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Is Your Mailroom Your Facility’s Achilles Heal

January 9th, 2011

Is Your Mailroom Your Achilles Heal

Learning from Others

Once again other people’s misfortunes can help us get prepared for another possible emergency situation (s). United State Postal Offices have experienced flammable packages being sent through the USPS to governmental officials. In all of these instances, the facilities had to be evacuated and some employees were slightly injured.

What can anyone operating any type of a criminal justice facility learn from these events? I have put together checklist to help CJ facilities prepare for similar events or events that could be even more serious.

Read more…

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Cyber Attack

December 13th, 2010

Cyber Attack

Did You Hear the Wakeup Call

Over the past week hackers brought down numerous web sites to include MasterCard. The reason for these attacks was the arrest of Julian Assange in England, he is the purported head person of WikiLeaks, a web site that has leaked millions of pages of military and United States State Department secrets. He was not arrested for leaking classified information, but for rape charges lodged against him in Sweden.

In support of Mr. Assange, “an anonymous group of ‘hacktivists’, which is behind what it calls “Operation Payback”, claimed on Twitter that it was responsible for disrupting the credit card group’s (MasterCard’s) website.” [1]

Of course, I immediately thought of how secure are the United Kingdom’s web sites, especially those associated with Her Majesty’s Prison Service. If this group of “hacktivists” can disrupt, shutdown, and/or interrupt a sophisticated web site like MasterCard, one must be concerned about their governmental web site. I have some familiarity with HMPS and it is a very professional group of people. Yet with all of the new technology being developed and/or adapted, it is difficult for governmental agencies worldwide to keep up with the ever-evolving trends.

Read more…

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The Holiday Season – A Challenging Time of the Year in Correctional Facilities

November 19th, 2010

As the Holiday Season approaches, it is once again time to get ready for what can be the most challenging time for correctional facilities. It is challenging because the offenders are away from home during the Holiday Season, emotions run high, and at times logic is not present. How the facility is managed throughout this period of the year is crucial.

Positive /Proactive management will help diminish the Holiday doldrums experienced by the offenders and some staff. What does Positive/Proactive management mean? It means putting in place programmatic activities so that offenders may experience, as much as possible; a positive way of celebrating the holidays while not sacrificing the security of the facility

Holiday Season Programmatic Activities

Ø Establish a list of items that could be given to the offender population as gifts.

Ø Solicit from volunteer groups Holiday Cards for the offenders to send to their loved ones (to include postage). I have found that the religious groups are very willing to donate cards to the offenders.

Ø Have specialized programming during the Holiday Season for the offenders.

         Invite Civilian Choral Groups to come into the facility to perform.

         Develop an Offender Choral Group and/or Band that can perform for other offenders.

         Establish Special visitation hours throughout the Holiday Season, etc.

Ø Remind staff to be on the watch for offenders exhibiting the signs and symptoms of suicide.

Ø Remind staff to be on the watch for other staff members who may be having difficulties getting through the Holiday Season.

Ø Remind staff that offenders may be more reactive (violent) than normal – Nerves on edge.

Holiday Season Security Activities

Ø Conduct numerous targeted shakedowns

Ø Conduct a mini- security audit of the entire facility, paying special attention to the following areas:

¨ Kitchen

¨ Industrial Area (Shops)

¨ Offender Living Areas

Ø Remind staff to use all their senses of sight, hearing (listening), smell.

Ø Insist on strict accountability of all materials that can be used to make (hooch, pruno) jailhouse booze.  

Ø Carefully observe of the offender population.

¨ Gang activities increase (Introduction of contraband –drugs, alcohol, cell phones, debt collections/assaults, etc.)

¨ The older offender population remain in their cells if they believe that there is going to be trouble.

Ø Strict enforcement of contraband policies and procedures is essential

¨ Start random pat down searches

¨ Thoroughly search  all incoming packages


¨ Use drug sniffing dogs

o   In offender living areas

o   In the visitor reception area

o   In the kitchen

o   In the shops

o   In common areas

o   In the outside recreation yards

Ø There should be enhanced perimeter security and increased outside patrol activities

¨ Have security officers and drug dogs search all outside areas prior to the offenders having access to them.

