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The Ultimate Betrayal
By Contrenia C Fann
Published: 02/13/2012

Newhire I weighed the decision very carefully before I called my former Captain. This decision pertains to recommending my family member for the position as a correctional officer at his institution. She had recently graduated from a major college and earned a bachelor degree in Criminal Justice. But, with no prevail, after graduation she was unable to gain any employment. Previously, she had been on several interviews and was politely rejected because she didn’t have any experience. I really wanted to help her but I didn’t want to risk my reputation, career, and status with my former correctional family if she failed.

Before I made my decision, I had a long talk with her and gave her my book to read. I talked to her just as if I was a field training officer and she was a new hire. I wanted her know that inmate manipulation and personal dealing does not discriminate who it takes out. The last thing that I said to her was, “There is no honor or loyalty among thieves, if you break any policies, believe me an inmate/offender will report you in the end”.

Shortly after her employment, she changed. While she used to ask me about advice, she didn’t seek guidance anymore. I was told that she moved out of her home and move in with her girlfriend. The lifestyle of her girlfriend was anything but what a college graduate needed in his or her life. She was a mother of four, unemployed, and living off of government assistance. Apparently, her job is the oldest profession that is recorded in American history. Truly my god daughter had fallen in with the wrong crowd. There was nothing that her family or I can do. I knew it was a matter of time before something happened with her job. She had become estranged with her family and me. I wondered how long before her personal life influenced her job.

Just like clockwork, she went from the best new officer to not following call in procedures. She was getting write-ups and had lost five percent of her pay for six months. One day in late August, I was sitting at my computer and I felt this overwhelming feeling to call and check on her, but I resisted. I called her step-father and told him what I felt and asked him to give her a call. I instructed him to tell her if she needed anything to let me know, because I knew she was trying to live up to the man’s role in her relationship. She was always a proud individual and proud would not allow her to ask her family for help. He called her and she said everything was fine.

A week later she called and said that she was under investigation for bringing cell phones into the institution. She constantly and consistently denied that she brought anything in to the prison. She staked her whole life on it. She proclaimed that she would never do that to me or disrespect herself in that way. Without coming out and saying it to her, I didn’t believe her. Four months later, after a long investigation and a lie detector test, she officially resigned.

While she never has admitted it to my face, I have to wonder, as a fifteen year veteran, did I see the signs before making that phone call. I thought of these questions that I should have asked:
  1. Yes, you have a college degree, but are you mature enough to handle this profession?
  2. Will you be able to separate your professional career from your personal life?
  3. Are you going to make this a career?
  4. Are you looking for a profession or a paycheck?
  5. What are your views regarding offenders?
  6. Will you be loyal to your career or your friends and associates that you mingle with in the streets or club scene?
  7. Can you really, I mean really, handle peer pressure or any other pressure?
  8. Are you focusing on handling your finances by budgeting once you are employed or you looking for easy money?
  9. Do you understand that any risks or misconduct you take during this employment could jeopardize your career, life, freedom, and future as a whole? As well as someone else?
  10. Will you be able to stand the pressure of what life gives you?

I realize that it is too late now. As they say, “You can’t cry over spill milk”, but hopefully someone who is in the hiring department would consider focusing on asking these questions in make sure they are getting better candidates. While the above questions may be direct, we have to know where an individual is mentally when applying for a position working with offenders. It is not enough just to fill a position slot with a body because people are in need of a job and an agency has positions to fill. People who make recommendations, hiring authorities and etc. have to keep in mind that the people looking for employment have to be qualified employees mentally, socially, and emotionally.

Corrections.com author, Contrenia C. Fann, is the author of "Commonsense: Do Not Play Games With An Inmate" and the soon to be released "Common Sense: Misconduct Between Staff and Supervisors; ‘Do Not Get Your Honey Where You Get Your Money’”. She is a sought after expert and frequent panelist on correctional issues and has appeared at nationwide conferences to include: the National Association of Hispanics in Criminal Justice, National Association of Black in Criminal Justice, International Association of Correctional Training Personnel, Women in Corrections Conference, and the Southern States Corrections Association Conference.

Other articles by C. C. Fann


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  5. jamestown0509 on 03/16/2012:

    Its not what education a potential correction officer brings to the job, its more important to find out if the candidate really wants to be a CO and is aware of the issues, stress and problems they are going to encounter. I have seen new recruits run out of a cell block because they were sworn at or threatened by inmates. It takes a dedicated person to become a CO. I always told new recruits that if they really wanted to be a police officer, probation officer, parole officer, State Trooper that there is no benefit to being a CO in a jail. Yes it does give experience in law enforcement but there is nothing worse than being inside a jail or prison when your heart desires to be in another career. Sometimes its difficult to find the officer who might be influenced by inmates in what we call the slippery slope. Officers who are more than friendly with inmates are suspect and certainly any officer who lets inmates do what they want when the officer knows the SOPs and regs will not allow such behavior is a sign for trouble. Luckily the majority of officers are dedicated to the job and would never think of bringing in contraband to an inmate. This is the reason I highly recommend additional training for all new recruits in ethics and training to know the difference between empathy and sympathy.

  6. knowledgeacquire on 02/13/2012:

    I think as the average person we struggle with trying to help people better themselves. I think that direction that the author would have been followed by most trying to be supportive of a seemingly bright recent college graduate. I believe that the questions that she asked in the end would have still been answered correctly. I think as cj professionals it is hard to estimate how people will turn out. This is due to the criminal minded inmate or client (client being PC) who has nothing to do but think compared to the pro-social individual who has several other responsibilities. In making these statements this attitude is a dice role due to the population we serve. I guess in the end it is just like theory as in which actions make us closer to what we perceive the American dream to be...

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