interested in joining corrections.com authors network, email us for more information.

Archive

Author Archive

Time Management: Managing Yourself in a Stressful Age

March 13th, 2019

As a trainer, you get to know the people that attend your classes and what their concerns are. When I present a stress management class, I ask attendees what stresses them out-or more simply what is stress to them. In corrections, besides the pay, shift work, lack of recognition-and I could go on-they always answer-without fail-the lack of time. Therefore, I get a discussion going, talking about the lack of time to get household chores done, get the bills paid, etc. If probation and parole officers attend, they speak of the amount of time it takes to conduct field visits and finish pre-sentence investigation reports for the court. Many complaints are heard about not having enough time, lack of time management, etc.

However, the real problem is how does one manage something that cannot be stopped, slowed down, or affected in any way? This something is time itself. The seconds ticking by on a clock, the hour that has passed and the day itself cannot be stopped or slowed down. What can be learned is self-management. How we conduct ourselves in the context of time is time management. Alternatively, more simply, time management is self-management.

Here is an example. You are sitting in the waiting room of your dentist, and plan to go to the grocery store after your checkup. You check the messages on your smart phone. Your supervisor from the jail has called you and left a voicemail-he needs clarification on a report that you submitted yesterday. The dental hygienist comes out and tells you that the dentist is running behind and it will be another 15-20 minutes until you are seen. So-now you have a choice. You can sit and read old magazines in the dental office waiting room until you are called. On the other hand- you can call your supervisor back and make your grocery list, which will resolve both the loose end from work and make your grocery shopping go much more smoothly. The smart choice is to use those 15-20 minutes wisely. Return the phone call and make the list. But-many of us will sit and read the magazines, then rush to return the phone call and make the grocery list up right as we walk into the store, most likely forgetting some items. If we forget some then we will take another trip to the store, which takes more time. In our personal lives, there are demands on us-fixing dinner after a long day, doing the laundry, cleaning the house, etc. If we let these stack up-we feel worn out.

Professionally, the corrections field-no matter where you work or what you do, is just as demanding. We have many tasks to perform-and perform well during a shift. Correctional officers (COs) must search inmates and areas, conduct headcounts, pass out meals, etc. Probation and parole officers (POs) have to schedule field visits, office offender sessions and write up pre-sentence investigation reports per the schedule of the courts. Moreover, there is the unexpected-the demands that ‘pop up’ that we do not expect, and we must have the time to deal with those.

The effects of this lack of self-management, not time management are very negative. We feel rushed, anxious, angry, overly apprehensive, and may be abrasive to our loved ones and colleagues. In addition, we may angrily ‘lash out’ at offenders. When we do so, people will not want to come near us.

Self-management means using common sense and will lessen your stress. Here is a short list of pointers, and after reading it I am convinced that using the ‘think outside the box’ method, you can come up with some more:

  • Use the magic word: NO: Many of us think that the best way to do things is to do them ourselves. We do not delegate; we get frustrated and take on more tasks. This crosses over into both our personal and professional lives. Sometimes we have to step back, take a break and say no. However, we must be conscientious. Sometimes our agency needs us to fill in for someone who is sick. Sometimes a friend needs help. We do not want to say no all of the time-but sometimes we must.
  • Watch the ‘drop bys’: These are the friends and colleagues that drop by and want to talk. It is all right to be sociable-but if you have a report to write, rounds to make, or if at home, a pile of laundry to do, social visits can get you behind. It is acceptable to say-politely-that you cannot talk now, or you can use a reason such as the lieutenant is waiting for this report, I have a meeting, etc. If you do not watch the socializing, what you thought was going to be a five-minute conversation could turn into a thirty-minute gabfest. Then you will have to catch up.
  • Get to the point: Why e-mail back and forth when you can make a phone call? In meetings, have an agenda, stick to it and limit discussion. I have found that in some-and certainly not all-meetings in my career, discussions would drone on and on and on with no resolution. A good rule is if a matter cannot be resolved in a reasonable time, table it for later discussion. The stakeholders can discuss it later and resolve the issue. In addition-the best time to hold meetings is early in the workday or shift. Closely related to getting to the point is to throw away junk mail, not answering telemarketer phone calls, etc.
  • Watch distractions: Thanks to the Internet, we can look up anything, from music to movies to travel. However, distractions-while breaking up the monotony, can be distracting. Like socializing, the five-minute ‘surfing the web’ session can last a lot longer.
  • Delegate: Have teenagers at home? Why can’t they do the laundry or prepare dinner? On the other hand, can they clean the house? At work-do, you have staff that welcome extra work or new assignments? Use this energy. You do not have to do everything yourself.
  • Do the hard tasks first: A CO reports to his post and is told by a colleague that a particular inmate has to see him. The CO knows that this inmate has a reputation for asking for favors, will argue, debate, etc. But-it is better to see that inmate early on, rather than at the end of the shift. A PO schedules the worst offender home visit first.
  • Be organized: Keep one calendar. Have a set place for daily essentials such as keys, phone, wallet, etc. Also, keep you address book up to date. In this information age, smart phones, computers, etc. are great tools to use in organizing yourself.

Are you thinking of other time savers-or self-management tools? They will reduce your stress.

Uncategorized

The Ten Commandments for Correctional Staff: Good Guidelines for All

January 16th, 2019

When I present a jail safety class, the audience is usually sworn staff. And that is good! It is beneficial to have a refresher in safety-no matter how many years you have on the job. Correctional officers (COs) are a close-knit group. We watch out for each other. Often on post, we ask where our colleagues are, if they need assistance, can you watch my post for a few minutes, etc.

In view of the several CO deaths in recent years, CO safety-like police officer safety takes on a special meaning. We want to come home safe, hug our loved ones and breathe a sigh of relief that we got through another day.

I thought a review of the Ten Commandments for Correctional Staff would be beneficial, as refreshers sometimes are. There is a lot out there in print and on line about CO safety measures. That is good-these measures keep you safe. However, what I would like to do in this column is to apply these measures to the civilians in our correctional facilities. This group includes administration personnel, medical staff, mental health staff, maintenance, programs staff, chaplains, and volunteers. They need refreshers as well, and they run risks every time that they enter our facilities.

In 2002, correctional authors and experts Bill Elliott, Ph.D. and Vicki Verdeyen, Ed.D. wrote the Ten Commandments for Prison Staff in their book, Game Over: Strategies for Redirecting Inmate Deception (2002, American Correctional Association). These rules are good for anyone-sworn and non-sworn-that work inside a correctional facility.

