|Women Staff and Professional Boundaries|
|By Correctional Oasis Newsletter: April 2014 issue|
Several years ago we began to compile input from veteran women and men correctional staff, and posted the material on our website, under the title “Women in Corrections.” Since we do not provide this material on our current website, and since we have recently had requests on the subject, we shall reproduce some of it in this and in future issues of the Correctional Oasis.
I have seen too many females lose their families and lifestyle from con games.
Inmates have absolutely nothing to give you; they will only take from you; when you have lost your family, money, etc., they will leave you all by yourself.
Too often female staff gets “sucked in” with the amount of pressure, attention, and time that these inmates give to them. Sometimes we as females get a one tracked mind that only WANTS to see that maybe these guys are generous, thoughtful, considerate, etc. Sure, they can be, but we must not forget why they are here. We have a job to do, and that is to make this a safe, secure environment, and maintain the safety and security of the public as well. When you know of a staff member that is getting manipulated, don't hesitate to ask them if everything is okay or if they feel comfortable with the situation. They may not even see the situation that is happening right in front of their eyes. As a person that is in this situation, they are more than likely not going to address it with their supervisor in fear of retaliation, but as we all know, that should not happen. That's why we must all rely on each other to work as a team to watch for those very key factors that I mentioned above, because once a coworker has gotten to the point of being manipulated, it’s so hard to address the issue with them, because they don't want to face the fact that you already know!
It's hard to be a female in corrections and NOT have stories to tell. You know one of the biggest problems we have as females in corrections is falling victim to the male inmates’ con games. We have several females a year fired for that. I have been stalked myself by a mental inmate and it lasted for years. Sometimes the female officer can do things to prevent this from happening but sometimes not. I just happened to treat a mental inmate kindly and he "fell in love" with me. It was horrible. After he was released he put me on his life insurance policy as the beneficiary, and drove around in the parking lot yelling, "Mary, I love you!" I was constantly threatened by his girlfriend, that she would kick my a**.
Indicators that an over familiar relationship is developing:
The sweetest thing I have ever saw is you, the one who brightens my day every time you are in my view! You are beautiful beyond description, too marvelous for words. Only if words could describe the way I feel about you, you maybe able to understand it.
I am one who looks beyond skin beauty. Your personality takes my breath away. Your charm is out of this world. Your smile melts away my heart every time you let it shine. I pray and hope that from this day forward that you and I will have more than an officer / inmate relationship. I want to be yours, of course we would have to secretly be in unison.
Remember that I am a convict and if I don’t get my way, I will get my revenge!
Signed Inmate Name
The following allegedly represents the content of a handwritten letter discovered in the possession of an inmate. It outlines instructions on how to initiate undue familiarity with female corrections staff. The heading and content are exactly as they appeared in the letter. Notice the instructions on how to stand out in the crowd of offenders and be noticed as an individual. Also, suggestions on how to create attachment by being attentive, validating, caring, respectful, and seemingly sincere. All these are to be strategically used to target the potential victim’s emotions and self-esteem needs, and to earn her trust.
How to Get You One ... or Four
Be memorable. Charisma will get a woman’s attention, but you have to have something to say once you have their attention. A little sarcasm, a little obnoxiousness.
Be well-read and well-spoken. Learn as much as you can about art, psychology, music. Have a place to start with a woman—try to be on the same page.
Always have something to say. Even if it’s “How you doin’, ma’m’?” Always say something. That at least gets you noticed, and lets them know that you notice them. Then when you have a chance to talk 1 on 1, she’ll remember all the “Hi, how are you” stuff.
Always be respectful. All women want validation. You don’t have to agree with every word (you shouldn’t), but don’t shut her down. Listen before you speak, and speak when they aren’t speaking. These girls need to know they are safe with trusting you. Let them know that the only way you’ll get in trouble is if they have proof. Only if you tell on her or if she tells on you. It doesn’t matter what they think, it matters what they can prove. Let her know you can keep your mouth shut and that you know you’re playing for high stakes.
Be honest. Be sincere. Try to be understanding and even compassionate. Take interest in her. Ask her about herself. Her life, her free time, her family & friends. Why she took this job. What her plans for the future are. PAY ATTENTION!! If she looks tired, sad, angry or flustered, ask her how she’s doing. Keep her talking.
I'm thankful that a female coworker took me under her wing when I was a new officer and let me know the level of con games I would be exposed to. I came to this job from telemarketing and all I knew of jail was what I saw on television. She helped me to understand that working here is at times like swimming with sharks and that I needed to be wary of the ones with the biggest smiles. I think new female officers need to keep personal information to themselves, something that may seem insignificant on the outside could land that officer under investigation if it was to be overheard by the right inmate. I think it's important for new officers to know that it's alright if the inmates don't like them, it isn't a popularity contest and they should expect to get called a "bitch" at least once a shift. I was told by a female coworker that when you walk into a module and the majority of the inmates are not glad to see you, you must be doing a good job.
We need boundary information. Lots of it. Setting boundaries is a crucial piece in being an effective female correctional officer. I went through the book Boundaries by Henry Cloud. It was fantastic training. I still have the book.
I tried to get some classes for women started at my facility and was advised that it would be inappropriate to offer separate training for women or training specifically adjusted to women's needs and issues. They were afraid due to EEO issues of treating women differently than men. There is still the convenient mentality that once you put on a uniform, you are no longer a woman.
What we tried at our facility was to immediately impact women who are starting training by introducing them to a panel of experienced women staff who would then take them through some conversational scenarios with inmates and relate their personal experiences in handling them. This was basic 101, simple stuff we all run into. This would also provide the new employees with introductions to experienced personnel that they could go to with questions. There would be a session in the initial training before "going inside" and another after On the Job Training with a six month assessment after they had gone on shift.
Reprinted with permission from Correctional Oasis, April 2014 issue, www.desertwaters.com.
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