|Off the Clock – What practitioners do in their spare time|
|By Kevin E. Bedore , Canadian Federal Correctional Officer|
It’s often difficult for people outside the correctional profession to fathom how ‘inside’ is like a self contained society. Routines are the wheels of its operations. Shower, recreation, medication, meals and just about everything else runs on a structured schedule for both the officers and the inmates as they co-exist in this somewhat ‘secret society’ that few on the outside understand.
Inmates have a bit of an advantage as far as how the routines work. They just wait for the next scheduled activity that most times comes as predictably “as night follows day”. The officers on the other hand must always remain diligent and ready to respond to any incident that occurs before, during and after scheduled activities, whatever time of day, in other words all of the time! This type of stress, day in and day out can take its toll on the officer’s lives both at work and even worse at home, when off duty.
“Mentally recharging”, during time off becomes critical to officers and as such, special care must be taken to understand a proper approach. The decisions they make on their days off away from the jail are just as important as the ones they make when on duty if living a healthy, happy and full life truly is what they seek.
One of the most important factors of surviving the rigors of the correctional environment is having an awareness of the necessity of separating the routines of the prison life from your ‘real’ one, away from the bars.
Unfortunately far too many officers never get away from the ‘bars’. They find themselves in a perpetual cycle of working at the jail behind the bars, then hanging out with their co-workers and trying to booze the bad memories away in ‘bars’ (liquor establishments) and then wondering where all of their time, happiness and money has gone. The rest of the story happens far too often as well - increased stress, addiction, family troubles and this list goes on. Essentially the prison routine just gets extended into their personal life and repeats itself over and over without any break or recovery time from the stress that keeps building!
I am not trying to come across as some puritan ‘goody goody’. That couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s just that having lost a few times and made some poor choices in the past, I have learned there is a better way. I do my job when its work time, then I am completely immersed in my family activities, hobbies and other interests. I have refined this practice to the point where I barely have time to even think about the place I work when not there. So what do I do? I find myself constantly trying new things and this has been a huge source of personal satisfaction. If you don’t try to find happiness it’s almost certain that you won’t find it! Always keep looking!
Distraction has been the best medicine for neutralizing the potentially destructive stress jail can have. I have learned through experience that living happily in this otherwise negative occupation is all about balancing the time away from the jail with the most positive and satisfying things you can find outside the walls and fences . For me it is my family, hobbies and interests that bring the light to the otherwise dark places I must face in my career. Ponder this – what do you do when you’re off the clock? Is what you’re doing an extension of the job or is it something that is healthy and stimulating?
One final special consideration is for those “just about ready to get out”. They are the people that have followed the routine so long they might have forgotten their own. Don’t be that person! As your institutional time winds down get ready well ahead of time for the next phase of your life. Find that hobby; re-establish your interest in fishing, golf or whatever. Perhaps seek a part-time job preferably one that doesn’t involve high stress.
And for God’s sake stay away from - and out of the ‘bars’!!
Editor's note: Corrections.com author, Kevin E. Bedore has 28 years experience in law enforcement, 23 as a Canadian Federal Correctional Officer. He began writing as a form of personal therapy to combat the negative effects that the correctional environment was having on him. He then realized that he had discovered something truly amazing that definitely needed to be shared with other officers facing the same challenges he had.
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