You know all those times you’re in trouble and someone comes and gives you a sympathetic ear? Well, then you’ve been there. It’s what happens when you get arrested and you need a second set of ears for everything. You’re going to hear people’s stories and see their scars and be asked about things you’ve never thought about. These are things you need to know as a correctional officer.
For two weeks, the folks at the Waco, Texas, facility where I work have been doing a series of weekly classes with former NFL players and other former players to help former players prepare for life as a correctional officer. What the classes cover is an array of topics ranging from how to make a good first impression to how to interact with the general public and how to handle the worst kind of inmates.
The inmates are the least likely to be incarcerated. But you don’t have to be a correctional officer to know these things. You don’t have to be mentally challenged. Many correctional officers at Waco have had their first experience of being locked into a prison that is as unsafe as jail.
The way I see it is this. Every day you work and learn about the day to day operations of the prison. You learn how to interact with the general public and the inmates. You learn how to handle inmate behavior. You learn how to treat the most violent and violent inmates.
And you learn about the life of an inmate. The life of a correctional officer. The life of a prison.
The truth is that no one has a good handle on what it is like to be a correctional officer. To put it simply, all correctional officers have some experience of working in a prison. But the job is very dangerous and many correctional officers end up dying on the job. And even the ones who survive often face challenges they never expected. A recent study found that at least half of correctional officers who die on the job are from suicides.
A large body of research has been done on the effects of correctional officers on prisoners. It shows that the first year of employment is the worst. So even though there are some wonderful positive effects of being on the job, it’s definitely not a “whole new you” experience.
A lot of the issues that prisoners face are the same issues that come up in any job. So you can probably chalk it up to bad luck, or bad people, or a combination of the two.
Prisoners are often a little scared but it’s not a bad thing. There’s some good reports on the effects of prison workers, and that’s just the case here. Prisoners who are in it for their jobs are often scared, and that makes them a little afraid.
You probably have a better sense of humor than I do, so you need to take this as a challenge, not just a challenge to your confidence.