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Looking Ahead. Looking Back.
By Joe Bouchard
Published: 09/17/2018

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Editor's Note: After over 12 years of contributions, Corrections.com author Joe Bouchard has decided to retire. Having written over 400 articles, Joe has been a staple of Corrections.com and his voice will be greatly missed. The following is his farewell to his loyal readers. The Corrections.com staff wishes to congratulate Joe and wish him the best of luck in his retirement.

Dear Reader:

This is a time of two goodbyes. I am saying goodbye to the corrections profession and to Corrections.com. Both departures, though amicable, are a bit difficult for me. That is because the corrections career and writing have become a large part of who I am.

In saying farewell to Corrections.com, I look back over a dozen years and hundreds of articles. I enjoyed the avocation greatly but cannot simply cease without a word. To digest this change, I need to conclude with my personal way to bid adieu. In other words, I want to look ahead and then look back at the corrections profession through my eyes.

Looking ahead - For many years, I wrote about how to have a healthy and productive corrections career. I did his while I was in the profession. Now retirement looms large. Because of this, I will need to adjust to a post corrections self. There are five ways that I can refocus on my post corrections self
  1. Productive hobbies – I will do fun things in my spare time that I have always wanted to do.
  2. Reel in the suspicion – I will try not to suspect everyone of bad deeds. This does not mean that I will not employ common sense and safety measures. Rather, I will use detective and intuitive skills in moderation in daily life. This is a quest to decompress from hyper vigilance.
  3. Try a new career - I will work part-time and be productive. Because I worked for so long in a structured environment such, it is necessary that I maintain a routine.
  4. Learn to breathe – I will slow down a bit to do some deep breathing. I will learn to relax.
  5. Employ perspective – I will look at some of the challenging parts of my experiences. I emphatically do not do this to relive them. Rather, I will remember some of the adversity as a contrast to the wonderful post-corrections life I will build.
While it is important to consider how to exit a career, what about the beginning? To know where we are going, isn’t it prudent to look back? Seasoned staff should impart wisdom on those who step up and assume the challenging and important corrections profession.

Looking back – Despite a rich store of time travel stories that science fiction has delivered, we simply cannot go back. But, what if we could? What five bits of advice would I have for myself at the start of a corrections career? I would address my quarter-century younger self by speaking in C.O.D.E.S.

Five important concepts are wrapped in the acronym CODES. They are Communicate, Observe, Document, Examine, and Search. These will not necessarily solve all corrections problems. However, these foundation habits are likely to smooth the way and build a solid reputation.

Communicate – Whether to staff, offenders, or the public, what we say and how we say it can mean the difference between success and catastrophe. And an important facet of this is feeding the staff information machine in order to keep everyone safe.

Observe – Never stop watching what goes on. What you see and later communicate to peers may save a life. Also, observation does not need to be blatantly wide-eyed and attentive. Corrections staff develop subtlety when watching to gain more safety-enhancing data.

Document – It has been said that if it is not written down, it did not happen. Record what you see. Keep records of what happens. This comes in handy as a way to enhance security. It also serves to support your reputation as a professional in the event others accuse you of being unprofessional.

Examine – As you observe, ask why something happens. Could there have been other outcomes? Will it likely end in the same way? How could preventing what you see make things safer for everyone?

Search – Always look for contraband. Control of contraband is the root for safety. Quite simply, things are safer when fewer illicit items are in the mix.

If the above seems simple, it is because I meant to convey it that way. It is not really complex at all. Above all, I am a realist and know that there are many variables that can derail a plan. Still, while there are many complexities in corrections, well applied simple truths pave the road to a good career.

In the end, the post corrections life that you create is your own. And your career is your personal journey. So, you might accept all the above, reject it all, or sample bits that fit your comportment and situation. Whatever your choice, I wish you a safe and rewarding career full of chances for growth. And thanks so much for reading.

Sincerely,
Joe Bouchard

Joe Bouchard is a Librarian employed with the Michigan Department of Corrections and a collaborator with The International Association of Correctional Training Personnel (IACTP). He is also the author of “IACTP’s Corrections Icebreakers: The Bouchard 101, 2014” and "Operation Icebreakers: Shooting for Excellence" among others. The installments in this series include his opinions. The agency for which he works is not in any way responsible for the content or accuracy of this material, and the views are those of the contributor and not necessarily those of the agency. While some material is influenced by other works, all of the icebreakers have been developed by Joe Bouchard.

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