So let us refresh our view of safety by looking at these rules, and applying them as good advice to the civilian staff:

  1. Go Home Safe and Sound at the End of the Day: Do not take unnecessary risks with inmates, such as being alone with them inside a classroom, or walking in front of them in a corridor. Know and follow the rules. You may be a volunteer, and may not fully understand the rules of the facility. Nevertheless-obey them! The rules are written to keep you safe. For example, a CO appears at your office or classroom doorway. He announces “All inmates are to return to their units immediately; all civilians must leave the facility”. It could be an escape, a disturbance, etc. Do not argue-do what he says. Also, do not bring ANY unauthorized items in for an inmate. Know how to call for help and do not hesitate to do so. Trust your ‘gut’. For example, if an inmate is getting too close and too friendly-try to get away, find a CO and let him know what is going on. If you see inmates congregating and you think that they are up to something or you hear an inmate talking about a missing tool, etc., report this to staff. Remember where you are! Dress appropriately for business, and not for a ‘night out’.
  2. Establish Realistic Expectations: Have a view of being skeptical to a degree. Remember that inmates have lived their lives for a long time in a dysfunctional manner. Many are substance abusers, cannot hold a job, and use people to survive. If they say, they have changed, look at how: have they completed a program or even signed up to participate in one? Have they obeyed the rules? Change takes effort-and not ‘lip service’.
  3. Set Firm and Consistent Limits: What should inmates know about your personal life? NOTHING! You are there to provide a service-that is all. You can treat inmates with guarded civility-but they should know nothing about your marriage, relationships, family, etc. Inmates use this information to get you to lose objectivity and to lower your guard. If something is stressing you out, by you confiding in inmates, they become your “new best friends.”
  4. Avoid Power Struggles: Inmates are very skilled at pitting staff members against each other. They may criticize COs and supervisors, and want you to be on their side. Avoid this-manipulative inmates, especially psychopaths-are very good at playing games and creating dissension for their entertainment.
  5. Manage Interpersonal Boundaries: You can be empathetic, but not sympathetic. Empathy means you can objectively understand the inmates’ problems and predicaments. Sympathy means that objectivity is lost, replaced by an overwhelming desire to help the inmate-even doing favors and tasks for him. For example, you are working with an inmate who is an alcoholic. The inmate relates his tales of woe, lost jobs, divorce, etc. He asks, “Can you get me into a substance program?” What he means is that you do all of the heavy lifting. He should be writing to the programs staff, etc. Interpersonal boundaries means that any sexual or romantic talk is off limits including ‘buttering you up’ and flirting. If an inmate makes a sexual flirtatious remark to you-report it immediately. This how it starts-inmates casually flirting, etc.,-and nothing is done. Be friendly-but formal. Keep it business-like.
  6. Do Not Take Things Personally: Inmate behavior such as lying, deceitfulness, resisting your suggestions should not be taken personally. Resisting the good intentions of positive people is a lifestyle for the criminal offender. They have lived this way.
  7. Strive for an Attitude of Healthy Skepticism: Be a little skeptical. Do not be gullible. Like setting realistic expectations, you do not want to take everything that the inmate does at face value. As I tell volunteers in my resisting manipulation classes, when you enter your classroom and see 15 inmates sitting there, you do not know which ones really want to change (unless you are psychic). A manipulative inmate will often say what you want to hear.
  8. Do Not Fight the Bureaucracy: Work within the rules-even though you may not see their logic right away. Rules, chain of command, etc. keep you grounded-and safe. Inmates love conflict, and if you fight the staff and circumvent the rules, you will be manipulated. Remember that security takes precedent over programs-it is the number one priority of any correctional facility. If inmates behave in as negative fashion, such as breaking rules or committing crimes, they will be removed from programs and activities. Respect the job of the CO.
  9. Ask for Help: It is imperative that COs and civilians have open lines of two-way communications. Every person in the facility must be kept safe and adhere to policies and procedures. Civilians, in training sessions and orientations, must be instructed where to go for assistance and clarification-a CO post, the shift supervisor, a programs director, etc. Civilians should not feel isolated; they should be checked on by COs and supervisors. However, if they are confused, they should feel comfortable in asking for guidance and assistance. This is especially true if inmates are violent, resistant and unruly. Finally-the inmates should see a close cohesiveness between civilians and sworn staffs. Back up to civilians should be fast with plenty of COs.
  10. Do Not Take Your Work Home With You: In your efforts as a civilian in programs, or as a volunteer, you will discover that corrections can be very frustrating. You see inmates who want to change, while many do not. Do not let your life be defined by your role in corrections. Take time off, and have balance in your life. Cultivate family, friends and activities. Get away from the job as much as you can. Do not become so involved in corrections that you alienate the people in your life that are important to you.

In closing-the same advice that trainers and supervisors give to sworn correctional staff should also be afforded to the civilians. We are all on the same team-and want the best for each other. Follow this advice, whether you wear a uniform-or not.

Reference:

Elliott, Bill, Ph.D. and Vicki Verdeyen, Ed.D. (2002). Game Over! Strategies for Redirecting Inmate Deception. Lanham, MD: American Correctional Association.

Uncategorized

Tales From the Local Jail: Partnerships

December 24th, 2018

Recently, I visited the Charles County (Maryland) Jail in La Plata Maryland. I was there taking photos for the third edition of my book, Stressed Out: Strategies for Living and Working in Corrections. I wanted to get photos of staff at work, and they were very cooperative. It is a well-run, efficient and professional facility, and any corrections professional needing assistance would be well served by contacting them.

I especially wanted to take photos of civilians in corrections. There is a lot of material in print and on line about improving the job performances and stress management of uniformed staff. Too often, the non-sworn staff are overlooked. The probation/parole officers, teachers, mental health personnel, medical staff, substance abuse counselors, records personnel and maintenance staff undergo stress as well. They need a partnership with the sworn staff. Partnership can mean friendship, concern and a belief in what the other is trying to do- a reciprocation.

I met a very nice substance abuse counselor at the Charles County Jail. Being a former jail programs director, we talked for a few minutes about inmates, and how some want to change. There are some that want to get out and stay out, and others do not. We agreed that trying to help inmates can be a frustrating job-but we still try.

As I was leaving this area, a uniformed jail deputy entered on his rounds. He warmly greeted the substance abuse counselor and what struck me immediately is that they were not just fellow staff members, they were friends. We all know what the ‘gut’ is-and my ‘gut’ told me that the deputy respected the counselor and vice versa. They were glad to see each other, and were engaged in a nice conversation as I left the area.

Correctional sworn staff should realize that the term ‘corrections’ is not just a job description or words on a shoulder patch. It means to change behavior. While I think that there will always be a need for correctional facilities, corrections in its true sense means that inmates can be provided the tools to change-but only if they want to.

There are ‘unsung heroes’ in the criminal justice field-from the court security deputies keeping our courthouses safe to the patrol police officers that lock up the ‘bad guys’. Finally, there are the jail deputies and prison officers that patrol cellblocks, enforce the institutional rules and deal with mentally ill and violent inmates. However, there is another group of unsung heroes-the civilians who work inside juvenile detention centers and adult facilities. They conduct rehabilitation programs, teach inmates and counsel them. This group includes the volunteers from the outside who come inside our correctional facilities to try to make a difference. It is frustrating-sometimes they succeed, and sometimes they do not.

