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Beyond the Walls
By Kevin E. Bedore , Canadian Federal Correctional Officer
Published: 10/17/2011

After work I’m outta here!! After 40 hours of riding the adrenalin roller coaster, what do we do versus what should we being doing is the question that must be asked.

Many correctional officers oddly as it might seem are highly motivated, energetic and in good humour when they are at work. This positive behaviour is somewhat displaced when you consider the opposite behaviour that occurs outside those prison walls. Sad as it is these officers get home and are low energy, exhausted and generally zombie like in how they interact with their family and friends.

Why is that? These officers are exhibiting what is known as the pendulous affects of hyper-vigilance. A correctional officer’s work has often been described by many as long periods of boredom contrasted with brief periods of utter terror and excitement without warning. Some critical incidents place demands on the mind and body unlike any other occupation known. Often times you have no way of knowing if today is the day where all hell is about to break loose. You could be any place in your institution waiting in complete boredom for this moment of truth only to discover it didn’t happen. High adventure or not, these peaks and valleys of boredom versus excitement both at their extremes are sometimes cumulatively too much for the mind and body.

What is it that gives? Unfortunately it is the time that you are away from work. This in a sense becomes the recovery period of the stress caused during the work period. The symptoms regularly include withdrawal from all people, especially those that are not uniformed coworkers. The affected officer often feels his family and non officer friends will not understand his or her situation. Many officers mistakenly think it in the best interest of protecting family from worrying to speak in vague terms or not at all to prevent family members from worrying about them and the work they do.

The result is always the same. Instead of being the energetic fun loving dad, mom, brother, sister or friend you find this officer to be lethargic, a big downer and drained of all energy that he or she might have had before this occupation took over their lives.

So what do you do? Like so many other things in life, it really is easy to say but harder to do. The officer must re-establish life priorities. Why do you work? Usually the best answer is so that you can provide for yourself and family and pay for a standard of living that is both satisfying and enjoyable. You always need to keep a little energy left in the tank after leaving the gates of the jail to devote to the things that are most important to your life and you know what that is. You got it! Do it for your friends and family, particularly your kids.

Get outside and exercise with your spouse or even better your kids or grandkids. It might be the last thing you want to do when recovering from the stress of your work week but I can assure you it is the best medicine. Go for a coffee with a non guard friend or family member you might not have given the proper attention to and you might be amazed at how much they are able to understand the stress even though they aren’t directly involved with your unique occupation.

So, when you exclaim, I’m outta here!! - When you are driving out of the parking lot – open up your eyes and begin seeing just how far the beauty extends beyond those dreary prison walls that you have mistakenly thought to be your singular life!

Editor's note: Corrections.com author, Kevin E. Bedore has 28 years experience in law enforcement, 23 as a Canadian Federal Correctional Officer. He began writing as a form of personal therapy to combat the negative effects that the correctional environment was having on him. He then realized that he had discovered something truly amazing that definitely needed to be shared with other officers facing the same challenges he had.

Other articles by Kevin Bedore


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