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Why do we keep going back?
By Bryan Avila, TDCJ Correctional Training Instructor - Sergeant of Correctional Officers
Published: 05/21/2012

Co appreciation 1 I have been working in the corrections field now for most of my adult life. There were many sacrifices that I made throughout my career, some good and some bad, that have led me to where I am now.

I left corrections for a short time after I had decided that I had missed enough of my youngest daughter’s life as she was growing up and vowed that I would never go back. I had already screwed up so many years of my oldest daughter’s life that I was not going to repeat the same mistake again. It was not going to happen again. I refused to do it.

I tried the civilian life for a while but as more time passed, I found myself missing corrections even more and more. What is it that leads us back to a job/career that is for the most part ungrateful towards it’s staff, gets no positive recognition in society and when you tell someone what you do for a living (after they ask), they almost look disgusted? Not to mention the pee and poop that offenders like to throw at us, the assaults on staff that take place, the never knowing when is the last time that you will walk into a facility only to be carried out?

I can only speak for myself as to why I came back, but after speaking with others that have done the same I saw that we all shared one similarity: personal satisfaction.

True, we don’t get the recognition that other professions in the uniformed services get. We are the unsung heroes of the law enforcement community. Bank robbery takes place and the police do an outstanding job handling the situation they get recognized, as they should be, for the great job that they did. Police are successful in de-escalating a suicidal person and they are recognized, as they should be, for a great job. Major disturbance breaks out in the streets and the police resolve the situation with a minimal amount of injury/damage and they get recognized, as they should be, for a great job.

An offender takes over a housing area and we resolve it without injury/minimal injury: personal satisfaction. We de-escalate a suicidal offender from slicing his throat: personal satisfaction. We quell a riot without much incident: personal satisfaction.

The public would be horrified with what takes place inside the walls, not due to staff actions, but from offender actions. The brutality that is displayed on an almost daily basis is not something that the normal human being can tolerate. Yet we go in every day and do what few others can do, and we do it successfully. We don’t want the lime light. We don’t seek the recognition that is bestowed on others. Our personal satisfaction is the great job that we do every day and that no one hears about. And by the way, did you hear the news about Texas last night? No? Let me fill you in: 158,000 offenders and not a single one escaped. I am positive that it was the same in your state last night. GREAT JOB!

Editor's note: Corrections.com author Bryan Avila started working as a Police Officer in 1994 while attending Norwich University in Northfield, VT. In 1999 he began working for the Vermont Dept of Corrections while still working as a Part-Time Police Officer. In 2007 he left public service until 2009 when he began working for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. He is currently a Correctional Training Instructor- Sergeant of Correctional Officers, at the TDCJ Region I Training Academy located in Huntsville, TX.

Other articles by Avila:


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  9. BrokenSystem on 06/27/2012:

    Your comment; "The public would be horrified with what takes place inside the walls, not due to staff actions, but from offender actions." Okay, I'll give you that...there are some pretty nasty people behind bars, but I think the opposite is just as true more often than people know...the public would be horrified with what takes place inside the walls, not due to INMATE actions, but from STAFF actions. "Many more "normal people" are in prisons now than hard-core criminals as the laws are squeezing in tighter and tighter, essentially micro-managing society. Just about ANYONE can end up in prison nowadays. Some have heart-breaking stories, some have been through hell and back and others ended up on the wrong side of the law for some other hokey circumstance. But once inside, no matter what the reason or whether they were arrested and charged legitimately or not, they become the scum of the Earth to all and are treated as such by ALL of society including prison officials and guards. Did it ever occur to you THAT may be why you see the behavior you complain of. Do you personally treat them like Charles Manson or as a person that once had a job, loved ones, and a life which wasn't all criminal behavior? I used to have a lot of respect for all areas of law and as my children grew, I shared that belief with them over and over again. I am a "never been to jail," professional woman, but MAN has my opinion changed! And it took a lot to do that but I see fraud, collusion, illegal searches, trumped up charges, prison rape, inmate harassment & blatant mistreatment, officer misconduct, overzealous cops/DA's and judges and theft of inmate narcotics by officers with no consequences to them...need I go on? My stance on "the law" now is...NO YOUR RIGHTS, mind your own business, stay away from trouble and if you are ever questioned about anything just SHUT UP...not ONE word because they will lie, twist and turn it around against you in a heart beat. And if you it ends up ARE arrested anyway, do the same plus call a lawyer ASAP! Sorry...that's what my experiences have shown me.

  10. bryavila on 05/26/2012:

    Thank you very much!

  11. Deputy Unique on 05/24/2012:

    Great article! And congrats on a job well done. I can relate to where you're coming from...

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