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Of Creeps and Jerks
By Joe Bouchard
Published: 01/09/2017

Yelling 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.

Do we treat different types of offenders in different ways? Are all prisoners created the same? In the face of differences, how do we remain professional and consistent at the same time? Perhaps it is best to consider what sorts of behaviors are exhibited by offenders.

Little words can mean a lot. Pejorative words, even if they are mild, tend to have hidden connotations. The following question illustrates this: Would you rather be called a creep or a jerk? Let us assess this through the eyes of college students in criminal justice classes.

Here is a quick survey that will certainly stimulate discussion. This is a sure fire icebreaker that needs no materials and is likely to inspire students to tell stories from their own experiences.
  1. What do you think of when you hear creep?
  2. What do you think of when you hear jerk?
  3. What behaviors are common to a creep?
  4. What behaviors are common to a jerk?
  5. How do you deal with a creepy prisoner?
  6. How do you deal with a prisoner who is a jerk?
The following is a compilation of student’s opinions from two criminal justice classes. Of twenty-six college students surveyed, twenty-five said that the label jerk was preferable over creep. The one dissenting student says that he does not care what others think of him and accepts that he is creepy. So, almost everyone surveyed preferred not to be considered a creep.

What about application of the words to both males and females? Everyone seemed to agree in this informal survey that jerk (or its seven letter near-synonym that begins with the letter A) can apply to all humanity. The word creep, however, was not easily applied to both genders. Most said that females cannot be creeps. One student offered that women would rather be called a jerk than crazy. Whether one agrees or not, this is an interesting concept and it generated some heated discussion.

Let us look at the rest of the survey and the students’ answers:
  1. What do you think of when you hear creep?
    Weirdo, someone I would not around my kids, pervert, moral degenerate, stalker, sicko.
  2. What do you think of when you hear jerk?
    Someone who angered someone on purpose, audacious, not afraid of anything, maybe having a bad day.
  3. What behaviors are common to a creep?
    Stalking, voyeur, sneaky, obsessed, bad intent, dirty looking, greasy, could have mental health problems, opportunistic, watching and following people closely.
  4. What behaviors are common to a jerk?
    Rudeness, meanness, use of profanity, messing with people’s minds, crabby, cruel for no reason, push people around, says hurtful things on purpose.
  5. How do you deal with a creepy prisoner?
    Talk to them, call them out on their behavior, ignore, know yourself, use firm, fair and consistent behavior, and reassign their cell as necessary.
  6. How do you deal with a prisoner who is a jerk?
    Be professionally pleasant to them, kill them with kindness, you don’t deal with them, consider the prisoner as a manipulator, so just say no thanks and walk away, calmly and strongly, firm fair and consistent, be a jerk back.
Please note that the above answers came from students who did not have agency training on dealing with difficult people. Still, the answers are interesting.

In the end, when dealing with prisoners, the advice firm, fair and consistent is ideal. Of course, even though it is professional to treat all offenders the same, prisoners that display creepy behavior tend to evoke stricter discipline. During the course of your professional duties, it is best to assess what sort of prisoner you are dealing with and the best way to gain compliance. All of this points to the goal of protecting staff, offenders, and the public.

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.

Visit the Joe Bouchard page

Other articles by Bouchard:


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