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The Wheel of Corrections
By Joe Bouchard
Published: 01/25/2010

Wheel I thought that I had heard all of the idioms and expressions that relate to one of our most common transportation tools. I speak, of course, of the wheel. Imagine how much less interesting our language would be without the following:

…the wheels of industry (or progress)…
…let’s not reinvent the wheel…

…let’s roll…

How about the Wheel of Corrections?

Recently, my supervisor presented me with a metaphor worth repeating. It was so accurate and insightful, I am printing it here with his permission. What follows is The Wheel of Corrections.

“This is how I explain it”, he said. He prepared to draw a simple diagram on a piece of paper. In the center he produced a circle. In it he wrote the word housing. “The housing function is the hub”, he said. “It is where the offenders live. It is central to everything”.

From the edge of the housing unit hub he drew lines that radiated out like spokes. That is, of course, because these represented spokes. To each he assigned a function. There was the business office, programming, education, food services, maintenance, administration, healthcare, psychological services, and the administration. “All of these support the housing hub,” he said to me. And it was clear to me that spokes could be added or subtracted to fit the needs of different facilities.

All of the spokes have a part in touching or impacting the central part of the equation – the housing unit factor. If there is too much pressure or emphasis on any of the spokes, the hub would be stressed. In theory, all of these spokes should have equal worth. Health care, while very important, should be as important as food service, as important as the administration, as important as maintenance, etc in their relation to housing. All had to support housing in a balanced harmony or risk warping the structural integrity of the hub.

I thought that I detected a glint in his eye that signaled the logical and fitting conclusion to his concept.

Drawing a circle around the spokes he said, “This is custody,” Then the light bulb in my skull completely illuminated. Custody represents the hard exterior that holds the many complimentary spokes in place on the crucial housing unit hub. Without custody, it would all fall apart. The cohesive factor provided here is security. Then, no matter how strong programming might be for example, it would be weakened by an overall lack of structure from the other systems on the hub. Custody provides the cohesion and keeps all in balance.

I believe that one can expand upon this excellent illustration. Think of the possibilities. The ball bearings could represent the staff who constantly move to keep operations rolling. When we gauge pressure on the tire, we are assessing the internal factors that may cause damage the systems if not checked. Perhaps the tread represents the tough shell of the system that can survive the various hazards that we may encounter as we roll ahead. And the overall quality of the wheel is made of experience, training, and professionalism.

There are rare and wonderful occasions that you hear an analogy from a colleague or another source that gives cause to pause. In other words, the parallel that is so apt that you admire the idea and think, “There is no better way to describe this.” And a metaphor is a useful way to bring an abstract concept into a more useful and concrete explanation. The Wheel of Corrections certainly gives us a clearer understanding of all of our interrelated subsystems.

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