¨ Increase Outside Patrol Activities

o   Check perimeter fencing for materials stuck in fences

o   Check perimeter fencing for cuts in the materials

o   Insure that patrols are not routine – In fact, have the outside patrol become erratic so that no one will ever be able to determine where and when the patrol will be in one place.

o   Add additional patrols periodically

Ø Strictly enforce all disciplinary rules. Take the “bad actors” off the street if they are acting out.


One last caution! Carefully observe offenders after telephone calls and/or visits. I have experienced situations when offenders “went off” or became “seriously depressed” after having a troublesome telephone call or visits. 


The Holiday Season has always been a challenging time for correctional facilities. Understanding that this season can be difficult, it is incumbent for correctional administrators and staff to take steps to prevent, if possible, or mitigate any issues that may arise. As Benjamin Franklin said, An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”


Now I have to sign off and think of ways to avoid putting up the Christmas decorations.


 Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and Seasons Greetings

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Update The Juvenile Justice Systems – Now!

August 19th, 2010

This article may cause discomfort or perhaps even anger among some people in the Juvenile Justice Community.  Let me start by saying, I believe that the current American Juvenile Justice System is outdated.  In my opinion, many of the Juvenile Justice Systems are still employing social work principles and treatment methodologies of the 1960’s, 1970’s, and the 1980’s. – in short, the Father Flanagan (Founder of Boy’s Town) philosophy: “There’s no such thing as a bad boy” [1], when in reality there are some really bad boys and girls.

The incorrigible juveniles, runaways, habitual truants, etc., that composed the juvenile delinquent population of the past are not the offenders filling juvenile institutions today. Many of today’s juvenile offenders have committed violent crimes and require a different type of incarceration that includes intensive (personalized) treatment and educational programs.  As a society, we cannot continue to turn a blind eye on these out of control juveniles.

I grew up in the 1950’s and 1960’s and I knew some boys who were sent to reform school for excessive truancy, car theft, and petty theft. Today, these crimes would not even get a second look by most criminal justice agencies. As a police sergeant in the 1970’s, I worked extensively with juveniles. Then in the mid-1990’s, I once again had the opportunity to work with juveniles who had been adjudicated as adults and sentenced to adult prisons. It was working with the sad and difficult youthful offenders’ population that I came to the realization that the current Juvenile Justice System was missing its mark. I spent hours interviewing and just talking with these youthful offenders, listening to their stories of how they could manipulate the juvenile system, the school system, and their parents (if the parents even played any role in their lives).

What I believe is needed for the Juvenile Justice System is a comprehensive overhaul where those juveniles who are convicted of minor offences and are under a certain age can receive the care that they need in a juvenile facility. Additionally, I believe that there needs to be another stage, a hybrid youthful offender/adult correctional system that would concentrate on the needs of youthful offenders. Youth offenders are persons between the ages of thirteen and nineteen who have committed serious crimes. This hybrid correctional system, using data (good and bad) that has been collected from youthful offender programs in adult facilities,  and high security juvenile facilities, would be created as an entirely new correctional environment, to include programming where these violent youthful offenders could be incarcerated.

In cases that involve this juvenile population, the criminal justice system has one and perhaps two chances to help these juveniles get their lives straightened out. If the Criminal Justice System fails, many of these juveniles will follow a path of crime doing life (in jails and prisons) on the installment plan (2 years here, 5 years there, etc.).

To develop this hybrid youthful offender correctional system, there will need to be a basic change in the way society, especially in the criminal justice system, views juveniles who commit serious crimes. Since its inception the juvenile court has metered out “justice” while adhering to the parens patriae philosophy (A doctrine that grants the inherent power and authority of the state to protect persons who are legally unable to act on their own behalf.)[2]

Some basic changes that I would recommend when dealing with this population are:

– The title for offenders twelve years of age or under would be juveniles.

– The title for offenders thirteen to nineteen would be youthful offenders.

– There should be Extensive “Baseline Testing” upon entry into the CJ formal system. What I mean by “Baseline Testing” is the development of a comprehensive understanding of the offender. The “Baseline Testing” package should include; cognitive, psychosocial, extensive physical, dental, and emotional. It is my deep seeded belief that with this comprehensive testing the CJ system would have a complete picture of the offender and his/her needs. If this testing is not conducted, I believe, we are just throwing good money away. Too often the criminal justice system uses the shotgun approach to treatment; they put everyone through the same programs, rather than tailoring the programs to the needs of the offenders. Yes, it is expensive, but so is having the same people come back to prison over and over.

