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Corrections professionals need time for themselves

I recently returned from a 10 day trip to Hawaii…

I’m not bragging - well, OK, maybe I am - but I wanted to share with my correctional colleagues just how important that vacation was to me.

I brought no work cell phone, didn’t check my email and never called the facility to see what was going on. I must say, this is the first vacation in many years that wasn’t filled with work related activities.

Recently, I was reading an article that said the most stressful jobs in America were IT and customer service. This says one thing to me: Whoever wrote that article has never worked in corrections.

As a matter of fact, corrections wasn’t even listed as a stressful job – a testimony, perhaps, to just how undervalued our work is by the American public.

Why relaxation should be P&P
As corrections professionals, it is so important to take time for yourself and time for your family.

We work amongst the worst of the worse; surrounded daily with negativity. We listen to the despair of the inmates and the complaints of the staff. We hear the families of our offenders struggling to cope without their locked-up loved ones.

Rarely do folks call us and tell us we’re doing a good job. We have to take people’s freedom, to use force, to be exposed to strange situations and to control everything, all the time.

Certainly, our daily duties alone can be overwhelming.

Our friends don’t really want to hear prison stories when we go out and when we do tell them, our humor is often lost. It’s hard to explain to someone that you dealt with an inmate who thought she was the Queen of England, or had to break up a fist fight between two women. Most people don’t get it and many others just don’t care.

For correctional professionals, maintaining a balance between your personal and professional lives is extremely important. And I don’t think I fully understood this until recently.

We need time to decompress. We must get out of the facility for uninterrupted time. We must have positive activities in which we are engaged. And please, don’t go home and watch “Lock Up” or “Prison Break” – stay away from the business we do when you can.

Make the best of what you’ve got
For the last several years, I schedule “me time” on the weekend. I would get my hair done or paint my nails, shop or read a book - not about crime.

Time away renews us to come back and deal with the prison issues. This is a critical piece of the puzzle: Time away from work makes us more affective at work.

So, make a resolution this year: Whether it is an hour or a week, take some time for yourself, some time to stop and smell the roses.

After all, the inmates will be there when you get back.

Laura E. Bedard began her work in corrections as a jail administrator in 1984. During her tenure as administrative faculty for the College of Criminology at Florida State University, she ran a study-abroad program in the Czech Republic lecturing on crime topics in an emerging democracy. In 2005, she became the first female Deputy Secretary of the Florida Department of Corrections. There she was responsible for 27,000 state employees and over 200,000 offenders in the third largest correctional system in the country. Dr. Bedard has published and lectured on a number of corrections-related topics including women in prison, mental health issues and correctional leadership. Dr. Bedard is currently serving as the Chief of Corrections for the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office in Sanford, Florida.