Trending Topics

Book excerpt: Tips for New Corrections Officers and Their Supervisors

With over 20 years of experience spanning across five prisons, author Anthony Gangi knows the complexity of navigating a career behind the walls

Jail stairs.jpg


Safety and security is a layered process

“Facilities and the staff therein use multiple levels and layers of failsafes, firewalls, contingency plans, back-ups and various redundancies to ensure public safety, staff safety and inmate safety. Policies and procedures are built on the broken weak links, the burnt through firewalls and the failures of other contingencies and plans. YOUR position and YOUR duty are the first line of defense. Remember, YOU must not fail” —Sergeant Russ Hamilton, CDCR

Besides providing an understanding of the facility’s objectives and task completion methods, policies and procedures also serve as a documented history of our past successes and failures. They represent the basic evolution of the agency’s growth and development.

Safety and security, which should be reflected in every policy and procedure, is a layered process that considers past experiences, human error, and systematic failures.

This book is a must have for new and prospective corrections officers.

As a rookie, begin to observe how our roles in custody connect, as defined by safety, security, policy, and procedure. From housing unit to yard, rovers to towers, mailroom to disciplinary, main gate to main lobby, pay attention to how each safety and security component connects. Note how our efforts and tasks combine, encapsulated by the phrase, “I got YOUR back!”

If and when an inmate decides to circumvent the system, they look for breaks between layers that afford them the opportunity to seize the moment with minimal effort. Whether it’s a break in communication, resources, or effective policies and procedures, they see it as a vulnerability and exploit it for personal gain.

As an administrator, I have an elevated perspective. I can see the interplay in which effective policies and procedures combine all layers of our security operations. Each layer was introduced by invested parties who understood how effective policies and procedures develop in unison, never in isolation. This represents a strategic dialogue that elevates the game of “WHAT IF” to a whole new level.

As I write this, I’m reminded of a quote by Thomas Reid, a Scottish philosopher: “The chain is only as strong as its weakest link, for if that fails, the chain fails, and the object it holds falls to the ground.” As custody, YOU are holding in YOUR hands the safety and security of the facility YOU are assigned. It is a trust bestowed upon YOU by many who believe in YOUR ability to carry it out. YOU CAN NEVER ALLOW IT TO FALL TO THE GROUND!!!

CORRECTIONS IS COMPLEX BECAUSE OF ITS FLUIDITY. It’s constantly moving in multiple directions simultaneously — left, right, up, down, forwards, backwards. It’s controlled chaos, a series of movements governed by our efforts to maintain our connection to each other and the tasks we perform. Working in isolation breaks the layers and divides our attempts to provide safety and security. A divided force, or broken layers of effectiveness, weakens us!

Therefore, as YOU progress in this profession, take time to observe the team as they work to complete their unified tasks. Observe where each task connects and where they don’t. If YOU notice gaps or small breaks within the layers of safety and security, don’t just walk by and ignore them. Say something! Do something! BE MINDFUL: IF YOU SEE IT, YOU CAN DAMN WELL BE ASSURED THE INMATES HAVE SEEN IT AND ALREADY HAVE A PLAN IN MOTION TO EXPLOIT IT!!!

Side note: I want our rookies to know that management’s job is to ensure staff effectiveness. I know most people outside may believe that custody can negate all risk, but that is never the case. Our job is to help minimize or negate any potential risk. Therefore, as management, I always keep in mind that my choices can eliminate layers of security, and if that happens, I am to blame for any failures in our efforts. Be advised, when I make a decision, I try my best to account for human error.

Anthony Gangi has a BA in psychology and is a 20-year veteran in corrections. He currently works as an Associate Administrator for State Corrections and has worked his way up through the ranks, from officer to sergeant, and then into administration. Anthony currently sits on the executive board of the New Jersey Chapter of the American Correctional Association. To date, Anthony Gangi has been invited to speak on CNN, MSNBC, CBS, Lifetime, ABC, Fox and NewsNation. He is also the author of “Inmate Manipulation Decoded” and “How to Succeed in Corrections,” as well as the host of the Tier Talk podcast.