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Compliance without the use of force, tickets or bribes
By Carl ToersBijns, former deputy warden, ASPC Eyman, Florence AZ
Published: 08/29/2016

Correctionsofficer For many, you may be laboring under the impression or illusion that making inmates comply with your directions requires one of the three tools given to you by mere position, authority and power. The trouble with using these three (3) tools is the fact that nothing within the range of using them, will allow you the satisfaction to mold them into model or complaint individuals while under your supervision.

The likely impression you do leave behind, once you go off shift, is that you are a control freak and that you possess an obsession to control everything around you. The use of carrots or stick to yield a compliant behavior is nothing more than an act seen to impose your will on others. It is perceived to be a power struggle between you and others that puts a heavy burden on others who follow your footsteps or share your environment.

Corrections is a team oriented organization. There are collaborative problem solving methods used to acquire compliance of rules and regulations and that means that if your methods are not within the same parameters of the other team members, your behavior might trigger a resistance you may have never experienced before. Consistency does matter. Fairness and firmness do matter and should be injected into every conversation where compliance is an issue.

Your goal, as a team member is to acquire influence and respect through compliance of the rules and regulations; not just merely control. Your influence as an officer or prison employee, is to allow better decisions to be made by all involved and allow others to learn from those decisions. How else are they going to learn the difference between right and wrong? Even bystanders can learn from your interactions if you make a positive impression.

Being an officer is not about being all-powerful or forceful or even physically strong. It doesn’t have to be that way, if you learn and consider other options or tools to gain compliance. When you use force, write tickets or use bribes to gain compliance of your directives, you are not doing anyone a favor. These tools, with the exception of bribes, are last resort tools and must be handled that way. The fact is, the more control you seek, the less you have. Bribes are never acceptable in our profession – never.

Setting clear expectations of the inmate is a solid step towards compliance. When you focus on the “don’ts” of your role as the enforcer, add another line for the “why’s” so there is a learning process established. Verbalize and layout what you consider to be high-priority expectations, and then communicate how failing that affects them or others around them.

Teaching consequences is very important in this business. Once they understand the logic of your reasoning, there is a better understanding of such expectations. Don’t try to solve problems as they are happening. Try the preventive method by being pro-active in your observations and actions. Trying to solve a problem during the ‘heat of the moment’ is not always the best way to resolve matter although in some cases, a no choice matter.

Don’t let your anger grab your own emotions and trigger a forced decision. Step back a few and gather your thoughts and don’t back down but reiterate what you have been trying to say to allow the other person to change their mind or behavior. Don’t let attitude get in the way of resolving these matters. Avoiding conflicts is the best way to handle most situations.

Take the time to resolve matters. Allow your own schedule to put aside a time to talk and discuss behaviors so that there are less misunderstandings in the relationship between inmate and staff. There is nothing ‘weak’ about wanting to fix problems before they become bigger problems. It is encouraged and well worth the effort and time to do it.

Remember that there is more at stake here than just compliance. Your reputation, your command presence and your respect is constantly on the line when others watch how you perform your job. One of the best questions to ask when there is resistance to follow your orders is the manner of asking for information as to what the root of the problem really is.

Probing and asking questions to find out what the real reasons for non-compliance is equally important and part of your job to verbalize and communicate confusions and if they are just being stubborn, tell them about the other options available in the world of corrections.

When asking these questions to find the root causes, ask for suggestions within your role and the institutional policies. Getting feedback to hopefully find a peaceful or realistic solution works for both or all parties involved. If the first suggestion is unacceptable, explain why and move onto the next suggestion.

You don’t punish them for these suggestions, you are not under any kind of pressure to come up with any ingenious solutions and neither are they. It’s a mutual process to work it out. Sometimes, you may involve a third neutral party as a mediator. Whatever works best is the route to take to avoid using your ultimate tools of force, tickets and never accept compliance on a bribe offered by you or the inmate.

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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