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Archive for the ‘Self Scrutiny’ Category

Deferred duties and motivations

July 13th, 2013

In corrections, safety is the first priority. This is written in almost every mission statement for prison and jails. But, other duties need to be done. Accreditations, audits, budgeting and other tasks are a part of the corrections game.

Not all tasks are created equally. Some of these are less desirable to do. Though they are necessary, they are placed on the back burner, thus they become deferred.

This is not unlike a job at home that you would sooner delay. For example, I ran out of storage options, so the need was great. It was a daunting task that I had put off for too long. Still, part of me resisted what had to be done. After all, my garage would not clean itself.

Let me preface this with a peek into my work habits. I work hard. I am not lazy. I do not usually procrastinate. In fact, I consider myself to be the antithesis of a procrastinator, a precrastinator, if you will.

What is my problem, you may ask? Quite simply, there are some tasks to which I do not march willingly.

As I slowly walked toward the garage with the best intentions of making order out of chaos, my justification mechanism leaped into high gear. I suddenly had a list in my head of “more important” tasks to be done. I had to clean the drier lint trap, dust the base boards, and rearrange my junk drawer. Of course, correspondence which could realistically wait became a red hot priority, despite the dwindling space in the garage.

I found myself deferring duties so that I could work on less important tasks. What did I have to do, lie to myself? That was really not the answer. I had to figure out a few different incentives.

Seven productive self-motivation strategies:
1. Tell yourself that you will feel better when the dreaded job is complete.
2. You can reward yourself with a coffee or some other incentive when you finish.
3. Eat the elephant one bite at a time – spilt the task into smaller, more manageable tasks.
4. Dive into the cold pool and swim until you are warm or bear it.
5. Tell yourself that you are capable of doing the job well in a reasonable time and prove .yourself correct.
6. Tell someone that you respect of your timeline. This gives you incentive not to disappoint.
7. Quit over thinking it and DO IT.

Like some important audit that is due sooner than you wish, a task can hang heavy over your work week. As you let time slip away, the weight of the task seems to grow on your shoulders. This makes you reckon time left to complete the task in an unrealistic manner. In most cases, it is a battle with yourself. The key to the battle is found in the right motivation.

Self Scrutiny

Shifting communities: Self-assessment in volunteer activities

April 1st, 2013

Ours is a stressful profession. Correctional staff everywhere, quite simply, need to blow off steam. Because of this, many of us have avocations that help us cope with our vocation. Activities outside work help direct energies and recharge drained batteries. Volunteering in non-corrections organizations is a way to distress.

Asking Pete Townshend’s musical question, my wife fixed her grey-green eyes on mine. She queried, “Who are you?” She seemed to know the answer. I detected a knowing amusement in her expression. Still, there was a fleeting flavor of genuine curiosity.

You see, her question was in response to my growing involvement in a local trail group and as a new member of friends of the public library. The communities in which I had previously volunteered had been vocation-based corrections and criminal justice groups. The shift was to two groups which are very local and have specific foci. In effect, she was asking, “Why the change, Joe?”

I attribute the shift to a number of factors. Chief among those was the need to rejuvenate my enthusiasm.

Shifting from the autobiographical mode, I suggest a few questions for the curious, self-assessors. By pondering the following, you might discover interesting patterns about yourself.

1. For which groups do you volunteer?
2. Is there a group that you wish to join but have not due to time and energy constraints?
3. Regarding your extra-curricular activities, is there a passion or is it routine?
4. How do the group’s achievements make you feel?
5. Are you in it for the long haul or to promote a specific project?
6. Do you feel that group dynamics promote success or impede it?
7. Is the group about fun or all business?
8. In general, are you a lone wolf or a gregarious group member?
9. Can you acknowledge strengths in others and cultivate them?
10. Do you prefer to contribute by leading, following or filling in as needed?

