Like a dozen doughnuts, these do nots are in a variety. No two are exactly the same flavor. You may like one and loathe another. That is the beauty of variety. So, pour yourself a cup of coffee and enjoy as many of the do nots as you can stomach.
Advice is a funny thing. Sometimes it seems trite and unimportant. Still, when one looks at it against the background of the mission, the ideas make more sense. Remember that these twelve little do nots form a firm foundation of corrections safety for staff, offenders, and the public.
- Do not lie. This is the original vocational sin and the gateway to disrespect, distrust, pain, possible incarceration, the dark side and possibly even death. For such a little word, ‘lie’ has many implications.
- Do not smuggle. Keep unauthorized business enterprises out of the picture. There are many examples of staff who foolishly brought in contraband for prisoners in exchange for a few hundred buck or in the name of ‘love’. Is it worth it for you to possibly lose your integrity, standing in the community and at work, career, future earnings, family and friends, and maybe even your freedom?
- Do not advertise your hobbies. Letting prisoners know your political leanings, favorite bands, choice of pet and other interests provides a handle for manipulation. It is true that not all prisoners will take advantage of this information. However, they may still tell others.
- Do not bring your family into the mix. Keep family out of conversations, for their safety and yours. Like hobbies, this is a handle for the manipulative prisoner.
- Do not automatically say yes. Giving permission to do something is easy because there no confrontation follows. Yet, corrections has staff to client confrontations built in. Quite simply, we have to say ‘no’ at almost every juncture. The reason may be policy driven or a wise discretionary choice. Permission once can come back to haunt you.
- Do not sleep on the job.
- Do not forget to alleviate stress in legitimate ways. This is no secret; Corrections is a stressful vocation. You need to find a healthy way to unwind or you will eventually become a time bomb. Also, if you do not handle your stress at work, your home life may suffer.
- Do not rage. Check your anger and act professionally. If you show anger, you are demonstrating that you have been knocked off your square.
- Do not overlook contraband. Forbidden items of all kinds are the building blocks of disorder. What you overlook or permit may hurt you and others later. The item itself may not be the direct cause of pain and injury. However, it may be a link in the chain of events leading to disorder.
- Do not forget history lessons from older staff. There is wisdom in experience. One of my colleagues once told me, “It is a good life if you don’t weaken”. Ol’ Cecil was right, as far as I am concerned. To the young cynics and know-it-alls, I concede that times and policies may change. However, underlying philosophies are useful and can transcend time, societal trends, and administrations.
- Do not overlook ulterior motives. Sometimes there are evil intents behind a smile or kind words. This is not a battle cry to embrace paranoia. Rather, this is a caution. Things are not always what they seem.
Do not forsake hope. On the most horrible day at work, there is solace in the fact that this is not a permanent condition.
These are the opinions of Joe Bouchard, a Librarian employed with the Michigan Department of Corrections. These are not necessarily the opinions of the Department. The MDOC is not responsible for the content or accuracy
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