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Corrections – Crossing Boundaries
By Carl ToersBijns, former deputy warden, ASPC Eyman, Florence AZ
Published: 04/07/2014

Boundaries Crossing boundaries in Corrections is a relentless concern for both administrators and employees that work there. One must realize that such crossings come in different forms and impact the environment in many diverse ways. Unfortunately, many employees have not given the act too much concern as they don’t realize the potential effects it has on their lives, their career and their health. Whether the crossover is sexual or nonsexual, the perils still exists and creates major disruptions in their ability to perform the job assigned and the harm done towards someone’s credibility that goes along with being a corrections employee.

Corrections employees hold many different positions that require them to intermingle with prisoners and other persons. One needs to realize the importance of maintaining a level of objectivity within their scope of duties as becoming subjective in nature will only draw them deeper into an abyss one can rarely escape from without some kind of harm or conspicuous exploitation of their existence and reputations.

Some of the immediate results of such crossings of boundaries include a prompt condemnation by co-workers for you becoming involved with an inmate or inmate’s family as their trust in you evaporates instantly. They will view you as a policy breaker and risk taker but most of all, they will consider you to have betrayed them and identify you as someone that cannot be a friend or even an associate with after receiving knowledge of such dishonorable interactions.

Correctional employees denounce the concept of betrayal and breaking boundaries. It has an asserted position that cannot be reversed and forgiven no matter how much time passes by. Someone that breaks their lines with their coworkers and peers can expect rigid, cold and standoffish aloofness from their former teammates, co- workers or friends. They will lose any feelings of empathy and will be dealt with in the most destructive negative behavioral correctness that will offend many and cause them to either quit their job or ask for a re-assignment.

The most constructive way to handle such cross overs is to resign and leave the corrections field. Although that may seem a bit harsh it impacts your health and wellness much more than you might ever expected and could create hostilities that may cause harm to you or your family. The consequences are endless but nevertheless undesirable in nature. Some agencies initiate immediate misconduct reports and launch internal investigations that may reveal violations of law or your code of conduct which may result in your termination.

Remaining to work inside a jail or prison will only draw more criticism, disruptions and elevate distrust of your mere existence within the same environment as those offended. It will draw a cynicism that is harmful to your health and invokes pain and other complexities very difficult to handle and still maintain the ability to do the job correctly.

It has been known to break a person’s morale, ethics and their cornerstone practices leaving them nothing but defensive postures whenever approached by someone that asserts their role to question your integrity or purpose for doing things no matter how insignificant they may be. Regardless of what your own reasons were, these actions carry with them violations of being a reputable person and condemnation is always a sure response to your presence.

Working within the established guidelines is the best advice given in such moments where the emotional aspect may override the practical side of you. Being human you may not want to surrender your emotions to the situation but the consequences for such a submission will be sanctions designed to minimize your presence, effectiveness and existence within such a hostile setting.

It is and has always been the rule to remain focused on these boundaries that divide fairness from partiality. They are designed for a purpose and becoming emotionally involved in relationships has often been regarded as a means to satisfy your own gratifications and total disregard for the institutional concerns around you as it compromises your ability to make good decisions when you become emotionally involved in unapproved relationships.

Removing the emotional part of your job is difficult but may allow you to be switched to a role of empathy where you may still be kind and even compassionate but never delving into the abyss of sympathy or other personalized emotional qualities that draw you in to the relationship rather than a controlled interaction between two or more persons with clear defined and structured ethical visionary expectations.

Remaining focused and dispassionate in your job reduces stress as it will spiral downward when you perform within the boundaries given or provided. You will work in a less confusing and unexploited work environment making your contributions safe and comprehensive - free from unwarranted criticism as well as negative subjectivity by your peers. Although you may think you do not care what others think the impact is much more severe than you may realize when chastised and blackballed because of mistrust and betrayal issues in the workplace.

Clear and consistent boundaries provide you structured ground which you can defend based on ethical and morally sound values. It is understandable that one cannot avoid all nonprofessional interactions but relying on these boundaries to break away from any temptations is something you can depend upon at all times. Doing so will allow your integrity, your reputation and your professional judgment intact.

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:


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