co1012, join our team with georgia dept. corrections “Hays state prison”
As custodial officers working in a county jail we expect, and work to enforce, total compliance to the rules among the inmates that we oversee. In many ways, we expect them to adhere to a higher standard, while in custody, than they were ever capable of out on their own. That’s our job: enforcing the rules, while maintaining order and security within the facility.
We’ve heard a lot about efforts to maintain a consistent standard by which we operate. As part of an established training program, Jail Training Officers work to teach and instruct their trainees to apply departmental policies and procedures to that task at hand. But, there’s more, much more, to being an effective and professional Correctional Officer.
Let’s look at the concept of command and presence, for example. First of all, the word presence indicates that you are here. By that I mean, completely here. In addition to being physically present, you are awake, aware of your surroundings, and concentrating on what you see. Command presence means that you are present and in charge of what surrounds you. If you are working in H/I or L/M Tanks, the pod is in your hands for the six hours that you’re assigned there. However, the ownership that you take of a unit with the potential population of 106 inmates can be a two-edged sword. You are, not only in charge, you are responsible for up to 106 lives.
It would be taking the easy path to say, “I’m the officer-in-charge, my word is law!” and then reign over your new domain with a heavy hand. Again, let’s go back to the thought that being present means being aware. Are you aware of the current conditions and undertones as they exist at that moment in your assigned area of responsibility? Are you really present and in command, or are you just kind of going along for the ride, hoping to survive until it’s someone else’s problem?
There have been times when an officer who wasn’t very confident of his/her own abilities tried to mask his/her uncertainties with a harsh tone and inflexible manner. That’s not very hard to see through. We tend to think of inmates as being stupid. Let’s not kid ourselves. It’s not hard to see through the thin veneer of false strength as exhibited by a martinet.
Remember that we are not just in charge, we are responsible. Often inmates come up to us with requests that border on the ridiculous. Many times we are put in the position of being the one who has to say, “No!” However, sometimes the requests made of us are reasonable. Sometimes the things we are asked to do are a matter of simple human decency. If the answer to a request is, “No!” so be it. Please don’t say, “Yes,” however, and then just drop it. The respect that we have come to expect from inmates isn’t automatically ours, any more than that we receive from our children. Even parents have to earn the respect of their offspring.
Command presence means being in command of your sphere of influence. It doesn’t mean that you are supposed to be a dictator. Being overly harsh and not living up to your word will also make it difficult for your fellow officer who has to follow you into the pod. We stress consistence in enforcing the rules. The same thing applies to being better people. If you think that you are superior to those in jail, prove it! Prove what adherence to the laws and principles that our society is based on can mean. Prove what kind of person your own standards and beliefs have made you into. Don’t just act in a superior manner, be a superior person.