|Correctional Officers – Provision, Power, Purpose|
|By Carl ToersBijns, former deputy warden, ASPC Eyman, Florence AZ|
Being a correctional officer is a complex and high risk / stressful occupation. It has more responsibilities attached to it that many will be ever be aware of unless they take the time to examine the role of this peacemaker inside prisons. Correctional employees provide or supply an extensive continuum of services necessary in order to keep prisons safe and secure. They also provide the stability of the environment that allows society to be confident that their convicted felons are unable to escape while at the same time taken care of according to the rule of law and correctional practices established for such a purpose.
Whether the public is aware of it or not, everything done within a correctional setting is done by policies and procedures established to provide the best practices there are for such custody levels or supportive program needs. There are also various statutes in place that provide the essential services afforded under constitutional law or basic human rights to receive.
The power vested is the rule of law that may vary from state to state and county to county. The most common statutory requirement for correctional officers to follow are legislative powers given to officers to give them peace officer powers while on duty and carrying out their tasks and responsibilities. Along with the ability to influence the behavior of others there are certain elements of power associated with these acts that is commonly referred to as authority. The ability to rule over others according to a charter or a set of written or unwritten rules to adhere to while under their custody. Power can be good or evil – the choices are left up to the individual carrying such a role. The use of power does not always need coercion or the threat of force but is challenged daily inside a prison by a population that has already demonstrated a propensity for noncompliance and breaking the laws.
The third element of the job is purpose. This is the reason to which something is done or created and for which the reason exists. Purpose can bring a person to the point of having a sense of resolve or determination to do the job assigned. The purpose for a correctional officer is to provide security. Security means to protect people and assets from unauthorized deeds or behaviors as well as access to areas off limits and prevent disruption or destruction of state owned property.
Security has several components that create a seamless prison operation. It begins with ingress and egress or the management of access to areas authorized or unauthorized under law or institutional rules. Employees have the right to grant or deny access to prison resources according to law and policies. Along with controlling the access to areas there are responsibilities to conduct constant threat assessments as part of their security management process. It is important to detect or prevent security breaches of areas or equipment that could facilitate an escape or criminal act on the inside of the jail or prison where they are housed. Searches are secondary acts to reduce threats inside the joint. The detection of weapons, contraband and cell phones are instrumental to keeping a safe environment inside and outside prisons.
Security management or the primary purpose has become increasingly difficult and challenging for various reasons. The main obstacle is lack of funding and staffing but the list has grown during the last few years to include equipment failures or shortages and lack of visionary planning to keep up with population growth and special management units. There are signs the prison population might be shrinking but the fact remains that regardless of how full these prisons are, there will always be a need for the correctional employee and what they do inside prisons.
Corrections.com author, Carl ToersBijns, (retired), has 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. Car’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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