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Home > Assessing the organization, Staff relations > The good and bad of routine times

The good and bad of routine times

December 28th, 2010

One morning as I entered the secure perimeter of our facility, I smelled the unmistakable odor of a skunk.  Its pungent melodiousness cut through the normal facility smells.  I offer the word “Pew!” for those who seek a more direct description.


Word was that there was once a skunk roaming between our security fences.  Staff and prisoners alike were wary of our guest, fearful that they would be the target of some potent unpleasantly. However, the skunk waddled in a state of  oblivion, seemingly unconcerned by the commotion and even trepidation it caused to staff and prisoners.


Superimpose that scenario on your facility.  Would this event be a bit of tongue-in-cheek excitement?  Would the bad puns related to smell start to fly?  Would both staff and prisoners enjoy this?  Would this cut through the routine and add excitement to the day?


Unlike the depictions in media, prisons are typically routine and boring.  This is not to say that there is never any excitement. But, exciting events do not occur every single moment inside the walls.


Still, there is more to boredom than meets the eye. It is not just a lack of activity.  Routine has benefits and perils. 


Dull times, it has been said, are good in corrections. Cherish the times when routine rules the day. This can be a very productive time.


Routine offers us a fantastic opportunity to play”what if” – a game of hypothetical.  This allows staff to plan for horrible events. One could also, review policy, engage in cross training, or familiarize themselves with motives and history in particular files.  Slower times also give a time for staff to conduct thorough searches.  Furthermore, this is an occasion to review past misconduct reports and ascertain patterns.  Lastly, we benefit from monotonous times as a way to recharge our vocational batteries. 


Still, there are problems with uninspiring times.  The silent and seductive monster called complacency can insinuate itself into our work routine, causing many dangers.  That allows us justification to take short cuts taken on monitoring and observing.  At other times, some of us initiate protracted projects to stem off boredom.  However, we can become so engrossed in the project that we reach the point of neglecting assigned duties.  Lastly, the humdrum part of the work cycle gives some a temptation to stir pot with staff and prisoners



Correctional facilities can be comprised of long stretches of a normally quiet routine punctuated with excitement.  In the aftermath of unusual times, it is useful to reflect on the routine times.

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joebouchard Assessing the organization, Staff relations

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