Tuesday, November 20, 2012

If not us, then who ???

 By Bryan Avila, Backgate Contributing Author

 Every day we loose more and more correctional staff and the reasons are many: “the job is not for me”, got walked off after a relationship with an offender, introduced contraband, etc. The reasons may be many but the end result is the same: we loose staff.

One of the most disheartening things to hear from new correctional staff is that older, more experienced staff did not take them under their wing and teach them what they needed to know. Any pre-service academy serves the same purpose: teach the foundation of the job based on policy and procedure. Since every facility is different in how they operate, the nuts and bolts of the job are left to the facility to teach. Experienced staff dedicate themselves to this mission.

The days of having offenders teach new staff on how to do the job are long gone. Although it is true that this still takes place (in a way), it is the older officers that should be taking that new officer and training them how to do the job. A facility FTO can only do so much and the training of an employee never ends. I don’t care how long you have been working in corrections, you always learn something new.

Have we really thought of the ramifications of not teaching that new officer how to do things the right way? We have no problem teaching them the shortcuts, but how about the right way to do things. It may take more time but in the end, it’s worth it.

When we neglect these new officers, offenders take notice. It is for this very same reason that offenders will go after the new staff and try to turn them into something that they should not be…a danger to the rest of us.

I want you to think back to when you first started working at your first facility. Did it really feel good to have the older staff look down on you and not pay attention to you? Did you truly enjoy when you would ask a question and they would give you a BS answer only making it harder to learn what you needed to learn? How about when you needed help and no one would take the time to help you? I would bet that there was an offender that saw this take place and gave you “friendly advise” on what you needed to do.

It is this same helpful offender that will be there for that new staff member and try to turn them. We know that it starts small but at what point does it end? When will we put an end to this?

There are many veteran officers that will, and do, take the time to teach these youngsters how to do things the right way and will always be there for any staff member. To those of you that are in this category, thank you from all of us. You ARE noticed and we could not do what we do without you.

Keep the lamb away from the wolf and watch it grow into a sheepdog. They are always lurking in the shadows just waiting for the opportunity to strike. If not us, then who?

Editor's note: Corrections.com author Bryan Avila started working as a Police Officer in 1994 while attending Norwich University in Northfield, VT. In 1999 he began working for the Vermont Dept of Corrections while still working as a Part-Time Police Officer. In 2007 he left public service until 2009 when he began working for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.His opinions do not represent those of the TDCJ, or this website.

13 comments:

  1. From the desk of BoBoTheBeaten:

    You have new employees who come into system thinking they already know everything. They won't take criticism or direction from old hands because they grew up being told they are great. Teachers couldn't tell them what to do, neighbors couldn't tell them what to do, the police couldn't tell them what to do and their own parents couldn't tell them what to do. At some point old hands just want to get themselves to retirement and who can blame them? With today's leadership it takes a lot of effort just keeping yourself out of a crack so who has the energy trying to give advice to someone who doesn't really want to hear it? This agency has finally gotten what they have spent years cultivating. As I recall the past it's sad to see what things have become.

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  2. Its very much a 2 way street and dangerous cycle. The unit needs more staffing. It hires the ones that apply and can pass the process. Unfortunally there are many who think they already know it and think that they are already someone just for getting hired. The days of earning your place are nearly gone. They don't seek the advice of the older-hands and get caught up in a sling, the onder-hands get burned out on giving advice cause its not listened to and they cycle contiunes from there. The real question is how to break that cycle and bridge the gap of the know it all rooking and the burned out veteran?

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  3. Some of the new staff will tell the old one you are not a supervisor, this is my way and the older staff just stop in giving any advice, my advice is to the organization is to give each new staff mentor among the older staff for working together for a period of year and discusing work related issue together, with this there will continue learing process

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  4. Two way street is correct. New Officers sometimes refuse to listen and learn. But sometimes experienced staff train the wrong way, and don't need to be followed in the first place. If you find yourself in a position of mentorship ensure that your are training as per TDCJ policy, not yours. Newer staff will learn the "ropes" as they go, but deserve to be trained the right way to lay a decent foundation. It's a crap shoot. Some we win, some we lose. The agency must learn to focus on how to keep the "good ones" and rid themselves of the "bad apples". Right now that is not happening.

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  5. Don't forget too that for everything a mentor will teach a new officer during that brief training period there will be numerous officers assigned to the newbie that will show them by actions more than words how to do as little as possible to get by. It's a sad fact but true. These newbies will want to be part of their fold and will follow suit and in the process they get lenient.

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  6. You are all correct. Most of the newer staff have a sense of entitlement and think that they know it all and don't want to listen to older hands. You mentioned having mentors, and they are in existence as part of the OJT process. These new staff are supposed to be with their mentors for at least 6 months. The reality is that this does not happen. I say increase the hiring standards all the way around and don't just hire anyone. Yes, we need the staff but we have to draw the line somewhere.

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    1. The agency has drawn the line. The bottom line is the agency will take anyone.

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  7. Looking at the picture, TDCJ needs to close down the ODR and commissary to these newboot officers for a few months.

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    Replies
    1. So uncalled for!!

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    2. I wonder why we are viewed as bums. You LOSE something. Your pants are LOOSE!!

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  8. I was a CO IV when I finally had all I could take of TDCJ and resigned. The reasons for my leaving could have been prevented and if I may be so blunt, I was a fine officer. I did my counts not some of the time but everytime. I supervised my offenders every minute I was on the clock. I backed up my fellow officers and fully responded when needed. They lost me when they insisted I reveal my private medical records to sgts, and lts., who had no business knowing my medical business. I had no problem with the powers that be having access but not my shift supervisors passing it around like a local newspaper. I received disciplinary for refuses to have my dr. provide my medical info. When the newly promoted Lt. found out she was the reason for my refusal she failed to send backup during an altercation at a.m. chow leaving me alone in our toughest wing. I was on 2 row sandwiched between 2 offenders. No thanks Tdcj. A genuine thanks and Kudos to those officers that do Do their job, you are few and you are tops in my book.

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    1. I fine it interesting that in this environment of murders, child molesters etc that you find correctional staff with this mentally. Staff who think it is a joke when you get cornered by offenders physically or verbally. Some have been employed there for years and think that the job is theirs somehow. They lack zeal for the job and what is needed to do it. They refuse to change with change when a new Lt. or Major comes on board and makes some needed changes. They rebel like lil kids and refuse to work. They just show up with bad attitudes. In this correctional environment officers forget that they need each other to be safe and get the job done daily. Leave your vile personalities outside the gates and come together as a team inside those gates. That is the message that most important.

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  9. My experience working for TDCJ has been both positive and negative. Most of the negative things have come from my fellow officers whom I work with. Mostly from the female officers. Jocking for certain deemed desirable jobs and other male officers.
    The job pays my bills, it is not demeaning, its an honest living. I don't focus on the conditions of the offenders, I am there to do a job, keep them housed there and to watch them to make sure they don't commit other crimes or rules while they are there. Simple. If we focus more on doing our jobs and not so much on our fellow officers perhaps our experience at TDCJ would be more positive. After all that is what we were trained and hired to do. SGT's, LT's, OIG are trained to deal with dirty officers.

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