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If Not us, Then Who?
By Bryan Avila, TDCJ Correctional Training Instructor - Sergeant of Correctional Officers
Published: 11/19/2012

Success a Every day we loose more and more correctional staff and the reasons are many: “the job is not for me”, got walked off after a relationship with an offender, introduced contraband, etc. The reasons may be many but the end result is the same: we loose staff.

One of the most disheartening things to hear from new correctional staff is that older, more experienced staff did not take them under their wing and teach them what they needed to know. Any pre-service academy serves the same purpose: teach the foundation of the job based on policy and procedure. Since every facility is different in how they operate, the nuts and bolts of the job are left to the facility to teach. Experienced staff dedicate themselves to this mission.

The days of having offenders teach new staff on how to do the job are long gone. Although it is true that this still takes place (in a way), it is the older officers that should be taking that new officer and training them how to do the job. A facility FTO can only do so much and the training of an employee never ends. I don’t care how long you have been working in corrections, you always learn something new.

Have we really thought of the ramifications of not teaching that new officer how to do things the right way? We have no problem teaching them the shortcuts, but how about the right way to do things. It may take more time but in the end, it’s worth it.

When we neglect these new officers, offenders take notice. It is for this very same reason that offenders will go after the new staff and try to turn them into something that they should not be…a danger to the rest of us.

I want you to think back to when you first started working at your first facility. Did it really feel good to have the older staff look down on you and not pay attention to you? Did you truly enjoy when you would ask a question and they would give you a BS answer only making it harder to learn what you needed to learn? How about when you needed help and no one would take the time to help you? I would bet that there was an offender that saw this take place and gave you “friendly advise” on what you needed to do.

It is this same helpful offender that will be there for that new staff member and try to turn them. We know that it starts small but at what point does it end? When will we put an end to this?

There are many veteran officers that will, and do, take the time to teach these youngsters how to do things the right way and will always be there for any staff member. To those of you that are in this category, thank you from all of us. You ARE noticed and we could not do what we do without you.

Keep the lamb away from the wolf and watch it grow into a sheepdog. They are always lurking in the shadows just waiting for the opportunity to strike. If not us, then who?

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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