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The Job of Corrections, Essay Example

Pages: 1

Words: 1317

Essay

The career of being a corrections officer is far from easy. Correctional officers face peril each day, just by attending work. There can be many negative aspects within their job function. Not only do they have to face hazard each day, but are also responsible for building relationships with inmates, co-workers, and superiors.

Correctional officers are responsible for the safety and supervision and security of inmates within a correctional facility (What is the Working Environment of a Corrections Officer?, 2013). As well as being responsible for the individuals, correctional officers are also responsible for caring for the facility. They prevent disturbances, assaults, and escapes while supervising the activities of the inmates.

Their work environment is dangerous. Often, correctional officers will have confrontations with inmates, resulting in injuries. In fact, correctional officers have the highest rate of nonfatal injuries per year (What is the Working Environment of a Corrections Officer?, 2013).  Just imagine working each night in a facility where gangs dominate, race wars are prevalent, and the fear of a riot is around every corner and your job is to protect the individuals or groups from each other at times.

When thinking of a prison, many people envision a secured building with a high, barbed wire fence, guard turrets, and officers everywhere. This is not always the case. Prisons have changed to include correctional boot camps and other available facilities. Each facility is different, so the environment of a corrections officer can vary.

Beyond the hazards, the environment varies based on the age of the correctional facility. An older facility often has poor ventilation; they are overcrowded, and noisy. Older facilities can also be uncomfortable if they were not properly maintained over the years. Newer facilities offer well ventilated, well lit, air conditioned or properly heated facilities that can be far more comfortable than their counterpart.

The environment of a correctional officer will vary based on the type of facility within which they work. What may not vary are the negative aspects of the job. There can be negatives when being a correctional officer. There are four major negative aspects of being a corrections officer; assault, job burnout, mortality rates, and psychological stress.

Assault is a constant threat in this career choice (Heibutzxi, 2013). Inmates will often turn everyday items into weapons that are used to assault correctional officers or other inmates. Officers must stay continuously wary of this threat which induces more stress then is already placed on an officer (Heibutzxi, 2013).

This type of work environment can teetered into long periods of boredom, isolation, and physical danger (Heibutzxi, 2013). Often, correctional officers use the practice of disassociating themselves from emotions to cope with this environment, which may cause them to become burnt-out with this job (Heibutzxi, 2013). The officers focus on getting through a shift without being assaulted and lose empathy for the people who surround them, often referred to as “compassion fatigue (Heibutzxi, 2013).”

In a personal interview that was conducted with a former factory worker, who has now been a prison guard for the last four years, he states that he dreads going to work every night. Though unwilling to admit it to anyone, he fears this job. Each night he dreads dealing with dangerous inmates, the inability to please peers, and that thought that he may not come home to his family.

The prison in which he works is separated into zones. The zone that he works will vary each night. Zone “A” contains inmates that are close to maximum security, whereas Zone “B” is minimum security. The last shift was spent in Zone “A”, where this officer was responsible for 120 inmates on his own. He says that confrontations arise every night and in this zone the inmates would simply kill him over a small disagreement if they thought it would not affect their prison sentence in a negative way.

On average a corrections officer lives only 18 months after retirement, leading them to have the second highest mortality rate of any occupation according to the Main Department of Public Safety (Heibutzxi, 2013). This is an extremely high mortality rate. This can be linked to the constant stress of the career.

Correctional officers also suffer a high amount of psychological stress (Heibutzxi, 2013). These officers can suffer extreme mental trauma that causes them an inability to separate home and work life (Heibutzxi, 2013). Because this stress is taken home, correction officers have above average rates for divorce, domestic abuse, and suicide (Heibutzxi, 2013).

This is a stressful career that can make building relationships a challenge. However corrections officers must build relationships with inmates, coworkers, and superiors in order to be successful. How do they cope with this aspect of the job?

First of all it can be difficult to build relationships with inmates. The inmates must respect the officer in order to build a relationship with the officer. This can be done by keeping a heightened sense of legitimacy with the inmate (Bierie, 2010). This can be done by showing justice, equality, and consistency within the facility. If an officer is able to put aside differences and treat all inmates in the same manner, he will earn legitimacy. In this aspect he must also be consistent with rewards and punishments, and always ensure that the inmates’ expectations in this sense are met. Inconsistency can lead to a lack of respect and legitimacy for the officer.

Building relationships with co-workers can be a little easier. The officer is there for the same purpose as his co-workers. This leads to a shared bond between officers. It is also important to act civilly to co-workers and attempt to interact with them. The loss of empathy due to stress could cause some issues with building this relationship. Officers will always attempt to protect one another and have a shared connection through their experiences.

Building a relationship with superiors may be more difficult. Depending on the size of the facility, superiors may not know one officer from another. As long as the officer’s co-workers respect and praise him and the inmates respect him, the relationship with superiors is most likely fine. A problem relationship with superiors could arise from a problem officer who often gets into trouble at work through absenteeism or unfair treatment to inmates.

The prison guard that was interviewed states that building relationships is difficult on all levels and respect goes a long way. He gains respect from inmates by personalizing the relationships. By asking them how they are, if anything new has happened, and if there is any new gossip, he stays somewhat at their level. He also does not shy away from offensive remarks, but instead always has a retort. Though not very professional at times, it works.

He also states that correctional officers are very cliquey. They form groups, and much like high school, it is important to be part of one of these cliques. It is how you stay safe within the facility. These groups will support you in times of need, without them the job could be even more dangerous.

When it comes to superiors, he says it is important to handle the job without their help. If you can run a tight ship, without the help of your superiors the officers will be well known and respected by the superiors within the facilities. This is very difficult and most officers often enlist the help of their superiors.

All in all, this is a tough job. It is stressful and hazardous. The work environment can be lacking in some aspects. It affects your physical and mental well-being. There are many negative aspects of the job, which can make it difficult to build and maintain relationships at work and at home. This is definitely not a job for the weak.

References

Anonymous. (2013, May 11). Correctional Officer.

Bierie, D. (2010). Legitimacy in Corrections. American Society of Criminology , 89-117.

Heibutzxi, R. (2013). The Disadvantages of Being a Correctional Officer. Retrieved May 9, 2013, from Chron: http://www.work.chron.com

What is the Working Environment of a Corrections Officer? (2013). Retrieved May 9, 2013, from Student Scoalarships: http://www.studentscholarships.org

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