The State of Recreation in Corrections
NCRA 1997 Conference Session
Aristedes Zavaras - Keynote Speaker

Mr. Zavaras is the Director of the Colorado Department of Corrections. They have about 10,000 adults and 2600 juvenile offenders.

He told us he had a couple of things he would like to share with us and how a couple of things have really hit home with him.

He had a background similar to many. He started out 30 years ago as a rookie police officer. The last 4 years prior to retirement he spent as Denver Chief of Police.

He worked on virtually all operations of police. Working up through the ranks you develop a philosophy.

One point for all forms of government. How we approach our work. How many think its fun to work for government and feel well respected by the public? Right now its not fun. Many think no government workers could succeed in the private sector. Many think we are all "head cases."

Things have happened to put us in a bad position. We have a monopoly - not like Plaza Hotel (hotel hosting the conference). If they don't treat your NCRA conference right, next time you will go to some other hotel. Our people (inmates) do not have an option. Where he is now, he can't go out of business.

We have lot of job protection the private sector does not have.

We do have a profit & loss statement. The people of Colorado voted on a bill on how taxes could be raised. They were not happy with government employees.

Wherever you are, you need certain tools to do your job. The most important tool is the attitude you bring to your job. That is absolutely critical. Who can measure an attitude? Supervisors will eventually catch up to it, but the damage is already done.

The public gives us our profit and loss statement in a number of ways.

By and large the people we have are really good people. But because a certain attitude has been demonstrated by a small portion of the workforce a bad situation exists.

He would ask us all, wherever we are to just remember how critical attitude is. It is the most important tool you bring to work and you can measure it better than your supervisor.

2nd Thought - The assault on corrections currently going no. Get tough within the system. Most people have no idea what goes on in a correctional institution. Or how complex a sheriffs dept. is. Problems are do in a large part to people not understanding.

One of the most critical things we can do is to educate the public. He has never brought in a legislator or just a member of the public who didn't shake his hand on the way out and say they never understood before how the facility operated.

Once, Arapahoe County mens club toured (a very conservative group from a conservative area). When they walked out, every one said they had no idea of how the system operated before that time.

The assault cross hairs are on our programs. If he can get them into the facility, he's got them (the public).

2 years ago there was an assault on the legislature to do away with weights in Colorado prisons. He had a good enough rapport with a number of legislators that they defeated it. This year there are a lot of freshmen legislators - they all have their little pet project and it needs money. The state told the legislators that if they want to sponsor a program, they had to find the money for it. Many find it by cutting corrections programs.

One of the proposals is to do away with the sex offenders program.

Corrections is one of the best kept secrets he has seen. He is really impressed with the Colorado Dept.. of Corrections. We need to speak out and let people know.

Just about every government area has a group of natural advocates. Corrections does not.

He has a video of their system. They are trying to expose everybody to it. He is very conservative.

If we were to lose weights we can operate the system. Get ready to give me whole bunch of more people. Let me explain how we use certain things as tools to control the inmates.

I think you are all a particularly critical elements. you provide certain things they can't find elsewhere. When he was in High School a coach was a major impact on his life.

He likes this conference. Everybody come together, exchanges ideas, gets their batteries recharged.

He told his boy who played a lot of baseball, "If you don't pick up the bat, you'll never get a hit."

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