Tell Us About Your Job
Got this idea from another forum: thought it was pretty interesting.
I work as a Corrections Officer in a Medium/Maximum security prison. I've worked there for 13 years and have always been a Housing Unit Officer, which means I'm assigned to the buildings/dorms/"houses" where the inmates actually live. I worked in the Max area for 12 years, but now work in the Medium area.
Most days are pretty mundane doing the same thing over and over: counting twice on our shift to make sure they're all still there, searching inmates, their cells and common areas for contraband, dealing with any interpersonal issues that come up, making sure they're going to work, cleaning, whatever.
Back in the 1970's America shifted away from institutional mental facilities and as a result of that a lot of mentally ill people wind up in prison so you have to deal with them and whatever they've got going on. I'm no psychiatrist, so it's a learned art. The onus is to just keep them stable and from doing something they'll regret until you can get them in to see a mental health counselor.
You just try to keep an eye on everything and hope you can resolve any issues before it breaks out into a full-blown fight. I usually have an entire floor with 4 wings of 50 inmates each and you can't be everywhere at once, so once in awhile you have to respond to a disturbance or fight. Sometimes they'll fight in front of you because they know you'll be there to stop it, sometimes they wait until you're gone so you won't interfere.
All we have is our wits, a can of pepper spray, a pair of handcuffs and a radio, so we rely on fellow workers coming to help us out if something happens we can't handle on our own.
We can get pulled to work anywhere, so some days I have to transport inmates halfway across the state to medical or dental appointments, or transport inmates moving from one institution to another. Sometimes we have to sit on inmates that are at the local hospital for serious medical issues or take them to the ER after an assault or a fight.
It's actually a pretty interesting job. I seem to have the right demeanor for it, but it's not for everybody. The key, as in life itself, is to treat people with
dignity. It's usually referred to as "respect," but really it's "dignity." I don't care why they're there or what they did. To me, they're just inmates. You can't concern yourself with why they're there.
Some of my coworkers have a hard time and we have a really high turnover rate with employees. It's all in your attitude. When you deal with an inmate, they already know by your body language and expression what's going to come out of your mouth and whether you're going to be fair with them or not. Whether you're laid back or hardcore, it's important to be the same way every day whether you're having a bad day or not. They accept the fact that some CO's are hell-bent on the rules while others let some things slide: you just have to be the same way every day.
Humour and "rapport" with the inmates is every important and I'm pretty good at that. They're definitely not your friends, but they're not your enemies, either.
Since part of our institution is also medium security and a lot of guys are released from there, I run into a lot of them on the street once they're out. I've never had any issues with them. They'll usually either ignore me or pretend they don't see me or I've had some of them approach me and introduce their entire family to me.
It's a job unlike any other I've ever had. Like most, I just kind of stumbled into it and don't understand anybody that would actively choose it as a career. It seems like you've either got what it takes or you don't. It's kind of a "paramilitary" organization with a rank structure, but I've never chosen to promote because as you rise in the ranks, you have to routinely switch shifts and I'm not into that.
Pay's not that great, but the benefits and retirement aren't bad. I could retire in 7 more years, but figure I'll try to work 13 more years until I'm at least 65. There's a wide variety of employees, male and female from 20 years old to 70 and I enjoy interacting with them. Variety is the spice of life.
So, what do you do at work every day?