The following is an installment in "The Bouchard 101", a series featuring "Ice Breaker's" designed to promote training awareness and capabilities in the corrections industry.
When I was in High School, I had an innovative teacher. We will call him Mr. W. I did not think that I would enjoy Mr. W’s biology class as I was interested primarily in social-sciences. However, his class became one that I looked forward to every day.
To Mr. W, learning could be a fun competition between two teams. He used trivia combined with simple games and called it Roundup. He had a list of questions that were ten points each. If a team answered a trivia question correctly, the team could gain an extra point with a non-question test such as throwing a ball into a waste basket or shooting rubber bands towards a target. If the team failed to answer the question correctly, the other team could answer and earn the points plus a bonus agility task. At the end of the day, whichever team won in points would win a small prize.
Thinking back all of these years, I realize that I remember some of the questions and answers in his game. The wise simplicity of trivia and repetition cannot be disputed. Adding the minor agility tasks complemented the intellectual part of the competition. This made for a nice balance.
Roundup can be easily modified to reinforce corrections lessons. All you have to do is create questions and assign various agility tasks.
You can develop different corrections questions from a variety of topics. They can be specific to your facility, your agency, or American corrections. You can create questions from areas such as international corrections with just a simple internet search. Infamous criminals is another good topic. Policy and procedure is a useful category to develop knowledge of how your particular facility operates. Additional information can be read by the instructor after each question is answered.
Bonus agility tests can be as simple as balancing a book on one’s head for a minute or sinking a wad of paper into a coffee cup from twenty feet. One could even beak ties in the game by seeing who can spin a quarter for the longest duration of time.
Below are some sample questions in a Jeopardy style that I created. They are from my favorite corrections topic – contraband control.
Category: Where is it hidden?
- Answer: Any prohibited good
- Question: What is contraband?
- Additional information: Contraband can be excessive amounts of permitted items, borrowed property, or altered items.
- Answer: Intuition – knowing that something is out of place.
- Question: What is the X-factor?
- Additional information: Sometimes things seem to be going too well. There seems to be a dry spell in finding bootleg. It may be that there is none to be found, though that is not likely. This will usually spark the x-factor or institutional intuition. Some may dismiss this as pattern analysis. Whatever the term, something may be afoot if it seems wrong.
- Answer: Seeking contraband while not in the view of prisoners.
- Question: What is the covert search?
- Additional information: The covert or covered search is performed when you do not want offenders to know that you are searching in a specific area. This could precede a sting operation or be based on an informant letter.
- Answer: Look at me search this area!
- Question: What is an overt search?
- Additional information: The overt search is a way to demonstrate to prisoners that you are shaking down an area and that they would likely lose any contraband that they attempt to hide there. In many ways, this is like making a round or a presence in an area that is not usually touched.
- Answer: Written or oral transfer of information about a contraband issue.
- Question: What is communications?
- Additional information: At times, staff do not have the opportunity to pass observations on to the next shift, to other work areas, or to other facilities. This often leaves a piece of the information puzzle missing.
Category: What do you make of this?
- Answer: Magician trick – not really hidden
- Question: What is sleight of hand?
- Additional information: Be it the shell trick, diversions, or palming, the sleight of hand is responsible for more concealment than one would think.
- Answer: A bitter pill for staff to swallow, a way for prisoners to hoard medication.
- Question: What is cheeking?
- Additional information: Some will also regurgitate the medication and use later – either for themselves or as a barter item.
- Answer: A popular way to ‘defeat’ staff in hiding tobacco and other items.
- Question: What is concealment of contraband under insole of shoes?
- Additional information: Who would smoke a contraband cigarette that has been placed under a foot for hours or days? It is a matter of supply and demand. Demand for such items would be high, therefore, anything goes.
- Answer: Oh, Baby! What a clever place to hide just about anything.
- Question: What is a diaper?
- Additional information: Of course, staff in visiting rooms have to follow policy and procedure to the letter when searching in this area. Our quest for safety for all, including the visiting public has to be practiced with professionalism, no matter how undesirable the task of searching a diaper.
- Answer: You have to hand it to them, this method is normally effective.
- Question: What is palming?
- Additional information: The hand is quicker than the eye. There is also the closed fist stance that some prisoners adopt when they are being searched.
The sky is the limit in the questions that you form and the tasks that you appoint. Thanks to Mr. W. and Roundup for the inspiration.
- Answer: A tattooist’s dream as a receptacle for “liquid assets”
- Question: What is an empty pill container?
- Additional information: Ink pads also serve as a convenient place to store ink. Pens, though it seems obvious, also store ink.
- Answer: The stock of quality greeting cards.
- Question: What is a manila folder?
- Additional information: Keep an eye on your folders before the Mother’s Day rush. This is arguably the busiest card holiday in the offender year.
- Answer: Unobtrusive, dangerous and a breath freshener. This is the bane of door locks.
- Question: What is chewing gum?
- Additional information: Chewing gum is more than a relaxing tool for mastication. It also acts as an adhering agent and a quick and effective way to jam locks. Staff who offer offenders gum might provide more hazards than they suppose.
- Answer: Flammable and easy to hide. This kindling is a sweet find for arsonists.
- Question: What are some artificial sweeteners?
- Additional information: The paper of some artificial sweeteners also act as kindling. Offenders will experiment and find which is best for conflagrations. Staff should do the same in order to determine what is most dangerous.
- Answer: Ubiquitous, flushable, and hygienically necessary.
- Question: What is a roll of toilet paper?
- Additional information: Prisoners have ample time on their hands to conceal small items in a roll of toilet paper.
Joe Bouchard is a Librarian employed with the Michigan Department of Corrections and a collaborator with The International Association of Correctional Training Personnel (IACTP). He is also the author of “IACTP’s Corrections Icebreakers: The Bouchard 101, 2014”. The installments in this series include his opinions. The agency for which he works is not in any way responsible for the content or accuracy of this material, and the views are those of the contributor and not necessarily those of the agency. While some material is influenced by other works, all of the icebreakers have been developed by Joe Bouchard.
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