I have not completely abandoned my corrections group. My vocational-avocations are still important to me. I gave up a few of the groups for which I held less enthusiasm. Quite simply, I needed to experience a more tangible, home-based set of activities. Thus, the change. Time will tell if I experience additional community shifts.

In the end, it is not quite like in science fiction where some sentient, artificial being suddenly becomes self aware and asks “Who am I?” We are not newly born, but live on a timeline, subject to our own history. All of us change, evolve, regress, and seek new directions. For the sake of self-examination, it behooves us to review our group activities and to ponder our ever-shifting communities. Who are you?

Self Scrutiny

Tale of the Model Citizen

December 16th, 2011

There are so many challenges for anyone employed as a corrections professional. But staff division is a very interesting issue in corrections. This is because of the impact of it bad and good potential. On the negative side, it can be the root of security problems. On the other side of that coin is the notion that the solutions are largely in our collective hands.

In general, there are two sorts of deeds done in corrections. One variety can be performed with the notion of earning some sort of credit. The other is done for the sake of doing the job right. In other words, there are climbers and true professionals.

A climber can be defined as someone who orchestrates their duties only when others are looking. They do a good job, but it is masked in insincerity and is slef-serving. Theirs is a world of positive messages of their deeds for those in de jure or de facto power. The climber will generally not do a less-than-desirable task unless it is observed by someone who can advance his or her career.

The true professional does not need an audience or Kudos in order to do a job well. It is certain that no one can act with truly altruistic motives at all times. However, the professional does not need the credit as much as the climber.

There are plenty of each kind. And each of us can range between these two poles. One small, self serving deed does not necessarily taint an otherwise professional record. Unfortunately, most of us remember the negative rather than the positive. If you are honest with yourself, it is probably easier to name more climbers that you know than the vocational heroes.

Climbers, through a long chain of possible events, pose a hazard to operations. They may, in the spirit of subtle self-promotion, spread malicious rumors about non-competing professionals. Tarnished reputations cause disillusion and lower productivity. Formerly committed staff become less security conscious. Those who see through the climber’s activities can become jaded if the climber promotes. The administration may lose authority and credibility if a climber rises in the ranks.

All of this diminishes security. Every little distraction from the main goal of safety for all chips away at the foundation of security. This may not be evident, but it is true.

Just like the prevalent issue of staff division, this problem is easy to identify. The hard part is to realize the solutions. Here are some thoughts about climbers and true professionals that may put the solutions within reach.

• Corrections staff can see through ruses. Climbers, no matter how cleverly they manipulate opinions, will eventually be discovered by colleagues. Climbers cannot hide in the long term.
• The true professional does not consciously seek to be visible.
• It is very easy to deride the overt climber. However, climber bashing exacerbates the balance of harmony in an institution.
• Self scrutiny is essential in this and all issues that surround staff relations.
• Humility is a key ingredient.
• Many aspirations are also beneficial to the mission. It is the negative examples that sometimes taint the image of promoting.
• Some climbers are effective leaders and should get the promotion based on skills rather than popularity.
• There is such a thing as too much pride in being altruistic – it is elitist. At the risk of defending the stance of the climber, anti-climbing sentiment can be so potent that it detracts from the mission.
• Each of us is a work in progress. No one adheres to the same role at all times.

Climbers and true professionals are just two of the many interesting archetypes we find in our challenging profession. We cannot all be model citizens all of the time. We are human. However, the lofty ideal is just a reach from the real. Solutions are within reach.

Self Scrutiny, Staff relations

Rules are rules

December 7th, 2011

Just this morning, I heard a story on the news related to rule enforcement. It seems that a celebrity was instructed to turn off his electronic device prior to a transcontinental flight. According to the story, the celebrity did not comply with the instruction. Because of this, he was escorted off of the airplane.

Of course, the story will develop as the hours and days move forward. Messages on social media and on news and celebrity shows will certainly take this story in any number of interesting and bizarre directions. Though our point of departure is based in the alleged noncompliance rules by famous person, let’s apply this to our everyday work life. In consideration of the nature of rules, we can ask ourselves a few questions:

Do the rules apply to everyone?