As a jail corrections veteran, I recall seeing many inmates, both male and female, many of them young, displaying the signs of alcohol and drug abuse. We see the delirium tremens, the shakes, the sickness from withdrawals and the tracks on the arms from needles-just to name a few. We see ruined lives, poor health and neglected families. We see mental health issues resulting from drugs and drinking. We see lives wasted from doing ‘life on the installment plan’. In addition, we see inmates go to a program, be released, be rearrested and continue the cycle. We know that many inmates who come into jails display the acute symptoms of substance abuse-right off the street. According to a 2010 Center on Addiction study, an estimated 85 percent of inmates or 1.5 million out of 2.3 million incarcerated inmates, in our nation’s jails and prisons meet the criteria in the DSM-IV for substance abuse and addiction. Almost a half million (458,000) had histories of substance abuse and were under the influence of drugs or alcohol when committing their crimes. This group also included offenders who committed crimes to buy drugs, violated an alcohol or drug law, or were involved in a combination of both. Illegal drugs were implicated in about three fourths of incarcerations in correctional facilities, and alcohol at an estimated 50 percent (Center for Addiction, 2018). The bottom line-drugs and drinking are serious problems.

Correctional systems will always have programs and people willing to work in them. Inmates will say that they want to change-but they have to prove it in actions. Completing a program, doing the hard work, looking hard at one’s self, paying all the court costs and fines, staying clean and sober-these actions say that an offender has changed. Combine these actions with completing probation or parole, getting and keeping a good job, meeting family obligations and staying out of involvement with the criminal justice system (in other words-not being re-arrested), an offender can then say with all honesty: “I’ve changed”.

Partnerships are important. The correctional officer/deputy must be a positive role model for inmates-and must encourage them to get involved in programs. They must provide a safe and secure environment for the non-sworn staff. The non-sworn staff must see through the inmate’s bravado, ‘BS’, manipulations, lies, and steer the offenders the right way. Both the CO and the civilian will see the benefits of change through programs-offenders will live longer, more productive lives-and will not be a threat to our communities. Regrettably, this is not the case with many inmates-but we still must try. Non-sworn staff must let COs know if there is a serious problem with an inmate-such as depression or anger. The COs, though classification and observations, ‘weed’ out problem inmates, who have shown through negative behavior that they should not be in programs. Plus-COs must get around into the areas where civilians work and maintain an atmosphere of security.

In closing-partnerships are what makes corrections-corrections. This is not a cliché-COs and the civilians, from the teacher to the volunteers to the substance abuse counselors, must look out for each other. Moreover-they must appreciate each other. This is a core principle of corrections.

I would like to thank the staff of the Charles County, Maryland Jail in La Plata Maryland. In addition, I would like to thank both sworn and non-sworn staff, who work with offenders every day-a tough job, but a noble one.

Reference:
Behind Bars II: Substance Abuse and America’s Prison Population, February 2010, Center on Addiction, www.centeronadiction.org

Uncategorized

Tales From the Local Jail: The Salvage Business

July 24th, 2018

I am a ‘programs guy’. But I was also a jail deputy. Maybe there are some in the jail field that think that you cannot be both-one must be one or the other. To them you must think security all of the time, that inmates put themselves in jail by making bad choices, and jail programs and the staff that run them are trying to climb a hopelessly high mountain. Programs people do not appreciate security, etc.

A true corrections professional has a makeup of both security and rehabilitation. It is true that many inmates attend programs….and many get out and return to jail with new charges. Most jail inmates are released to the street, and if we do not try to change them while they are inside, our careers will be like we are stuck in a revolving door.

State prisoners come to the local jail before their cases are adjudicated. According to recent statistics from the United States Justice Department released in May, 2018, approximately 68 percent of state prisoners were arrested within 3 years of release. An estimated 79 percent were locked up again within 6 years of release and 83 percent within 9 years (Alper, Durose and Markham, 2018, 1.)

It is discouraging to see inmates who have attended programs, done well in them, behaved well in the jail and say to staff that they will not be back return in handcuffs. It is easy to write them off. But-corrections at all levels-federal, state and local-are in the people business. We offer criminal offenders the tools to fix their lives. This toolbox-programs-is always open. Some inmates take advantage of these tools, and some do not. With some inmates, change may take some time.

On more than one occasion I have met inmates on the street that attended jail programs and stayed out of trouble once released. They were clean, sober, and had families and good jobs. I do not wear blinders-I realize for every jail inmate who has ‘made it’, there are ones that like being a criminal, are immature and will always come in and out of the jail.

I can also see why jail correctional officers (COs) and deputies get a little ‘jaded’ and discouraged. They get to know the inmates, and many hope that the inmates will succeed. But in reality-many do not.

Hence the title! To be in corrections, you must be a type of people person, hoping that the inmates will turn their lives around and salvage what is left. You keep inmates safe, you are responsible for their safety and welfare, and when they do ‘straighten out’ many of us feel good. So-we keep trying and sometimes change in an inmate takes time. But change is not impossible. Recently I was talking to a good friend of mine, Dr. Kevin Courtright from my alma mater, Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. He told me about the twenty fifth anniversary of the Pennsylvania state prison, Albion SCI. One of its former superintendents, Ed Brennan, said that he was advised early in his career that he was in the ‘salvage business, not the garbage business’. At the State Correctional Institution (SCI), Albion, inmates can learn building and construction skills, data entry, Microsoft programs certification and how to drive a forklift. The institutional climate is positive, with little or no unrest. Only one escape has occurred since 2007, and inmate fights and infractions do happen occasionally among the 2,270 inmates. The warden, Michael Clark, stated:

“The goal for any of us in corrections would be that they [inmates] leave here and don’t return. We know one of the ways to ensure that is that they leave here with some skills that they could get gainful employment.” (Last, 2018)

This can be true for the local jail as well. There will always be crime-and there will always be inmates. That said, jail officers and deputies will always have job security. But-in my view-we have a moral duty to offer the inmates the tools of change. Jail programs offer inmates’ hope and the possibility that their lives will not be placed on society’s garbage heap, but may be salvaged. Some do want to get out and stay out. They are the ones that are at the cellblock door ready to go when you call out the programs list. They are the ones who treat programs staff and volunteers with respect. They are the ones that earn their GED, get clean and sober by attending the jail’s substance abuse programs or change their ways of criminal thinking. They are the ones who are working on their reading homework, while their friends are playing cards. Or-sometimes inmates change through religious programs, finding a higher power to guide them. And yes, I know-some attend programs just to get out of the cellblock or unit. Some manipulate staff or use program sessions to meet up with their friends and pass contraband. But if a jail programs staff works closely with good, professional COs, many of these insincere inmates are weeded out. I am not naïve; there are many inmates that due to their charges, criminal histories, risk of escape, being assaultive, being incompatible and showing negative behavior should never be allowed to attend programs. Programs should be for the inmates who have earned the privilege through respecting staff, respecting other inmates, following the rules and trying to make something of themselves.

In the eight years that I supervised jail programs at the Fairfax County, VA Adult Detention Center, I was and still am, very proud of the work my staff and I did, working with treatment agencies, educational agencies, offender help organizations and religious organizations to bring both hope and a ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ to inmates who are sincere about change. Supervising programs requires staff to be balanced-both recognizing the value of programs and the security needs of the facility. While resisting inmate manipulation must be a key component of this training, other areas must include wearing proper identification, jail rules, contraband, emergencies and adhering to jail policies. But-one of the most important aspects of programs training in the jail is the existence of an open two way communications system between volunteers, civilian programs personnel and sworn staff. They have to both respect the others’ jobs and be open minded.

