CJCA Bids Farewell to a Champion for Change - Mike Dempsey, and Welcomes Chris Blessinger

Posted by Edward Loughran
December 01, 2015

In March of 2009 Mike Dempsey took on the role of Executive Director of the Indiana Department of Corrections, Division of Youth Services.  He inherited a troubled system, one that was holding an average of 1,200 youths per day in facilities that had a fixed prison-like mindset. Armed with his goal to effect culture change and to improve the lives of the youths in the system he made progressive system wide reforms. One initiative, focusing on reducing length of stay for youths in secure facilities and assigning them to less restrictive settings based on individual needs, resulted a dramatic drop in the average number of youths being held in the juvenile justice system to just over 400 per day by 2014. [WNDU.com]

 “Leadership must change their philosophy and entrenched mindset. Staff must believe in what the leader is undertaking and, most importantly, believe that the changes will result in positive outcomes and a safer environment for both staff and youth.” – Mike Dempsey

Mike was responsible for bringing Performance-based Standards (PbS) to Indiana. Since that time four facilities have won the prestigious Barbara Allen-Hagen award for improving the quality of life in facilities for youths.  Mike is currently the PbS Board of Directors President.

Mike has been a dynamic member of CJCA, serving as our president from 2012 – 2014.  He was instrumental in developing the CJCA Toolkit: Reducing the Use of Isolation, serving on the planning committees for the bi-annual meetings and as a mentor to other CJCA Directors. We wish Mike health, happiness and success as he continues his journey to improve the lives and outcomes for justice involved youths and their families.

With such big shoes to fill we are delighted to welcome Chris Blessinger to CJCA and congratulate her on her promotion to Executive Director of the Division of Youth Services.  Chris is no stranger to CJCA having worked with Mike for many years she has been a prominent figure at many CJCA meetings. Chris has been with the Indiana DOC since 2000 where she began her career at the Pendleton JCF. Through the years her job responsibilities have included program implementation, comprehensive case management and re-entry services and PbS State Coordinator. In addition to CJCA, Chris is also a member of the American Correctional Association (ACA) and is currently a PREA auditor.  She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminology form Indiana State University.

Congratulations and welcome Chris!