|By Carl ToersBijns, former deputy warden, ASPC Eyman, Florence AZ|
Prisons are places where high stress and high anxiety are analogous to the social climate of negative work conditions and behaviors. There are expressed and unexpressed influences in this environment that are prejudicial and contrary to many laws passed to protect workers and coworkers from the undue influences of workplace harassment. The fact that these laws are often ignored makes this a most important issue to talk or read about since it has many consistencies related to harassment, discrimination, abuse, conflict and violence.
Unfortunately, within corrections, there are those who engaged in this behavior of bullying others they work with or supervise. The bottom line in this social conduct of harassment and discrimination or abuse leads one to have to deal with the workplace bully. This kind of person is usually open about his or her opinion about race, sexual preferences, discrimination or harassment. In fact, it is their open devious mannerism that makes them so effective in focusing the deeply seeded feelings about coworkers and even their supervisors. Bullies draw no lines in their targets. They often bully the prison population as well as those that work inside the place. It is safe to say that 50 % of the workforce engages in some type of behavior related to workplace bullying. However, the actual number of correctional officers who impose their will on others is much less but nevertheless, a force to reckon with while at work.
"Bullying is a compulsive need to displace aggression and is achieved by the expression of inadequacy (social, personal, interpersonal, behavioral, and professional) by projection of that inadequacy onto others through control. Bullying is sustained by abdication of and perpetuated by a climate of fear, ignorance, indifference, silence, denial, disbelief, deception, evasion of accountability, tolerance and reward (e.g. promotion) for the bully." (Tim Field, 1999) Harassment is any form of unwanted and unwelcome behavior which may range from mildly unpleasant remarks to physical violence. Harassment is termed sexual harassment if the unwanted behaviors are linked to your gender or sexual orientation. Racial harassment is when the behaviors are linked to your skin color, race, cultural background, etc. If the harassment is physical, the criminal law of assault may be appropriate. If the harassment comprises regular following, watching, repeated unsolicited contact or gifts, etc., the term stalking may be appropriate. Discrimination is when you are treated differently (e.g. less favorably) because of your gender, race or disability.
Working as a correctional officer, one is normally perceived to be strong physically and psychologically sound. Therefore, one would think that your chances of falling prey to a bully are therefore reduced by the mere comportment of the job and position as correctional officers. This is a wrong assumption to make for all persons are subject to the entrapment of the bully and the mechanics involved in the process. Underestimating the intense repetitiveness of the bully to break your armor or spirit can result in being victimized and subject to bullying. In most cases the bullying process takes place in two phases or levels that are easy to follow. The first phase is the control phase. One can easily recognize this conduct by the constant criticism and daily nit-picking of how you perform your duties, your attitude or your manner until you reach the second phase or level and are pulled into the trap of taking action against the bully but come off being accused of false charges, ill prepared for such work conditions, and if the bully is totally successful, it could result in forced resignations, or long term illnesses that result in eventual resignations or prolonged stress / anxiety attacks at work.
Editor’s note: Carl ToersBijns (retired), worked in corrections for over 25 yrs He held positions of a Correctional Officer I, II, III [Captain] Chief of Security Mental Health Treatment Center – Program Director – Associate Warden - Deputy Warden of Administration & Operations. Carl's prison philosophy is all about the safety of the public, staff and inmates, "I believe my strongest quality is that I create strategies that are practical, functional and cost effective."
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