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Good Officer but Mistrusting Person
By Caterina Spinaris
Published: 01/04/2010

Police officer The writer of this email captures beautifully an aspect of Corrections Fatigue, the gradual negative changes in correctional staff due to the nature of their work environment. It is also noteworthy to me that this Officer clearly has a servant’s heart in spite of everything else going on in his life. He went out of his way to find the owner of the lost purse and to deliver it to her. Way to go!

I thought I would share a recent experience with you which is indicative of the way people become when working in Corrections.

The other night at work I noticed an inmate duress alarm (a red light that glows on a control panel) shortly after my shift had started. The off-going officer had neglected to pass this on when I relieved him, probably because the inmate had activated it for some frivolous reason. Sometimes inmates do that. They may act like needing a roll of toilet paper or wanting a phone call is an emergency. So, I notified the Officer in charge of the Unit and we checked it out. Of course, the inmate was fast asleep in his bunk, and we deactivated the duress alarm. Why did we respond? Because the moment we don’t some inmate is trying to commit suicide, having a heart attack, or is having a seizure. No matter how an inmate may behave, we are still committed and duty-bound to preserve his life.

The next day, while at Dairy Queen, I came across a ladies purse. I opened it to see if there was anything of value inside. There was a wad of money totaling $70.00 and a driver’s license belonging to an eighteen-year-old girl. I went to the register and asked an employee if anyone had asked for a lost purse. I was told no but they would be happy to hold onto it if the person came back. I immediately didn’t trust the young man behind the register to do the right thing. I politely stated that I would try to find the girl’s phone number and call her. I was not successful in getting a phone number, so I drove to the address listed on the driver’s license. When I reached the address I met the girl and gave her the purse with the money and I.D. inside. She thanked me and I left. As soon as I sat down in my car, I got this horrible foreboding feeling. Like, was that the same girl as who was on the I.D.? Did I go to the right address? Did that kid just con me? You see, being a good Correctional Officer often times leaves you questioning what you just did or didn’t see, what you just did or forgot to do. What you just checked or forgot to check. It contaminates your personal life. You do the very same thing to people in free society and to your family. Often times I find this thoroughness very cumbersome and I notice that others in the free world find it offensive.

Feel free to publish these thoughts. I am sure that there are others out there like me. At work it is doing a good job. Off of work it is neurotic and a person can feel abnormal. I guess I would like to share with the others that they are not alone.

Visit the Caterina Tudor page


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  35. Sarge98 on 01/09/2010:

    Wow!! This must be something that creeps up on us working in corrections. I've been employed with corrections for over 11 years now, and find that I have become very distrustful of people I don't know. And I will NOT sit with my back to people in a restaurant either! But, with the increase of stories about correctional officers being attacked in public, I don't believe now is a good time to lose that suspicious nature. Maybe after I retire and take off the uniform I can stop the "what if" game in my mind. It's not something you can simply flip a switch to turn off. It's a learned behavior. Thanks for the article.

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