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Thank you, Isaac Asimov and George Carlin

June 30th, 2013

Who is your muse? How do you remain inspired year after year? What is it that pushes you to deliver new and exciting information to inspire your students?

As I write this in June 2013, I am rapidly approaching a writing milestone. By the time you read this, I will have passed the 1,000 mark in published articles in the corrections field. As I give myself a vigorous pat on the back and utter a few phrases like “atta boy, tiger!”

Having dispensed of the self-congratulations, allow me to I reflect back on the journey of fourteen years.

First, the graphomania was kindled Gogebic Community College. The notes and quirky stories that would become articles and books were initially written for students. It was my way of helping pre-professionals grasp the odd nuances and subtleties of institutional life. The need to express these concepts was the catalyst.

The needs of students served as motivation for the content. Coffee, personal satisfaction and a little bit of ego (Yes, I lay bare my flaws for all to inspect and discuss) fueled the momentum.

I also had some help. The assistance came from two dead men. One is Isaac Asimov and the other is George Carlin.

I admire Asimov for his prolific nature as a writer, his sense of humor, and his clarity. Whenever the haunting specter of writers’ block reared its phantasmagoric head, I could read a little Asimov fiction and find my way back from wordlessness. Thank you, Asimov.

I admire Carlin for his scathing and unapologetic comedy/commentary. His bovine-scatometer was a sensitive instrument of analysis. He could laugh at himself and the world. Carlin’s strange mix of intellect and profanity was unique enough to jolt my brain out of occasional block. Thank you, Carlin.

Different circumstances of writers’ block require different fixes. It is similar to how people select music to fit their mood. To me, Asimov is classic rock with intricate arrangements (Blue Oyster Cult comes to mind). Carlin represents angry but intelligent metal (like Iron Maiden).

At the number 1,000, I feel like I have walked upstairs for a decade and a half. During some flights of stairs, I felt energized and inspired. Other stretches of the upward walk were sluggish and infused with a sense of futility. With quantity, there was always an issue of uneven quality. I know of three instances where I wanted to abandon the literary stair case and never look back.

Now, I am on a landing, looking at another set of stairs to ascend. A glance to my left reveals a level hall way. With that, three questions collide in my skull. Which way do I take? Who or what is my muse? What would Asimov and Carlin do?

joebouchard Dear Reader

It’s nothing personal: Seven reasons we commit to contraband control

November 17th, 2012

It is interesting what you may stumble upon as you search for other things. For example, I discovered news of a French Canadian alcohol smuggler from the 1890’s called “Notorious” Bouchard. For me, it inspired visions of ancient trunks with bootleg concealed within. I learned this from the publication The Quebec Saturday Budget - Jul 30, 1892.

As a Bouchard, I took notice of the last name. Also, I am very interested in contraband – though I prefer to eliminate it, unlike the contrabandist “Notorious” Bouchard from years past.

If you have read this far, I ask that you excuse the personal musings. The point is: part of your mission or professional quest might be tied to personal reasons. Allow me to point out that my quest for contraband control is not predicated on personal reasons. My resolve to enhance safety has nothing to do with the illegal actions of someone who shares my last name from 120 years ago. True, the story of “Notorious” Bouchard is interesting and ironic to me. However, it is not crucial for my quest. In other words, I search for contraband for a variety of reasons that are NOT personal.

As you review the list below, think of what motivates you to sweep illicit operations from your institution. Professionals motivations typically fall under the large category of safety. Some of my motivations are:

1. Leveling the playing field – Let’s face it. Offenders have ample time to craft new ideas for concealment of valuable but illegal items. A comprehensive contraband control program is the antidote to this. We pool our professional resources to thwart the pervasive trade that chips away our secure foundation of security.
2. Investment in the now – It is crucial to remove dangerous items immediately. Taking contraband out of the system is important for immediate safety.
3. Investment in the future – Think about how a small enterprise can grow. It is like pulling small weeds now rather than letting them flourish and overtake the legitimate plants in your garden.
4. Keeping colleagues safe – We have each others’ back. Safe colleagues mean capable colleagues. Colleagues who recognize threats to security and deal with them increase safety in an upward spiral of success.
5. Keeping offenders safe – Part of most agencies’ mission statements include the safety of prisoners. We strive to maintain order by removing contraband - the building blocks of illicit power.
6. Keeping the public safe – The unseen, unthought-of of shield of corrections keeps dangerous elements off the streets. Although the public may not think of our profession often, we are at work all of the time to fulfill our mission.
7. Drawing the line – When we issue misconduct reports on contraband issues, prisoners see where we draw the line. What we remove from the system indicates our collective intolerance for specific items.