My staff and I worked with the local school board, local churches, the Good News Jail and Prison Ministry, the local community services board and several other rehabilitation organizations. One nonprofit agency, Opportunities, Alternatives and Resources has a great motto: Breaking the Cycle of Crime with Opportunities, Alternatives and Resources. (www.oarnova.org). Another is the Good News Jail and Prison Ministry. Included in its jail programming are the topics of acceptance as a person, getting along with those around us, forgiveness, how to handle both incarceration and getting out and responsibility and accountability to family, job and authority (www.goodnews.org). I urge any jail CO reading this column to check out both of these organizations.

These and other programs organizations have good people-and through their efforts, that person behind you in line at the grocery store is going to pay his bill, not bother anyone and behave. He may have at one time been in jail-and maybe his life was ‘salvaged’.

References:

Alper, Mariel, Ph.D., Matthew R. Durose and Joshua Markham. (May 2018). Special Report: 2018 Update on Prisoner Recidivism: a 9-Year Follow-Up Period (2005-2014). U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics. www.bjs.gov

Good News Jail and Prison Ministry. www.goodnews.org

Last, J. (2018, April 19). A Rare Look Inside the Walls of SCI-Albion. Erie News Now. Retrieved from http://www.erienewsnow.com

OAR Fairfax. www.oarnova.org

Uncategorized

The Twenty Minute Trainer: Inmate Rights: They Have Them! (Like it or Not)

May 31st, 2018

The following article has been reprinted with permission from IACTP’s Correctional Trainer, June 2018.

I teach an in service course for jail officers-Avoiding Liability. I am not a lawyer-but I am a jail veteran with many years of experience. Inmate rights can be discussed often in training; the important things for correctional officers to remember is that number one-inmates, through the courts have been granted limited rights under the United States Constitution, particularly the Bill of Rights-the first ten amendments. Number two-if personnel through gross negligence, deliberate indifference or just plain stupidity violate these rights and are found liable-they may lose their jobs. In addition, staff who are found liable may be criminally charged and may be ordered to pay out large sums in punitive damages. Many cases involve the Eighth Amendment, prohibiting cruel and unusual punishment. Denying inmates medical care, mental health care, and using excessive force on them are the big violators of this amendment. Mail, visiting and religion fall under the First Amendment, searches are under the Fourth, and lack of due process concerns the Fourteenth.

There are various ways to present training about the constitutional rights of inmates. Some agencies have an attorney come in and conduct training. On line videos can be presented. Finally, a training officer can research court cases and references and present. It is an interesting subject, and court decisions are coming down frequently that have an impact on the field of corrections. My approach is not to take the time to divide up the courts into federal, state, appellate, the U.S. Supreme Court, etc. I ‘lump’ all of the courts together, saying that courts consult each other’s cases, and their decisions taken as a whole can provide insight into what the courts are thinking about inmate rights.

But-back to the central issue. Inmates have rights. Why? Because the corrections system in the United States is arguably the most humane in terms of providing services to inmates and treating them like people. However, there are cases where corrections staff have made mistakes-some deliberately and the courts have found in favor of the inmates. Inmates can still sue. But filing a lawsuit is one thing-but winning is another. Due to the passage of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) inmates must exhaust all “administrative remedies” or grievances, before filing in federal court. The PLRA is designed to reduce the number of frivolous lawsuits from inmates and channel their complaints into the institutions’ grievance systems (Cornelius, 2017, pp. 296-298). It does not curtail or reduce the constitutional rights of inmates. If a lawsuit is filed, and the court thinks that it is a serious issue that could have an impact on inmates’ well-being-the case will be heard.

Every corrections staff member that is responsible for the confinement of inmates must have a working knowledge of inmates’ constitutional rights. Many of us have heard remarks such as “Inmates have more rights than we do”, or “Inmates should have thought about their rights before they did what they did to get locked up”. Another remark may be something like “The courts can’t tell us what to do”. These are views that are narrow minded and ignorant-and if followed can get your staff into trouble.

There are many sources where the rights of inmates are clearly listed or discussed. One of these sources can be your own facility’s Inmate Handbook. Also, there are sources on line from organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union that put inmates’ rights into a clear, readable format.

One source that I came across was the website for Indiana County, Pennsylvania. In the section concerning the jail, inmate rights, privileges and responsibilities are clearly written. It can serve as a handy guide for any jail officer. I will summarize inmates’ rights (Indiana County, PA):

Inmates have the right:

  • To be treated impartially, fairly and justly.
  • To a nutritious diet, clean and adequately fitting clothes.
  • To personal grooming choices, which must meet facility guidelines for safety, security, hygiene or clear identification.
  • To send and receive personal and official mail, subject to facility limitations concerning contraband and/or inflammatory materials.
  • To engage in visits with family or friends, subject to facility rules.
  • To be addressed by name in a respectful, not derogatory manner.
  • To be free from discrimination based in physical or mental limitations, political views of jail administration’s decisions and access to privileges, services and programs. Inmates will not be discriminated against based on their race, religion, national origin, sex or age.
  • To exercise, subject to correctional interests and restrictions.
  • To be supervised by staff, not other inmates.
  • To be free and not subjected to deliberate personal injury, corporal punishment, deliberate damage to property, excessive force by staff, inmate assault and harassment.
  • To have voluntary access to religious services and clergy.
  • To have access to a grievance procedure or system.
  • To have access to legal materials, legal counsel, correspondence and private visits with attorneys.
  • To have access to medical, dental and mental health care.

But having just a working knowledge of inmate rights is not enough. Correctional staff should be aware of The Ten Steps to Protect Against Inmate Lawsuits. They do not guarantee that you will never be sued, but they can work to both prevent the possibility of lawsuits and your defense in court. They are (Cornelius, 2017, pp. 346-347):

  1. Recognize potential problems: Inmate safety, self-harm, inmate medical problems, inmate mental health problems, substandard conditions, etc.
  2. Education and training: Trainers and supervisors must keep up with developments in case law, legal statutes, standards, etc. concerning inmates’ constitutional rights and present staff training.
  3. Selection and hiring: Staff who may cause problems or are potential ‘hotheads’ should not be hired. Use performance evaluations to correct bad behavior.
  4. Correct policies and procedures: All should be in compliance with correctional standards, court decisions, legal statutes and case law.
  5. Supervision: All supervisors must be mobile and know what is going on inside the facility, and take corrective action.
  6. Discipline: Problem staff who are not respecting the rights of inmates must be dealt with firmly and swiftly. This includes counseling, suspension, demotion or termination.
  7. Communication: Staff must communicate with each other concerning the care and safe custody of inmates. Supervisors must respond to inquiries about issues and incidents that could incur liability.
  8. Documentation: Written records may help you defend yourself and the agency in court.
  9. Watch the attitude!: Courts punish inmates, you do not. Staff with attitudes of punishing and demeaning inmates are dangerous.
  10. Watch Out for Each Other: If you see a fellow staff member making a mistake or acting in a way that violates inmates’ rights, you have a duty to report it. Do not stand by and do nothing-you may be held liable.

