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Foundation elements of corrections’ safety
By Joe Bouchard
Published: 12/28/2009

Construction site We can think of our organization and institutions as solidly built buildings. However, we do not always think of how the structure has been constructed, even when we reside with in its walls. And it is more rare to ponder the cinderblocks on which our building rests. We simply seem to busy to pay heed to the foundation.

The foundation of a building is absolutely necessary. Without it, the walls would merely form an unattached, unstable box. There could be no permanent structure without a foundation.

The walls of any structure follow the guiding lines of the foundation. And this is true of any agency, worksite, or vocation. If our every day actions are the walls, ideally we rest on and are attached to the philosophical base. But what is the base made of?

Most corrections agencies have a mission statement. Despite many variations, most have in common the focus on security and safety. And safety, undeniably the basic corrections concept, can be subdivided into smaller increments. These are called Foundation Elements.

In other words, if the corrections groundwork is safety, the following are bricks that form the foundation. They are, contraband control, staff unity, unity in policy, and training.

Contraband control – Contraband equals power. In its various forms, it offers opportunities for agents to shatter security. Its presence disrupts the level playing field that we strive to maintain. When contraband is under control, staff hold more cards in their collective hands. In opther words, security is enhanced when contraband variables are removed from the system.

Staff unity – Informally stated, “We don’t have to like each other. We just have to work together.” Our unity does not necessarily have to be based on mutual adoration. However, mutual respect is necessary. Facilities that are fairly united have less inter-staff tension. This limits opportunities for manipulation by enterprising prisoners. And when we are not occupied with defending ourselves against different colleagues, we can focus on safety.

Uniformity in policy – This foundation ensures that we are encoded to perform in the same manner when similar conditions manifest themselves.

Training – Corrections instruction, both classroom and computerized, is intended to bring theory into practice. In other words, professional education on paper should be transformed into action. This also bolsters the uniformity

Communication – Communication is the mortar that holds the four Foundation Elements together. Our ability to maintain control in our facilities rests squarely on the ability to exchange information. We cannot maintain or improve staff relations without an exchange of data and ideas. We cannot realistically remove optimal bootleg from the system without a concerted effort including a healthy exchange of intelligence. Without proper communication, we cannot transmit policy and training.

Foundations Elements cannot be simply put in a separate category. All of our successes or missteps are contingent on others happening. Note that all of the following concepts are interrelated to a degree.

Rouogh bricks that cannot be properly set
Plans gone awry
Not everyone follows the blue print.

No contractor would seriously consider a building complete without a foundation. Likewise, no architect of corrections professionalism can conceive of a baseless structure. Foundation Elements bare the basic building blocks for the safety of all.

About the Author – Joseph 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. You can reach him at (906) 353-7070 ext 1321

These are the opinions of Joseph Bouchard, a Librarian employed with the Michigan Department of Corrections. These are not necessarily the opinions of the Department. The MDOC is not responsible for the content or accuracy.

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