There are those who will disagree with this approach to re-tooling the Juvenile Justice System to meet the needs of today’s youth. I believe that my approach is worth a serious try. There should be an evaluation tool built into the program that measures the success of each element of the program.

Some additional thoughts for a youthful offender program are:

– Develop “highly structured” programs where initially the offender(s) day is highly structured.  As the offenders progress through the program, the structure begins to be taken away.

– Integrate educational programs (academic, technical, and vocational) into the youthful offender program; this is crucial. Rules of the school must be strictly enforced and offenders can receive official write-ups for both academic and behavior issues.

– Develop a comprehensive reentry program that is highly structured. The re-entry program must have all of the necessary elements in place and be operational prior to the youthful offenders’ release. One of the elements that should be part of a reentry program is the ability for offenders to call back to the institution and speak to institutional personnel with whom they had worked when they were incarcerated. Most correctional agencies have policies and procedures about communicating with offenders after they have left the institution, so there would have to be some new policies and procedures clearly outlining how the staff would conduct themselves when dealing with youthful offenders who have been released. (My rationale for recommending this post incarceration communication is because the institutional personnel build relationships with these youthful offenders and can give them guidance even after their release.)

When appropriate, youthful offenders should be permitted to live on their own. There are some people who think I have lost my mind by suggesting that youthful offenders be permitted to live apart from their parents, etc. Well, I am a realist and in various cases the offender’s parents are part of their problem (the parents are addicts, violent and abusive, and/or involved in criminal activities). The offenders’ parole officers could conduct unannounced checks on them to insure that they are following the rules.

Provide specialized training for all staff who will be working with youthful offenders. The areas that I believe must be part of this specialized training are:

·         Adolescent Development

·         Conflict Resolution

·         Goal setting

·         Tattoo removal program

·         Anti-gang programs

The time to make the changes in the Juvenile Justice System is now. Most of the current state systems are struggling to keep their heads above water. They (the states) continue to fall further and further behind in treating, rehabilitating, or punishing violent juvenile offenders. I have given up looking at statistics because I no longer believe them. News, web sites, and common sense tell us that street gangs are growing larger and spreading into suburban and rural communities.

As an example: according to the WIKI research web site, 16-24 for males however it is only an average as they are at their peak strength at this age.” [3] People who work with street gangs report that the street gangs are recruiting younger or junior members to their gangs. They do this to take advantage of the Juvenile Justice System and the way it treats juvenile offenders.  

Society has the right to be safe from violent youth. The Juvenile Justice System should not be a swinging  door where offenders released are  no better, perhaps worse, than when they were incarcerated. States have to stop trying to conduct youthful offenders rehabilitation on the “cheap”. This new Youthful Offender Program that I am proposing will not be cheap to initiate and operate. What must be considered is what is being spent on incarcerating adults and juveniles today; furthermore, there must be evaluation methodologies in place prior to initiating this new Youthful Offender Program.

It has been over 100 years since the Juvenile Justice System has had an intensive comprehensive up-dating. Recently there was a news article that reported that girls are reaching puberty at an earlier age.  New research adds further evidence that girls are entering puberty at younger and younger ages, with implications for their physical and mental health. By 8-years-old, more than 1-in-10 girls have already begun developing breasts, which marks the technical start of puberty for girls, according to a new study published Monday in the Journal of Pediatrics. [4] The street gangs are recruiting younger or “junior” members to gangs. They do this to take advantage of the Juvenile Justice System because it is more lenient in the way it treats juvenile offenders.

I truly believe that an updating of the Juvenile Justice System is necessary. Furthermore, I believe that Juvenile Justice Systems need to incorporate a Youthful Offender Program in their incarceration and treatment model. The kids of today are sophisticated when it comes to “street smarts”. The Juvenile Justice Systems must adapt to the changes in society.










