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Issues of trust – part I - The eyes of trust
By Joe Bouchard
Published: 06/29/2009

Trust Look at the world through the eyes of trust. What do you see? Is every action that you view a model of altruism? Or do you see that which forces you to avert your gaze? Trust is in the eye of the beholder. What does this mean to corrections staff?

Professionalism is important to most corrections staff. Most of us can resist the temptation and very human quality of letting our emotions dictate our actions. Those in our ranks who deviate from policy and procedure give us reason to ponder our integrity as a group. Issues of trust in corrections may not be a comfortable topic. But it is very necessary to discuss.

Let us consider the concept of betrayal. The attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 evokes the emotion of the ultimate surprise attack. Sixty years later, the terrorist attacks of 9/11 shocked us further. Betrayal is personified in Revolutionary War figure Benedict Arnold. In fact, his name is synonymous with traitor.

It is unfortunate that betrayal hits closer to home than those examples. One of your colleagues may be working against the security of your facility as you read this.

Unfortunately, some of our problems in our prisons come from staff that have an enormous emotional attachment to inmates. The emotional connection is not just love. There are some who have a strong loathing for prisoners and think it is their job to punish.

This can be depicted by “The Betrayal Continuum”. It is a chart that deals with ‘dirty staff’ on both sides of the continuum.


(The Betrayal Continuum)

Coddler - cares too much for prisoners. They develop strong feelings toward inmates such as love. Beyond emotional and sexual intimacy, coddlers often place colleagues in danger. They do this by introducing contraband into the facility for the benefit of their paramours. In most cases, this leads danger to everyone in the facility. Sometimes, coddlers will endanger the public by assisting in escape attempts.

Vindictive - gives nothing that is due to inmates. Often, they deprive prisoners of basic care. The classic vindictive will fabricate misconduct charges against prisoners. They harbor strong emotional attachment to those in their care. The emotion is hatred.

On the face of it, the Coddler and Vindictive seem like opposites. But they represent different sides of the same coin. They are alike in that they both have a disregard for policy. The similarities continue, as both allow their personal feelings direct their actions at work.

Betrayers of both varieties operate outside of policy. These are two extremes, but they are essentially the same behavior. Both are also illegal. Staff on both ends of the continuum render the incorrect amount of care.

This produces ill effects in the profession, making it more difficult for everyone. When acceptable limits of behavior are erroneously extended by a few, the jobs of the majority become more difficult. Prisoners are emboldened to test the scruples of other staff with renewed vigor.

The main fatality is trust. Trust broken, quite simply, is hard to regain. This is exacerbated when the breach of faith is a surprise. Disloyalty in any area is particularly crushing when it is unexpected. That is the point at which the betrayed party is most vulnerable.

In the end, the most shocking similarity is that betrayal is the common thread. The majority of staff, those who operate with integrity, are betrayed by these varieties of selfish coworkers.

How do we lessen the ill effects of betrayal in either extreme? For the answers to this, look for Issues of trust in corrections – part II

Visit the Joe Bouchard page


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