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WHAT TO WATCH FOR WHEN WORKING IN CORRECTIONS
For anyone who has worked in corrections, currently works in corrections, or plans to work in corrections, there are many things that put your life at risk. Whenever you work in the prison environment, you take a chance every time you report to work. Although we can't control everything, there are many things we can do to better prepare us for any situations we may find ourselves in. It is a very dangerous profession, but you can drastically reduce your risk by paying attention to the tips below. Not all inmates are bad citizens. However, there is a small percentage that doesn't care or have regards to your life. Most of these inmates are locked up in segregation, but every now and then, they can fall through the cracks. Plus, any inmate can change while he or her is locked up. Preparing yourself is crucial.
THEY CONSTANTLY OBSERVE YOU
Inmates are always watching you. Even if it doesn't appear that they are, they are. This is part of inmate social activity. They don't have much to do in their spare time. They have plenty of time to think though. Your main quality working in corrections is consistency. They will watch you and by doing this, they will pick out your weakness. Anything they can use against you, they will. You are a new book to them. They begin to judge you by what they see on the outside. They will determine if you enforce the rules, if you show favoritism, if you are laid back, or if you are a hard worker. Anything they can learn about you from your physical actions, they will take in.
When you are in this environment, you have to pay attention to how you show your body labguage. You have to understand that they are great observers. Make sure you are consistent with your body language. By showing a relaxed body language, you invite the inmate to become friendly with you. Be firm and consistent. Pay attention to your body language and show them you are professional. When doing do, make sure it is permanent. It is important you show the same strong body language everyday so it will become a normal reaction while you are working inside the facility.
Remember, they are always watching. Be consistent with your body language. Do not show weakness to them in any way. They react to weakness because they get an advantage over you this way. Inmates are always a judge of character. By showing consistent positive body language, you show the inmates that you are professional.
Inmates pay close attention how you react with other inmates. Once again, you have to be consistent. In corrections, everything requires consistency. Treat each inmate the same. You have to be fair with them, but firm. Even when you think they are not watching you interaction with other inmates, they are. Inmates talk among each other and they will take advantage of any advantage they can get. Do not be their pawn. Use a good firm tone when speaking to inmates. You don't have to scream, but show firm vocalization. Remember, be firm, fair, and consistent.
As you have already learned, inmates are always watching. They can also try to use you as a pawn and in corrections this is known as "inmate games". Inmates games are when an inmate tries to take advantage of you by involving you in a planned scheme. There are many inmate games. It may not always involve you physically. They can play mental inmate games on you as well. For example, they may tell you that they need to go to medical because they don't feel good. Once your attention is on this one inmate, another inmate may try to sneak food or other items to another inmate, which is known as contraband, Contraband is items that are not allowed inside a correctional facility or items that are illegal to have. Although food is served, it can be classified as contraband if it is found on the inmate or in the inmates living quarters. An example would be whole onions from the kitchen. Another game they could play is the favorite game. They will try to act like your best friend, in return, they are hoping they can get extra benefits from doing do. Do not show them any type of favoritism. Be consistent. Pay attention to what they are asking or what they are saying to you. You have to watch them just as much as they watch you. Always look out for inmate games.
WATCH YOUR SURROUNDINGS
It is very important to watch your surroundings. Know what is going on around you at all times. Inmates will always try to keep things from you. You should keep in mind that there are usually "bosses" in pods or housing. A boss is an inmate that runs the housing unit or is the main speaker for the race group or entire housing section. They often will tell other inmates what to do. They are usually the brains of all operations for their race or housing sections/pod. Once you get to know an area and their behavior at a certain housing section, you should be able to tell when something wrong is going on. At anytime you sense something is wrong, tell your supervisor.
One characteristic of something wrong is going on is "noise". Often, it will be less noisy then usual or you may see that certain races are divided. You may also see less conversations between inmates. Also, inmates are likely to go to their assigned room. All of these are signs of something going on. Notify your supervisor immediately!
This can also be true on the outside recreational yard also.Inmates are more likely to have occurrences out on the rec yard because there are usually less staff and it takes them longer to react. If you are assigned to the yard, be on high alert.
It will be normal to not know all the signs. You will learn most of them in your training course. Remember, you can't control everything. But, you always want to be prepared for the worse. Most inmates will not bother you or cause you problems. Yes, they are an inmate, but it doesn't classify them as a bad person. They made a mistake and they are now paying for it. Even so, you still have to be on high alert with every inmate. Just because they have been well mannered or never caused you a problem, it doesn't mean that they won't. Always pay close attention to your surroundings.
ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN
Never underestimate an inmate. Anything can happen in a correctional setting and it could involve you. Never let your guard down. Inmates have nothing but time. You don't see many bad crimes in detention centers because they are awaiting trial or they may be going home soon. Most of them do not want to get anymore time added, so their behavior is usually good. However, inmates that have life or long sentences will tend to be more violent in some cases. They look at things in an entirely different way. They may think they have nothing to lose. They are already in prison anyway. Either way, don't let your guard down.
Anything can happen in the correctional environment. Always be prepared for the worst. Do not take any situation for granted. You will get plenty of information in your training class and by the time you go into corrections, you will be well prepared. Once you're in the correctional setting for so many years, people tend to put safety on the back burner. Don't forget your training. Your number one job is to provide safety for staff and safety for inmates.
I have personally seen many correctional officers that disrespect staff and inmates. Do not disrespect any staff or inmates. You will have managers, administrations, officers, maintenance, and food service personnel working alongside you. We all are responsible for the safety of each other. Don't let your position go to your head. You will run into people like this is the correctional facility. They get promoted and they try to use their power or they try to throw it around. Don't follow that route. You can bet that an inmate or two is watching that person close. Sometimes, talking to their boss doesn't help either. In such cases, take you a notebook and keep a daily log. Write down everything.
Your safety is top priority. Always be prepared for the unexpected. Some facilities are more dangerous then others. Just remember or refer back to your training and you will be fine. Pay close attention to inmate behavior. If you can do so, you may be able to pinpoint when something is going wrong. If you even get the slightest hint, tell a supervisor or take action. Responding accordingly can be the difference. Prepare yourself and refer back to your training. You will be trained to respond to any correctional emergency that may present itself. Training is key.
Your training is not meant to scare you, it is meant to prepare you for the worst situation that may occur. This is a dangerous job, but you can do all the necessary work to eliminate a high percentage of it. When you go in, be safe and learn everything you can. Study inmate behavior and be consistent, firm, and fair.