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Integrity and The Correctional Professional

July 12th, 2010

The other day I had an opportunity to think about the topic of Integrity and the Correctional Professional. I guess I just assumed that the two areas went together like peanut butter and jelly. All correctional professionals, I am sure, believe they have Integrity and they probably do in the philosophical sense.  Where I believe correctional professionals’ integrity is tested is in the ‘real world’ application of integrity. As I probed my logic, I started to question, what does integrity in a correctional setting mean – specifically!

I looked-up the definition of integrity:

1. Adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.

2. The state of being whole, entire, or undiminished: to preserve the integrity of the empire.

3. A sound, unimpaired, or perfect condition: the integrity of a ship’s hull. [1]

 When I looked at the definition, I thought, of course the correctional professionals MUST have integrity to perform their duties and responsibilities. Society has entrusted correctional professionals with the custody and care of criminals who have been found guilty by the courts. Their sentences to correctional institutions is society’s way of punishing them for their criminal activities.

My experience has demonstrated to me that your integrity “inside the walls” is as important to you as it is to offenders. Offenders will soon size you up and test the boundaries of your personal integrity.

Correctional professionals who let their personal integrity slip will loathe themselves more that the offenders will. The offenders will just take great enjoyment in bringing them down.

I have seen good correctional professionals lose their way (integrity) and end-up as offenders themselves, and who had be to housed in Protective Custody Units, their lives in complete ruin.

Integrity for correctional professionals manifests itself via multiple dimensions.  Each day the integrity of every correctional professional is measured by multiple groups of people:

·        Other correctional employees

·        Offenders

·        Families of offenders

·        The criminal justice system

·        General public

Each of the groups will test the integrity of the correctional professional from different directions. 

Read more…

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The First Line Supervisor: Where the Rubber Meets the Road

July 3rd, 2010

In the field of criminal justice, there is a group of dedicated men and women who receive very little recognition for their hard work – and they are The First Line Supervisors. The first line supervisor is the first rung on the supervisory ladder and most often leads to management positions in the future. It is the first line supervisors who ensure that the agency’s policies are followed by their subordinates and that the agency’s procedures for conducting business are adhered to by everyone working in the field.

The first line supervisor is the bridge between the line staff and management. The first line supervisor is the person who communicates with both of these groups on a continuous basis. It is the first line supervisor who is first to be able to sense the morale of the line staff, find a policy or procedure that is not working as written, improve incorrect staffing patterns, or to observe changes in the make-up of the offenders, etc.

In the majority of emergency situations, it is the first line supervisor who is first on the scene and the one who has to take immediate action. While these incidents are taking place, the first line supervisors will need to depend on their training, education, and experience.  Whether it is a law enforcement or correctional situation it is the first line supervisor who must direct his/her subordinates as to what actions they should take. For a period of time, the weight and future implication of the incidents fall upon the shoulders of the first line supervisors. Read more…

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Lesson Learned From the BP Oil Leak?

June 21st, 2010

First my thoughts and prayers go out to the people of Louisiana and the entire Gulf Coast. Throughout my career I have made many friends in that area. It is my sincere desire that they can develop a method for capping the leak.

What have we in the field criminal justice learned from the BP oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico? I believe that there are several lessons that can be translated from this horrible misfortune to the fields of criminal justice, private security, and emergency planning and management.

Lessons Learned

Read more…

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Drug Gangs Now Constitute Para-Military/Terrorist Groups

April 21st, 2010

The governments of the  United States and Mexico are at  war with the drug gangs. There should not be any mistake that what is happening on the Mexican border is a war. Another misnomer is that all of the violence is happening on the Mexican side of the border. The violence has spilled across the border into Texas, Arizona, California, and beyond.

Mexican drug cartels have recruited street and prison gangs. These criminal groups over the past few years have morphed into para-military/terrorist organizations. They are heavily armed with military weapons. They are employing military tactics to ambush police, politicians and others.

The Mexican drug cartels are employing the  terror tactics of kidnapping, hostage taking, be-headings, and extreme torturing of their victims prior to killing them. These people use extreme violence for one purpose only greed. They feed this greed by selling drugs all over the world. These Gangs do not adhere to the Geneva Convention or, for that matter to any degree of human decency – they are cold blooded murderers.