The simple answer is: rules do apply to everyone. Staff, prisoners and the public are expected to follow posted rules and valid verbal instructions.

Let us modify the question. Does everyone believe that rules apply to them? With this, the answer is not cut and dry. Some offenders may be of the opinion that they are above the rules due to time served, a sense of entitlement, rebellion, or any number of factors. Some staff may thumb their nose at the rules for the same reasons.

Perhaps a celebrity puts faith in the cult of personality over the notion of uniform behavior. Thins of a big Hollywood name getting checked for a minor safety rule. We can easily imagine a Diva (or Divo?) say, “Don’t you know who I am? No one treats me this way!”Some would agree with the privileges of fame. Others expect compliance – no matter one’s status.

Are some rules unreasonable?

Most everyone at some time, staff and offender, believes that a certain rule is unreasonable. I once heard of a facility that declared solid-colored pens as contraband. Except for the tiny “segregation pens”, clear-bodied, transparent pens were all that staff and offenders could use. This was done in order to curtail smuggling through a small but effective contraband vessel. One staff member who was quite attached to his gold pen instantly took offense to this rule. However, when explained that this was for security sake and nothing personal, the rule was accepted by that staff person. In this case, the rule was seen by the staff person as initially unreasonable then valid when the mission came into focus.

Are rules enforced the same way?

Discretion is a strange tool. On one hand, it liberates us by giving us flexibility. No two sets of circumstances are completely identical, after all. For minor rules, a verbal reprimand may work better than a misconduct report. However, those who are less flexible will wrangle with uniformity. When someone does X, then Y should always follow as a consequence, they reason.

Decisions are not like binary language. It is not as simple as your basic either/or proposition. Certainly, there are circumstances that warrant absolutes in the world of rules. Still, other things are more prone to discretion. Clearly, consistency is the brass ring to grab. But the fact remains that it is an imperfect world.

The fact is that there will be differences in enforcement of almost all rules. This is true between shifts, between facilities, and in comparison to different areas of the institution. In fact, an individual may enforce the same rule in different ways during the same day.

Does enforcement change over time?

Sometimes, a new rule is issued in reaction to an event. For example, if hand soap is proven to be the new trading medium, the rule that governs the amount of soap an offender can carry will be likely to be strongly enforced. As time goes on, this enforcement may become lax to all but the most stringent rule enforcer. Event-driven rule enforcement has a way of moderating over time.

Just like the celebrity who refuses to comply with valid safety rules on an airline, not all will agree with rules and authority. But, in maintaining order, that is what corrections professionals face every day.

Assessing the organization, Security, Self Scrutiny

Checkers, Chess and Contention

November 18th, 2011

The game boards are the same. There are 64 squares, arranged 8 x 8 in two different colors. Yet, chess and checkers are as different from each other as a flat screen television is to a coloring book. There are times when we are prepared to enjoy high definition and we are handed a book of simple drawing and a box of crayons.

When we are dealing with offenders, is no secret that some are very contentious. Their record seems to indicate that they retaliate to all defensive and punitive actions. For example, if you issue a verbal reprimand for violations of a minor rule, some inmates will complain all the way to the Supreme Court – very literally so. Perceptions of right and wrong are not important. Is just something of which staff should be aware.

It is prudent to prepare for the worst, of course. But is there such a thing as too much preparation? Might we anguish or squander resources on something that does not come to pass? We sometimes sit down for a game of chess only to discover that our “opponent” is looking for a game of checkers? Or is it the other way around? How do we prepare for contention?

