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Issues of trust in corrections part II - The trust tune up
By Joe Bouchard
Published: 07/06/2009

Cartuneup istock How often does the average person think about the motor in their car? The engine, though essential, is forgotten when it works well and without strange noises. However, when the oil light comes on in the dash board, there is a sudden sense of alarm.

Owners wonder why the motor is not running well, attributing poor assembly to the manufacturer. Sometimes we curse the designer when we have car problems. It is natural to issue blame. Instantly, we consider logistics involved in repairing the engine. And the thought of repair costs always come to mind.

Corrections can be thought of as the engine in an automobile. If corrections is an engine that powers our detention system, it is not thought of when it works well. Professionalism and trust are the viscous substances that keep the engine parts from wearing too soon. All motors need oil in order to run efficiently and with longevity. All corrections systems need trust to function well. When the engine is operating smoothly, there is no concern.

Betrayal sometimes rears it ugly head on the job. As discussed in part one of this article, the effects in corrections can be devastating and dangerous. How do we lessen the ill effects of betrayal in either extreme? Here are a few ideas:

Training – Agencies should reevaluate their modules on staff manipulation by prisoners. Legal consequences of operating outside of policy should be emphasized.

Presence – On a daily basis, there should be no empty areas in any facility for a prolonged time. Staff rovers should actively seek the places where prisoner/staff isolation can occur. Seek the vulnerable spots.

Attitude - If you work with prisoners, you should neither love nor hate them. It is a matter of working in a professional midpoint. Well written policies and procedures guide staff action.

Mentoring – Help new personnel and disenfranchised staff by professional coaching. A little camaraderie will cast a long, positive shadow in staff development.

Staff searches – All of us must professionally accept that we work in corrections and shakedowns do occur. If you are searched while entering the facility and have nothing to hide, then you have the reward of integrity. Realize that it is about safety, not egos. If it is a valid search for the sake of safety, do not complain about it. It is for the good of all.

In reality, we cannot facilitate all of those who seem destined to the extremes of the betrayal continuum. However, our influence can dissuade others who may be on the way to breaching policy on either extreme. We need to hinder those who are marginally inclined to go that way.

We have enough stress in accepting things out of our control. And it takes a great effort for all of us to stop our saboteurs within. All of us have the responsibility to maintain and improve staff relations to the point of perfection. In our own way, we must eliminate the circumstances which produce the coddler and the vindictive.

In corrections we have many trust relationships. What are some of the relationships that we as corrections professionals must consider? Please look for Issues of trust in corrections part III – coming soon



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