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Home > Assessing the organization > The end? Not again! - Assessing rumors

The end? Not again! - Assessing rumors

One of my colleagues once said, “You do not have to believe everything that a prisoner says to you. Just because someone says something with unshakable certainty does not mean that it will come to pass. But, you should continue to listen.”

As staff, we should continue to develop filters, learn to share intelligence, and assess sources. That is how we remain safe.

A recent news story brings this maxim to mind. Just when you thought it was safe to sit back and ponder the end of the world according to the Mayan calendar, someone slipped in another end of times date. Now, according to some, the new date that the rapture was to have occurred was on May 21, 2011. Please note, Dear Reader, I’m writing this on May 22, 2011, one day after that proposed end of times.

Perhaps one the striking features of this assertion is that it was made with such certainty. There are lessons from this beyond dubious timing and group psychology. Corrections staff can learn plenty while assessing absolute statements. When someone says something will absolutely happen a certain time, it could mean one of a few things:

1. The person has inside information. For example, an offender declares that there will be a hit on staff and it occurs on an appointed time. From that time forward, the offender should not be discounted as a poor source of information. Of course, some prophets have a track record of only one right prediction in a body of numerous incorrect forecasts. As we consider the source, we need to weigh the record with facts and circumstances.
2. The person will be wrong but they really believes it to be true. Some offenders may indicate that there will be violence in the summer. Many of us have heard the phrase “It is going to be a hot summer”. As staff, we consider the source and watch the signs. If a dire, though vague, prophecy is proven wrong through time, it is all the better for staff.
3. The person believes it without question. Unshakable beliefs range from everyday scenarios to what many would consider absurd. A belief that a certain team will win the final four could be a common belief. A less likely belief is that aliens will land and imposing order. In all of this, we need to consider the rigidity of broadcaster. Self-fulfilling prophecies can manifest if the person pushes hard enough. For example, suppose that a prisoner makes it clear that he will be placed in segregation in the near future. We notice that the prisoner has neatly packed his belongings and has them waiting for staff to cart away. It’s important to note these signs, as the fulfillment of the prophecy could contain violence.
4. The broadcasts are tests. If an offender is testing the gullibility of staff, he simply can drop a far-fetched fact while wearing a straight face. The offender can learn a lot from staff by declaring that the world will end a certain time. Staff who seriously engage in conversations about end times may wear their beliefs and fears to prominently on their sleeve. This is dangerous if the prisoner is an adept handler.

So, whether it is a forecast of the apocalypse or who will fight with whom, we need to be on our vocational toes. Whenever rumors circulate – up to and including the end of the world – our profession teaches us to investigate and prepare. Above all, we don’t have to believe what is said to us – but we need to continue to listen.

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joebouchard Assessing the organization

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