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Correctional Officers – Geared up for Mental Strength
By Carl ToersBijns, former deputy warden, ASPC Eyman, Florence AZ
Published: 03/03/2014

Mental strength Working inside a jail or prison takes both physical and mental strength at a very high pace in order to be better prepared to walk inside those gates and avoid being so easily distracted. When you consider the job you have chosen and the challenges ahead you must consider doing some things in order to avoid or reduce distractions. Mental preparation is a necessary requirement for this job as others will tell you that being focused on doing things safely and diligently will get you home safely on most occasions.

The first thing you need to do is research your choice of occupation and decide if this is what you want, how it impacts your personal life and those around you. You have to be honest about this assessment and not take any shortcuts for you are entering a competitive arena where gladiators fight to survive and the code is kill or be killed and this puts you in a very perilous situation at times. Thus your mindset is most important to defend yourself or others against acts of aggression and hostile environments.

You might say your research is your warm-up to tone your ability to concentrate and focus on the newly elected challenge and endeavor. Learn the job slowly and tediously. Maintain a pace you can keep up with and make the routine fairly easy following instructions with care. You will face many opportunities to liven up the pace when you work here and preparation for the adrenaline rush is important. Don’t let others disrupt your thoughts or strategies how to work safe and keep the place secure. Take advice when advice is sound and don’t attempt to stray from your training or orientation principles on your own. Chose a mentor or training buddy and stay close to learn from them what you will anticipate to learn on this job.

Stay flexible and versatile in your thinking and spirit. Don’t catch the contagious disease called the venom of doom. Having a doom like attitude defeats your spirit and gets you joined up with others that feel the same way and don’t make the effort to excel or perform at a higher level like the others. Picking up a buddy is important and find one that is compatible to your values and routine. Don’t pick one that distracts your constantly by drifting away with conversations not relevant to the job and space out where you are right now.

If you attempt to attempt to gear up your mental prep when gearing up, of course, your buddies will keep interrupting you, but the key to a versatile routine for this job is that it can be picked up and put down at whim. Don't be fazed if you are distracted. Simply stop the routine, make a short conversation, and then resume when it's fitting and necessary to cope with the environment and deal with the reality around you.

You will find this a stressful job but you need to learn how to relax and focus. In my opinion the more time you take away from your job when off duty the better. Don’t consume your time thinking about the workplace and those that work there. Enjoy your moments away and prepare yourself for another day.

Finding a quiet partner will give you space compared to a master talker who may take too much of your time talking rather than doing. The shorter the personal conversations the better. In any case, it’s worth the time to ask questions and seek answer to the various tasks assigned and the more you learn the better you will perform. Once you set your own tempo, others will respect your wishes and not interrupt or interfere with your mental prep or your mindset to get the job done.

Mastering the art of relaxing and focusing takes time. Once mastered you must find yourself a metaphorical safe house where you can store your anxieties and stressful experiences so that they don’t reduce your ability to cope with those things when off duty or not on the job. Allowing them to remain inside this safe house will improve your ability to enhance your performance when on duty. Mental preparation includes rehearsals of the job duties in your mind and visualizing a routine so you can learn to anticipate or engage in different scenarios that will improve communication skills and self-defense tactics. Always visualize real scenarios and work them with incorporating every one of your senses so you can actually feel like you are trying to resolve the issue at hand while staying cool. Use your vision, hearing and tension your muscles to simulate the routines taught so you can improve yourself to the level required to do a good job and remain safe doing it.

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. 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."

Other articles by ToersBijns:


  1. hamiltonlindley on 04/07/2020:

    Mr. Lindley shares his wealth with three technicians. Months after he began working, he had wrapped his vehicles in front of his house. He stopped reporting due to purported health issues. He referred us to someone else. He has blue eyes. Cold like steel. His legs are wide. Like tree trunks. And he has a shock of red hair, red, like the fires of hell. Hamilton Lindley His antics were known from town to town as he was a droll card and often known as a droll farceur. with his madcap pantaloon is a zany adventurer and a cavorter with a motley troupe of buffoons.

  2. Maurice on 03/05/2014:

    My career as a nj state corrections officer 13 years I have learn this job gets better each year as long as you conitue staying professional with integrity, versatile, focus, and respectful. This job is 90% mental and 10% physical. Not everyone can do this job. I feel you must conitue to research and develope your education along with keep you motions intate. Learning body lauguage, face expressions, as welll as psychology will assist in your developing a mental capacity to deal with not only custody inmates, but the employees you work with on the job.

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