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Do You Know What To Expect At The Academy?
By Bryan Avila, TDCJ Correctional Training Instructor - Sergeant of Correctional Officers
Published: 11/18/2013

Corrections cadets You decided that you wanted to work for corrections, applied, took the test, passed the test, had your oral board and just got your letter with the conditional offer of employment. Congrats! Now, do you know what to expect once you start the academy?

Most letters with the conditional offer of employment will give you somewhat of an idea on what to bring with you for your time at the academy. Depending on the agency, you may be required to stay at the academy or you may elect to commute (it varies from agency to agency). If your agency requires you to complete a Physical Agility Test prior to the start of the academy or it may have been part of the hiring process (In the case of Texas, we do it the day prior to the start of the academy).

For the Physical Agility Test make sure that you prepare yourself physically for it and do the best that you can while completing it. I can tell you that if you just do the bare minimum, it will be noticed. The people conducting the test can tell the difference between someone that just barely gets the minimum score (or just over) and were trying their best and those that could do more but just decided to quit. Please keep in mind that the impression that this may leave is that your work ethic may be just like your score….bare minimum and you don’t care to apply yourself.

Once the academy starts, you will be in for a culture shock. The way that you communicate in the outside world will not be the same way that you communicate inside the correctional system. The purpose of the instructors that you will have is to prepare you with the base knowledge that you will need to perform the job functions of a correctional officer. They are not there to be your friend. Do not take it personally if you think that they are being “short” with you. You need to be able to listen to directions accurately and follow them. Once you are on the facility that one time may be all you’ll get based on the situation. There is no room for error inside. Your instructor is getting you ready for it. You are one of many so please do not think that you are special and require special attention. To give you an idea, here in Texas the class sizes range from 20-100 depending on the region. My current class size is 44.

There will be many things academically that you will be required to learn and will be tested on. If you are the type of person that does not test very well during written exams you know that you will have to work a little harder in order to pass the exams. In addition to the written exams you will also have hands on classes that you must complete and pass. If you happen to be the type of person that is not very coordinated you may have to work twice as hard at getting the technique down. The best advice that I can give you is this: practice, practice, practice. Do not worry about speed at first. Work on the technique. Once you get the technique down, speed will follow. Use a mirror when practicing at home so you can see yourself doing the technique correctly and make any adjustments there.

If you happen to be coming from another agency/state to work in corrections, please know this: DO NOT say “this is how we did it where I came from.” You are no longer there. You are here. You will do it our way. If you happen to disagree with it, you have two choices: Get over it or go back to where you came from. I learned this lesson the hard way.

If and when you are exposed to chemical agents please keep in mind that it is going to suck. You never get used to it. You may have learned how to work through it but it still sucks. Let me rephrase that… IT SUCKS!!!

If your agency has a requirement that you qualify with firearms throughout the academy, you will be trained in the proper handling and operation of the weapons that you will be using. If you have never used a firearm before do not worry. The instructors deal with trainees that have never handled a weapon before on a regular basis. The best advice that I can give you here is this: Do as you are told when you are told and DO NOT shoot the instructor on the firing line (good thing we stand behind you). Please do not think that you know more than your instructor. The worse type of student that a firearms instructor can have is the one that says “well I’ve been shooting since I was a kid” or “My dad/grandpa showed me this way.” I can guarantee that you will have some really bad habits that need to be broken.

Finally, know that there will be rules that you will have to follow while at the academy. Some of these rules you may not agree with. Deal with it. If you happen to be the type of person that likes to talk back and roll your eyes when you disagree with something and have an attitude, don’t even bother showing up for the academy. Agencies will not tolerate it while you are working and you’ll never make it through the academy.

All things considered, you will have a great time while at the academy. You will learn many things and you will make great new friends. Keep your head held high, shoulders back, stand up straight and welcome to the family.

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.

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  2. ILCO on 12/23/2013:

    I start the academy in 2 weeks and am looking forward to the challenge. I am not looking forward to the chemical agents though!

  3. GoalFocus on 11/21/2013:

    Great article. I am in a Texas Academy right now and have chemical today. My instructors and team mates are great and very encouraging. I do know my weak areas and I DO work extra hard on these (self defense sequential steps). Yesterday I belted a stranger with a side Palm-heal when he surprised me. He said he was thought I was his wife and he was playing a joke on her. I asked him if he knew where he was and what we were doing:-) I apologized and we laughed.

  4. Tabby on 11/20/2013:

    I worked in two different prisons and belive me they are different. I enjoyed learning different and new ways of training. A person should always be one step ahead of the inmate because they have all the time in the world too dream up ways to do harm. So i agree pay attention too what they teach you. Your life iand others are in your hands.


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