10 ways corrections officers would improve their facilities

What would you change if you were in charge at your correctional facility?

By C1 Staff

If you were in charge at your place of work, what’s the one big change you would make? This is easier said than done, but we posed this question to our Facebook followers to see the kind of changes correctional officers want to see not only in their facilities but in the corrections profession in general.

The answers weren’t too surprising – most suggestions tied back to wanting a safer work environment and well-educated employees. Check out the 10 most common responses that made the list.

Most suggestions tied back to wanting a safer work environment and well-trained employees.
Most suggestions tied back to wanting a safer work environment and well-trained employees. (AP photo)

1. Better treatment of staff

This request rang out loud and clear among the majority of responses we received; officers want to see better pay and treatment from their administrators, whether that means being listened to in regards to policy creation and budget cuts to what levels of training are received.

Most of all, officers wanted to see more efforts in employee retainment, which is reasonable considering the major understaffing and overcrowding of prisons in the U.S. “Pay more the officers and appreciate them more. They won't quit,” David Hernandez wrote.

2. Better staffing and hours

Officers are often working alone with hundreds of inmates. Our readers wanted to see at least two officers to a pod; this is not only for officer safety but also for officer sanity.

“Put 2 officers in a pod of 80-100 inmates; the problem is that I spend most of my day with only inmates. I see other officers a total of about 20 minutes a day,” wrote Matthew McClaughry.  “Also having a second officer gives you someone to talk to; this can resolve a lot of issues in the units.”

Working alone for long hours leaves officers at the mercy of manipulative inmates and creates a recipe for potential disaster.

3. Incentives for contraband recovery

Respondents believe that more incentives to find contraband, aside from finding the weapons that could potentially hurt staff, creates a higher rate of discovery.

By giving officers a cash incentive, as suggested by Tee Jay Stanley, or other prize, officers would always be on alert to seek out contraband and bring it in.

This also means leaders would have to ensure officers aren’t planting contraband in order to win the incentive.

4. Severe consequences for assaults on staff

This one would certainly be welcomed across the nation – inmates who assault and even kill staff are often only penalized with more time. And those who commit these acts are usually already serving a life sentence, so the threat of more time behind bars holds little meaning for them.

Whether this means more solitary confinement or other punishments, there needs to be a way to say that corrections officers aren’t inmate punching bags.

5. Advanced training

This goes hand in hand with better treatment of staff but certainly deserves its own attention.

Training helps officers not only stay safe during the day-to-day duties of the job but can also help them cope with the terrible things they may see and experience while working behind the walls.

Training can also help them help inmates, whether it’s by de-escalating violent situations or explaining to inmates how education can help them stay on the right path once they’ve been released. 

6. Better equipment

This goes for both what’s on officers’ bodies, as well for the facilities they work in.

All too often we hear about jails and prisons that date back to the 60s and 70s, with technology that also harkens from those eras. Facilities should be updated often, with technology that will help the officers perform their jobs to the best of their abilities and so that the inmates serve their time without issues.

Of course, this doesn’t mean the COs should go without. “Fund exoskeleton suits for staff that would give them an advantage in supervising large groups of hardened criminals,” Christa Oxendine wrote. “The suit would absorb blows and stabbings.”

7. Greater hiring standards

Officers are in high demand in the U.S. as of late, but our readers don’t want to see just anyone being brought into the fold.

“Re-do the hiring process in order to filly weed out those who would not do their jobs effectively,” Jacob Mamalakis-McKenzie wrote.

While it’s true that veteran officers need to be more welcoming to rookies, it’s important for staff members to be intelligent, hardworking and willing to work within a team.

8. PolicIES created by those with corrections experience

Many of our readers want to see administrators who have walked the line and know what it’s like to deal with inmates on a daily basis.

“Before fully implementing any new policy, administrators must put a uniform back on and work the line for a minimum of 12 weeks under that policy,” wrote Eric Weiss.

This would feed into a fair and consistent policy that sees officers imbued with more trust (hopefully the officers who were hired according to greater standards!) and inmates treated as human beings while serving their time.

9. Body scanners

Along with more incentive to find contraband, many of our readers believed that body scanners are a must-have inside correctional facilities. These scanners can help search both inmates and visitors to the facility more thoroughly, and all without a pat-down. This doesn’t mean that the two shouldn’t be used in conjunction with one another, but it goes without saying that a body scanner is an asset to a correctional facility.

10. K-9 units

The nose knows: our readers also wanted to see more K-9 units being used in correctional facilities to prevent contraband. These four-legged contraband detectors are specially trained to find everything from drugs to cell phones and are often praised for their ability to turn up thousands of contraband items inmates have secreted away in their cells and on their persons.

What other things would you change if you were in charge of your facility? Share in the comments below. 

This article, originally published 07/28/2015, has been updated. 

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