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Archive for February, 2010

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. 



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. 




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.

Dear Reader

Can words change the world?

February 25th, 2010

“Action speaks louder than words!”


This is a common phrase that more or less elevates the deed over the spoken word or written thought.  However, while it is true that action is the end product of an idea, the idea process should not be discounted. 



The words in and of themselves are neither good nor bad.  The intention of author through words is not necessarily more powerful than the execution of the ideas by the reader.  So while actions speak louder than words, those words are the persistent persuader, whispering into many receptive ears. Read more…

Assessing the organization

Building your agency’s philosophical foundation

February 25th, 2010

Think of the applied power and knowledge of the human race! When focused and in concert, we can do almost anything.  The Hoover Dam is a prime example of cooperation and problem solving.  Quite literally, it is a concrete manifestation of power.  Without it, the Southwest would be completely parched and less settled than it is now. And before any building action commenced on this modern marvel, it existed only in the form of a concept. Read more…

Assessing the organization

The property officer: An overlooked resource for contraband control

February 18th, 2010


What my colleague found  was like a concoction of an amoral, drug-dealing candy maker.  It was truly ingenious in  a simple sort of way.  At first, I could not believe it. Yet, my friend, who works as a property officer in another facility, assurred me that there were heroin candies made to look exactly like a major brand of goodies.  My sardonic thought was , “Plain” peanut, or narcotic?”




I am fortunate in that there is never a shortage of contraband stories.  Just when you think you have heard them all, another comes down the pike and smacks you in the brain.  There is nothing like a shattering of one’s security to heighten one’s alertness. Read more…

Contraband Control

Ten veteran mistakes

February 18th, 2010


As children, many of us believed that our problems would be gone when we reached the magical milestone of adulthood.  Of course, we discovered that this ideal was not the real.  In addition, we found that there was just an exchange of sets of problems.  Challenges in different phases of life do not go away; Often, they differ from prior phases. 


Are the problems of a newbie in corrections the same as veteran staff?  The easy answer is “no.  Does that mean that seasoned correctional staff have all of the answers?  Is there, just as in the difference from childhood and adulthood, a difference in the sets of challenges? 


I believe that seasoned staff who are honest with themselves and their colleagues have earned the right to say, “I know a few things from my experience inside”.  Read more…

Self Scrutiny, Training

Destination intimidation part 5: Bullies and the POINTS system

February 11th, 2010

About six years ago, I was contacted by a Deputy Warden who works in the same agency as I work.  She asked me if I had any resources on bully control.  As I am a librarian by trade, I did my best to meet her information needs.  And I believe that those resources assisted in crafting an excellent training session.


That fueled some curiosity in me about the topic.  Prior, I thought about bullies as existing in adult form. Certainly, the bully mentality is not outgrown and left on the playground.  Professionals just happen to use more sophisticated versions of the behavior.  And the issue of offenders who use intimidation came to mind, as well.  Read more…

Assessing the organization, Self Scrutiny, Staff relations

Control contraband by addressing the exchange of services

February 11th, 2010

Economics is a pervasive and potent force.  There is a wide range of emotions connected to supply and demand. Wars have been fought over the exchange of goods.  Perhaps this is as old as humanity itself. But the fact remains that we are governed by how we acquire goods.


For quite some time, the United States has been moving from an industrial economy to a service economy.    And though the service industry is very real, the products that they produce are less tangible than manufactured goods.

Let’s apply this to the illicit inside economy of a prison.  Read more…

Contraband Control, Security

Laugh a Lot, Live a Lot

February 4th, 2010

By LT. Gary F. Cornelius (retired)


            I have to confess that I have always been known as the “class clown”.  From grade school on, I reveled in doing impersonations, practical jokes, and telling puns.  However, when I entered the field of corrections, I toned down the humor and toned up the seriousness of my profession.  But, there was always room for humor.


            I came across an article from the November-December 1996 issue of American Jails titled “Are We Too Serious?  The Value of Humor in Jail Work” by William F. Waters, MS/MSW, an associate professor in the Criminal Justice Department at Northern Michigan University.  Read more…

Guest Author

Pranks a lot!

February 4th, 2010

Decisions and pranks are similar:  No two are exactly alike.  Every practical joke has the potential to evoke many different reactions.  Much of this is due to the multitude of circumstances.




Yet, mischief seems to be a part of our human condition.  As playful incidents roll in with the undulating regularity of ocean waves, many questions arise.  Are these jokes wholly bad?  Do pranks have any benefits?  How much is too much? Read more…

Assessing the organization, Self Scrutiny, Staff relations, What the...?!?

Dissecting cliques

February 4th, 2010

I once heard something to the effect that with three people you have a clique and a potentially disenfranchised person.  It doesn’t take much to create an exclusive group. Some groups believe that they are better than others.  Unfortunately, it is a part of how human beings operate.

Many factions exist in our vocation.  Perhaps clique is the most appropriate word for this.  One could argue that the phrase subgroup is a reasonable substitution.  There is an important distinction between clique and subgroup. Read more…

Assessing the organization, Self Scrutiny, Staff relations