• Preparation can be built into your routine. Logbooks and notes help jog the memory and are the basis of defense in any accusation.
• Following policy and procedure to the letter not only keeps the conscious clean, it also protects us. If you’re not one who operates in deviations and policy, accusations to the contrary are ridiculous.
• Remember the repeat offenders. If you encounter a contentious prisoner over and over through the years, you can take some solace in your growth as professional. Some prisoners are transferred often. If an argumentative prisoner transferred but is back to the institution after two years, this can be considered an opportunity for professional development. For you, that should count as two years of experience and skills accrued in his absence.
• Many people mellow. If a contentious inmate from your professional past resurfaces, stand on guard. But do not launch an offensive before the prisoner starts arguing. We have enough authority to see if the inmate has tempered argumentative ways.

• A reminder of the past may be warranted. But does not necessarily have to be use like a bludgeoning tool
• Play the game, but don’t be too absorbed in the details. It is good to have basic contingency plans. However, if you over-plan, you clutter the field with hypotheticals. Balance your planning with execution.
• Let others know if you are faced with constant contention. Chances are, highly argumentative individuals do not limit their complaints to one person. You may learn valuable coping skills or important information from colleagues.
• Do not get discouraged if a prisoner lies. In the course of disputes, this happens.
• Professionally speaking, assertion is better than aggression.

Like checkers and chess, each game of human interaction is different from the next. But the general principles of preparedness remain. And dealing with the contentious person in the past will not necessarily be identical to the next time you encounter someone of this nature.

Security, Self Scrutiny, Staff relations

The parable of the fork lift

October 26th, 2011

There was once a high-low driver who enjoyed her job very much. She did her job well. On her forklift she was an artist on the move. As she hauled heavy loads from tangled piles to precarious points, she and her high-low personified poetry in motion.

She manipulate machine like a well-practiced violinist plays. The high-low was her instrument. Among her skills were her muscle memory and knowledge of the machine’s capabilities. She knew its quirks and its power. Above all, she knew the layout of the shop floor. To say that she could navigate blindfolded on the shop floor was not an understatement.

Little did she know that the way she had operated for years was about the change. First, in an effort to economize, the layout of the shop was reconfigured. The routes on which she effortlessly maneuvered her forklift were in no way like they had been.

Also, the older but comfortable forklift was replaced by a smaller one. She was rendered completely ham-handed because the controls were different than her well seasoned forklift. The play on the steering wheel and brake pedal were so different from what she was used to, she wondered if she would ever adjust.

In anticipation of change, she was given some new driver training. At first, she thought that this would be beneficial. After all, she had a new machine to acclimate to. But the trainer was unsure and gave contradicting orders while monitoring the practicum. She found that because of the tight controls and nervousness of the trainer, there was too much overcorrection as she drove.

In a word, the training was nerve-racking. She was, in effect, unlearning the finesse and pathways that she developed employed for nearly 2 decades. Matters were made worse by the many subsequent changes to the layout of shop floor. It seems that once the new configuration was in place, no one could go without suggesting a change.

She learned that the only constant in her work life was change itself. The anxiety of the ever morphing paradigms and are continually retooled skills led into her life home. She became irritable and unpleasant, contrary to her vivacious and gregarious attitude.

One day, she was moving an expensive load. It seemed rather well-balanced on the skids. However, her feeling of equilibrium was displaced by the trainer who yelled instructions contrary to her movements. Because of an over-correction that she made, the high-low lurched. Four things happened:

1. The load fell to the cement floor, breaking all the specialized, expensive parts.
2. During a second of panic, she collided with a support column. The shoddy, little new forklift, far from being the heavy metal model that she was still used to, was now out of commission.
3. She fell during the collision and landed wrong. Trying to brace her fall, she broke her left wrist. Adding insult to this injury, her left hand was her dominant hand.
4. She felt that she was suddenly useless at something which she did so well for so many years.

The high-low driver was hit with many changes from the different angles. Her old, familiar fork lift – her critical tool – was replaced by something unfamiliar and of a light duty design. It is almost like when staff are thrown blind into a new computer system with no instruction. Her training was not comfortable. The map of the workplace was literally transformed into something alien – sometimes changed twice a week.

