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Correctional work habits you must break for retirement

Shedding your work-related habits can help you acclimate to a non-corrections life


By breaking some of the habits that keep us safe in corrections, you can make a healthy transition into retirement.

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Working in corrections is unlike most jobs. Those who have not worked inside may find our vocationally acquired habits odd. These habits may even make others uncomfortable. Still, these are the ways we cope with a stressful occupation. Truly, we are a product of our careers.

If you are concluding a corrections career, it may be a good idea to take a fresh look at these behaviors. While exiting the profession, shedding some of the manners can be a useful way to decompress from the stress of the job and to acclimate to a non-corrections life.

Below are five vocationally acquired habits I will attempt to abandon or mitigate when I turn in my chits and identification card. I understand these behaviors are helpful in keeping me safe while inside the walls, but I believe shedding these habits will make me healthier outside the walls.

1. The mad pat for keys

Often we find ourselves frantically searching for keys and other equipment while we are at home. The panic diminishes when we realize we are not at work and our critical tools are not in danger. Still, the anxiety, albeit temporary, is something we can do without.

2. Always at attention

Recently I attended a non-corrections professional conference. A colleague pointed out to me that I looked like I was tense. I realized that I was positioned with my back to the wall, feet apart at shoulder width and surveying the crowd like there might be trouble. Hypervigilance can make its way into a shopping trip. How many times have you looked at the behavior of people as they select and purchase their goods? Certainly, it behooves us to be alert, no matter where we find ourselves. Also, people watching can be fun. However, we are not hired to monitor the entire world.

3. You are not the boss of everyone

At work, you issue countless direct orders. Offenders and staff looked to you for decisive action. However, in the non-corrections world, you must remember that others do not necessarily seek direction. Proper use of authority is warranted and expected in a corrections setting. However, it is less welcome and often intrusive in the outside world.

4. Seeking ulterior motives

There is not a sinister figure behind every bush. Not everyone is out to manipulate or victimize you or others. Certainly, it can be conceded that it pays to be alert, but relationships strain under the weight of unwarranted suspicions.

5. Gallows humor

There is nothing quite as subjective as humor. It seems to me that corrections staff and others in high-stress vocations tend to use a morbid sense of humor. I have always thought this is one of many coping mechanisms. Those who are not used to such a view of things can become uncomfortable.

By breaking some of the habits that keep us safe in corrections, you can make a healthy transition into retirement. It may take time, but the reduction in stress can add a wonderful dimension to your post-corrections life.

Joe Bouchard worked in a maximum correctional facility for 25 years and is now retired. He continues to write and present on many corrections topics. He is the former editor of The Correctional Trainer. Bouchard has been an instructor of corrections and criminal justice since 1999. He currently teaches at Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College. Bouchard also has online writing clips at He is also the author of three corrections books for LRP publications and 10 books for IACTP’s series of training exercises books. Order now.