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Weaving Positive Meaning

June 2nd, 2013

Many of us tend to be meaning-seekers, wanting to be a positive influence in our world. Meaning is the fuel that keeps us going, what gives our life flavor, richness and purpose—what makes ourlife worth living.

What we pursue, how we invest our waking hours, what fills our dreams, even whether we have dreams at all, makes a critical difference in our quality of life and even our health.

And for many, many reasons (I am sure you can name a few!), corrections is the type of work that challenges staff deep and hard regarding the creation and maintenance of positive meaning. In the field of corrections, positive meaning does not grow freely on trees all on its own while you are sleeping. Rather, it requires persistent breaking of fallow ground, digging rocks out of the soil, fertilizing and watering, and pulling stubborn weeds that make a comeback seemingly overnight.  It also requires coming back and doing this again and again after periods of drought, heat waves, storms and freezing cold.

Creating positive meaning in corrections, and hanging on to it day after day and year after year, is nothing less than heroic. It requires learning to see courageously with new eyes. It requires to relentlessly keep sifting, looking for grains of gold in the mud of a river bed. For they are there, waiting to be found.

For many years now I have seen that staff flourish when they learn to infuse even routine or menial work with positive significance. These workers learn to not take themselves too seriously, to not fall in love with their image or power or what others think of them, and to do their job to the best of their ability on any given day.

The ones I’ve seen doing gloriously are those who have learned to find goodness and beauty, and to be thankful (and even grateful) for little things and big things and everything in between — even for things that do not look good and that are hard to be thankful for at first.  These are the ones who have also learned to forgive and to keep going after hard times.

So, how do you go about creating positive meaning for yourself?

Here are some suggestions.

  • Look for the beauty in the gift of every moment.
  • Tap into what inspires you to be the best you can be.
  • Remember the ones you are providing for by doing this work.
  • Actively contribute to the welfare of others and the common good.
  • Remember that you are afforded the opportunity to influence people’s lives, communities, and even generations to come through your work, choices and actions.
  • Relish the pursuit of acts of courage, civility and integrity.
  • Celebrate every shred of progress in yourself and others. (Ban Perfectionism!)
  • Aim to influence coworkers and offenders positively through your professionalism, integrity and ethics.
  • Model behaviors you want to see in others.
  • Seek input from others who have what you want.
  • Seek honest feedback from colleagues with whom you interact frequently.
  • Highlight success stories and share with others.
  • Point out to others the skillfulness required of corrections professionals of all disciplines. During the workday you and your colleagues may employ skills related to psychology, social work, public health, education, cheer-leading, motivational interviewing, mentoring, law enforcement and warfare.
  • Whenever you get discouraged at work, think of how far you’ve come in terms of your skill development regarding managing yourself and managing others.
  • Whenever you face your fears and stand your ground and do the right thing, give yourself credit for being courageous.
  • Whenever you persevere in the pursuit of your goals in spite of disappointments, you demonstrate your courage, grit and gumption.
  • Whenever you assist offenders within policy, you impact them positively.
  • Whenever you exercise self-control in the face of provocation, you are commendable, acting truly as a mature, wise adult.
  • Whenever you choose to see the silver lining in the cloud, you are winning the battle of the mind, remaining optimistic and in control of your attitude.
  • Whenever you support colleagues and help them do a better job, you offer them gifts of teamwork and caring, and you reinforce why you are an asset to your profession.
  • Whenever you choose to inspire, mentor, or otherwise encourage your colleagues, you contribute to the creation of a positive workplace climate, and you inject positive meaning in others’ lives.
  • Whenever you choose to take the high road after you encounter injustice—choosing to not return evil for evil, but to do the right thing —you win what may be the most important battle of all, the spiritual one.

So ask yourself:

  1. What do I want to accomplish through my life and influence, including my family life and my corrections employment?
  2. What do I want to be my predominant mood and attitude, the mood and attitude I am best known by?
  3. How can I impact people positively in my family and at my workplace on a daily basis?
  4. How can I create positive ripple effects in my community through my day-to-day actions?
  5. How might my work and my actions have a positive impact for generations to come?
  6. How can I best respond when I accomplish something that to me is significant and noteworthy, yet nobody commends me for it or nobody even notices?
  7. How do I “bounce back” from disappointment and bitterness when confronted with what, to me, seems to be injustice towards me or others?
  8. How can I “refuel”—go from becoming discouraged to being encouraged again (in-courage)? What can I tell myself to accomplish that? What actions can I take?
  9. How do I move past and even grow from my failures, my poor judgment and my mistakes, so that I can continue living out my most precious convictions, principles and values?
  10. What kind of life do I need to be pursuing intentionally today to feel like I am fully alive?

