Working in the corrections profession is unique; it is like no other. This is especially true when compared to other career types and there are a host of reasons why. Career corrections employees know quite clearly that there must be a constant balancing act of managing a safe and secure facility when helping inmates to return to the community. It is not an easy feat given the type of population that you are spending daily shift work with. Just like with people in the community, inmates are different. They have different values, behavior and responses to the environment that they are living in. For employees, managing inmate behavior can be the most challenging part of the job.
New employees are subject to the attention of the inmate population. Inmates have lots of time on their hands to observe the behavior patterns of the employees. It is an interesting dynamic that as employees are watching inmate behavior, inmates are overzealously watching the employees. As previously stated, it is a delicate balancing act that requires the employees to manage the inmates with a firm but fair approach ensuring not to escalate a situation but rather deescalate whenever possible.
Training and learning from veteran employees is an important tool; however learning to manage one’s self by adopting appropriate behavior from the very beginning of new employment.
The information listed below is must to be used as a guide for new employees.
- Be a professional – conduct yourself with the highest standards.
- Display good manners at work – being polite works with others. Treat others as you would like to be treated!
- Dress professionally – working in corrections may require a uniform for most employees; however, for civilian employees, conservative attire is most important.
- Avoid taking shortcuts in your duties – learn your job the ‘right way’ by following all policies and operational procedures.
- Enforce the rules consistently – be fair and firm in applying the rules and regulations to subordinate staff and inmates.
- Take your time when conducting any type of search – be thorough!
- Familiarize yourself with your departments policies – by having a familiarity with written policies, you will become an even better employee.
- Consider the source – gossip and rumors are quite common in correctional facilities. If you are given information, confirm it before you share with others.
- Respect and utilize the expertise of your fellow team members
- Report any changes in inmate behavior or concerning information – care and custody are the primary responsibility of all correctional staff (working in the operational divisions). It is your job to manage inmate behavior so if you notice any changes, report it to your supervisor immediately.
- Take an inmate’s word – there is a fine line of knowing fact from fiction.
- Take things personally – it is easy to take negativity personally, DON’T do that to yourself.
- Share personal information with inmates – your personal life is just that….your personal life. There is no need to share anything about your personal life with an inmate.
- Be a critic – work hard to be supportive and positive whenever possible.
- Show favoritism – inmates and staff will be watching to see if you engage in playing favorites. For example, giving an inmate an extra food tray or additional shower.
- Allow an inmate to walk behind you – this is considered Corrections 101.
- Allow an inmate to close or lock his own cell door – good security is vitally important to everyone’s safety.
- Enter a room without an exit plan – always be area of your surroundings and have an exit plan in your mind and ready to go.
- Allow inmates to manipulate cell/room assignments – the assignments were given for a purpose, do not alter it in any way.
Niemisto, Ken September 11, 2018. 20 Do’s and Don’ts for new CO’s.