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Would that really happen?
By Joe Bouchard
Published: 02/16/2015

Prison wall 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.

Movies are not necessarily reality. Television shows will not always reflect how things are in the living world. Quite simply, entertainment outlets have to spice up the real world in order to retain viewers. Of course, documentaries may have a bit more reality, though not necessarily the whole truth. But that is a bit different from a sitcom or a fictionalized account in a movie.

Have you ever, as a corrections professional, viewed a movie or show about a prison or jail and cringed? Have you ever said to someone with whom you are watching this, “That would never happen”? That is one of the consequences of working in the corrections profession: We know what goes on.

These errors are sometime glaring and sometimes subtle. For example, “why are there no weapons found in this episode?” one might task.

There are shows and movies from which to choose: Prison Break, The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, The Jericho Mile, Orange is the New Black, and most sitcom with a jail scene. One only need to type in prison movies or jail scenes in an internet search engine or YouTube for ideas.

For this exercise:
  1. The instructor selects a clip or episode of a corrections clip in popular media;
  2. The instructor tells the class to jot down parts of the clip that seem incorrect or implausible;
  3. If this is a college class for corrections pre-professionals, have the class write parts that they are unsure of regarding accuracy;
  4. After the clip, break pre-professionals into discussion groups. Have the group elect a leader to report on perceptions and portrayals.
  5. If this is a class of seasoned professionals, the attitudes about portrayals of offenders and staff can be discussed;
  6. With professionals, have them suggest the most authentic prison/jail shows;
  7. With professionals, have them suggest the least authentic, most degrading prison/jail shows.
The popular media is not always accurate. Still, perception can be reality. Sometimes we fight an uphill battle to maintain respectability in the work world. This is an exercise that can help us understand how others view the profession.

Sometimes we have to ask ourselves “Would that really happen?”

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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