These drug gangs have attacked prisons and local jails to free their fellow gang members and/or leaders. Criminal justice personnel from every division of the criminal justice family (Law Enforcement, Courts, and Corrections) and politicians have become the favored targets of the drug games. I believe that they have chosen these groups because by killing police, etc. they instill fear and terror in the general public. If the police cannot control the streets during the daylight, what hope does a normal citizen have against the ruthless, greed driven killers? In an effort to get the violence under control, the Mexican Government has sent in its military. Even with a significant military presence, the murder and violence continues, practically unabated. Just last week the drug gang violence spread to Mexico’s tourist area of Acapulco. This war has had a devastating affect on the Mexican economy and quality of life.  Yet, there are a great many people making untold amounts of money. “Certainly at the marco level , there is a lot of money flowing into Mexico and a lot of people, from bankers and businessmen to political parties and politicians, are benefiting from the massive influx of cash. The lure of this lucre shapes how many Mexicans (particulary many of the Mexican elite) view narcotics trafficking.. It is, frankly, a good time to be a banker, real estate developer or a Rolex dealer in Mexico.” [1]

Over the past year or more the war has continued to escalate and now the United States is feeling the effects of the extreme violence.  I believe that the time is fast approaching when the United States will soon have to face the fact that this phenomenon (war) has surpassed the bounds of criminal activities and has entered into the boundaries of para-military/terrorists.

Jails and prisons, both private and public, will be required to prepare emergency plans detailing what steps they must take should they be attacked. Private companies that are used to incarcerating detainees for the various Federal government law enforcement agencies (ICE, USMS, etc.) may find themselves in a rather precarious position:

– Should they be attacked by one of these para-military/terrorist groups, without question, deadly force will have to be used – are they covered?

– Do they have adequate training to respond to such an attack?

– Are the private jail and prison personnel armed properly? From personal experience, a year or so ago, I was astonished to see how inadequately armed they were. Hopefully, that has changed.

– Have they identified who would be providing their back-up and how long will it take for that back-up to arrive?

(These recomenations also apply to public jails and prisons. My experience in public jails and prisons leads me to believe that  public jails and prisons are better armed than the private ones.)

As I have written before, should your facility come under attack you should remember:

= The attack has been planned in detail.

= The attack will be conducted on a comprehensive timetable.

= The attack could be one of stealth (As the one in Mexico was when the attackers drove up to the prison in police cars and they were let in.)

= The attack could be extremely “hard hitting” where the attackers will use explosives plus light and heavy weapons fire. It is not unusual for these para-military/terrorists to use machine guns and hand grenades.

= The attackers have no problem  with killing people.

One has to wonder just how far this war will go. The Mexican government is putting up a valiant fight,but I do not see where they are winning. These drug gangs now have become emboldened enough to become para-military/terrorist groups with a thirst for more power and more money. I would not be surprised if someday in the near future our Southwestern border returns to its wild west roots.

[1] Stewart, Scott, Stratford (Global Security & Intelligence Report) April 8, 2010   (

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Training Staff for Real World Applications

February 23rd, 2010


Many years ago when I was in Army Basic Training,  a drill sergeant made a statement that has stayed with me for all these years. He said, “s—t heads, how you train is how you will fight.” With those inspiring words ingrained in my mind, I have always endeavored to design and deliver training that was as realistic and job related as possible. Today, more that ever, criminal justice training must be as close as possible to “real life” situations.  To achieve the realism necessary for effective training, it is crucial that the curricula be developed  incorporating all of the training methods and techniques that are applicable to the topics being taught. 

Training time is expensive and should not be wasted conducting training that has limited, if any, “real world” value or application. I used to go CRAZY when I would be asked to review a basic officer training curriculum and find time wasters such as the following:

  • Four hours of The History of the Organization  – Lecture and PowerPoint Presentation
  • Four hours of Personnel Orientation  – Lecture and PowerPoint Presentation
  • Six hours of Baton Training – Three hours of Lecture, PowerPoint Presentation and One hour of practical “hands-on” training.

When I find basic officer training filled with courses like those above, I make the following recommendations:

  1. One hour ONLY of the History of the Organization; by doing this, there is a gain of three training hours.
  2. One hour of Personnel Orientation that is presented via video presentation. This permits a gain of three hours.
  3. One and a half hours of Baton Training that covers the legal aspects and agency policies for the use of the baton. This permits additional time  for the recruits to physically handle the baton and practice the different types of strikes.

