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Correctional Officers – Apathy, an Introduction
By Carl ToersBijns, former deputy warden, ASPC Eyman, Florence AZ
Published: 10/27/2014

Integrity


Correctional officers are taught a lot about empathy and not so much is said about apathy during their training and mentorship phases. Many people didn’t know that apathy or the lack of feeling and emotion is the opposite of empathy and that it can be caused by many different factors including diseases and prescription drug side effects. It is commonly taken as an act of not caring and a reflection on the personality or conduct of an individual in the negative light.

Rarely does an agency take into considerations the causes of apathy and because they focus on misconduct and not mistakes, the disciplinary process might be wrongfully used to correct behaviors that may not be plausible to change because of the individual’s illness or ability to do so. There are several medical conditions that are considered elements of emotional symptoms related to apathy. They are: Anxiety, Dementia, Mental illness, Depression Schizophrenia and Bi-polar disease. Add several other conditions to this spectrum such as behavioral and cognitive disabilities and we begin to understand how apathy works in the person’s mind and body as they are closely related at all times.

Not trying to give anyone or persons a pass for apathetic or indifferent conduct or misconduct it is important to put this stigma into perspective so that one can understand it better when it is said that apathy is a negative condition within the prison setting. It is true that apathy is a problem in the workplace but these comments are often based on generalities and not specific facts or cases where there might be a reasonable or logical condition that caused the event.

Therefore we need to include these conditions listed and realize that aside of emotional and psychiatric symptoms we also have conditions that formulate feelings of detachment, personality cognitive impairment issues and many more that may contribute or remain unexplained because of lack of information on the person’s health history. Secondly, we must include the culture and the environmental influences of the workplace in other to see the big picture in better effort or intentions.

Focusing on the most common and best explained symptoms related to behavioral issues we have to acknowledge the existence of a “not caring attitude” or oblivious feelings why people “kill each other” and “self-seclusion” from others on or off the job and many more such as being insecure about self, fatigued or tired, confusion and frustrations of the job or other personal reasons. The reason for focusing on such behavioral symptoms is the clearest explanation possible that may explain these side effects when the person working is prescribed or taking certain drugs, medication, controlled substances or toxins contained within over the counter or herbal health enhancers or treatment.

Hence before we point fingers and tell of blame and guilt within the workplace we might want to explore learning a little bit more about behaviors that trigger apathy and understand it a little bit better so that when dealing with disciplinary action, there could be a missed diagnosis of several disorders including dementia, ADHD, eating disorders, bi-polar disorders, depression and other serious conditions that impact behaviors, performance and expectations.

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."

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