In summary, we all know that inmates are entitled to limited protections under the United States Constitution. They have rights-whether you like it or not. Everyone who interacts with inmates should have a basic knowledge of these rights. Also-they must know how to protect themselves from the possibility of inmate lawsuits. We all know that being sued is an occupational hazard. What we must do is work to lessen that possibility.

References:
Cornelius, Gary F. (2017). The Correctional Officer: A Practical Guide, Third Edition. Durham: Carolina Academic Press.
Inmate Rights, privileges and Responsibilities, Indiana County, Pennsylvania, http://www.countyofindiana.org/

Uncategorized

Tales From the Local Jail: ‘They Don’t Just Sit Around’

April 13th, 2018

It’s interesting what you read in the local newspaper about your local jail. There are stories about escapes, contraband, and unfortunately at times-inmate suicides and sexual misconduct involving staff and inmates.

But-once in a while you read a comment-though well meaning-that is inaccurate. In a way it shows what the good citizens do not know about our local jails. I am not in any way calling our citizens ignorant. They do pay our salary, but at times appear misinformed. All they may know about the jail in their community is based on what they see on the news, or what they see in the movies or on a television show.

Jails are a part of the community, especially in public safety. Every jurisdiction has a local or county police; all have access to a local court. They serve the taxpayer-by enforcing the laws and adjudicating cases of those people who have violated the law. The local jail is no less important.

When a citizen sees a police car, he or she is thankful that a law enforcement professional is watching out for their safety. When they see a courthouse, they may think ‘those wrongdoers will get their just desserts’.

But-when they pass by the local jail, what do they think? Hopefully they think that they are safer due to the professional dedication, training and high standards of the men and women working inside them. They keep us safe, by keeping the bad people-the criminal offenders-locked up.

So-imagine my surprise recently when I read an email to my local newspaper from a citizen. The newspaper has a feature that prints e mails from the local citizenry-some complain, some praise the things and people in the community.

Titled ‘Litter Pickup’, this person (anonymous) wrote that while driving on one of the main roads in a neighboring community, he or she saw inmates picking up trash on the side of the road. The e mail went on to say that the county [apparently where he or she lives-Author’s note] “got a whole jail full of people sitting down there doing nothing. Why don’t they use them to do it instead of paying a contractor with tax dollars to pick up the trash?” It ends with a question-asking the reader if he or she is the only one that this does not make sense to and opines that the powers that be in the county does not see it either.

So-I asked myself if this opinion and view of the ‘jail full of people doing nothing’ is widespread. And-in my life I have heard people saying “get the inmates to pick up the trash-they just sit around all day watching television and playing cards!” I guess that they think that jail officers just sit around all day as well.

As a corrections professional who has worked inside a jail, including supervising an inmate community work program, I can assure mister or missus taxpayer that not all inmates are suitable to be in the community picking up the trash. I do not think that the good citizens want an assaultive inmate, a drug dealing inmate, a sex offender, gang member or a mentally ill inmate out in the community-even under guard.

To me-and I bet many jail officers-this presents an opportunity to ‘shine’ to our taxpayers. Many citizens are not familiar with their local jail-who is locked up, the training of the men and women who serve, and the careful screening that takes place before we just put those ‘sitting around’ inmates out in the community. Let’s look at the facts:

  • If you ask any jail officer what types of offenders are locked up in his or her jail, the most probable answer will be: mentally ill, drug users, sex offenders, hard core repeat offenders and substance abusers. Others include minor offenders-traffic offenses, property crimes, etc. Jails are a potpourri of criminals-a ‘mixed bag’. Due to their behavior, criminal histories and nature of their crimes, not all are suitable to take out into the community to perform work. Jail staff must carefully screen out those who could pose a problem-such as bringing in contraband, resisting authority or escaping. To the folks who say that there is a whole jail full of inmates just sitting around and put them to work; they are the same citizens who would complain that a serial burglar is out on the roads picking up trash. Not all inmates are suitable for community inmate labor programs.
  • Inmates are screened: An inmate inside a jail cannot just say: “Hey! Put me out there because I want to work and repay my debt to society!” There is criteria. A good example can be found at the Washington County, Oregon, Sheriff’s Office. Inmates are carefully screened to work outside the jail. They must have exemplary jail behavioral records, have no violent criminal histories and are nearing the end of their sentences. Other criteria that most, if not all jails look at include being medically able to work, not charged with sex offenses and having no violent offenses. Substance abuse histories are also looked at carefully. Inmates are interviewed carefully by staff to see of both their attitude and behavior are suitable.
  • Inmate community labor programs do save money-the inmates do perform work usually accomplished by paid employees or by a contracted company. For example, the Fairfax County (VA) Office of the Sheriff recently reported an annual savings of almost $1.5 million to the taxpayers. This was a result of inmates performing work on public roads, playgrounds, parks, bus stops, etc.
  • Jails strive to cultivate a good public image. That is why inmate candidates for community labor are carefully screened. No sheriff or jail superintendent wants incidents of inmates committing crimes in the community or escaping being reported to the news media. The system is not foolproof, but if staff is carefully selected, professional and trained, this risk is minimized.

In closing, the next time you drive by a jail inmate work crew, wearing those orange jumpsuits, being guarded by a jail officer-remember this: A lot of planning and screening went into letting those inmates work in the community. Yes-some inmates are just sitting in the jail-and those are the ones that the taxpayers DO NOT want out in the community.
Cut your local jails some slack-they have earned it.

Cut your local jails some slack-they have earned it.

References:
Fairfax County (VA) Office of the Sheriff https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/sheriff
The Virginia Gazette, (2018, March 10). Last Word, p. 5D.
Washington County Sheriff, Oregon.

Uncategorized

Tales From the Local Jail – Inmates in Isolation: The Need for a Serious Dialogue

January 11th, 2018

In the past several years, corrections has come under criticism for using isolation, with critics and researchers citing the detrimental effects on inmates who are isolated for long periods of time.

I am not going to get in a dialogue about how bad isolation or restrictive housing (RH) is for the inmates. As a former jail deputy and classification director, I dealt with inmates in three groups-those inmates that had to be placed in isolation, and those who, after a taste of it, were given a second chance. These two, with the seriously mentally ill (SMI) in isolation, represent the critical issues in the use of isolation. I’ll explain.

Let’s discuss the first group, in which the reasons for isolation are clear-and are common sense. There inmates who because of their criminal record or behavior in the institution makes placement in segregation a logical choice. If you work inside a large jail, as I did, and an inmate is booked in who is a known gang leader charged with a serious violent crime, you do not want him in the general population, boasting the gang philosophy, recruiting inmates and bragging about his crime. Or-you could have an inmate of notoriety, such as the BTK killer or the DC Snipers. An inmate could be a recaptured escapee, known for his reputation for pulling off daring escapes. You may get in an inmate who is well known to you from prior stays-for starting fights and arguments inside cellblocks. They like to tease and harass other inmates, or assault them or staff. They steal food and commissary items and try to control the television. They repeatedly violate the jail disciplinary code, and after several suspended sanctions held over their heads, a hearing officer decides on a term of disciplinary segregation. And finally-an inmate commits a crime such as an assault on a staff member, drug smuggling or assaulting another inmate which results in a serious injury or death. He or she is criminally charged and isolated. It’s jail-and that is the way of it at times. But sometimes isolation is a necessary precaution, such as in the case of protective custody or to prevent an inmate from being assaulted. Some inmates want segregation and their reasons may be valid.

