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How Did We Get To This?
By Bryan Avila, TDCJ Correctional Training Instructor - Sergeant of Correctional Officers
Published: 06/18/2012

Anti corruption So last week I am working at my second job when I happen to notice this woman who had a shirt that caught my attention. Her shirt said "Administrative Segregation, Florence, CO". Naturally I said "Supermax!" She replied that she was a retired Warden for FBOP but that she had not worked there.

I informed her that I also work for corrections and she asked me if I had ever thought about FBOP. I told her that I had applied once but that due to a divorce my credit was not great at the time. Now, before I continue here let me make it clear that I understand completely why you should have good credit when working for corrections. The likelihood of accepting a bribe is there if you are financially strapped and by taking the bribe it can get you out of a hole.

Now back to the story. As soon as these words left my mouth I could see her nose go up into the air and as she looked down at me she said "well when you have bad credit YOU will accept a bribe from these offenders."

Let me tell you I had to do everything in my power from going off on her. The arrogance. The smugness. I just wanted to knock the smirk off of her face. Who the hell did she think she was? But since I respect my elders, especially those that were in her position, regardless of how I felt personally about them, I just looked at her and said "yes ma'am".

After I tried calming down for a while, and not succeeding at it, I made a post on a social network that said: “To imply that a person it's a corrupt because of bad credit is the same as implying that a person in the White House is intelligent just because they were elected President.” Take that however you want...it has applied throughout history.

After a while, and back in my happy place, I replayed the conversation. Remember, it how you say something, not what is said. Even though she may not have been singling me out, the way that it was said made it appear that it was directed at me and THAT is what aggravated the ever living crap out of me.

I am positive that throughout her career she has had to deal with many corrupt staff (very unfortunate). However, one thing that I have learned throughout MY career is that credit has nothing to do with the likelihood you will accept a bribe. It's all about integrity. You either have it or you don't. I have walked people off with bad credit and so broke they can't even afford to finance the flu. I have also walked off people who have great credit and more money than they know what to do with it. It all came down to just 2 things: lack of integrity and greed.

I can tell you that for most of my adult life I have not had great credit. Choices made during my college years still haunt me. There was a time in my life that even people with bad credit would say "damn you have bad credit." Doing well financially for me was being able to order off the dollar menu at McDonalds. Doing great was being able to order a happy meal.

However, no matter how bad it was, the thought of brining in contraband never crossed my mind. EVER. I loathed every officer that would stoop to that level and to this day I still do. Has an offender ever tried it on me? YEP! Off to seg they would go. I know I am not the only person that had ever been in this position nor will I be the last.

If you have been working in corrections and you are looking for a job with another correctional facility, maybe the true testament of the individual’s virtue is their work history and the observations from their supervisor, not a credit score. For the most part, we are almost like the government, broke with crappy credit.

It is all about the integrity, not the Benjamin's...

If you have no integrity, get the hell out. We do not need you, nor want you. We have a hard enough job as it is.

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:


  1. Slim on 06/30/2012:

    Bryan, I did not missunderstand the nature of your article. I was trying to point out that the retired warden who looked down on you is wrong in her assumption that just because you have bad credit you will be a liability as a correctional officer. While their are certainly officers who have lost their jobs do to greed, my experience shows me that the majority of staff that bring in contraband for inmates are doing it for what they beleive is an inmate's friendship or love. I was attempting to defend your ability to be a competent correctional officer despite past financial troubles.

  2. bryavila on 06/30/2012:

    Slim, you are absolutely correct in your reply. What you are discussing is without a doubt con games. The manipulation of staff for personal gain and the promise of "love" in exchange for whatever it is that they want. In this particular article I'm discussing primarily the use of credit checks that some agencies now do in order to weigh your risk of introducing contraband for monetary gain. Falling in love with an offender falls into a different subcategory of con games. I truly do appreciate your reply and insight. Bryan.

  3. Slim on 06/25/2012:

    In my many years in Corrections I have seen many people fired for everything from bringing in contraband, sexual or non-appropriate relationships with inmates,to things like unnecessary force. I have been suprised by many, and not so suprised by others. To me, the common factor in most of these instances was not greed or someone "needing" money to survive. The number one reason for staff getting fired is their inability to seperate their personal life from their professional life. Most of these staff either befriend or fall in love with an inmate. Even though they are told from the first day of training, and throughout their careers that these inmates do not care for them, and will go to any length to manipulate them, they still beleive the inmate cares for them. It is then that they copromise themselves, for their belief that there is a relationship between them and the inmate, not because they have bad credit, or because they have a boat payment due. The saddest part is looking at their faces when they are walked out of the prison knowing that it was their friend/lover that turned on them.

  4. jamestown0509 on 06/20/2012:

    Integrity-honesty-professionalism-responsibility all of those should be practiced by correction officers and police officers without fail. There is no room in LE for officers who cheat, steal, lie, take bribes and bring in contraband.

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