Of course, in uncertain economic times, change is more likely to occur. There’s no question that this causes stress, especially in an anxiety prone vocation such as corrections. How do we lower the stress and increase safety in the meantime? Here are some things for all of us to reflect on during tumultuous times.

• Immediate change may be necessary. But it takes time for prisoners and staff to absorb these changes.
• Old habits die hard. Long-term, engraved task patterns are hard to undo.
• Shortcuts can make long delays.
• Patient and well-conceived training will go a long way in fostering the success of new changes.
• Safety is always the most important component in corrections.
• When suggestions for change are sought, some may forward ideas in order to make a mark on the process. The suggestion may be based on ego rather than the benefit of overall operations.
• Anxiety is common in times of uncertainty. It is up to the individual to refrain from adding to it.

There were so many dimensions to change. In the end, we are all small parts to large, interconnected whole programs and safety machine. Change is not comfortable – but it is inevitable. Because of this, we must cope in the best way possible.

Assessing the organization, Self Scrutiny, Staff relations

A drive down the road to Change

October 14th, 2011

Buckle up! It may be a bumpy ride! Our destination is Change.

A drive down a street is not necessarily the same experience for all. Imagine that we are traveling to a destination called Change. Some will want to drive full steam ahead, anxious for some new scenery. Others will dig their fingernails deep into the upholstery, resistant to the new paradigm. Between those two extremes is where most of us lie, cautiously apprehensive – but not necessarily full of trepidation.

It is amazing how the same journey can evoke different emotions.

Still, not all drives down the road to change are the same. Sometimes there are quick, difficult curves to negotiate. At other times the road is direct and unwavering. And the speed at which circumstances forces us to travel is often indifferent if the road is straight or convoluted. We might anticipate bumps and potholes and find none. Conversely, a well-plotted path may prove unexpectedly perilous. One never knows.

There are so many dimensions to the concept of change. Many books have been written on the topic. Here some just a few thoughts about change:

• Change is uncomfortable. In much the same way that a twisted road or fast acceleration in a car can bring on motion sickness, with change we feel vulnerable from the speed of events. But just because this is so, does not mean that we should not take a walk around the concept change from time to time. In fact, in times of economic uncertainty when everything is on the table, it behooves us to assess modified operations.

• Some people look at the changes only in their immediate area. Others have the ability to view the wider panorama. Operations are interconnected. A small ripple in one area may magically develop into large waves elsewhere.

• Often, change requires time for staff and prisoners to adjust. For example, if newly implemented changes do not appear to be running smoothly on day one or day two, this is not cause to rally for a complete overhaul. Rather, it is a time to make notes and to plan for possible modifications at a later date.

• A calm demeanor of staff while speaking to prisoners during times of change is crucial. Prisoners will look to staff for cues about how the change is progressing. If staff seemed tense, prisoners may become tense. If staff appear to lose faith in the leadership, prisoners may do the same. And that makes conditions conducive for tumultuous events in any facility.

• WIIFM or what’s in it for me is something that we all seek during times of change. Of course not everything is entirely bad. And even with radical changes, we may be able to find some benefit in it all.

• Some people actually enjoy change. They may become bored easily and want to experience different operations. Change for the sake of change is not necessarily done for the correct reason – ensuring smoother operations.

Years ago, one of my friends and colleagues stated, “I don’t mind change as long as I can control it.” She said this in a wry, sarcastic manner. From what I remember about her professionalism, she took the larger view and considered the mission statement of the agency. Despite her tongue-in-cheek admission about how things may not stay the same and how little control we may have over them, she was a realist. No matter how much change is uncomfortable, it is something that we face time to time.

Assessing the organization, Security, Self Scrutiny, Staff relations

Contemplating courtesy in corrections

September 29th, 2011

The cards seem stacked against me that day. Not only was Monday, but I was also scheduled to get a flu shot. I realize that a quick second of discomfort outweighs the potential of long-term upper respiratory misery. Still, it was early on a Monday morning and that hold its own challenge.

