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Multitasking for Corrections Officers
By Greg Osterstuck
Published: 06/25/2012

Juggling Multitasking is simply doing more one task at a time. Multitasking is something that all officers have to learn to do every day on the job.

If an officer has difficulty multitasking he or she will be severely limited in accomplishing their job. Officers who cannot multitask might be nervous or upset when everything has to be done at the same time.

Correction officers often work by themselves on a floor, tier or dorm. Being in charge of a unit requires all of their attention.

Documentation is so important in correctional work. There is a saying: “If it wasn’t written it down- it didn't happen." Some officers are so involved doing normal tasks on a shift that they forget to document everything inmates do under their supervision which jeopardizes the safety and security of the facility.

When an inmate comes into the unit he or she must be logged in the log book. It is very important that the physical head count is correct at all times on a shift. Thus the head count changes constantly as inmate movement is done. Conversely when inmates are taken out of the unit for court; medical; dentist, attorney visits, visits with parents or relatives, church services, education classes, drug or rehab classes [or in the Federal and state facilities jobs in shops]- they must be logged out of the unit in the log book.

The problem with multitasking is when numerous inmates from the unit either arrive or leave at the same time. At the same time inmates are arriving or leaving the unit the officer may be involved in discussions with other inmates in the blocks\ tiers or making a physical round of the area. There are also phone calls, radio transmissions to listen to and other issues that often occur all at the same time.

Officers making a block or tier check should get in the habit of counting the number of inmates physically in that block or tier. For example if the block or tier should have 12 inmates and the officer only sees 8 inmates when they return to the station desk they should check the logbook to verify where those eight inmates are located.

Another suggestion to save time might be to write on a sheet of paper the name of the inmate, time arrived or left and where they came from or went to. This really accomplishes two things. First, this is a mental reminder to the officer that the inmate returned to the unit or isn’t in the unit. The second reason for writing a note is to make it easier for the officer to complete required log entries.

Multitasking therefore, enables an officer to do more than one job at a time on his or her shift. A seasoned officer should be well aware of the time constraints for each shift. New officers learning to run a unit by themselves will find that multitasking helps organize the day, gets the job done and keeps track of inmates.

Corrections.com author, Greg Osterstuck, retired after 22 years of corrections at the Chautauqua County Jail. As a correction officer he volunteered for tasks such as DNA collection officer, notary public and instituted the current Sheriff's law library system where he researched both NY state and Federal law for inmates. He also serves as a substitute teacher at Erie-2 BOCES for Criminal Justice and several other CTE courses with junior and senior high school students. Greg is also a certified American Heart Association CPR and first aid instructor.

Other articles by Osterstuck



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