In the second group-the inmates who have had a taste of isolation and think-really THINK about not going back to it-staff can be somewhat humane- but only if the inmate ‘wises up’. As a classification officer-with two tours in my career-I learned how to drive this point home. I asked the inmate-“Do you want to go back to population?” After the emphatic “yes!” I would patiently explain the reasons for segregation, the staff’s view of his behavior and if the inmate could show he could behave, I would seriously consider a move back. In other words-they have to earn reassignment. Placing an immature, horseplay prone inmate in segregation for a few days can be a valuable learning tool. For example, if a jail has a treatment unit for substance abusers who are court ordered into it. An inmate arrives there and by his actions, thinks that he or she can ‘run’ things or act up. The program counselors, unit deputies or correctional officers (COs)-who I respected and seriously considered their views, writes the inmate up for immaturity, horseplay, etc. They recommend be removal. The inmate can be segregated pending reclassification-and he can be told that he could get one-just one- more chance, or the classification director will hand carry the report and a letter to his sentencing judge. So-the inmate is given a choice. I have seen inmates quickly improve their behavior after several days of segregation, bemoaning the facts of no television, being locked in, etc.

The third group illustrates a problem. It is one that jails, their jurisdictions, law enforcement, the courts and the mental health profession will have to come up with a practical, realistic and humane solution. This group is the seriously mentally ill who are confined in local jails. Some mentally ill offenders can be managed by medication and intervention by qualified mental health professionals and specially trained COs. For example, an arrestee is booked in for petty theft and tells the staff that he is a high ranking official who works inside the White House. In reality, he lives on the street and is apparently mentally ill. With medication and a detailed evaluation by the jail mental health staff it may be possible to house him with other inmates-who also may be mentally ill. But-if an offender is violently psychotic and acting irrationally, he or she must be segregated. How can staff place in population inmates who smear feces on themselves, attack staff, bang their heads on the cell walls or drink water from the toilet? Many of these offenders need treatment and supervision by mental health professionals-not jail.

There is one critical aspect that runs through the issue of placing inmates in a jail on segregation. That is safety: the safety of correctional officers and staff and the safety of inmates. If staff, in their collective wisdom based on experience, and in examining the potential for violence based on the inmate’s record and behavior, thinks segregation is necessary for the good of the many-then segregation it is. The length of time may vary-no one size fits all.

All correctional staff must be aware of the following when supervising inmates in segregation:

  • Inmates vary in their ability to cope with segregation. While prisons have some inmates segregated for longer periods of time than jails, some inmates may suffer detrimental effects of isolation. Without normal human interaction, inmates in segregation reportedly suffer from mental health problems. These include panic, insomnia, anxiety, depression, paranoia, and aggression. An inmate may become suicidal after one day in segregation. Human contact and interaction is key, no matter what the inmate has done or whatever his mental state [1]. Staff must interact with them.
  • According to a U.S. Department of Justice Special Report, the use of restricted housing (RH) is linked to mental health issues. In prisons, 29 percent of inmates with current symptoms of serious mental illness or psychological distress were in RH. In jails, the rate was 22 percent [2].
  • Among inmates who had spent 30 days or more in RH since coming to the facility or in the last 12 months, over half had been in a fight, or had been ‘written up’ for assaulting the staff-54 percent in prisons, and 68 percent in jails [3].
  • Although an inmate can be placed in segregation in an emergency, such as an incident of assault, attempted escape, serious mental health issues pending evaluation, being considered suicidal, to place and keep an inmate in RH requires due process-a hearing where the facts are examined. This also means that the inmate cannot be forgotten about. And-before you think any further on this consider the Slevin case in New Mexico. After mediation by a federal court, inmate Stephen Slevin was awarded $15.5 million. He had been arrested in 2007 for drunken driving, never went to trial and was segregated for 22 months after a staff member noted that he was suicidal. He suffered dental problems, pulled out his own tooth and suffered from his toenails growing into his foot [4]. No doubt this had a negative mental effect on him as well.
  • Length of time and conditions: As a classification director, it was my job to number one-maintain the safety and security of the jail, and number 2-do what I could to humanely confine the inmates. There were inmates in RH that I hoped would turn their behavior around and could be returned to population. But there were many that because of their attitude, actions and criminal histories could not be in population. Conditions in RH should be sanitary and humane. As for the length of time-with some inmates, like the serious ones I have described, it is difficult to put a time limit on RH. Some inmate rights groups advocate a limit of 15 days, banning RH of young, elderly, pregnant and mentally ill inmates. Also advocated is giving isolated jail inmates at least 4 hours per day outside of their cells each day [5]. While I do agree that isolation can be hard on an inmate, and I and other good, professional COs do not want inmates to unduly suffer. But some questions and issues need to be raised:
    1. If jails place a limit on RH, there are some inmates that may not be ready to come off RH. Is it SAFE to bring them out? If one, ONE CO, staff member and/or inmate is hurt or killed, it’s too late. The decision had better be a thoroughly discussed informed one.
    2. As for increased out of cell time, how can this be regularly accomplished in a severely understaffed jail? Has any though been given by advocates on how to deal with the inmate who gets in the face of his post CO, pounding on the door, demanding, DEMANDING his time out of the cell?
    3. Jail is a negative environment, and no one in his or her right mind would want to be incarcerated in one. Does anyone ask this question:

      What did the inmate do, or how did he or she act to warrant the precautionary placement in restrictive housing?

    4. Actions of the inmates determine the responses of staff. Some inmates never get that message-and so isolation is a valuable tool for safety-of inmates, staff and the public.
    5. While emergency placement in segregation is necessary at times, the due process decision to place an inmate in administrative or disciplinary must be a careful, serious one. While the safety and security of the jail is first priority, administrative panels and classification committees must remember at all times that the inmate, a human being, will be housed in an environment that can be negative and depressing. All factors, especially the effect on the inmate, must be considered.

It’s time for a more frank dialogue about segregation, restrictive housing or isolation-with more of the views of corrections officers included. Let’s bring everyone to the table.

References:

[4] Associated Press. “New Mexico inmate left in solitary confinement for 2 years gets $15.5 million”. Fox News, March 7, 2013. http://www.foxnews.com
[2&3] Beck, Allen J. Ph.D. “Use of restrictive Housing in U.S. Prisons and Jails”. October 2015, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics: http://www.bjs.gov
[5] Correctional Association of New York. “NY sets new rules for solitary confinement in local jails”, October 18, 2017, http://www.correctinalassaociation.org
[1] Weir, Kirsten. “Alone, in ‘the hole’”. Monitor on Psychology, 43, no. 5 (May 2012): http://www.apa.org

Lt. Gary F. Cornelius retired in 2005 from the Fairfax County (VA) Office of the Sheriff, after serving over 27 years in the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center. His prior service in law enforcement included service in the United States Secret Service Uniformed Division. His jail career included assignments in confinement, work release, programs and classification.