I did not see this coming. After the shot, I was offered a homemade oatmeal raisin cookie. It was delicious. And that unexpected courtesy instantly changed my outlook on the day. Maybe Mondays are over touted as the worst day of the week.

I cannot help to wonder about the possible positive impacts of a small act of kindness at work. Like the concept of “pay forward”, any courtesy can spin into many benefits – sometimes unpredictable. Among them are:
1. Increased camaraderie
2. Improved outlooks and positive attitudes
3. Reciprocal kind acts
4. The feeling of community that ultimately increases safety.
Of course, we are very careful in corrections. When a good deed is done to us, we might cynically ask what is in it for the person who performs a good deed. We ponder the motive rather than enjoy goodwill.

However, that sort of cynicism is detrimental for staff unity. It’s unfortunate that questions of indebtedness will often arise. Yet, that is the reality of the work environment in corrections.

Favors of all shapes and sizes should not automatically fall in the crosshairs of scrutiny. If our difficult to defuse skepticism cannot be turned down, then it can be softened. For example, rather than question the motive, one might assess if the person is normally the giving type. If so, then suspicions can be laid to rest. If not, then there may or may not be something afoot.

Here are some random thoughts about courtesies in corrections:
• People often use the phrase “no good deed goes unpunished”. That’s just an expression. It is not an inevitable occurrence.
• In corrections, we work with the job that quickly squelches any optimism. Unsolicited good will between colleagues keeps alive this rare commodity of positive thoughts.
• Most people eventually will shed skepticism over good deeds.
• Some colleagues, however, will never accept kindness at face value. They are few and far between. Their existence should be acknowledged though not validated. Still, they should not be ostracized, as this contributes to staff division.
• On the other side of the coin, some people are validated by excelling in giving. Unfortunately, this may become an annoyance to most. As in anything, balance is necessary.
• Sometimes, good deeds are sabotaged by jealousy. In some cases, the saboteur may not be stealthy, wishing for any type of attention – even if it is negative.
• Forced courtesy is of no value. One of the gifts that we often gain in this vocation is the ability to assess real and feigned actions. Therefore, it behooves us to avoid ruses dressed in nice deeds.
• Competitive courtesy it is another version of staff division. It is not unheard of for two staff to battle for the title of the nicest person in the facility. This breeds contempt and fosters division.
• All of us have a job to do. Courtesy is nice. However, in excess, it can obscure the job at hand. It is safe, for example, to hold the door for a colleague in the distance when prisoner traffic may pose a hazard? Safety first.
• Above all, follow policy. All random acts of kindness should be done within the bounds of policy and procedure. For example, distribution of candy canes in late December is nice. But is it sanctioned by the facility? Is it safe if one of the candy canes becomes missing and is later sharpened to be used as a weapon?

I once saw friend of mine perform an unexpected favor at the Mackinac Bridge toll booth. The Mackinac Bridge is the five-mile span that connects the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to the Lower Peninsula of Michigan. He paid his own toll to cross into Lower Michigan and also gave toll for the person behind them. In the middle of this four-lane bridge, a car pulled up to our car and waved to my friend in gratitude.

I do realize that what happened at the toll booth in St. Ignace, Michigan is not some earth-shattering, unprecedented act of benevolence. Still, it is clear to me that it is sometimes the little things that fuel good days. This is neither childlike nor naïve to appreciate an unexpected homemade cookie. It is human nature.

Assessing the organization, Self Scrutiny, Staff relations, Uncategorized

The merits of stability and variety

August 3rd, 2011

One bit of wisdom that seasoned veterans pass on to neophytes involves predictability. Experience tells us to change up our routines from time to time. As we are continuously monitored and observed by offenders, it pays to camouflage our patterns when we can. When we use the same route at the same time each day and commit identical movements, we can become targets.

Walking in a different direction than is normal while you perform rounds may afford you another view of the same location. An offender who is not expecting you to break your pattern may inadvertently reveal a weapon or other contraband. All of this leads, of course, to a safer facility for all.

