6 ideas to shake the cultural stigma of correctional officers

Here are just a few ideas to start getting rid of the issues and problems surrounding correctional officer recruitment

By C1 Staff

With prisons fit to bursting, states are searching high and low for more correctional officers. But as recent reports show, they are few and far to be found. Correctional work isn’t glamorous – in fact, far from it.

Still, it’s an important job that needs to be done. How do we shake the stigma that seems to follow corrections work? We took to Facebook to get our readers’ feedback, and here’s what they had to say.

Add your own thoughts in the comments.

Higher standards: Security and safety are the highest priority items in corrections, so we must be absolutely certain of those we hire into correctional positions. There have been some attempts to figure out how to do this – Maryland is instituting a polygraph test to applicants -- but most seem to favor a psychological evaluation. Once those officers are hired, they need to be properly trained for their safety.

Better pay: No one is going to want to do a job that involves the possibility of being stabbed or having excrement thrown at you on a daily basis for peanuts. Better pay will attract better candidates, and will increase an officer’s morale and likelihood of remaining in their position for years to come.

More accountability: It seems like there’s a wide gap between front line staff and management. It’s time to close this gap by ensuring our correctional leaders understand the daily work of prison staff and put safety and training first. Management should work with staff members to create solid relationships that will help everyone complete their jobs effectively.

Encourage teamwork: Corrections officers and staff must work together. We’re all playing for the same team – to keep each other safe so we can go home at the end of our shift, and also to make our community’s lives safer. Just as we should be working toward goals with management, we should be working with each other instead of against each other. Doing so will cut down on the horror stories of coworkers being a bigger threat than inmates.

More education: Should working inside a prison require a degree? Probably not, but it would certainly help. More education, just like more training, is never a bad thing – opening your mind to new possibilities and ways of thinking will help you overcome problems in ways that may have otherwise never seemed possible. Educated officers can help develop policies and standards that work for both line staff and management. Maybe it’s a good time to start hitting the books.

Public transparency: No longer can prisons operate in the way they have in the past; the public wants to know what’s going on behind our walls. This can work in our favor: educating Joe Everyman to the plight of the correctional worker can help towards funding for self-defense tools and classes, as well as pushes toward legislation that will help protect us. One popular slogan for corrections work is “Never walk alone,” so why do we continue to allow ourselves to think that we are in this alone? It’s time to step into the light and share the good with the ugly so that officers and other staff members can receive the recognition that they are due.

How else do you think the stigma of being a correctional officer could be removed?

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