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BU Bridge Logo

Week of 20 November 1998

Vol. II, No. 15

Feature Article

BU alums find jobs through their Corrections Connection

by Brian Fitzgerald

After interning at WABU-TV Channel 68, WEEI Sports Radio 850, and writing for the Daily Free Press, Carissa Caramanis (COM'98) thought that she was destined to be a sports reporter. She certainly didn't expect to be writing about juvenile delinquency, prison gangs, and other criminal justice issues.

Corrections Connection staff (clockwise, from left): Michelle Gaseau (COM'91), Laura Noonan (COM'93), Joseph Noonan (MET'90), Carissa Caramanis (COM'98), and Justin Evdokimoff (COM'98). Photo by Vernon Doucette

But at a career fair at BU half-way through her senior year, she met Laura Noonan (COM'93), president of Screened Images Multimedia (SIM) in Quincy, Mass. "She was standing in front of a beautiful display," recalls Caramanis. "And she was talking about adding a journalism component to the company's Corrections Connection Web site." After a five-month internship at www.corrections.com, Caramanis had a job waiting for her after graduation, working with four BU graduates: Noonan, her husband, Joseph Noonan (MET'90), Michelle Gaseau (COM'91), and Justin Evdokimoff (COM'98).

A Web site dedicated to the corrections field? What are the pressing issues of the day -- tear gas vs. pepper spray? "At first I thought it was a strange concept," says Caramanis. "But it's a $48 million industry that is using new technology and the Internet more and more. The company is aimed at an unusual niche market."

And that market is producing results for SIM, which this year expects to earn revenues of more than half a million dollars. The Corrections Connection Web site contains some 10,000 law enforcement links and receives more than 50,000 hits a day.

Caramanis' articles cover such corrections issues as AIDS in prisons (including the practice in several states of segregating HIV-positive inmates), mentally ill and suicidal inmates, and the pros and cons of privatization -- "a hot topic these days," she says. California, for example, has nine private correctional facilities.

"We have given the corrections industry a much-needed home on the Internet," says Gaseau, who in the years after earning her master's degree in print journalism at COM worked as a reporter for four Massachusetts newspapers before becoming the editor of The Corrections Professional in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. Returning to the Boston area to work for the Corrections Connection in September "made sense because it was a perfect fit," she says. "I covered the industry for two years in Florida."

From lawns to locks
A quick scan of the Web site immediately reveals the reason for its success: the Corrections Connection is interesting, informative, and comprehensive. Indeed, Gaseau recently wrote an article on the millennium computer bug and its possible effects on corrections operations, which can range from glitches in automatic lawn sprinkling systems to more serious problems such as malfunctions in computer-driven lock controls. Chat rooms and bulletin boards dispense information on every aspect of the industry, including rising health-care costs and the establishment of offender databases.

The Corrections Connection's biggest coup, however, came in October, when it was asked to handle the live Internet broadcast of the White House Conference on School Safety. The daylong videoconference attracted 25,000 participants -- including First Lady Hillary Clinton, Attorney General Janet Reno, Education Secretary Richard Riley, and members of Congress -- at more than 900 satellite sites nationwide. It is now archived at www.juvenilenet.org.

"The videoconference has been our most rewarding project so far," says Evdokimoff, who was also hired by SIM after meeting Laura Noonan at a BU job fair. A May graduate of COM's film and television department, Evdokimoff didn't want to go to Los Angeles and start from the bottom "as a production assistant fetching coffee," he says. "What I'm doing here is interesting." He has other videoconferencing projects in the pipeline: in October, Northeastern University's Criminal Justice College installed two satellite dishes on the company's roof for live Internet telecasts. Earlier this year, the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention gave Corrections Connection a grant to develop long-distance learning programs.

COM pays off
"I come from a family of lawyers, but I've always been interested in journalism and business," says company cofounder Laura Noonan. Six years ago, as a graduate student in COM's broadcast journalism program, she was selected by the Norfolk County Sheriff's Office to produce a prisoner orientation video. Then as part of an independent study, she produced a documentary on the U.S. prison system. The projects piqued her interest in the corrections industry as an untapped market.

After earning her law degree from Northeastern University, she met her future husband, Joseph, who had a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering and a law degree from Northeastern, along with a master's degree in computer information systems from MET's program in Lakenheath, England. In 1995 the couple formed SIM and ran it from a condo in Cleveland Circle. The following year they began the Corrections Connection Web site, got married, and moved their offices to Quincy.

At present, the Corrections Connection Web site is growing at the rate of 200 percent a year and is expected to reach more than $9 million in revenues over the next three years. "With so much competition on the Internet, it is rare to control a niche market of this size," Laura says. "Laura and I had a dream of starting our own business," says Joseph. "And we did it."