Variety, on the other hand, is often a detriment when we speak of our work personas. This is not to say that a conversation between colleagues has to remain in the tight parameters of weather, sports, and what is for chow. What I mean is that a stable personality helps foster safety.

Take the test. Which of these two scenarios do you prefer?

1. Your colleague greets you at the time clock one day. He is literally bouncing, full of energy, and extremely happy. In fact, you are a bit puzzled, as there is no apparent reason for his elation. Two days later, the same person is withdrawn. His posture suggests defeat. The next week, he exudes angry, sarcastic energy. The next day, he is jubilant. You can never predict this person’s mood.
2. Your colleague greets you at the time clock and makes a remark about the weather. He then issues an observation about some prisoner activities and then bids you a good day. This persona is one that he has had for as long as you can remember. This person is always pretty much the same every day.

The question posed prior to the scenario was, “Which of these two scenarios do you prefer?” I believe that most people would rather face scenario number two than number one. There is a comfort in stability. This, I think, is also true for offenders. Almost all of us want to know what sort of person we will deal with on a continuing basis.

Some would point out that routine in a facility can be mind-numbing. Others would ask, would it not be better if there were a smattering of volatile characters? I believe that volatility militates against security. Those with a mercurial temperament can be off-putting. And when enterprising offenders see staff keeping distance from a changeable colleague, the recipe for a set-up is evident.

Here are some thoughts about stability:

• Some people are naturally moody. As long as no one is hurt and operations are not impacted, we should accept people as they are;
• Volatile colleagues can be entertaining in an otherwise routine vocation. However, disruptions and staff division spawned by this personality type open the door for danger;
• A less-than-perfect personality that is constant is at least predictable. For example, some people are naturally sullen or grumpy. When we know that someone is likely to be crabby by nature, we are not surprised;
• Just because a person is mercurial does not necessarily mean that there is an issue of mental health. However, we should be sensitive to our colleagues’ needs and offer help;
• If you openly distance yourself from a colleague with a varying personality, you are ringing the dinner bell for the ravenous beast called staff division;
• No matter the behavior, we must remember that a colleague is a colleague. If sudden, strange behavior manifests, one could tactfully ask if something is wrong;
• Many agencies offer employee services to cope with problems in life;
• Aim for stability, but be true to yourself if doing so does not harm the facility or anyone inside.
Maintaining a stable personality, just like consciously varying routine, is conditional. Each corrections professional must make a choice on how to act and react every day. In the end, the safety of others may depend on what you choose.

Self Scrutiny, Staff relations

Corrections fundamentals – The L.O.T.I.S. concept

July 7th, 2011

It has been about a dozen years since I picked up a pen and jotted my thoughts on the nature of corrections. In that time, I have visited many topics in various publications. In over a decade’s passing, much has changed in the world of publishing. One can scarcely believe the rapid shift from print to digital.
This article is an excellent example of this shift. Print on paper, while not dead, is not the only way for words to be regarded and exchanged. The rise of the internet has seen to this. In fact, books themselves may be written as e books and never with any form of stylus.
Despite those changes, corrections fundamentals are the same. And though fiscal uncertainties currently dot our vocational landscape, we are basically charged with the same task – keep offenders, staff, and the public safe.
Because of our important mission, we need to occasionally assess our foundation of knowledge. Consider our vocational foundation as a four-sided entity that supports all of our actions in the pursuit of our mission of safety. Our mission is compromised if we are not on a solid foundation.
And if we have no regard for the environment which supports our foundation, we are setting ourselves up for failure. In other words, we need also to look at the outside. Nothing is self contained. 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 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.
As you proceed through corrections, you can take a journey of discovery by exploring the outside and inside of your operations. With the concept of L.O.T.I.S., you can transform corrections concepts into prudent practice.

Assessing the organization, Security, Self Scrutiny, Staff relations, Training