|The Twenty Minute Trainer: Watching Out for the Seniors|
|By Gary F. Cornelius, First Lt. (Retired)|
I was a programs director in two facilities in my department for many years. I was responsible for the supervision and training of volunteers who came into the jail. Some assisted with chaplain’s programs, some with tutoring inmates in educational programs and some ran substance abuse groups. I and the department appreciated them all; many were retired and did not have to spend their Golden Years coming into a jail. They performed a service-trying to help inmates see a better way to live, and making the facility climate for inmates a little more bearable.
We all have seniors in our families. Our parents get older, as do we, and we all see our aunts, uncles and grandparents at holidays and family reunions. We want the best for them-we do not like seeing them become forgetful and possibly being taken advantage of by ‘scam artists’ in the community. I am not saying that all seniors are forgetful or have dementia, but if a senior citizen is going to be a volunteer inside a corrections facility, there are some important things that he or she must remember. That’s the theme of this column.
The same watchfulness should be extended to the senior volunteers in our correctional facilities. They are not your relatives, but they perform valuable services for the institution. And-they have the support of sheriffs, wardens and superintendents. When these citizens have positive experiences inside the facility, they tell others and the department’s professional image is both recognized and enhanced.
How do we watch out for the seniors coming in as volunteers? The first thing to do is to recognize the value of their activities-giving inmates hope and showing them a positive role model. Second-we maintain open and clear two way communications with them. If a volunteer is concerned about an inmate, such as suspecting depression, he or she should feel comfortable enough to speak to a correctional officer (CO) about it. The CO should appreciate this information and realize that volunteers can be extra ‘eyes and ears’. Volunteers should not be treated with scorn and condescension.
Third-and in my view the most important-concerns COs watching out for senior volunteers. In training, all volunteers should have a sense of how the facility runs, and what to do in emergencies. Also, volunteers should get a clear, blunt condensed presentation in inmate manipulation. We look out for seniors in our families and in our neighborhoods, correct? Why not inside our corrections facilities?
I recently read an article by police officer Tony L. Jones, in the April, 2001 issue of Law and Order magazine titled “Protecting the Elderly: Inform Your Senior Citizens about Con Artists” . Written for police officers, it presents an excellent perspective about watching out for seniors in the community who may be vulnerable prey for con artists and scammers. As I read the article, I realized that I could relate several of Officer Jones’ points to the training of senior corrections volunteers.
Jones, Tony L. (April, 2001). Protecting the Elderly: Inform Your Senior Citizens about Con Artists. Law and Order, 102-106.
This article appears in the Spring, 2017 issue of The Correctional Trainer, the on line journal of the International Association of Correctional Training Personnel (IACTP). It appears with the permission of IACTP. To discover how IACTP can enhance and develop your training, please visit www.iactp.org.
Lt. Gary F. Cornelius served the field of corrections in the Fairfax County Sheriff's Office from 1978 until his retirement in 2005. He has more than 30 years of experience in law enforcement and corrections. Gary is active as a trainer and consultant for the National Institute of Justice, the American Jail Association, the American Correctional Association, and the International Association of Correctional Training Personnel (IACTP).
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