|Not in it for the Money?|
|By Carl ToersBijns, former deputy warden, ASPC Eyman, Florence AZ|
Being a correctional officer won’t make your rich or set you up for a lifetime of luxury and benefits. If you can hang in there for the next 20 or 30 years you might walk away with a retirement package that will help you get by during your later years. So why consider a job that doesn’t provide you with the highest rate of pay and is so dangerous to work in? The answer lies somewhere between doing what you love and loving what you are doing.
Today with the poor economy, prison work appears to be a stable source of income and work as the need for building prisons and finding available skilled workers is still a continuing challenge for government sources to find and fill these needs. The mass incarceration agenda has created urgent demands to hire more officers although budgets are not maintaining the pace with such a critical requirement to allow raises and other benefit improvements.
This phenomenon is just mind-boggling as we explore the reasons why so many people are seeking employment in such a poorly rewarded profession and yet feel they are contributing to the criminal justice system in their role as gatekeepers and peacemakers of these jails and prisons around the country.
The prison industry was never a lucrative industry to offer good salaries. Hence, there is always an acute shortage of people who actually possess the required applied talents and skills to perform such a job. Prisons throughout the country, whether public or privately owned, hire people from all walks of life.
They hire them for the short-term or long-term as they offer reasonable pay but struggle to retain good staff and attrition rates that are the worst in the criminal justice field. If you consider the growth in the prison industry for the last ten years, the actual number of prisons under contract might surprise you as they have spiked up significantly as well as an ascend of on-duty deaths, assaults and injuries on the job now that many adult prisons are overcrowded, underfunded and understaffed.
Prisons operate either on 8 or 12 hour shifts, seven days a week with 24 hour coverage to ensure public safety. Some prisons allow overtime to be worked while others are financially struggling and deny overtime as a means to cover the essential tasks required. Needless to say, those who get the opportunity to work overtime will gross more income at the end of the year than those refused or denied overtime compensation.
There are fewer career attractions with even less career opportunities in this most competitive occupation. If there are such positives in the workplace they rare and few in between and unfortunately not based on the very important fundamentals of talent (competence), abilities (performance) or skills (efficiency).
Promotions and career improvements are generally based on three other factors that include favoritism, nepotism and political correctness of the individual within the culture where they work. Hence the frustration of working in such a high risk job where some great people go unnoticed and unrecognized for long periods leading to an eventual decline in morale and spirits.
Therefore, this job is also highly stressful as well as fibrillating exasperating as there seems to be no end in sight for prison growth and the need for public safety. Regardless of some of these natural barriers, good officers risk their lives daily to dedicate themselves to the job and to the public for work well done under the most challenging work conditions one can only imagine unless you walked a mile inside their shoes and work the toughest beats around inside those overcrowded and under funded prisons. My deepest respect to all those courageous correctional officers that perform this job and do it well ~
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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