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Communication and Teamwork
By Fred Lovell, LT, Karnes County Correctional Facility
Published: 02/13/2012

Teamwork b The term teamwork has been discussed extensively over the last 30 years more so than when the term was first introduced back in the early 1800s. According to dictionary.com teamwork means “cooperative or coordinated effort on the part of a group of persons acting together as a team or in the interests of a common cause.” This is true of any professional group of athletes and any military unit in the field. Corrections is no different, but what happens when the line staff do not know what the common goal is? What happens when administration does not share the common goal with everyone? And what happens when politics become more important than the common goal in the prison setting?

It is been my experience that when communications breakdown and the common goal is not shared from the top down the team will fail. What this means to us in corrections is everything from more fights on the yards to more inmate lawsuits up to and including escapes. And all of these things cost our industry millions of dollars every year. According to the Kingman daily Miner when the prison in Arizona had the escape and 2009 and three people were allegedly murdered by the three escapees the total bill on this is still not in but according to the newspaper is over $5 million and climbing. Another byproduct of this communication breakdown is the turnover rate in prisons go up in the morale goes down.

So who’s to blame? The short answer is everyone facing this issue however is very hard. Once the facility starts down this road is next to impossible to change gears and correct the issues. Remember at this point politics is more important than the mission. However because of the financial and legal responsibilities given to us by the public we must overcome our own egos and fix the problem. What are the signs of this communication breakdown and team work breakdown? The signs are usually subtle and hard to spot at first but as time goes by the signs become very clear and result in the mission failing. One of the earliest signs that I have found is the administration losing sight that the line staff is the most viable resource they have. Once administration starts to believe that the inmates or even themselves are the most important thing at the facility they decide what line staff need to know and what they believe line staff does not need to know and at this point it leaves the line staff wondering who was running the yard. We have seen this happen a lot in our own facilities. Think about the last time you were conducting facility searches. Did administration share with you what the goal of the facility searches? Was this done for contraband control or did we need to do this search because the inmates may have cell phones or drugs that came in over last visit?

There will be a lot of prison administrators to read this article and feel that this is not the way their prisons are run. However the administrators who take the time to talk with their staff and ask their opinion, listen to the staff opinions and then make a decision are the ones that truly understand teamwork and communication.

Corrections.com author, Fred Lovell, has been working in corrections since March of 2005. He is currently a Lieutenant working at the Karnes County Correctional Facility. Prior to corrections, he spent 9.5 years in the US Army working with ground surveillance and human intelligence. Lovell is currently working towards a BS in Criminal Justice.

Other articles by Lovell:


  1. jamestown0509 on 03/16/2012:

    Communication is a two way street and always will be. If management isn't listening to the supervisors and the line staff then the mission clearly is not being followed. Unfortunately some facilities upper level management seldom, if every visits the jail or prison unless there is a serious problem (escape as described above or a suicide). To ignore the support staff and correction officers in the facility is a total failure of proper communication. I have always said that when we started reducing our communications to emails that we totally lost our ability to talk to each other and our supervisors. The new adage is "I'm busy and don't want to be bothered so send me an email." Teamwork sometimes is a lost idea, in corrections the only time I have witnessed teamwork is when a backup call is made and then officers work together to take care of the incident. When an inmate escapes it endangers the public and many investigations are done to determine who did what and who didn't do their job to create the inmate being able to escape. In essence an escape is not always a lack of communication more often it is caused by lackadaisical officers who are not paying attention to their jobs and detail.

  2. flovell1991 on 02/15/2012:

    I apologize for the wrong date it was a typo. But the point if this article was to address communication not to focus on one part of it. Please keep in mind we as a community need to learn from each other and stop things from happening again

  3. Diogenes on 02/13/2012:

    This escape happened on July 30th, 2010, not 2009, about 7:45 p.m. The cause of the escape was that the operator, Management and Training Corporation was deliberately failing to spend the money it needed to provide the level of security commensurate with the custody level of the inmates it held and the state was similarly willfully neglecting to perform professional oversight. It sent inmates to Kingman who never should have been sent there due to being lifers, murderers, rapists, escape artists, pedophiles, having parole holds from other states and being members of security threat groups. It was way out of control and everyone knew it, but no one from MTC or the ADC did anything about it. They were starting guards at $11/hour and had enormous turnover. The warden admitted that 80% of her staff "were new or newly promoted." The murders would never have happened if authorities had been promptly notified and profession procedures, post report, were followed by the Mohave County Sheriff's Office, the US Marshals Service, the ADC and the AZ state troopers. It was an absolute disgrace and it's amazing that no one else was killed, as far as we know.

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