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Ethics and Heroes
By Terry Campbell, Professor, Purdue University Global
Published: 03/05/2018

Ethics a Ethics and Heroes are our next corrections.com topic. The American Corrections Association has a code of ethics, along with our respective agencies’ ethic statements. Merriam-Webster provides the follow generic definition: ‘rules of behavior based on ideas about what is morally good and bad. ethics: an area of study that deals with ideas about what is good and bad behavior :a branch of philosophy dealing with what is morally right or wrong. :a belief that something is very important.’ (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ethic) Our respective agencies designed their ethic statements from something similar.

Part of our required corrections training contained a block of instruction for ‘ethics.’ All working in corrections completed this training and more than likely signed their name on the agency ethics document.

In corrections, we supervise a variety of offenders whom may be awaiting trial, sentencing, transfer, release, or other reasons. These offenders we deal with daily have some ethical flaws. Many offenders recognize this, while others are in denial. At the same time, officers and non-uniform staff are empowered to ensure offender safety and programming needs are met. Yet, we are experiencing an increase in our own officers and non-uniform staff stepping over the line. Some of the very negative behaviors exhibited by offenders are being supervised by some officers and non-uniform staff committing the same and/or similar ethical violations. There are many reasons for this and creates a major breech of security concerns. Perhaps, some of our inquiries and investigations should be focused on the following; how did this occur? Were there any warning signs missed? Are others involved? Is this a training issue? On what levels does this occur? Have supervisors been trained to recognize this, or is there common knowledge that this is a practice left unchecked? What are the additional security and safety concerns?

We have enough daily tasks and stress without having to worry about some of our officers and non-uniform staff assisting offenders with illegal activities. Yet, as mentioned earlier, this is becoming an all too often occurrence. Some of my additional concerns consist of the following; When a staff person is caught, is this common knowledge or becomes one of those areas we do not discuss openly? Does the grapevine kick in with the rumor mill running rampant? Do all staff feel they will be treated the same by management? All of sudden, there is mandatory training to address a specific area. You can see where I am leading with these comments, a lot of unanswered questions and a topic not widely discussed with staff.

Then we have to look at the various levels of management and attempt to find solutions, or are some of management also part of the problem. We must recognize we have a problem and deal with it immediately and avoid letting friendships intervene. If left unchecked, this can lead to more serious safety and security concerns. I learned a long time ago, when I look in the mirror and like what I see, then I’m hopefully doing the right thing. If I have doubts and have to think about something too long, my decision may not be the ‘Right Thing to Do.’

The second part of the topic focuses on heroes. There are many heroes in corrections who are often overlooked. My heroes are those individuals who do their jobs on a daily basis without the accolades. These are the uniform and non-uniform personnel who rise to any occasion and assist as needed. They are familiar with multiple positions and work well without supervision. In addition, these individuals are going to keep their supervisors informed. I am sure at one time or another, many of us had some go-to people. They are necessary for the flow of day to day operations.

Many of us have worked a variety of positions during our careers. Think back, and if you could select one person and clone them, who would this be. We have our own ideas of course, yet all are able to recognize those unsung heroes. Even though many of these individuals go unrecognized, there is nothing to prevent us from being proactive and letting someone know when they perform above and beyond.

I look back at many of the recognition awards for uniform and non-uniform personnel. Some of these individuals were nominated several times for various awards and never made it to number 1. We must also remember many who went above and beyond who never received a nomination. The nominations, recognition, and other awards are a very good tool, do not get me wrong. My concerns lie with those individuals who are never recognized. Many agencies have a very good process in place for recognizing employees while others seem to struggle. Let’s face it, the backbone of any organization, is its personnel. However, another group each of us can take time to recognize are those individuals in the lower ranks. These are the lower rank officers, food service personnel, maintenance workers, typists, clerical and secretarial personnel, volunteers, laundry personnel, and many other positions who are often not recognized. All personnel perform an essential role and are instrumental in the overall effectiveness. Take time out of your day and tell co-workers you appreciate the work they do. Together all of us can make a difference.

Stay safe,

Terry Campbell is a criminal justice professor at Kaplan University, School of Public Safety and has more than 20 years of experience in corrections and policing. He has served in various roles, including prison warden and parole administrator, for the Arkansas Department of Corrections. Terry may be reached at tcampbell@kaplan.edu.

Other articles by Campbell


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