders involved in all aspects of criminal justice in the Greater Houston community. Criminal justice has gotten a lot of attention recently, and each day we read about challenges that perhaps could be approached more effectively if leaders in the various segments of the criminal justice community really knew and trusted each other.  This program was first offered in 2009 and is modeled after successful sector programs offered since 2006 both in healthcare and public education.

Marble exercise

The program brings together leaders focused on criminal justice but working on different aspects of the issue. The goal is to understand each others' roles and perspectives better and perhaps come up with some creative new ideas. This could be suggestions to implement to marginally improve the functioning of the system, or more profound changes to work to implement over time. Ideally the class will find some ways to make a difference for young people before they make mistakes.

This program offers benefits to the community, but also to the organizations sponsoring participants (leadership development and networking across the criminal justice sector), and to the participants themselves (personal growth, professional growth, effective skilled service to the community, and long lasting bonds with relationships of mutual trust among diverse leaders).

Class members are drawn from a broad definition of "criminal justice sector", including District Attorney, defense attorney, judge, probation officer, correctional officer, law enforcement officer, alternative school administrator, nonprofit leaders working to reduce recidivism, policy advocates, academician, chaplain, and mental health professional. There are between 20 and 26 participants.

The twenty-day program includes a five-day wilderness experience in the mountains, during which extremely powerful bonds are forged. In the local area, monthly sessions are held on such topics as dialogue, group emotional intelligence, appreciative inquiry, consensus building, and ethics.     

Each class of Fellows hosts a community dialogue with a format and topic of the group's choosing. In addition to creating impact in the community, the community dialogues provide a tremendous learning experience about the nature of community leadership, as well as the challenges and rewards of collaboration.

Deep connections are made across all kinds of lines, inspiring leaders to a lifetime of active public engagement.

"ALF brought us together.
This is so critical because otherwise everyone stays in their individual silos. 
There is synergy that the group provides. 
The dialogue we are starting with the education community is important. 
We need bridges across the individual silos."
Cathy Burnett (Criminal Justice Class 1)
Associate Dean & Professor, South Texas College of Law

Characterized by its focus on the human capacity for collective intelligence, the ALF program begins a process of uncovering the principles of a different kind of leadership. When people who represent high achievement in different spheres of influence come together to learn and think, their creative and problem-solving power as a group can lead to highly effective coordinated action.

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