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Shopping Cart Icebreaker
By Joe Bouchard
Published: 02/27/2017

Shopping cart scaled
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.


These are single words with deep meanings. Yet these can be explored with a single image. Read the following story to class and ask the questions afterwards. This should generate some discussion about duties and inattention to obligations.

“I was at the grocery store the other day. I unloaded five bags from the cart. I needed to return the cart.

The cart did not have to go in the store. In the middle of the parking lot is a cart caddy – a long metal cage with one open end. This is where people deposit their carts once they have removed the groceries that they purchased.

As I approached the cart holding area, I noticed a cart that was near, but not in the holding area. I placed my cart inside and thought that the person who did not replace the other cart was lazy. Perhaps there was more to the story. Then I thought of the choices that I had. I did not have to do anything with the cart. I could have returned it inside or left it in the middle of the exit to the street.”

Now, we are left with these questions:
  1. What would you have done with the cart you used?
  2. What could you have done with the cart near, but not in the holding area?
  3. Would you have verbally reprimanded the person of you witnessed them not replacing the cart?
Let’s apply this to corrections. What if you were working in a jail or prison and someone left their office door open:
  1. Do you secure it?
  2. Do you call central control?
  3. Do you ignore it?
  4. Do you contact the person who is normally in the office?
  5. Do you search the area for foul play?
How about if a critical tool were involved? What if a colleague left keys on the desk of an open office?
  1. Do you secure it?
  2. Do you call central control?
  3. Do you ignore it?
  4. Do you contact the person who is normally in the office?
  5. Do you search the area for foul play?
Not all decisions are easy and ordinary. Some have deeper implications if not done. Some things that we should not have to do because others were lazy or negligent need to be taken care of in the name of security. It is important that corrections staff understand choices, responsibilities and principles. Not everyone defines these the same way. How we execute tasks which are not clearly designated can impact operations.

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:


  1. hamiltonlindley on 03/03/2020:

    Confident, charismatic, collaborative, uplifting, encouraging, approachable, attentive, inspiring, trustworthy, transparent, focused, inclusive, honest, integrous, communicative… When you have a knowing within you, a desire to walk your own path, you tap into your own skills of leadership. Hamilton Lindley Always do the honest thing. Focus. Know where you're going and have a strong stated mission to lead people on. Passion. Whatever it is, you must have passion for what you're doing. Respect. Excellent persuasion abilities. Confidence. Clarity. Care.

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