|By Joe Bouchard|
Regular Corrections.com columnist Joe Bouchard is a librarian at Baraga Maximum Correctional Facility within the Michigan Department of Corrections. He is also a member of the Board of Experts for “The Corrections Professional” and an instructor of Corrections and Psychology for Gogebic Community College.There are many one-word definitions that come to mind when one considers the concept of integrity. Among them are; principle, character, soundness, ethical, and honesty.
Recently, I was relating a tale of doing the right thing. This must have come off as a bit self-righteous to one of the listeners. With an impish twinkle in her eye, she replied, “Why don’t you just eat a huge slice of integrity pie?”
Perhaps this was a comment that illustrated my just desserts. I realize that integrity should be delivered humbly and with no traces of pride. As a flawed human being (a work in progress), I pondered the importance of integrity unencumbered by ego. Then I ate a slice of humble pie.
Professional integrity means working in a predictable, uniform way. This is crucial since we work in a potentially dangerous environment.
Those that perform the challenging job of managing offenders in an institutional setting find comfort in anticipated events. Integrity builds this soundness.
There are other benefits to work settings in which professional integrity is valued and practiced. Our work ethic is fulfilled. Our stakeholders demand integrity in its civil employees. This also opens the door for uniformity toward prisoners and toward colleagues.
Through integrity, we are role model to new employees. And we serve as positive examples to our peers.
Staff depends on colleagues with integrity. Trust is such an important issue for those that work inside.
It is difficult to rebuild trust in this setting once it has been broken, and once broken, it erodes quickly. Integrity buttresses trust.
Allegations of staff misconduct or corruption are easier to dismiss for those have consistently demonstrated professional morality. It means never having to remember a cover-up story. There is no need for any fabrications. The only story told is the truth.
Perhaps the most important aspect of integrity is that it inspires safety. Uniformity, fairness, and predictability are products of professional integrity. All of those support the concept of a safer facility.
But, it is not all sweetly idealistic on the road of integrity. Human nature is not always receptive to high work ethics and honesty. There are some of the problems that come from this concept.
Integrity draws criticism from jealous colleagues. Those threatened by the high work ethic of others may reward distinguished standards with gossip or sabotage. They prefer to make themselves look better by bringing others down.
Also, those with integrity may be the targets of a scheming offender. By embarrassing a paragon of uprightness, some prisoners can gain instant institutional respect.
Integrity has pitfalls, but it is worth it. By adhering to the mission statement, taking things in stride, and looking at the larger picture, many will maintain their foundation of fairness. The benefits will outweigh the difficulties encountered in search of professional integrity.
Other articles by Bouchard:
Selecting from a salad bar of concepts
Safety and the possessed parrot