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7 mistakes that rookie correctional officers consistently make

We all make mistakes, but there are some that everyone makes over and over again

Utah State Correctional Facility

A Department of Corrections Officer walks to the Wasatch A-East block during a media tour Thursday, Feb. 26, 2015, at the Utah State Correctional Facility in Draper, Utah.

AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

By C1 Staff

Mistakes are part and parcel of any job. We make them, learn from them and hope we don’t do them again. Sometimes, the best lessons we can teach others are through our own mistakes.

We took to Facebook to ask our readers what they thought were the most common mistakes rookie correctional officers can make. Here are the seven best responses – take a gander and learn from the past, so you aren’t doomed to repeat history!

1. Learn to say no

Officers who can’t say “no” are officers who will most likely fall prey to inmate manipulation first.

Learning to say “no” shows that you understand your boundaries and that you understand your authority in the position you’ve been appointed to. Confrontation is difficult even for the best of us, but learn to stand your ground.

“Inmates will pick up on [your inability to say no] and into their web you go,” Brett Petty writes.

2. Listen, don’t tell

“New officers don’t even know what they do not know,” wrote Carrie Caruthers, and she couldn’t be more right.

Take a step back and use your time to learn from those who have come before you. This can save you a lot of hassle along with potential injury that can come from making foolish mistakes.

3. Ask questions

As with the above, listening and asking questions can be your two greatest tools when you’re a new correctional officer. You’ve just been introduced to a new, dangerous world, and it’s best to not go it alone. Use your coworkers and superiors as teachers and sounding boards so you can become the best officer you were meant to be.

4. Don’t make friends with inmates

Inmates are typically in jail for a reason, and it’s not to make friends.

"[Rookies typically give] inmates personal information about themselves, or coworkers, without even realizing what they’ve done,” writes Beth Hurley-Wilburn. This is dangerous territory and gives the inmate grounds to manipulate you or others. Remember that you’re there to ensure the inmates’ safety along with their incarceration.

“Don’t let inmates ‘train’ you not to do proper pat-downs or write them up for violations, because they will make your life miserable,” Kris Lauritsen Kircher wrote.

5. Wrong preconceptions

Television and movies have given the public a certain preconception of what prisons (and correctional officers, by extension) are like. They couldn’t be more wrong, and you’re better off wiping your mental slate clean in order to build a better idea of what your job should be like.

“Coming in gung-ho, macho, trying to convince everyone that they’re not afraid,” Kalico Jack writes, “usually has the opposite effect!”

6. De-escalation

The quickest way to defuse a situation and prevent a use-of-force is through de-escalation.

"[Rookies often] immediately escalate situations to a point they should never have reached [if they had used] direct yet respectful orders,” BJ Ingram writes.

Save yourself a lot of grief and injury by being firm, fair and consistent with inmates, earn their respect and make sure everyone goes home in one piece at the end of the day.

7. Documentation

Documentation – if you don’t write it down, it didn’t happen,” Debbie Tuttle writes, and this couldn’t be truer. Your logbook and reports are proof that you’ve done your job correctly and to the best of your ability. Make sure they match surveillance footage or it could be the end of your career before it even begins.

This article, originally published 10/13/2015, has been updated.