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Desert Waters Study–PTSD in US Corrections Professionals

December 15th, 2012

Here is the link to the write-up of Desert Waters’ national study of PTSD in US Corrections Professionals. 

The results raise grave concerns about corrections professionals’ health and functioning in relation to workplace exposure to violence, injury and death, and the costs of PTSD to staff, families, administrators and the profession.


Corrections Fatigue Status Assessment V.2

June 27th, 2012

The CFSA has been improved and refined. It is now called the Corrections Fatigue Status Assessment™ (CFSA) v.2. It takes about 5 minutes to complete. Take it to see how you score. The CFSA can be accessed at the home page of .


Corrections Fatigue Self-Assessment™

May 24th, 2012

The Corrections Fatigue Self-Assessment™ (CFSA) is here!*oXsw

This instrument is a web-accessible software application that measures individual corrections employees’ Corrections Fatigue level anonymously and confidentially. It takes about seven minutes to complete. A score and its interpretation, with recommendations, are provided automatically upon completion of the assessment, and can be printed.

The CFSA can be completed as often as needed for the purpose of monitoring one’s Corrections Fatigue score following interventions such as Desert Waters’ Well-being Monitor or 7×7 Intervention, following utilization of EAP services or peer support activities, or following changes in working conditions or job assignment.

The CFSA is offered to individual corrections employees at no charge. It can also be administered anonymously to employees of an entire facility, agency or department to assess the Corrections Fatigue level of those employees and to identify areas that may need improvement through systemic interventions.


Do You Qualify with Your Emotions?–Part 1

June 17th, 2011

You go to the firing range every year to qualify with your weapon. And that is necessary and good. Do you realize though that you daily carry with you a different kind of weapon that goes neglected and unacknowledged for the most part until you “fire?” That hidden yet powerful weapon is your emotions.
Please consider how many times a year you have to shoot at offenders. Compare that with how many times weekly or even daily you may engage in tense verbal interactions with offenders, fellow staff or family members, and how many times these result in fierce arguments or other types of conflict. Read more…


Do You Qualify with Your Emotions?–Part 2

June 17th, 2011

This article is Part 2 of the series on managing and regulating one’s emotions. In it I present a real-life example of the type of stressors faced routinely by corrections staff, and suggestions as to how to deal with its emotional impact. This example was shared with me by Greg Morton, a retired State Training Manager for the Oregon DOC. Greg is now a part-time facilitator for an inmate Parenting Class.
Let me give you a little background. Greg and I were discussing whether PTSD might be an occupational disease of corrections staff due to their repeated exposure to  violence on the job. We compared the corrections staff’s workplace conditions to coal miners’ Black Lung, and wondered to what degree occupational diseases may be preventable. My opinion was that unless workplace death and violence drop to near zero, at least some degree of psychological traumatization of corrections staff is inevitable, especially for those repeatedly exposed to such incidents.

Read more…


DWCO-ICREW Anonymous Survey

April 29th, 2011

Dear Corrections Employee:
My name is Caterina Spinaris Tudor, Ph.D., and as the Executive Director of Desert Waters Correctional Outreach (DWCO) I invite you to participate anonymously in a landmark study that researches health and wellness issues of corrections staff. Read more…


New Desert Waters Website

December 7th, 2010

We now have a new website, almost completely done. Check it out!

Desert Waters’ mission remains the same. To increase the occupational, personal & family well-being of staff of all disciplines within the corrections profession.


We Do Care

December 23rd, 2009

For all of you who feel all alone or who are doing Christmas away from loved ones, please remember that Desert Waters ( volunteers are here for you. Write us at or call 866-YOU-VENT. (BTW, dialing *67 before the number blocks your phone number on Caller ID systems.) Reach out & connect. We do care & want to be of assistance to you in any way we can.


How We Ended Up Here

November 17th, 2009

Since we’re often asked questions about DWCO, I’d like to tell you a little about how and why we ended up doing what we are doing in corrections.

DWCO’s mission is to help increase the occupational, personal and family well-being of corrections personnel. Our vision is corrections staff who are professionals, who are healthy physically, psychologically and spiritually, and who live well way past retirement.

DWCO was founded by my husband Ted Tudor and me as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation in 2003. Neither of us wanted to get involved in corrections. He was retired. I had moved to Fremont County (with its 12 prisons and jail) to semi-retire and play “farmer” while maintaining a psychotherapy practice. As a result of counseling and talking with corrections personnel in our county, I became aware of the need for more specialized services targeting corrections staff wellness. Read more…