He has been an adjunct faculty member of the Criminology, Law and Society Department at George Mason University since 1986, where he has taught four corrections courses. He also teaches corrections in service sessions throughout Virginia, and has performed training and consulting for the American Correctional Association, the American Jail Association and the National Institute of Justice. His latest book, The Correctional Officer: A Practical Guide: Third Edition was published in April 2017 by Carolina Academic Press. He has authored several other books in corrections. Gary has received a Distinguished Alumnus Award in Social Science from his alma mater, Edinboro University of Pennsylvania and an Instructor Appreciation Award from George Mason University.

Uncategorized

Tales From the Local Jail: Inmate Schemers and ‘Mister Potter’

January 2nd, 2018

At this time of year, many of us settle down in front of the television and watch the Christmas classic It’s a Wonderful Life. Many of us shed a tear as we watch George Bailey run through a snowy Bedford Falls shouting ‘Merry Christmas’ to the people and institutions that he now realizes that are so important to him.

But there is one scene in the movie that can serve as a valuable lesson about correctional staff and the inmate manipulator. This past year, I was fortunate enough to attend a great seminar on manipulation through Vyne Education presented by licensed psychologist Dr. Alan Godwin. In the seminar, Inside the Manipulator’s Mind: The Insiders Guide to Ending Emotional Exploitation he discusses how manipulators present to us-their marks-the rosy picture of how life would be so much better for us if we do what they want.

There is a great example in the movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, according to Dr. Godwin, and I agree. Let’s set this up-in case some of you have not seen the movie.
The film is set in the fictional town of Bedford Falls, where the Baileys-the good guys-run a family business, the Bailey Brothers Building and Loan Association. They help people buy housing, they care about their customers and are moral and good. But-the antagonist in the town is mean old Mister Potter-who owns and controls many of the businesses in the town-except the Bailey Brothers Building and Loan. He wants to get control of that as well, and has failed over the years.

According to Dr. Godwin, Mr. Potter is an Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OPCD), and this means that he needs to be in control of his surroundings. In those surroundings are people-and he needs to control George Bailey-the ‘thorn in his side’. He has a relationship-not to his liking- with George Bailey.

So-in the movie there is a key scene. Mr. Potter tries a different approach. He calls George Bailey into his office to offer him a job. At first he compliments George on successfully thwarting him through the years, and offers him a high quality expensive cigar. He praises George for beating him, saying ‘that takes some doing’.

This is not Mr. Potter being self-aware of his failure and recognizing the mettle of George Bailey. He lays it on thick, ‘buttering’ George up with the offer of a high paying job, big salary, trips to Europe, etc. The goal is to get his hands on George Bailey’s business and get George to do what he-Mr. Potter-wants. He tells George that ‘his ship has just come in’.

If George caves, Mr. Potter wins the game. He is trying to manipulate George with promises of how things will be so much better if he says yes, takes the job and goes along. There are strings attached-George becomes beholding to Potter and the family business is gone.

George is mesmerized by Mr. Potter and the offer-and at first takes it, shaking Mr. Potter’s hand. But if you have seen the movie-you see that after shaking Potter’s hand, he realizes that it was just a ploy to control him. As Dr. Godwin observes, George reaches across the desk and shakes Potter’s hand. While doing so-he realizes that it is all a scam. He steps back and wipes his hand off on his jacket, “like a man who’d just fished something valuable out of a toilet”. He then tells Mr. Potter off, saying that “you sit around here and spin your little webs and you think the whole world revolves around you”.

Now-let’s apply this scenario to working in a jail. Mr. Potter represents the manipulative inmates who want to control staff-the line correctional officers (COs), the volunteers, the medical staff, the programs staff, etc. They spin a good yarn-about how they can give staff money for favors, be their friends and if they are lonely, be a sexual or romantic partner. All of these have strings attached. They paint a rosy picture, saying ‘if you do what I want-your ship will come in.’

As we have unfortunately seen, some staff and COs swallow this manipulation hook, line and sinker. They actually are taken in by the inmate.

The bottom line? Most COs and staff are the George Baileys-good people, with good morals, handling personal and professional responsibilities and are making a difference in our nation’s jails. To continue to do so-the next time an inmate promises you something for doing that ‘one little, small favor’ for him or her:

Remember the scene of Mr. Potter and George Bailey.

For more information, please contact Dr. Alan Godwin at alangodwin@peopleproblems.org.

References:

Godwin, Alan, Psy.D. (2017, December 29). In Relationships and Culture. Posted to The Drama Review (Gifts with Strings Attached). E mail, received 12/29/17.

Inside the Manipulator’s Mind: The Insider’s Guide to Ending Emotional Exploitation, seminar presented by Dr. Alan Godwin, Vyne Education, Richmond, VA, 08/24/2017.

Uncategorized

Tales From the Local Jail: Oh Great! Another Ethics Class!!

September 5th, 2017

As sure as the sun comes up every morning, corrections veterans know that when there is a serious case of staff misconduct, such as contraband smuggling, sex with inmates, etc., there will be a push for ethics training. Some corrections officers (COs) think that ethics training is a waste of time-after all, they have never been in trouble. But they cannot brush aside the fact that some veteran corrections officers with many years on the job commit unethical acts. Those are the ones that we read about or see on the local news. And when a CO is fired for bringing a cell phone in to give to an inmate, or is caught taking payoffs to smuggle drugs-it makes all of us look bad. The public-and they do pay our salaries, wonder “Is this that what goes on in the jail that I pay taxes for?”

So-let’s talk about ethics. COs, as part of their subculture, abide by the “CO Code”-those unwritten guidelines handed down from the veteran COs to the ‘rookies’. There are formal ethics-such as the department’s code of conduct policy. And then there are informal ethics-The CO Code. This code, for the most part, keeps a CO safe. But it has to be looked at and applied in a realistic way.

The following excerpt is included with permission from Carolina Academic Press:

Informal Ethics: The Correctional Subculture


Proper ethics are taught in training academies, at roll calls, and at in-service training. The correctional officer is aware of the agency’s general order on the code of conduct. How to properly act is taught, and then the correctional officer enters the institution and has to work with many different correctional officers. An informal correctional officer’s code has developed. Some of the tenets of this code are common sense and emphasize
security. But some, while meaning well, may have a negative impact. M.A. Farkas in 1997 conducted extensive research on this code. The eight main tenets of the informal correctional officer’s code are as follows:

  • Always go to assist a fellow correctional officer, no matter if the danger is real or perceived. This shows the inmate population the solidarity among the correctional officers— that they will always back each other up in situations involving inmates.
  • Don’t become too friendly with inmates. Though good interpersonal relations are important, correctional officers are not inside a facility to be the inmate’s friend or “pal.” Inmates will convince correctional officers to cross professional boundary lines and be manipulated. Correctional officers should maintain a safe distance and not divulge personal information to inmates.
  • Don’t abuse your authority as a correctional officer; keep calm and cool. Inmates will resent correctional officers who “throw their weight” around. Correctional officers will find their jobs easier if they remain calm; then, incidents will not escalate into situations that may be out of control.
  • Support fellow correctional officers’ decisions and actions, do not be a “back stabber.” Correctional officers must appear to be solidly linked to each other, as officers who support each other. Inmates will see weakness if correctional officers disagree with each other in front of inmates. Correctional officers should never embarrass each other. At times, correctional officers can discuss differences away from inmates. However, this does not apply if a correctional officer’s actions are unlawful or unnecessarily put an inmate in harm’s way.

