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Bouchard 101: Priorities
By Joe Bouchard
Published: 02/02/2015

Reportwriting The following is an installment in "The Bouchard 101", a series featuring "Ice Breaker's" designed to promote training awareness and capabilities in the corrections industry.

When the toilet paper roll is empty, you change it. When the refrigerator is empty, you go shopping. Some things are easily identified as urgent.

But, it is not always so simple. Some work days feature an exhausting collection of tasks. No matter how hard you try, the jobs keep piling up.

When this happens, prioritization works wonders. Jobs that have to be done immediately get shoved to the top of the to-do list. Less urgent jobs are relegated lower. This is not rocket science. It is common sense. But do we all think in the same terms? Would we execute the tasks in the same way? Here is a way to find out:
  1. List twenty different tasks for a corrections work day. See below for sample task list,
  2. Note, the lower the number, the higher the priority. Number 1 means that the job must be done first, for example;
  3. There are no ties. There can be no duplicate numbers. If two tasks are close in urgency, they must still be ranked;
  4. Distribute a list to all in class;
  5. Giving five minutes, allow each person to rank them individually;
  6. After the five allotted minutes, split the class into groups of four or five;
  7. Giving five more minutes, let these groups come to a consensus on the list of tasks;
  8. Select a person to observe the group and note dynamics. This gives data about how we work together. It also may produce an interesting Hawthorne effect;
  9. Have one person per group discuss the priorities;
  10. The facilitator can ask each group these questions: “Which is the top priority?” Which is least important and why?” Which task was the biggest point of contention?” Which task was easiest to prioritize?”
  11. Have the observer report any group dynamics high and low points.


Priorities worksheet

Rank the following tasks in order of importance by listing a number in the box to the left of the task. The lower the number, the higher the priority. For example, number 1 means that the job must be done first. There can be no ties. There can be no duplicate numbers. If two tasks are close in urgency, they must still be ranked with different numbers.
  • Check the fire extinguishers for charge.
  • Look at racks in ovens for missing metal. Monitor telephone calls for STG activities.
  • Call home to ask about weekend plans. Ask supervisor for a day off. Write a minor misconduct for passing in the dining hall.
  • Report to duress that was just reported on the radio. Review log book to get a feel for how things have been in the last week. Do a round on your wing. Get a new pen, as yours is running out.
  • Taunt supervisor about mediocre performance of his or her favorite sports team.
  • Calculate how many weeks before you can legitimately retire.
  • Ask a normally positive offender who now looks sullen if he is OK.
  • Call up front to see if there is any overtime available for the next day.
  • Complete an accident report. A prisoner has a bleeding thumb.
  • A prisoner says that he wants to harm himself.
  • Your partner wants to show you photos of his Vegas vacation.
  • A prisoner claims that he needs protection because he fears rape from a specific individual or group.
  • Chow lines are about to start and you have a feeling that the dining hall must be searched before prisoners arrive.
  • Your shift is over and you have to get to the time clock.
  • There is no denying it: Prioritization makes the work day easier. No two tasks are exactly alike, but they may have similar rankings in importance. In corrections, the imminence of a task must often be made in a lightning-fast manner.

    Joe Bouchard is a Librarian employed with the Michigan Department of Corrections and a collaborator with The International Association of Correctional Training Personnel (IACTP). He is also the author of “IACTP’s Corrections Icebreakers: The Bouchard 101, 2014”. The installments in this series include his opinions. The agency for which he works is not in any way responsible for the content or accuracy of this material, and the views are those of the contributor and not necessarily those of the agency. While some material is influenced by other works, all of the icebreakers have been developed by Joe Bouchard.

    Visit the Joe Bouchard page

    Other articles by Bouchard:


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