NCRA 1999 Conference

National Correctional Recreation Association
32th Annual Conference East Hartford CT
March 4th - 7th, 1999

Note: This is Strength Tech's web site. This is not an "official" NCRA document. We are just posting some information about the conference."

The conference was opened by the Connecticut Honor Guard posting the colors. This was quite a stirring moment. The bagpipe unit played while uniformed officers positioned the flags. Not many dry eyes in the house when they concluded. We shot this photo of the bagpipe unit after they marched out.

I attended some of the conference sessions and even conducted one.

One special guest of the conference was Matt Maranz from ESPN. They are trying to put together a show about sports in prisons to air in December. He was gathering background information and making contacts for future research. I had a nice chat with him about our Strength Tech web site, which he had already found and laid the groundwork for some future discussions.

The awards banquet was Saturday evening. Awards for specific programs and election results were announced. A brief presentation by Fresno CA (home of the 2000 conference) was given and the site of the 2001 conference was announced (Indianapolis).

Strength Tech Rambling Comments and Suggestions

We enjoyed the conference very much. It was great to see our old friends and make some new acquaintances. It seemed like their was quite a bit of friction between the conference and the hotel (hospitality suites, lunches, not enough vans for airport rides, van rides not beginning early enough, etc). The hotel (East Hartford Ramada) treated us nice as individual guests, the rooms were fine, and our stay was economical; however it was not pleasant. The hotel is located in between the intersections of 3 major highways (84, 91, Hwy 2) and the Connecticut River. There was no place to walk or access to fast food (economical food). It was terribly easy to get lost driving near the hotel as the huge interchanges swept you one way or another at their will. I have NEVER been so frustrated driving in an area. Since the hotel held you captive, the hotel restaurant prices made the most of it. The hotel staff did seem friendly and helpful to us as individuals. The food was nice, but difficult to pay for. The hotel had a deal with a local health club where we could workout, but you had to drive to get there and I was scared to try it (got lost every time we left the hotel). There were no sites to see or fun things to do in the area (the local tourist van brochure listed Mark Twain's family's church as one of its major stops.) If you are not interested in insurance (Hartford is the major insurance center) the place is pretty weak. Personal opinion, but I give the hotel a very low rating for a conference hotel, however; it was interesting to share the hotel with a number of professional basketball and pool players.

During one of the business meetings when future conference sites were being considered, I suggested a larger exhibitor area (still to be all together in one room and located in a high traffic area of the conference) easier for those with large equipment to get their items unloaded and to and from the exhibit area (we are now drawing some vendors with weight lifting equipment, large mats, and other large items). Steve of Big Ben Games also suggested the vendors be made aware earlier of any limitations of the hotel (hospitality rooms and use of electricity were both a problem this time). Access to fast food within walking distance was also discussed.

Lora was able to go on both prison tours and really enjoyed them. I think it is great that vendors are allowed to participate in these tours.

Most of the vendors were broken down by Saturday morning. The long term exhibitors are aware of it, but new ones are not. They might be made aware that Saturday will certainly be a very slow day, so they can make travel plans to leave earlier if they wish.

This year as well as some in the past, certain groups have had a difficult time in obtaining funding to attend the conference, due to budget dates (not enough time for approval), changes in regulations, etc. Several years ago the conference was moved from October to March to better accomodate the federal budgeting year, now changes in the FBOP again caused several to miss. If changes of this nature could be brought to the attention of the NCRA and addressed as rapidly as possible, perhaps more could attend?

It seemed odd that Fresno, home of next years conference sent only one representative to this conference. I think a several person expedition could have gathered a lot of ideas, hints and contacts to help them put on an even better conference next year. When I and some of the other vendors approached their representative about exhibiting in Fresno next year we were politely brushed off. Usually the host of the next conference is "smoozing" with the vendors in attempts to lure them to their conference. A representative from Indianapolis made a personal pitch and invitation for us to exhibit at their conference in 2001.

It is great to see the conference growing in size. This also means it is growing in term of the work necessary to successfully put it on. The huge number of details can overwhelm a couple people. It seems like future conference sites need several very dedicated individuals to help pull events like this off. Maybe in considering future conference sites, they also need to consider the number of people at the site willing and able to devote a substantial amount of time to it????

Shot from our room Saturday Afternoon

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