Another area where I find that there is a tremendous gap between the training and practical applications  is “real world” in emergency (crisis) training. Of course, the training will vary depending on the agency, location, equipment, and personnel. For instance, rural law enforcement will conduct different types of scenario-based training than that of a metropolitan police department. Similarly, small county jails will differ from large state penitentiaries.

Correctional agency training must be constructed around keeping the facilities secure, the care and custody of the offenders, and the gathering of intelligence. This I believe can be accomplished by training correctional staff to:

  1. Talk /communicate with inmates,
  2. Be observant and know what to look for (contraband/inmate gatherings/The mood of the unit – normal sights and sounds/abnormal sights and sounds.)
  3. Learn to observe inmate behavior ( and what that behavior may mean – planning a disturbance,a hit on an inmate, or suicide), etc.

I cannot stress enough the importance of “hands-on” and “real life” applications for all training. Training time is costly to every organization and, therefore, the training should be cost effective. I use this model to determine training needs and time allotments:

  1. High Priority for job application
  2. Priority for job application
  3. Low priority for job application
  4. No job application
  5. Waste of training time.

What worries me now, is that with the tight budgets, training department budgets will be cut which will negatively affect training and have long term negative implications. Training, in my opinion, is the backbone of any agency because it prepares new officers to enter the correctional work force with a basic understanding of how they should conduct themselves and what they should do. People have to be trained in the knowledge, skills, technical applications, and attitudes required to do these challenging and difficult jobs. Without affording people the opportunity to receive high quality and job related training, agencies, I believe, are programming people to fail and are opening themselves to liabilities both from the offenders, and/or staff, not to mention staff turnover.

When money gets tight, training departments revert back to the old training method – Lecture. While lecture has a place in staff training, too often it gets overused. There are very few training courses where lecture, in itself, can fulfill all of the training requirements. However, it is a proven fact that participants learn and retain more when they have a chance to “practice” what they learned. As an example, staff / offender communications can be taught by the lecture method, yet the participants could still practice the skills that they have learned by incorporating role play as a  training method.

Take the time to ensure that your training is job related to the level of the people taking the class and that they can use the training to refine and enhance their skills. It is an accepted fact that job related training helps to reduce staff turnover and leads to better staff job satisfaction.

For managers, superviors, staff and trainers training is a much your responsibility as it is the the training department!

As many of you know I have taken some time off from writing my blog. I thank the many people who emailed me to see if anything was wrong. Wm. Bill Sturgeon.

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“OOPS”! The Blooper At the White House

November 30th, 2009

Today, the White House Secret Service Unit is trying to figure out where the system broke-down.

Here is the simple answer. The human element “goofed-up”.

Now, the questions are:
1. Did the human element “goof-up” because it is a systemic issue that the “beautiful people” are different from us “the normal people” ? Beautiful people do  not wait in line and go through the normal security scrutiny required to protect the President of the United States – the most powerful man in the world.

2. Do not tell the American people that the President was never in danger – we “the normal people” know better. Yes, many of us  “normal people” were born at night, but not last night. The President was in danger!

3. Yes, I still believe in Santa Clause, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny, but is this really the first time that someone has breached the inner security rings of the White House ? If these two “wing-nuts” were not publicity hounds, would we,” the normal people”, ever have found out about the breach? My experience and cynical beliefs lead me to believe that this is not the first time – but it must be the last time.


Lessons Learned from the Security Breach

1. Do not laugh at the misfortunes of others – double, triple check your own security – TODAY!

2. There is an old adage:  “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link”.  You need to  find the weak link(s) in your security operations and fix it. (If the truth be known, most of us know where our weak links are – fixing them may be the issue – politics, funding, staffing, etc .)

3. When it comes to security there are no “beautiful people”  or sacred cows – NO EXCEPTIONS TO The RULES!

Summary for Today

Check and test your security operations daily or more often if needed.  Do not assume anything and do not take anything for granted.

If you wish to comment on this blog entry, leave your  comment on the blog site and I will get back to you. Now I am going to sit by the fire and wait for Santa to come down the chimney – perhaps I should put out the fire first.





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