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Enjoy the Apocalypse!
By Joe Bouchard
Published: 03/13/2017

Desert highway 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.

There is no doubt that what we want and what we need are two different things. Circumstances will dictate our comfort. For example, you may want a large and new SUV but financial considerations may be such that you actually own an older truck. You may want something but make do with something else.

Think of extreme circumstances. If the world fell into chaos, we would likely have less than we do now. In worst case scenarios, the survivors are those who will have to do without.

Grim stuff, certainly. But isn’t this an interesting way to talk about survival, prison operations and behavior? And Enjoy the Apocalypse is a way to do this.
  1. Ask the class if they ever considered the many ways the world could end
  2. Solicit examples
  3. Write these on a white board or projected list.
  4. List what skills would be needed to cope, survive
  5. Compare to how prisoners have to cope and survive in a world where they are deprived (by law and/or circumstances) of certain things.
  6. Ask the class what necessities the prisoner body must have in order to maintain an acceptable existence
  7. Distribute “Enjoy the apocalypse” article
Potent plagues, widening war, rampaging nature, marauding meteors, alien attacks - And you thought that corrections had enough to contend with.

Despite our many challenges, we must acknowledge that we do not operate in a vacuum. Events from the outside will impact our operations, even if they never come to pass. Forecasts of the end of the world seem to prove this point.

Many of us are preoccupied with the apocalypse. Yet, the end of the world never seems to come. The year 1,000 featured wide-spread fear of the end. There are other notable examples of ‘the wrong date.’ In the 19th century religious leaders in America forecasted doom; May 1986, and November 1999, according to some Nostradamus scholars, and Y2K, to name a few end dates. And remember that Mayan calendars suggested that 2012 marked the end.

Is the future of the apocalypse empty? February 13, 2029, and April 13, 2036, mark two separate dates that the asteroid Apophis (a 25-million ton space rock) will rendezvous with earth.

The grim speculation can be entertaining, in a macabre way. But, what does it have to do with corrections? When we look at the psychology of the end of things, we can apply many lessons to our vocation.

Very few of us (staff and offenders, alike) are totally immune from considering the end of the world. It is very common to think in those terms. And just because you don’t believe that it will come to pass, it doesn’t mean that others believe any less. For some, their beliefs may be extremely strong.

Perceptions of the Apocalypse are varied. An influential staff person or prisoner may engage in certain behaviors to take advantage of the chaos found in the fear. Their actions, especially if they are regarded as leaders, could impact the actions of others. After all, if a large group of people believe the end is near, the time to ‘settle a score’ may be imminent.

If you order someone to stop what you view as a pre-apocalyptic ritual, you may place others in danger. The ritualist may take offense (and unwanted action) if the order is not issued in a tactful, respectful manner.

Alarmists stir the pot. Some people simply will panic well in advance of a potential catastrophe. Doomsayers predict the worst case scenario regardless of low likelihood of danger. Their very vocal concern could arouse terror among the inmate and staff populations.

Malevolent types may further provoke those who are alarmed. As a matter of principle, some will spread fear about a possible catastrophe even if they do not believe it will actually occur. Their specific tactics will vary. But the actions are based in a mean-spirited philosophy. The panic may be more widespread than that initiated by the alarmists.

New religions and groups may pop up. The possible end of civilization as we know it is not merely fodder for science fiction. Very real human emotions come into play.

We need only to reflect on events surrounding the Y2K scare and the circumstances surrounding the Hale-Bopp comet for examples of this. End-of-times groups could have a profound impact on corrections operations.

It is always wise to get an action plan in place. I concede that our daily professional obligations may not give us time to develop action plans for every doomsday scenario. Yet, even if future catastrophes are very unlikely to happen, it is still wise to have a general plan.

The beauty of crafting such a plan is that operational procedures can be derived from existing plans. One need not reinvent the wheel for each scenario. An occasional “What if…” session with key staff may provide ample ideas in case the unthinkable occurs.

It is not only a matter of preparation for the end of life as we know it. We absolutely have to be aware of how to act when some people proclaim the end of all things is nigh. In corrections, even in the face of calamity, vigilance and planning always win.

So, have a nice apocalypse.

This may not be a cheerful icebreaker. It may even be unrealistic. But it is compelling. This is a short icebreaker, but it can yield big results.

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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