|Off the Clock: What Practitioners Do In Their Leisure Time|
|By Terry Campbell, Professor, Kaplan University, School of Public Safety|
Our topic this month focuses on staff and their leisure time. I will begin with the following; while traveling to work and being searched prior to entry into the main building reflects that this is not your normal 9-5 job. Behind those walls and fences is another society in itself. Offenders are housed there, and some will eventually be released. Yet, others will not be going home. There are certainly many emotions staff experiences as they enter their places of employment, perform their job duties during their shifts, deal with a number of problems and violence most people will never experience, and at the end of the shift return home.
There are several areas that come to mind with this day in/out scenario; we have to control our emotions during the shift and also when we return home. Some of you are in a relationship, some are married, and some have children, and you assume many roles as parent and family member. Trying to put your day at work behind you and resuming a normal home life can be daunting. At the same time we can include shift work, overtime, and the ‘stress’ that develops. This brings us to the main theme, what do I do with my leisure time.
I want to share some examples I have observed while working the job. Some of my fellow officers would depart work and go to a bar. Others will go home and try to put the day behind them while they juggle home activities and try to resume a normal life and communicate effectively with family. Yet, some will also go home, go to the refrigerator or their own bar and begin to down a few. We know where this will lead. Then others will find themselves involved with family activities, work out and relieve some stress, share some of their day with their significant other while others will be withdrawn. At the same time, there is another group of officers who have no one at home waiting for them. Their lives can easily spin out of control and be affected by not eating right, excessive use of alcohol or other drugs, lack of exercise, become bitter and withdrawn, refusal to admit they have a problem, or even seek assistance. The psychological and emotional problems begin to surface.
I strongly suggest you do an internet search for the following research article and take time to read and share. Brower, Jaime. (2013) Review and Input of Correctional Wellness & Safety Literature Review. OJP Diagnostic Center; Office of Justice Programs. An excellent article that will open the eyes of many and in my opinion, long overdue. There are many positive attributes to take away from this article and information.
Life itself and the enjoyment of life is way too short. We should be able to leave the job behind and go home. What we choose to do with our time outside of work is essential, and must be positive. I am sure many of our home problems did not start that way but directly affected by the job and even home life. If we do not begin to deal with our problems and concerns, they will take control of us. What we once worked so hard to achieve has now taken control of our lives. We now find ourselves facing many of the same stressors our offender population faces daily. You and I have a responsibility not only to ourselves, but our families and loved ones, and staff we work with to be a 100% daily. Time for a change is here.
There are many signs of stress and we recognize many of them. Yet, we are often reluctant to intervene. We work with each other on a daily basis and recognize who is having a good day or a bad day. Take the responsibility to intervene or refer this person to someone for assistance. If they get mad at you, so what! You and I want to go home at the end of our shift. We are a family in many ways and must watch out for each other. At the same time, we are dependent on each other. This includes our home and family life. If we fail to take notice, then we are part of the problem. I know your agencies have provided countless training and have some type of employee assistance programs available for your use. But once again, reluctance sets in and there are many reasons for this.
All of us want to work until we reach retirement and then enjoy life outside of the workplace. Something I experienced and found difficult upon retirement, was leaving the job and recognizing my days were about to change. I missed the daily activities and routine of the job. I put in my time and this place was still going to operate regardless if I was present or not. Some challenges after retirement are finding things to do or continuing with positive activities in place. Now is the time to prepare and put yourself in the right frame of mind.
If you need something to do, look at volunteering to assist officers with retirement. Even if not retiring, we can still be involved to assist our fellow officers. I have found over the years unfortunately, many do not have much of a life after work. This is sad and is preventable. Contact your agency and see what they have in place or if they have a hotline or request line for officers to talk and interact with fellow officers. This is very cost effective and can be extremely beneficial. Just my thoughts. Meanwhile, stay safe out there.
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 email@example.com.
Other articles by Campbell
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