The following is an installment in "Operation Icebreaker: Shooting for Excellence", a series featuring "Ice Breaker's" designed to promote training awareness and capabilities in the corrections industry.
“I should have known the answer. It was so obvious!”
If you have been in education for a significant amount of time, it is likely that you have heard such a sentiment from a student or two. It comes with the territory.
I believe that it makes good sense to employ the obvious as an education tool. This is where Captain Obvious come in.
Captain Obvious, or any Instructor or Facilitator, can run this icebreaker with a minimal of materials and just a little imagination. First, make a five question test on any topic being covered in class or the training module. You may use those below or make up your own. There are a few requirements for the questions:
So, let’s salute Captain Obvious with the following tests.
- All questions are to be written in a true or false format
- All answers to the questions will ultimately be false
- The answers to all of the questions will be unbearably obvious
- All questions will have a back story of discussion to drive home the point
Captain Obvious’ Test on Contraband Control
Captain Obvious’ Test on Staff Manipulation
- It is best to feel under a shelf from left to right, just like reading a book.
FALSE! Right to left or left to right does not matter. One should never feel for contraband. That is an invitation for getting cut or injured. Corrections is an environment where everything is potentially infectious. It pays to look rather than to feel blindly.
- When you discover narcotics on a model prisoner, it is OK to give a warning.
FALSE! Wrong is wrong and dangerous is dangerous. Verbal slaps on the wrist are ineffective and do not dissuade this sort of behavior.
- If you find a shank in prison but no one claims it, it was never a danger.
FALSE! Just because no one claimed it does not mean that malicious intentions were not present. A dangerous weapon is a dangerous weapon, regardless of who may have possessed it.
- If your car keys are missing in the facility, there is no need to report their absence. Prisoners do not have access to the car.
FALSE! It does not matter if there is no access to the car. The keys are still dangerous. They could be sold as metal stock to another prisoner. Besides, the Inspector, pursuant to policy directives, shall be notified.
- When you make coffee, it is not worth the fuss to bury the filter and coffee in the trash. No one would ever try to use garbage coffee.
FALSE! There are many incarcerated dumpster divers who would love to acquire that prize. In fact, anything that is discarded has a use in the world where the residents are deprived of many basic things. Pride is out the window in a setting where many will smoke a contraband cigarette that was stored under the sole of a shoe.
Captain Obvious’ Test on Operations
- When arguing with a prisoner, let him go first to state his case.
FALSE! You do not argue with prisoners, as it puts your authority on a lower level. You can communicate, but never argue. Arguing is a practice that breeds peril.
- It is OK to give gum to a prisoner because it is small and harmless.
FALSE! It is not harmless. It can obstruct a lock. Also, prisoners are not allowed to possess gum. Just because a staff person issues it does not mean that a prisoner may have it. In addition, this is the gateway for a set-up.
- If two prisoners are engaged in sexual activities in the bathroom. One of the prisoners says that they are a couple and it is consensual. You cannot break it up.
FALSE! There is no such thing as a consensual relationship in prison. Staff members should never be talked out of writing a misconduct report. This is a rule violation and may have involved coercion. Don’t forget your PREA training.
- If you are manipulated into bringing in a weapon to a prisoner and the manipulator says, “Just this one time”, you are off the hook. The prisoner, after all, said just once.
FALSE! This should be reported to the Inspector for the sake of institutional safety. Plus, what you did was illegal and something that a prisoner could use for further manipulation. There is never “just once” in the manipulation game.
- It is OK to hug a prisoner who passed his GED.
FALSE! Physical contact of this type is forbidden. There are other legitimate manners to reinforce good behavior. “You did a great job when you passed your GED”, is a better way to show support than the inappropriate embrace.
Do not overlook the obvious when making a point. Captain Obvious is a valuable ally in the battle to advance information.
- If you cannot find a staff person to relieve you in order to search for a good Wi-Fi connection for booking a flight, you call the sergeant or central control for assistance.
FALSE! Unless permitted by policy, you cannot use a cell phone in a correctional setting because cell phones are forbidden.
- A tray full of sausages falls on floor in kitchen but just one prisoner sees it. It is OK to pick up the food and serve it, if the prisoner promises to keep quiet.
FALSE! It is unsanitary. Also, it is wrong to get anyone to lie for you. Breakfast will just have to be delayed.
- It is best to keep your knife in your left front pocket during work hours.
FALSE! Since when should corrections staff be able to bring in weapons?
- It is OK to call in sick on a nice day on Friday even if you are not sick. Someone else will if you do not. You deserve a break.
FALSE! It is not ethical to call in sick when you are not ill.
- You may toss the keys to your colleague when you have to leave for the day and are in a hurry.
FALSE! Never toss keys. You lose control, even if for a second.
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” and "Operation Icebreakers: Shooting for Excellence". 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.
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Other articles by Bouchard: