|Integrity In Action|
|By Joe Bouchard|
Integrity is often considered a difficult, lofty concept. Really, it can be defined in simple terms: doing the right thing, telling the truth, being dependable and professional, etc. Integrity occurs in a variety of examples. Sometimes we need to look a little bit beneath the surface to benefit from the lesson.
I have a friend who was recently called to be a juror. Hers was not a case of zipping down to the local court for a quick session of voir dire. The call came from the Federal Court, some seventy miles distant from her house.
The usual excuses for being dismissed came quickly to my friend’s mind. She had kids who had to walk home from school. Her Head Start class would have to be cancelled without a substitute, thus making a hardship for the parents of her students. She would miss some appointments.
The distance to the Federal Court initially seemed to be an overwhelming obstacle. In reality, it was more of a consumption of time than a hardship. In retrospect, the drive was not that bad. As the interviews for potential jurors went on, she saw that others had driven further than she.
Her inner voice told her that her reasons for being excused were really selfish. Integrity spoke to her and she performed her civic duty with dignity and no further complaint. It was not the most pleasant experience, she reports. Yet, she did feel a sense of fulfillment upon completion.
In all jobs, integrity is important. In corrections, it is essential. That is because three groups depend on us to do the right thing at all times in the fulfillment of safety for all. These groups are the public, offenders, and staff.
The public depends on us to use resources wisely, treat offenders with dignity, keep escapes from occurring, and maintain a scandal-free worksite. Offenders depend on us for their safety, care, and preparation for release. They do this even though some seem to militate against those goals. Staff depend on each other to remain loyal to sworn oaths, the mission statement, and each other. All of those tasks are executed well with integrity.
Integrity is not always easy. Sometimes, it draws derisive comments from colleagues. Perhaps the jeers have more to do with how the antagonists see themselves than how they view honesty. On the other side of that is the temptation towards chauvinism that integrity holds. If one practices integrity without sincere humility, it is an empty exercise. The act of integrity is not enough. One must sincerely maintain the belief of the importance of honesty.
Shortcuts are generally not a part of integrity. Of course, doing a job well could entail working smart and finding efficiencies. That aside, integrity means completing all steps. For example, a search of any area for contraband may start off with zeal and end in a sloppy manner. Integrity bolsters a sagging spirit.
Also, integrity does not mean that all will always be perfect. There are times that we do make mistakes, no matter how hard we try for the ideal. Whether it is an inadvertent omission or an occasional number error, mistakes happen. Integrity implores us to own up to the mistakes and rectify them as possible.
Respect comes from this admission. And while some who hear of this may still seem adversarial, the unmistakable badge of truth is a worthwhile addition to anyone’s operational tool box.
Integrity is a necessary component for those who work in the criminal justice system. The public, offenders, and other staff depend on our honesty and professional actions. Without it, others lose faith in the system. And while our system might not be totally perfect, our individual acts of integrity bring the real closer to the ideal.
It is certainly up to the individual how to feel about an appointment to jury duty. In the end, though, the course of action each of us takes must be balanced with conscience.
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