It was reported that when “Notorious” Bouchard was captured in 1892 in Quebec, he inebriated and abusive. His actions may have been inspired by monetary gain, fame, and perhaps the influence of a distilled spirit. The only thing that we have in common is a surname.

Horse thief, bank robber, and moonshiner. If you shake the family tree hard enough, a less-than-reputable figure is likely to tumble out. Whether or not I am related to him, my mission remains the same. My actions to mitigate and eliminate contraband in my corner of corrections ultimately fall under the important category of security for staff, offenders, and the public.

joebouchard Contraband Control, Dear Reader

Dear Reader

December 22nd, 2011

Dear Reader:

Please allow me to wish you and yours a happy holiday season and a safe and prosperous 2012.

I will be taking a little literary break for now. I hope that you have enjoyed Foundations thus far. Thanks for your support.

Very sincerely,

Joe Bouchard

joebouchard Dear Reader

A tribute to IACTP

November 18th, 2011

This past week in Nashville, Tennessee, the International Association of Correctional Training Personnel held its annual conference. This is a collection of correctional trainers from all over the nation – and the world – who meet annually and share modules, techniques, and tactics for the very important job of educating corrections professionals.

Though the scope is international, I was not aware of IACTP until about seven years ago. Bill Hudson, former IACTP board member and corrections training head for Michigan, advised me of this Association. On his recommendation, I attended my first IACTP conference in 2005.

I admit that I was apprehensive prior to the meeting. Although I work under the larger umbrella of corrections, my sub profession is that of a prison librarian. And though I am an adjunct instructor of corrections for a community college, I went to the first conference with a self-imposed inferiority complex. At the risk of self analyzing, I wondered how a prison librarian who teaches part-time would fit in with veteran corrections trainers.

My self-doubt was quickly put to rest by the friendliness of this group. There was a great vibe of inclusion and curiosity about new members. And I witnessed a healthy intermingling of groups – not at all a clique-laden proposition.

It seems to me that IACTP attracts a creative and extroverted type. To be certain, there is a bell shaped curve of personalities. From the shy to the gregarious, IACTP runs the gamut. But even the quiet members seem to have talents and drawn out of them during training sessions. It is the mixing of various specialties in getting goals accomplished seems almost magical to me.

In addition, I attended many programs with different presenters. This allowed me to view a variety of techniques and tactics in teaching adults. One presenter was able to reel in a group of enthusiastic and gregarious participants/trainers with a soft voice and finger chimes. Another wielded a slideshow of dogs set to music during intermission. This was a creative and effective way for her to entertain the crowd while arranging her notes and getting a drink of water. A third dropped funny, self-deprecating lines that were not only amusing – they also buttressed his points.

IACTP is not just about teaching techniques. The Association also features presentations of great varieties. A few among them are: working with an intergenerational workforce, writing in corrections, professionalism, icebreakers for staff relation modules, avoiding set-ups, copyright concerns, and legal issues.

As a prison librarian, I can relate to the working conditions of your average institutional training officer. This is a person who is the only one of a kind in an institution. There may be training sergeants, for example. However one person is usually responsible for the training in a facility. Because of this, the problem professional isolation is not far away. But this is rectified through the IACTP network and through the annual conference. The training world is brought closer together the quarterly journal The Correctional Trainer.

There are lots of corrections organizations in the field. And though the scope and size varies, I have always felt that home at a corrections conference. Quite simply, this is a place for professionals to gain new ideas, enjoy professional camaraderie, and relate to others about the stress of the profession. However, of all of the conferences I have attended, I am most at home with IACTP. If anything, this Association has taught me the power of individual initiative and the benefits of pooling talents. I hope that Nashville was successful and enjoyable for all who attended.

For more information on IACTP, please check out www.IACTP.org.

joebouchard Dear Reader

New Bouchard Book Announcement: The L.O.T.I.S. concept of corrections

August 17th, 2011

Dear Reader,

Foundations and www.corrections.com are very important to me. I have published more here than at any other place – print or electronic. For me, it is like home.

I would like to announce a milestone. This is my 200th posting for Foundations.

With this milestone, I want to tell you about an upcoming Bouchard book in corrections. The L.O.T.I.S. concept of correction will be my 6th book and available only at corrections.com. My target to have it available for readers is November of 2011. Here is an introduction.

Nothing exists in a bubble. And corrections is no exception to this.
In consideration of our continued good work and operational integrity, I have designed the L.O.T.I.S. concept. L.O.T.I.S. allows us to assess the following:

Limitations
Offender Economies
Teamwork
Instruction
Self-knowledge

Limitations consist of all external forces imposed upon our operations. Local politics, state and federal mandates, expectations of accrediting entities and economic factors all are examples of these. “Limitations” is the platform that the four following elements are placed.

