Annette M. Chambers-Smith was appointed as Director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC) in January 2019 by Governor Mike DeWine. Chambers-Smith started with the department in 1993 as a clerical secretary and has since earned 28 years of experience in corrections – five of those in private industry where she served as a general manager.
During her time with DRC, she received a degree in organizational management – giving her foundational leadership knowledge that she has used to transform the department during her tenure as director.
In the last three years, Director Chambers-Smith has made a multitude of value-based changes to the Ohio prison and parole systems in order to achieve the mission and vision of the agency: reduce recidivism among those we touch and reduce crime in Ohio. Director Chambers-Smith has established four core values for DRC:
- Take care of our staff; they will transform our offenders
- One team, one purpose
- Civility towards all
- Hope is job one
Chambers-Smith has successfully put these core values into motion among the staff and incarcerated population of Ohio. These values have been a catalyst to ground-breaking changes in the department. She created the Office of Employee Support Services and the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion to provide holistic staff support and resources, as well as ensure a diverse workforce.
While keeping safety and security a top priority, she addressed racial bias among incarcerated persons by changing classification policies and instruments to remove practices and procedures which resulted in disparate outcomes.
She has made family engagement a priority by revitalizing visiting rooms, establishing a family advisory council, and entering a contract with a new communications vendor which provides multiple opportunities for free communication per week. In addition, the cost of telephone calls was lowered by an additional 60% resulting in a cost of .02 cents a minute. These changes represent some of the most inexpensive communications options for incarcerated people in the United States.
Under the leadership of Governor Mike DeWine and Director Annette Chambers-Smith, the Ohio Parole Board has undergone significant transformation to create enhanced transparency, diversity among its members and broadened participation during the release consideration process. In addition, Director Chambers-Smith reorganized the Adult Parole Authority in Ohio to create a safer system that focuses on successful reentry and decreased the overall caseload of parole officers.
Chambers-Smith is a member of several criminal justice and leadership-based groups. She is a lifetime member of the National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice (NABCJ), and is the recipient of the 2021 NABCJ Leadership Award - an award given by the Ohio chapter a member who is a mentor, a trailblazer, and a leader in their respective field. She was also awarded the NABCJ 2020 Jonathan Jasper Wright Award for leadership at the regional and state level for criminal justice. She is the co-chair of the Governor’s task force on Post Release Control, the Vice-Chairwoman of the RecoveryOhio Advisory Council and she serves on Governor DeWine’s Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force.
In 1997, Ohio Governor George V. Voinovich recognized her for “exemplary efforts in helping state government perform more efficiently and effectively.” Director Chambers-Smith was honored with the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction’s Gold Star Award in 1997, 1998 and 2002. In 2010, she received a mark of distinction from the American Correctional Association when she was named the Best in the Business. Director Chambers-Smith received Director Mohr’s Impact Award in 2011 and twice in 2014.