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Archive for July, 2009

I swear!

July 30th, 2009

Chances are you will hear swearing every single day while you work in corrections.  To most, it is not unusual.  In fact, it is as normal part of the job as a burn is to a fry cook. But profanity can polarize staff and cause bigger problems than initially suspected.





Before I go on, I must issue a few disclaimers.


None of this is a personal crusade on my part that seeks to control language.  This is not an attempt at suppression.  Rather, I believe that this is a topic that should be considered for our overall collective benefit. Read more…

Self Scrutiny, Staff relations

Safety and the possessed parrot

July 30th, 2009



Things are not always as they seem.  This was proven to me last week. 


The classroom that I needed to use was locked. It was easy enough to locate someone with a key.  I found the custodian in a room talking to someone who was not visible to my eyes.  Further investigation revealed that she was conversing with a large, blue-green parrot in a cage.  Read more…

Inside Out, Self Scrutiny, What the...?!?

Avoidance management Part II: The Garden

July 22nd, 2009

One does not have to be a farmer to grasp this fact:  It is not easy to grow crops.  Often the cultivator is at the mercy of the environment.  But even in good years, the wise farmer will apply the proper measure of sun, water, weeding and fertilizer. Those who let nature take its course will usually gather a lesser harvest.


“Nip it in the bud” is a phrase that comes to us from our agricultural history. It is used in modern terminology to describe how one should tend to a potentially bad situation before it grows unmanageably large and wild. 




Avoidance management happens frequently and in many forms.  It comes from any combination of interactions. Avoidance management happens between staff, involving prisoner interactions, and from staff to prisoner.  Read more…

Assessing the organization, Staff relations

The big deal about a little contraband

July 22nd, 2009


Speeding, in the eyes of the law, is speeding. If the 55 miles per hour speed limit is exceeded, it is against the law. Someone who travels at 56 mph is, technically, in the same category as those who violate at a much higher speed. They are just as guilty of breaking the law.



So, does 56 mph really equal 70 mph? The answer is “yes” and “no.” An officer’s discretion more readily allows for a warning to the former but a ticket for the latter. Conditions may also warrant flexibility in enforcement, and fines may vary according to the intensity of the infraction.

Often, we judge posted speed limits as wrong. Many times we justify that conditions permit us to push beyond the maximum. We can, after all, control speed with safety, despite the posted limit. But, should our own perception of safety be the last word in enforcement of any kind? Read more…

Contraband Control

Avoidance management Part I: A decision from a hat?

July 15th, 2009

For corrections professionals, firm but fair is the universal expectation.  However, ‘firm’ is not so easy to attain.  Despite all of our training, confrontation is often difficult to deal with.  Some of us simply steer clear of disagreements due to our inherent make up.  Enter the specter of avoidance management.




Avoidance management is the practice of dodging problems within your area of control with the hopes that they will just go away.  Unfortunately problems left untended can blossom into something that is difficult to settle. In other words, from the tiny acorn, the mighty oak will grow. Read more…

Assessing the organization, Self Scrutiny, Staff relations

Fear factory: Contemplating trepidation in corrections

July 15th, 2009





It was the most terrifying twenty minutes of his life. He was confronted by three people with incessant questions. They probed his mind, issued uncomfortable silences, and bore holes through him with unblinking eyes. They held the power and simply would not relent.

Flop sweat cascaded from his forehead, an aqueous tribute to his trepidation. Conversely, his throat was dry, leaving him inarticulate. He felt immobile, caught helpless like a deer in headlights.

It was his first job interview and he remembers it like it was only a meal ago. Read more…

Assessing the organization, Self Scrutiny

It is obvious now that I think about it

July 8th, 2009

I felt like someone from a primitive village looking at a flash light for the first time.  I was stupefied, slack-jawed and awash with utter incomprehension.  I was mesmerized by the new concept.  It was like seeing a wheel for the very first time.  I did not invent it, and I did not fully understand it.  But the 100 watt bulb over my head illuminated as I slowly understood.


key-in-collar Read more…

Contraband Control

Horse sense and teamwork in corrections

July 8th, 2009

Quivering with disdain, she cleared her throat and articulated her opinion to all within earshot. “Brad may have book smarts, but he has no horse sense!” She fixed me with an unwavering stare as she made her announcement. The statement was laden with contempt, literally dripping like snow melting off a metal roof in March.

My immediate question was, “What is horse sense?”

I had heard this expression before, but it still puzzled me. Read more…

Self Scrutiny, Staff relations

Issues of trust in corrections part III – Our Obligations

July 1st, 2009


One of the most powerful actions to evoke surprise and bitterness is the act of betrayal. Disloyalty in any area is particularly crushing when it is unexpected.  That is the point at which the betrayed party is most vulnerable.  Trust broken, quite simply, is hard to regain.


In corrections, we have many trust relationships.  To fully cultivate trust, we must develop and maintain loyalty towards these parties: Self, Prisoners, Coworkers, and Society. Read more…

Self Scrutiny, Staff relations

Rumors and conspiracies

July 1st, 2009

One little rumor is like an acorn.  Before you know it, the rumor grows into a huge tree with tangled roots.  And like Frankenstein’s Monster, conspiracy theories come to life and rampage.


Can rumors and tabloid talk bring danger to an institution?  Do those who subscribe to less reputable entertainment reports make themselves potential targets for manipulation?  The answers to these questions can be quite easy to discover.  It is a simple matter of observing and listening to others at work in the wake of a celebrity scandal. Read more…

Assessing the organization, Inside Out, Self Scrutiny, Staff relations