Offender economies. It is no secret that prohibited exchange of goods and services in our jails and prisons is a vexing and persistent problem. Staff who understand how and why offenders trade contraband have a better chance of mitigating danger inside. The ultimate goal in contraband control is to enhance safety for all.

Teamwork is an important foundation element in corrections. Staff cooperation benefits all stakeholders and is the glue that holds together operations. Joint efforts enhance individual talents and help achieve a facility and agency’s goals.

Instruction that we receive through official channels forms our actions in our first days on the job. Continued training keeps us focused and professional. Good instruction is like regular oil changes that keep a vehicle operating dependably.

Self-knowledge is crucial for continued professionalism. All of us need to take a look at ourselves and see how we fit into operations. Without self-knowledge, we are like the hiker in a wilderness without a GPS. We simply meander with no purpose of direction and no perspective.

L.O.T.I.S. is a collection of thematically linked articles that have appeared on the Foundation website through www.corrections.com. These concepts are fundamental buttresses for our challenging vocation. L.O.T.I.S. is written for all corrections professionals. Keep on corrections.com for details.

Thanks for your continued interest in Foundations.

joebouchard Dear Reader

The use of the word “guard”: malice or ignorance?

July 13th, 2011

Like nails on a chalkboard, the sound of the word pulled me out of relaxation and cast me into instant discomfort. While outlining Casey Anthony’s incarceration, one of the newscasters on a cable TV news show used the word “guards” to describe corrections officers. The world itself is not necessarily offensive until one considers the many responsibilities and dangers that corrections staff deal with on a daily basis. It is scarcely better than the outmoded and inaccurate term turnkey.

The word guard is offensive to the corrections profession. I do not pretend that this is a new topic. But the utterance of the G word to such a large audience irritated me, thus the article.

Before I go further, my colleague, allow me to point out that I am not a corrections officer. I’m not trying to portray myself as one. However, I believe I know a bit more about corrections than the general public. You see, I’m a security-oriented corrections librarian who has worked in the maximum-security setting for nearly 20 years. I readily admit that I do not directly know what it is to work as a corrections officer. However, my experience entitles me, I believe, to feel vexed when those outside the profession spewed word guard as readily as a pseudo intellectual misuses a thesaurus.

I think that the term is typically bandied about for one of two reasons – malice or ignorance.

It is safe to say that small but significant percentage of people who misuse the word guard do so to knock one off of one’s professional square. This is similar to someone who addresses correspondence to you as defendants rather than by your last name and or title. Quite simply, it is derision towards the corrections profession.

Perhaps many more misuse the G word out of honest ignorance. They simply do not know any better. They are unaware that the word hurls a lack of respect at our profession.

Here are a few reasons that the G word should not apply to anyone in the corrections profession:

It is outdated and clichéd – The word smacks of the 1930s gangster move. Behind the anachronistic word is an anachronistic thought.

It implies a passive watcher with little responsibility – Granted, the dictionary definition of guard describes a tiny fraction of what corrections officers perform - to watch over, to prevent escape, violence, or indecretion. However, the definition does not penetrate the whole nature of the profession. Quite simply, guard sounds like disinterested babysitter.

But, corrections is so much more than a watchful capacity. Everything we say or do (and that which we do not say or do) can be used against us. The great responsibility of knowing and correctly applying policy speaks to that point.

Also, corrections staff not just idly watch others. There is analysis, constant puzzle building, and interacting with so many different work niches. All of that is done with the commonly held mission statement – keeping safe staff, prisoners, and the public. That simply is not the description of a passive observer.

The shorthand, colloquial phrase for the vocation may miss the mark. For example, metallurgists often work in a factory setting that specializes in the complex process of heat treatment steel. The term factory rat is pejorative, especially when applied to metallurgists. Yet, this is something that goes on. Another example is when a head start teacher is labeled as a babysitter. Of course, both jobs are very important. However the former has to earn a degree in early childhood education and must understand curriculum. That is not necessarily true of the latter.

The term guard belittles the profession – Part of what makes any vocation a profession is the professional literature that surrounds it. Another component is the training program, including both initial and continuing training. Thirdly, one of the reasons that corrections is a profession is that most agencies require educational credentials within the field in order to enter. Guard does not capture the scope of the job.

Some may say, “Don’t be so sensitive.” They may contend that this is taking PC too far. I think not. The danger and responsibility of the profession are not really recognized by those outside the profession.