For example, a new correctional officer inside a prison assists officers in placing an unruly inmate in a restraint chair. The inmate is restrained; a “spit mask” is put over his face because he is spitting at officers. The officers then leave the area, but one goes back and punches the inmate several times in the mouth and nose, resulting in a lot of blood.

The new correctional officer is told by the [veteran] correctional officer to forget what he saw. If he does, he is backing the correctional officer’s illegal assault. Unfortunately, if he reports the act to his supervisor, he may be labeled a “back stabber.” It’s a tough call, but it is always advisable to report wrongdoing and not give “tacit” approval to correctional officers
who act wrongly.

  • Admit mistakes. Veteran correctional officers will say that it is better to admit mistakes rather than be caught up in deception to supervisors and internal affairs. One veteran sheriff’s deputy remembered that early in his career, several deputies made some serious mistakes. The sheriff went around the jail and talked to the staff saying no matter what mistakes you make or what you have done, it is always better to tell the truth and not lie.
  • Always carry your own weight. Correctional officers must do their job and not leave things unfinished for the next shift or other correctional officers. Professionalism means doing the job to the best of one’s abilities and asking for help, if necessary, and not dumping work on others.
  • Defer to the wisdom and experience of veteran correctional officers. Good veterans have a lot of experience that they will share. However, this tenet of the code does not mean that all correctional officer veterans are ethical, professional, or good officers. A veteran correctional officer may have bad habits and opinions; he may be a “know it all.” Each correctional officer, when listening to a veteran, will have to decide if this correctional officer is one who is good and from whom “tricks of the trade” can be learned. Or— the way that he does his job is the wrong way.
  • Mind your own business. Rumors and gossip may appear to make the workplace interesting, but if inmates find out information about staff, especially negative information (such as who just got reprimanded, for example), inmates can use it to drive a wedge between staff. There are gossips in every occupation. False information and lies can cause disharmony and trouble. (Silverman, 2001, pp. 312–313)

In closing, the ‘CO Code’ may appear to help keep COs safe. But-following it requires common sense and discretion.

References:

Cornelius, Gary F. (2017). The Correctional Officer: A Practical Guide, Third Edition. Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press.

Farkas, M.A. (1997). The normative code among correctional officers: An explanation of components and functions. Journal of Crime and Delinquency, 20(1), 23-36.

Silverman, I.J. (2001). Corrections: A Comprehensive View, Second Edition. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning.

Uncategorized

Outreach: Colleges to the Local Jails

May 5th, 2017

In early April I had the privilege of traveling back to my alma mater, Edinboro University of Pennsylvania for the Pennsylvania Association of Criminal Justice Educators (PACJE) conference. At the invitation of Dr. Kevin Courtright of the university’s Department of Criminal Justice, Anthropology and Forensics Studies, I participated in a panel discussion on corrections issues. I talked about several, including counteracting the myths about corrections that the public believes and the media portrayal of corrections, which in my opinion could be more objective. One topic that I discussed was how local colleges and local jails can work together to both enhance the education of college students and improve the image of the local jail. Having been a college adjunct instructor at George Mason University (GMU) in Fairfax, Virginia for the past 30 years, I can speak from experience. During my teaching time there, I also worked at the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center. It pleased me to see that Edinboro University is taking steps in that direction.

Many citizens do not have a clear picture of what the jail staff does, the stresses of the job or what they endure from the inmates. Shift work, violent inmates, contraband, escapes and mentally ill inmates are just some of the aspects of correctional work that are sobering when one considers the dangers of the job. In my seminars and criminal justice academy classes, I emphasize that corrections is an important part of the criminal justice system-the police lock up the criminals and the jails and prisons keep them locked up. Both police and corrections help keep the public safe.

This brings me to the local college. Most jails are located near a local college, either a four year institution or a two year community college. Most offer criminal justice courses. Many students major in criminal justice (CJ) with the goal of entering the law enforcement field-and this field includes corrections. Correctional officers strive for public safety-they enforce the laws and rules inside correctional facilities. They are law enforcement officers. Jails and local colleges can benefit from one another. If you are a college instructor, and plan to teach or are currently teaching corrections classes, here is some advice:

  • Offer courses in local corrections: jails, community corrections, etc.: Corrections covers a wide range of topics. New topics are welcome. This fall at GMU I am excited about teaching a new course I devised-Inmate Management.
  • Take advantage of local jail agencies’ desire for positive publicity: Most jails have a public information officer who will be glad to assist you. Jails want to put their best image out there for all to see.
  • Offer internships: This is probably the best way to introduce CJ students to the real world of corrections. These students can be very helpful in many tasks inside the facility. Usually a paper is required. I have had some great interns working inside the jail. As their faculty sponsor I discovered most were industrious and eager to learn.
  • We need research and data: We are in the ‘The ‘Golden Age of Corrections’: There are many great websites for both instructor and student. The Pew Research Center, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the Justice Policy Institute, the Urban Policy Institute and the Council of State Governments all contain helpful data. Many universities have conducted studies about corrections facilities and offenders.
  • Combine research and reality: Require students to conduct some type of field research. Many students tend to fill papers with summaries of studies and statistics-they look impressive. But-explore how statistics translate to practicality in corrections. Field research involves students observing operations inside a corrections facility and interviewing personnel. You can require that a paper include discussions of actual jails/prisons, programs and personnel. Some students interview former inmates. It makes them seek out and experience corrections in practice. In my classes I require five examples of facility programs, operations, etc., to be included in a paper.
  • Include facility tours: Often these are logistically difficult-but try to make them happen. Jails have great guides and you will get your eyes opened.
  • Include correctional facility material: Many inmate handbooks, facility policies and orientation videos are available on line.
  • Discuss-responsibly-news events concerning inmates in local jails, correctional facilities and staff issues. Many news reports can be downloaded. Don’t use biased reports-use well researched, objective broadcasts.
  • Bring in guest speakers: COs, supervisors, counselors, mental health, rehab staff and reformed ex inmates all have experiences and information that adds interest and will keep the students focused.
  • Give extra credit for attending extracurricular events: Many colleges sponsor criminal justice speakers and seminars. Give students extra credit for attending them.

Hopefully these will grow into good partnerships between the jails and the colleges in the community. Corrections needs the data and research that is gathered by academe-and the current and next generations of criminal justice college students need to see corrections in practice. It is a win-win for all. The more educated students are about the corrections field, the better law enforcement officers and criminal justice professionals they will become.

Uncategorized