Trusting inmates has harsh consequences

Inmates by nature are generally narcissistic, so they will act in their own best interest

Working in corrections comes with risks that we are, to some extent, aware of when we accept the position. Over time, it becomes easier to forget those risks. However, the environment we work in is painfully unforgiving of complacency. We all go through a stage of complacency at some point, and some of us remain that way. I have heard plenty of reasons trying to justify working with one’s guard perpetually down:

"If you're good to these guys they will protect you if things go bad."

"Those guys have my back if I need it."

"He's not a real criminal, he barely committed a crime."

And there are so many more than that. The point is, you need to use your head.

Let's say an inmate does like you enough to care about your well-being. Take a minute to consider what would happen to that inmate should he decide to intervene on your behalf. He lives here in the correctional facility; he's not leaving at the end of the day. He knows very well that should he side with staff, especially an officer, he is essentially putting a target on his own back.

Inmates by nature are generally narcissistic, so they will act in their own best interest. Risking their own lives for a staff member is not in their best interest and does not afford them any benefits. It’s in their best interest to befriend staff members and manipulate them into thinking it’s a true friendship.

If they can make you think they care about you, or get you to look past them being incarcerated, then they have made a big stride in obtaining benefits. Those benefits may be easier work, or even less work. It could be a staff/mule, or a staff/concubine. We have all seen it yet there are still many that fall into that trap and refuse to believe it will happen to them.

There have been instances where an inmate has stepped in to help a staff member. If you look at those situations it is apparent that it’s only something they can get away with under certain circumstances.

For example, sometimes it’s when the staff member has been beaten to the point that they are now incapacitated.

You have to keep your training in mind all day every day. We are taught that inmates can and will manipulate you any way they can. They begin reading you the minute you enter the institution. They will sympathize with you when you're feeling down. They will be on your side when you feel that administration or other staff are being unfair. They will pretend to confide in you to gain your sympathy. They will manipulate your feelings and use you against you.

You might think that because you follow policy like a second bible you're protected from their games. No, in this case you will run into inmates that will compliment you on your fairness. Tell you how they respect you for your consistency. It will be a comment here and there until they get you to know who they are. Then they will work on you more in conversations. Finding where exactly you draw your lines, and what can be pushed. Then once your lines start to move, they have you.

There is a story that my class had to read in our basic training. It was called "Downing a Duck." This a must read no matter how long your have been in DOC. It breaks down exactly how inmates get staff caught up. I have seen inmates follow that procedure to the letter with me. Training is not something you do once a year; it’s something you have to do with yourself every day. Keep those lessons in mind and the lessons you learn from other staff members that you see fall prey to inmate’s head games. 

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