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Resilience after an Assault
By Carl ToersBijns, former deputy warden, ASPC Eyman, Florence AZ
Published: 11/02/2015

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Coming back to work from a particular physical or sexual attack / assault by an inmate(s) is usually expressively different than those feelings you had before the attack occurred. It is important that we recognize there are significant adjustments that need to be made in order to avoid being emotionally upset or counterproductive in your job duties or tasks assigned.

It is important that you stop and recognize any changes in your behaviors or expectations so you can adjust your performance accordingly and keep yourself as positive and committed to doing a good job as possible. One could suggest talking to someone who has already experienced such a trauma and find out how they dealt with their return to work mentally and physically. The other method is to make or take a self-assessment of your psyche.

It is with great certainty that this adjustment is critical in your future career development, confidence and self-esteem while at the same time, become aware of significant changes in your behaviors or attitudes that might impact your abilities to carry out your post assignments or duties without added biases or notions that are personal and not professionally acceptable.

This article is written with caution as we know that not everybody experiences a significant change after an assault but regardless whether you find it hard or easy to adjust, it needs your prompt attention. There are certain things you need to be aware of as you return to work. Your post assignments and duties are expressly written to be carried out in an exact order or procedure. There is little room for error and all your willingness to comply with post orders or policies relies on your mindset to follow them.

It is factual that after an assault, your mindset becomes more defensive in nature creating a “second nature” that is sometimes referred to as a paranoia with real fears. This does not necessary mean you are afraid to work there but more on the level of afraid or uncertain how you would react to being assaulted again or seeing your partner in trouble and coming to the rescue.

You know your job is structured with rules and clearly defined procedures. This ‘second nature’ may want to defy these procedures and cause you to handle the matter ‘your way.’ Secondly, going from one extreme to the other, you might see your duties and responsibilities either more critical or less than before creating an uncertainty for your teammates who are used to your performance of record.

Remember the basics: firm, fair and consistent.

Adjusting to this ‘new setting’ is quite a challenge for some and easy for others. Ask yourself some important questions. Making a critical self-assessment in a confidential manner should include confidence issues which may ask how you feel or how you might act in some cases. Some examples are:
  • Can I always manage or solve difficult situations like I did before or am I better now than ever?
  • If someone confronts or opposes me, can I resolve this matter with the means trained and experience possessed, or do I need to find other means to get what I need done?
  • If confronted with disobedience or non-compliance, will it be easy for me to stick to my professional demeanor, skills or aims in solving the problem according to policy?
  • Am I confident enough in myself to deal with controversy or conflict effectively and efficiently and am I prepared for the unexpected events which may happen?
  • Am I resourceful enough to seek help or ask questions in order to handle difficult or unforeseen situations?
  • Do I possess the coolness to solve most problems myself?
  • Can I remain calm and professional when faced with aggressive or agitated inmates?
  • Do I have confidence in my own coping and decision making abilities and do they match my capabilities?
  • When confronted with a problem or agitated inmate, can I de-escalate the situation and find alternative solutions to the use of force?
  • If I am in trouble, can I find a reasonable solution and handle this matter accordingly as I have done before and deal effectively with whatever comes my way?
If you feel you answered these question with both confidence and certainty, you might find yourself ready to go back to work without any significant changes in your work assignments and the manner you carry out your duties. Your results indicate that you feel very confident in your ability to manage the challenges and demands of your work environment and demonstrate your commitment and conviction to be a good correctional officer is not impaired and gives you the peace of mind that you are resilient and poised in your role as an officer.

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."

Other articles by ToersBijns:


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