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Off the Clock
By Terry Campbell, Professor, Purdue University Global
Published: 07/20/2015

After work Your workday has ended and you now have several days off to relax and enjoy. Sounds simple for some, while others struggle identifying what to do. Are you married to the workplace and unable to separate work from time at home? Time away from work is leisure time and your time to enjoy a break. We all have good and bad habits, yet the bad should never outweigh the good. Do an assessment and see what you actually do in your free time, you may be surprised. The assessment often identifies those negative traits we have and often fail to recognize. Working in corrections is stressful enough and there has been recent research conducted revealing the following risks: high divorce rate, high blood pressure and stress, heart attacks, your mental health, poor diet, substance abuse, and other health related conditions. Something else to consider, we know many in corrections use alcohol. The trick to remember is in ‘moderation.’ If you have any of the issues identified or other issues, now is the time to make some life changes.

Those employed in corrections are quick to identify reasons inmates released will often return to prison. This can consist of lack of responsibility, pointing the finger elsewhere and not being responsible, not accepting the consequences for their own actions, and other. There are many reasons for this and, yet, many officers are not willing to be honest with themselves regarding their health and daily lifestyles. At times, we are in the same predicament as offenders and unwilling to accept this. We face many of the same issues and have difficulty reinforcing our own responsibility for poor decisions with consequences. For change to occur we have to initiate the first step.

Many of us have set routines on a daily basis, while others will just wing it. Either way is okay, provided you take time to enjoy some quality time. Besides the job itself we are also caught up in the aging process. This can take a toll on our bodies and mind. Remember to set some goals; you certainly had some when entering the field. Some of these goals pertained to family, personal issues, retirement upon the end of our career, and other. Yet, somewhere along the way, we have lost sight of this. Now is the time to revitalize ourselves and enjoy our work and leisure time.

When I worked in corrections, depending on the shift, I found time to work out, continue my education, tend to family, and make time for family activities and some time for myself. Easier said than done, not really. Many of us lived on prison grounds and during the summer we participated in a softball league. Use your time management skills and make a commitment, then prioritize. Many of the staff I worked with played a variety of sports, worked out (jogging, lifting weights, and other), participated in family activities and church outings, other activities they enjoyed, worked with youth in the communities and other. Whatever your interests are get ‘involved.’

The field of corrections presents an image of officers being proud and tough. Emotions are not part of this equation. Yet, a majority of officers have some problems and will not discuss these issues. This is where officers, supervisors, and others come into play. When they recognize any warning signs they need to be brought to the attention of others. Correctional agencies have some types of employee assistance programs available to staff. These same and/or similar services are often found in local communities. Take the next step and recognize you may need assistance, also do not be afraid to address any issues you identify presented by staff. We talk bout being a tight knit brotherhood and team, yet we cannot be selective in what we choose to observe and when to seek assistance.

We discussed areas ranging from what to do when not at work, job stress and other activities. One common denominator is we can take control of our lives and choose to make some life-changing decisions. When was the last time you wanted to do something and keep finding excuses not to proceed? What better way to bond with family, friends, and co-workers than spending structured quality time with each other. The following are some additional activities to consider: golfing, tennis, team sports, etc. Family activities can consist of you simply spending time with the children and spouse. Now before you ask the following; What if I have no spouse or children? What about nieces, nephews, friends with families, etc.?

The following can be considered as well and there are a lot of activities that do not involve costs to you. Do you have an interest in volunteering? What programs and opportunities are available to you in your church and community? Are there any organizations in your community with volunteer programs and requests for the community to participate? Are you willing to take the next step and get involved? If there are no programs in your community where volunteers are needed, have you thought about starting your own volunteer group for officers and staff? To do so, all you need to begin is the initiative to do so. There are no great costs involved.

I mentioned previously the aging process and what this means. I would like to expand a little on this. I was very active earlier in life and now my knees are not up to the constant pounding from jogging. After several knee scopes and being told to take up walking or bicycling, or face knee replacement, I opted for walking and bicycling. I began by taking short walks and am now up to 5-6 miles daily of walking. I spread this throughout the day. When bicycling, I often take long bike rides. The best part is I am able to do this with my wife. Please take time to do the assessment and get involved in some activities. If you are already involved, congratulations and keep up the commitment. Remember, the outcomes are not only physical, but also mental well-being.

Best regards and stay safe.

Terry Campbell is a criminal justice professor at Kaplan University, School of Public Safety and has more than 20 years of experience in corrections and policing. He has served in various roles, including prison warden and parole administrator, for the Arkansas Department of Corrections. Terry may be reached at tcampbell@kaplan.edu.

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