|Communication and Teamwork|
|By Fred Lovell, LT, Karnes County Correctional Facility|
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.
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