So, what is in a name? I imagine that the late George Carlin, comedian and verbivore, would have had a field day with the officer – guard discussion. However, this is not a matter of amusement. Perhaps this will not move those who use pejorative term for malicious reasons. Still, as we weigh our feelings about this particular invective, there are some who simply don’t know that corrections officer is proper – guard is inappropriate. How we educate people should be a matter professionalism, no matter how difficult this may be.

joebouchard Dear Reader, Inside Out

Where did the time go?

April 22nd, 2010

 

Isn’t it funny when you are engaged in an activity that you enjoy, you lose track of time? 

 

Mahjong and solitaire are examples of this.  And most of us can relate to telling a loved one that we will log off the computer soon – but that does not come until much later. 

 

my-favorite-gold-pen

 

For me, this mysterious warping of time is also true of writing.  Often, as my fingers fly across the keyboard, I find myself looking  at the clock for a second time.  What seemed to me like mere minutes passing was actually hours.  Time flies when you are having fun

 

In addition, the Foundations website is one year old on April 29th.  I see that as a nice time to take a literary break – a good, round number.  Please don’t construe this, Dear Reader, as a lazy Bouchard.  I am just going to recharge my batteries and enjoy some of the Spring. 

 

I hope that you have enjoyed reading my thoughts so far.  I have truly enjoyed writing and have gained insight from your comments.  Thanks for reading.  I will write back later.

joebouchard Dear Reader

Give Blood

March 31st, 2010

It is no secret that corrections staff place their lives on the line every day.  Everyone in the profession - officers, support staff, programs professionals and administrative personnel - work in a potentially dangerous place.  These are the few who are equipped to face peril on a daily basis and keep staff, offenders and the public safer.

 redcross

 

In another sense, there is a group of corrections professionals who literally become a life enhancing part of the public.  In a very real way, they give their life essence to those who need to maintain and prolong health and life.  These are the staff who donate blood. Read more…

joebouchard Dear Reader, Self Scrutiny

Dear Reader

February 25th, 2010

I ask that you overlook a little vanity and pride on my part.  After all, I am human, a work in progress.  Today I reached a significant writing milestone.  “Can words change the world?” was featured on Foundations and is my 500th published article. 

my-favorite-gold-pen

 

Beyond giving myself a vigorous pat on the back and basking in self-admiration (one might read this as sardonic self-deprecation), I have learned a few things about the tastes of readers in this ten year literary journey.  Some of us prefer the abstract. Some of us gravitate towards the tangible.

 

On the extreme ends of the conceptual/concrete continuum, there are devoted champions to the causes of the idealand the real. 

 

Conceptual————————————————-x————————————————–Concrete

 

Those who consider themselves as true conceptualist love the abstract to the extreme.  To them, there is nothing like a lofty concept to render the proper intellectual kick.  On the other hand, those who firmly adhere to concrete statements are pragmatists who would say “Show me.  Don’t tell me”. Give them facts, figures and good practices. (As for the rest of us, we tend to fall somewhere in the middle of these two extremes, forming a beautifully symetrical bell shaped curve.)

 

 

That sort of intellectual diversity is what makes it very interesting.  If not for dissenting opinions and varied styles, our professional literature would be a long, featureless stretch on a road that exists in a simple utilitarian manner. In other words, the journey would be a dull point A to point B proposition.

 

So, can the written word change the world?  Yes, that is possible.  But the change is just a  potential spark in the form of words.  In order to bring the concept into real application, the written word needs its constant complement – the action of key individuals or movements. And wherever you plot yourself on the concept/concrete continuum, it is always wise to remember that not all changes are immediate, positive, monumental, or memorable.

joebouchard Dear Reader

Thanks for 10 years

December 18th, 2009

 

 

Dear Reader:

 

January 2010 is the ten year mark for me in writing on various corrections topics.  In recognition of this, I am now going to thank many who have helped me along the way. 

 

my-favorite-gold-pen

 

Thanks to Linda Allen for helping me to understand how to walk around a problem and examine it. 

 

Linda Dunbar took a chance on me and helped me learn how to edit a professional journal.

 

Appreciation goes to Jim Montalto for fostering my creative writing identity and showing that a sense of humor can be incorporated into writing.

 

I owe Laura Noonen much gratitude for giving me the opportunity to open the aperture even more with “Foundations”.  

 

Angela Childers deserves recognition for showing me how to reduce unnecessary parts of my writing.

 

And certainly, for the readers I am truly grateful.  Comments and support over the years have motivated me. It has been an interesting and fulfilling ten years.  I can’t wait to see what the next decade will bring.  Thanks to all, those named and the many unnamed for all of the support and encouragement.  

joebouchard Dear Reader