|Corrections Professional: Performance or Truthfulness in Public Service?|
|By Carl ToersBijns, former deputy warden, ASPC Eyman, Florence AZ|
As A Correctional Officer or Administrator which is more important: Performance or Truthfulness in Public Service?
Is this expectation practical or is this a paradox? Is this a problem in the public sector or in correctional services? Does it impact government services and the manner it is operated and transparency levels? Does it provide accountability and exclude political interests and correctness? Does it meet the public’s demand to allow government to be capable of managing the supply and demand to deliver such services on time, within budget and according to laws and regulations in place?
One would assume that job one is to serve the public with integrity, honesty and efficiency as much as the position allows one to serve. Hence the dangers of adjusting your personal integrity for the “good” of the job could in fact compromise your own integrity and impede your own character, moral values and create severe difficulties with yourself going forward in performance of such a job. Almost immediately, your peers and subordinates will notice your deviance in performance and know you are willing to adjust your personal principles for the sake of the job.
Thus working hard or being a hard worker may satisfy you or your bosses but it may in fact conflict with your public service mission in the long run on how others determine how you do your job. Under pressure to conform to organizational cultures, it is difficult to remain steadfast on course but it is my opinion that it is best to do so in the long run. It is these qualities of supporting the public mission and hard work that allows you to be successful. One should focus on personal integrity as it is the most important quality of public service. The manner the dictum is followed and how it is achieved is often considered unimportant to some mid-level and upper echelon managers. They are only concerned with the results of such an effort. Again, this could be managed or impacted by organizational cultures, traditions, customs or practices available and often mismanaged. One such practice is to compare private sector management styles with those in the public sector that are more closely scrutinized by regulatory agencies, the media and required stakeholders e.g. governor, legislature etc.
This practice could in fact be disastrous if caught in the act and punished accordingly. Thus it could be said the means to attain is more important even if dishonest to achieve an honest end. That is certainly true today. There is a saying in government everywhere “my duty is to perform ~ offer the best possible service and leave it with the politicians to do what is expedient or proper.” Thus we have a conflicting statement and two different levels of ethics and integrity working together to get the job done. It could be said in a different manner as well by saying “Correctional officers and administrators propose, politicians dispose” translating in my professional duty is to honesty and offer the best service or advice and leave it to the politician [in high office] to do what is in the best interest and expedient in nature.” These two attributes do not need to be in conflict or mutually exclusive of each other. However, looking closely you can see realistically, integrity should come in much higher than performance but that is not the case when you hire high performance crooks or cronies to work things out for you in a single minded pursuit of political results thus closing their eyes on the real problems and often compromising the solution offered by the correctional officer or administrator.
Summary – We can attest that honesty and integrity are fundamental to public administrative staff and public service. People need to know that its employees are acting with the best of intentions, have gone the extra mile to seek the best solution that is both economically feasible but best for the agency or community. We must discourage the application of “political tools” deemed appropriate regardless of the merits of such application or misguided tool. In the long run, it impacts your own professionalism, those who work with you and the ability to do great and honest work.
Editor’s note: Carl ToersBijns (retired), worked in corrections for over 25 yrs He held positions of a Correctional Officer I, II, III [Captain] Chief of Security Mental Health Treatment Center – Program Director – Associate Warden - Deputy Warden of Administration & Operations. Carl’s prison philosophy is all about the safety of the public, staff and inmates, "I believe my strongest quality is that I create strategies that are practical, functional and cost effective."
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