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Jail Is Easy
By Corporal William Young
Published: 04/08/2019

Correctionsofficer One of the symptoms of Corrections Fatigue, one of the ways that it presents itself, is the amount of time that we choose to spend inside.

Now, before you start rolling your eyes and get all crazy, let me explain. I’m well aware that the majority of us are working an insane amount of mandatory overtime. But that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the amount of times that we chose to go in early when we didn’t have to. I’m talking about the times that we were “ordered to stay,” but we weren’t really “ordered to stay.” Am I making sense? Are you picking up what I’m laying down?

I’m not trying to bust anybody out, but I think that some of us (and I’m guilty of this as well at times) hide inside of our respective facilities. I touched on this briefly when I had the opportunity to speak with Russ Hamilton, a retired Sergeant from California Department of Corrections and Anthony Gangi, host of the popular YouTube channel, “Tier Talk” in an interview I did a few weeks ago. During our conversation I suggested that we hide at work because the stressors on the inside are a lot easier to handle than the stressors on the outside.

I know that sounds irrational. Who in their right mind would chose to be inside?

I think that sometimes we do. I think we’re addicted to the adrenaline. Our body craves it, and we can only get that fix inside, so we have to be there.

And I think that we do this because, at times, the outside world is so messy.

We get used to being inside and how things work inside and how the inmates react to us inside, right? The inmates listen and they’re predictable.

Now, I know you’re going to argue with me and tell me that inmates are wild and unruly and unpredictable, but hear me out. If you’ve spent any time inside of a correctional facility, you’re probably pretty good at reading people. I’m not saying that we’re always right, but I’m saying that if we look at a guy, most of us would say “Hey, I know that guy”. We know if that guy is going to give us trouble or not. We know if that guy is going to stand in the middle of the dayroom and hoot and holler until we suit up. We know if that guy is not going to do anything and we know by the look in that guy’s face that we’re going to have to go hands on.

So, let’s throw all of that “inmates are unpredictable” mumbo jumbo out of the window and just say that they are predictable. Even if a guy says that he’s refusing to go to court or he’s refusing to leave his cell or recreation yard or whatever, we know how it is going to end. Ultimately, we know that we’re going to win. That is not necessarily the case when we pick up the phone to call the electric company to dispute a fee or a shutoff notice for a bill that we forgot to pay, because we have no power over the person on the other end of the phone and there are no real consequences for them should they speak to us disrespectfully. That is not necessarily the case when we go out to dinner and somebody cuts in front of us in line or we feel like somebody's being a little too loud or a little too rude or a little too abrasive in public.

We want to say “Hey, Mr. Office Tough Guy, Mr. Cut In Front Of Me In Line Guy, Mr. Not Hold The Door For Me When You Went Through Guy, Mr. Not Thank Me For Holding The Door For You Guy, yeah YOU, you wouldn’t last a minute in the environment that I’ve lasted 15 years in. You would be a duck. You would be that guy that went on a lunch break and never came back. That’s who you would be.”

We overreact in those scenarios for at least a couple of different reasons. Number one, we overreact because we feel like we shouldn’t have to put up with that type of crap when we’re not at work. We get paid to deal with those behaviors, and we certainly don’t want to deal with it on our off time. Secondly, we overreact because we can’t control their behavior or their attitude and if you’ve spent enough time inside, if you’re an old salty institutionalized veteran like me that messes with you. Consequently, you’ll probably overreact to a situation that didn’t need to be a situation.

See, I channel all of my anger and my frustration on to these people because I feel like they should be happier and less stressed out than they are. They have no idea what it’s like to be locked up, they have no idea what it's like to live or work in the environment that I work in. They didn’t have a mom that was feeding them meth at 10 years old or a drunken dad that was kicking the crap out of their mom on a nightly basis. Those are the thoughts that run through my mind.

The outside world is so messy. But, on the inside, I’m a superstar. I’m established. I am a 15-year veteran that other Officers know and trust and like to talk to. I’m comfortable (not complacent) in my environment and with the crew that I work with, and I don’t have any of that on the outside. I’ve tried to find it, but it’s not there. Thirdly, I’ve had to make some pretty tough, pretty quick decisions at work, potential life or death decisions. I am constantly thinking of and employing ways to keep myself safe and my partner safe and the nurse safe and the people around me safe. I have to, because the way that I carry myself, the decisions that I make, the way I communicate, all have a direct effect on people’s safety.

That’s important stuff.

On the outside, at home, the opposite seems true. I say this because after making a split-second decision that prevented a confrontation where an Officer could’ve gotten seriously injured, the washing machine making a weird noise during the spin cycle seems insignificant.

The sprinkler system not turning on when it’s supposed to turn on is not a situation. Putting out a fire in a housing unit, and evacuating a hundred and thirty people on my own IS a situation. Investigating a potential sexual assault in a housing unit, THAT’S a situation. An unresponsive inmate in a cell IS a situation. My son not putting his socks away in the right drawer is not a situation.

So what’s the problem?

The problem is we’re not properly disengaging from our professional life and reengaging in our personal life.

Why is that?

Could it be that the stressors on the inside are a lot easier to handle than the stressors on the outside? Could it be that what we have endured for decades on the job has finally caught up with us? Could it be that our switch has finally worn out?

We get so comfortable in our prescribed role, in our uniforms, that we don’t understand why people on the outside are not jumping when we say jump. I joke, but truly, my communication skills have never been tested in any situation on the inside like they have been on a Saturday morning when I’m trying to get my kids to do their chores.

Look, I know that you’re tired and that your switch is worn out, but you have to make yourself care and you have to actively participate in “real life,” because, if you don’t, the people around you will begin to feel like they are unimportant to you. They can see through your ruse because they know you better than anybody. They’ve seen you at your highest and at your lowest and at your happiest and at your angriest.

Finding a happy balance is paramount to success at home and longevity at work. And even though we don’t always have the time to appropriately process or decompress from the job, we have to engage and participate in the things that we’re hiding from at home.

If this doesn’t make any sense to you, then great! But if anything that I have written resonates with you, then, please, please, look into it and acknowledge it. Plant it in the ground and give it some sun and some water and see what happens.

Lastly, tomorrow or during your next shift, talk to a coworker about this article and ask them if they’ve ever hidden at work. Their response may surprise you.

This article as been reprinted with permission from the April 2019 Issue of Correctional Oasis, a monthly e-publication of "Desert Waters Correctional Outreach". Corporal William Young has worked as a Correctional Officer in the state of Nebraska since March of 2005. He has worked throughout his facility in various areas ranging from Sanitation to Segregation and is currently assigned to Community Corrections. Corporal Young is a member of the Crisis Intervention Team and the Crisis Negotiation Team. He is a certified Emergency Preparedness (LETRA) instructor and also teaches Motivational Interviewing and the award winning course “From Corrections Fatigue to Fulfillment” (CF2F).

If you have any questions, comments, or feedback that you would like to share, please contact William at Justcorrections@gmail.com orwww.facebook.com/wllmyoung/.

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 author and not necessarily those of the agency.

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