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Ode to the Mind of a Correctional Officer
By Corporal William Young
Published: 08/27/2018

Depression d I hate that I’m at my best when I’m at work.

For eight or twelve or sixteen hours a day I am full of piss and vinegar.
I’m upbeat and witty and I laugh and I joke and I do my best to promote an atmosphere of team work and positivity.
I am a performer putting on an act for my co-workers and our clientele.
Hell, I may be the Celine Deon of the Correctional world.

I conversate and I deescalate. I investigate and I interrogate. I separate and I segregate.
I make small talk about sports and I field complaints.
I make split second decisions with long lasting ramifications.
I listen. I empathize.
I show concern for those that have shown no concern for others.

No, I did not see the news.
No, I do not know what you’re in for.
No, I do not know how much time you’re going to get for your 5th DUI. If I knew the answer to that question I’d drive a lot nicer car and I wouldn’t work the weekends.

Maybe I said something today that was worth repeating.
Maybe my opinion, my perspective, will resonate with someone.
Maybe that someone will repeat what I said to someone else who will in turn repeat it to someone else who will then share it with his children and maybe one of those children will end up curing cancer or fibromyalgia or something.
Maybe, hopefully, but probably not.

And now, after all that, I hand in my restraints and my radio and my keys and I head to the locker room. I head out into the real world exhausted and emotionally empty.

I drive home with the window down and the radio off.

Sometimes I eat when I get home, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I head right for the bed, and sometimes I don’t.
My alarm wakes me up and reminds me that it’s time to take my blood pressure medication. Sometimes I get right up and sometimes I don’t.
Sometimes I stay in the bed until someone comes and tells me that supper is ready.

I need to get up and work out and go outside and laugh with the neighbor when he tells me a joke.
He’s happy and he laughs and he’s normal and it pisses me off.
I’m pissed, but not because he is ignorant to the sights and the sounds and the swill.
I am pissed because I am jealous that he is living life.
I am pissed because I can’t un-see or un-do and I’m sick that I’m used to the things that I am used to.

I don’t do much during the week except work, eat, shower, and sleep.
There isn’t a lot of time to interact with family and friends.
I’d like to interact with them, well, some days I want to and some days I don’t.

Every little everything sets me off. I long for silence, but I hate waking up to a quiet house.

During my work week I travel the path of least resistance.

My wife told me in the most un-offensive lovingly way possible that I’m worthless during my work week. She said that it wasn’t my fault and that she understood but I wonder if she really does.

My daughter asks me why I spend more time with the criminals than I do with her.
I tell her that I have to go to work because that’s what Daddies do.
But she’s right, because even when I’m there sometimes I’m not really there.

Do I ever hide at work? Sometimes it feels like it.
Sometimes it feels like it would be easier to just hide inside under the disguise of “providing for the family,”
than it would be to attend parent/teacher conferences.

Get off of the top tier and please keep the noise down.
Stay out of other people’s cells and take out the trash.
Listen to your mother and do your homework
and sure you can go to the movies and …
Is that guy breathing?

I can’t quit, I don’t know how to do anything else.

I need to talk to someone.
I know I need to talk to someone.
I really need to talk to someone.
I don’t want to talk to anyone!

This article as been reprinted with permission from the August 2018 Issue of Correctional Oasis, a monthly e-publication of "Desert Waters Correctional Outreach".

Corporal William Young is a 13-year veteran of the Douglas County Department of Corrections in Omaha, Nebraska. Battling Corrections Fatigue himself, Officer Young is determined to assist his fellow brothers and sisters by helping them identify, manage, and reverse the damaging side effects and symptoms of working in such an environment.

Other articles by Corporal Young


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