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A Thirst & Hunger for Change
By Bernita Carmichael, Managing Director at SAFEPAC
Published: 01/26/2015

Heart healthy Correctional facilities are institutions that deserve equality alongside other institutions such as hospitals and academic institutions. Budgets typically get cut for various reasons within and out of the industries control. Schools and hospitals are rebuilt, restored, and renovated while many jails and prisons exceed their shelf life which birthed privatized corrections. It appears Corrections is not alone as word travels on the conditions of homeless shelters at capacity. As many opinions are shared for and against the Industrial Prison complex; reality is every human need is connected to an industrial complex (system/design). Can you unplug for a minute? As many join hands in their community to beautify the schools, neighborhoods, or local faith based organizations local shelters could use the same energy. Personally, I can recall villagers in the community partnering with jails and/or prisons to give a hope and a future; times sure have changed. It appears everything is about priority but in all priorities the care and welfare of all human beings should be equal across the board. Even politicians have slogans or tag lines such as “We can do better” or “Fresh Start”. Would you agree as you take inventory?

Let’s start with health and wellness in our thriving industry. Corrections can be painted with so much gloom; people forget the correctional staff and detainees are a mixture of local and regional residents. This might explain why internally corrections can become disconnected when support is limited, over-familiarity is an ongoing risk factor, and many have struggles with being institutionalized. If the caring isn't shared for the whole community externally how can quality of care flow internally? For example, you have an employee who's working to improve their health and wellness; before they can start the transition they have to go through so much red tape in the workplace. Could the Correctional Industry be a contributor to Adult Obesity? Let’s randomly sample Corrections policies and evaluate day-to-day operations for answers. What’s your finding? Correctional internal policies can conflict with employee health and wellness 8-hours a day, 5 days a week, and that totals to 40hrs weekly. It appears safety and security has been overly applied and abused (less hands-on); it’s the first response and end statement in many cases. Would you agree? Day-to-day operations can easily become duty free just by using those three words "safety and security". For example, mandating employees can only bring in water for a beverage and clear food containers. Appears a bit personal and lightening the workload; investigators sit at a desk watching a monitor with about 10 to 20 screens; very sedentary and hard on the eyes. By the click of a button emails circulate on how water can also be altered in its appearance with label and top intact; no boots on the ground demonstrating it.

Security screening devices aren't 100% yet top of the line systems are procured and employee’s still tote their clear containers and hassled on what they can’t bring in to consume. As my generation and the millennials would say, “In my Kanye West voice: No one man should have all that power”. For the sake of these three words (safety and security) the Corrections industry actually contributes to adult obesity, acute, and chronic health issues. Some associated illnesses in our industry are stress, fatigue, obesity, cancer, anxiety, substance abuse, suicide, diabetes, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), hearing loss, and more. Corrections and all industries should come with a surgeon general warning label attached and full disclosure in orientations. For instance, the low percentage of fresh air and high percentage of recycled air. Can you imagine chemical impacts with high health hazards invisibly floating in the air; each time you inhale you’re breathing in the unknown. Here’s a tip; pesticides and how they impact women with child (staff and detainee’s). Conservation of hearing studies could make life after Corrections a better experience as well. Reality is sound levels appear to be higher in the day compared to the night audio-gram testing many tend to do when there’s no real movement or higher level of sound. Your thoughts?

Let’s look at the food Correctional employers provide employee’s. Using detail laborers is great to reduce the recidivism rate because they’re learning a skill. Hiring a 3rd party food service company to prepare and cook for correctional employees is a win/win. Hmm? Your employee’s and to be specific your front-line staff can make or break your agency, company, organization, or leadership. They are the foundation of your existence and your success; great scrutiny should be used when it comes down to who your staff is consuming food from and the quality of what they are consuming. You have a variety of employee's meaning there's diversity in what they consume and how they manage health and wellness during working hours and away. How do you make reasonable accommodations for a vegan, raw vegan, or a person who consumes raw meals that’s juice? If you responded have them provide a doctor’s note or religious request please willfully demote yourself now. Many correctional institutions don't know how because they're singing these three words "safety and security". Using a "superior" mentality is only a feeling of having absolute control to where "subordinates" won't challenge them. (Knock knock) Did you know we are approaching 2015? Asking questions creates healthy dialogue; haven't you heard that communication is key and a closed mouth don't get fed. There are benefits to juicing and there are people; specifically consumers who enjoy a variety of foods. When you deny your employee's the freedom to choose what they consume the employer plays a part in their health and wellness.

Now some may disagree and say they can bring in what they want they just have to abide by the policies. It sounds simple but polices aren't always end user friendly. For example, juicers foods are perishable at certain temperatures because it's raw. They can go in clear containers however the employee technically is circumventing policy if employers only allow water bottles. It becomes user friendly if you allow them to store in clear thermos or clear soup storage cups. The quantity juicers consume varies on the individual needs; plus its juiced fruits and vegetables. If First Lady Michelle Obama has implemented in schools (also institutions) and the country the Let's Move program to fight child obesity in the U.S.; there's room in Corrections (also an institution)to allow employees to take action, eat healthy, and get fit as they see fit during their 8-hour work day (Sips Tea and winks).

After absorbing all of this it is encouraged that all Correctional employers take inventory over the dining rooms, snack machines, and food service contracts. You may develop "A Thirst & Hunger for Change"; support your employee’s in more ways than one; build on the information provided. See for yourself by watching on Netflix or purchase from Amazon Joe Cross film Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead. It's a 2010 documentary and encouraging all Corrections.com subscribers to watch, share with colleagues, and take the challenge to witness the benefits of raw juice.

So the takeaways are: Get up close and in person with the fuel you’re providing in your institution; mix it up with some raw fuel (more than salads), vegan fuel, and welcome the diversity in lifestyles. Be engaged from the inside and out. Be current in what’s trending by hosting workplace consultations from a local juicery or nutritionist. If you're in and/or near the Washington, DC area checkout JRINK Juicery for some Cold Press 101. It’s a New Year, “Let’s Move” forward Corrections and let caring be viral inside and out!

Corrections.com author Bernita Carmichael began her 14-year long career in Washington, DC with the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) Central Treatment Facility (CTF). For the last six and a half years she has been a ProBoard Registered Fire Protection Specialist and Registered OSHA Instructor for the District of Columbia Department of Corrections (DCDOC) where she contributed to DOC achieving their initial American Correctional Association accreditation for the entire DC Jail. She has also contributed to the delivering of Department of Homeland Security Grants for Emergency Management/Interoperability Communications to implement the 1st Correctional Emergency Preparedness and Response Administration for DCDOC. She also sits as the Vice Chairman on the District of Columbia Homeland Security Interoperability Communications Committee spearheaded by the DC Statewide Interoperability Coordinator Jeffrey Wobbleton. Her passion to serve has birthed her newest creation as Managing Director of SAFEPAC which she states, "Is a seed in progress" for the many seeds her supporters have planted in her.

Other articles by Bernita


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