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Archive for March, 2011

Sore winners, sore losers, and vengeance

March 24th, 2011

 Nose to nose with her adversary she screamed, “That’s not fair! You are a cheater!” Her fair skin tone blazed tomato red as she issued infinite invectives through torrent of tears. The source of all this emotion was game concerning a dry bone from a turkey.


The screamer lost, and her frustration was exacerbated by the winners smirk. I was amazed as I watched this. I search for the best time to intervene, but tempers flared early.


Of course, the game of wishbone almost always results in one clear winner and one definite loser. And with any contest there may be sore winners and sore losers.


Most of us have seen contests like this on the job. These go beyond friendly competitions. Each contestant wants to win more than anything. It can be in the form of a weight loss contest, who can quit a vice for the longest time, or even who scores highest on an exam. Read more…

Assessing the organization, Self Scrutiny, Staff relations

Graffiti, snowffiti, and unauthorized communications

March 16th, 2011


Officially, agencies communicate through memoranda, operating procedures, policy directions and the chain of command.  Unofficially, we exchange information through less than formal communications vines.  Word of mouth is a very common manner.  Communications of all sorts drive our actions.  Of the many things that safety is contingent on, communications should never be overlooked.


Of course, staff are not the only group in our institution that exchange information.  Offenders drive the engines of their unofficial economies with information.  Code, graffiti, and snowffiti are some ways that they do this.



One of my custody mentors told me a story of a green thumbed individual.  My mentor related the tale of horticultural handiwork of a convicted gardener extraordinaire. Read more…

Contraband Control, Training

Taming the “untamable”: a set up scenario

March 9th, 2011


Almost all of us mellow with age. In corrections, the trend is seen in many offender’s files. Normally, there’s a large chunk misconduct reports issued early on in the incarceration. As the offender spends time in the system, the tickets typically (though not necessarily always) diminish.


Perhaps the same is true of most staff. We tend to write fewer tickets as our careers proceed. There are many reasons for this. We develop other valid manners of gaining compliance.  Of course, the natural course of aging is also an agent of change.


But there are some offenders who seemed to earn copious misconduct reports no matter the place in their incarceration. Read more…

Security, Self Scrutiny, Training

De facto and respected authority

March 3rd, 2011

Someone who wears formal clothing or an official uniform usually commands respect, correct? Would a person who wears a knit polo shirt look more authoritative than someone in a T-shirt? Most would answer these questions with yes. Of course, the question of authority runs much deeper than that.





A friend and colleague of mine (in fact, the one and only Gary Cornelius) posed the question to me that put me on that track of thinking. Do custody staff in general have to overcome an obstacle when they are trained by programs or support staff person? In Gary’s words, would they ask, “why should I listen to you if you don’t wear a badge?” Read more…

Self Scrutiny, Staff relations, Training