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Applying your New Year’s resolutions to the workplace

By Laura E Bedard

We’ve all been there, on January 1, facing a mountain of New Year’s resolutions. Lose weight, quit smoking, manage your money better, exercise more — whatever your pledges are, the truth is most of us abandon our personal promises within 60 days (or sooner, please pass the rolls).

Less common are New Year’s resolutions related to the workplace.

In the world of broken resolutions, committing to become a better employee or a better a boss seems reasonable, but rare. While your pledge to get on the treadmill three times a week may be abandoned in early February (when the Valentine’s Day chocolates arrive), a few simple adjustments in work habits can pay huge personal and organizational dividends.

Think about it — if every correctional officer pledged to pay more attention to the details of their paperwork or to listen to inmates’ issues, all our facilities would be much improved. Correctional officers have an obligation to work on continuous improvement, not just for the benefit of the organization, but for their personal and professional growth.

As an obvious place to start, officers should be encouraged to care about what they do, and a large part of this includes caring about the inmates in their care.

Some of you are wondering, “Is she nuts? Why should we care about inmates?” Some of you may think I am soft, but that is far from the case. So, why should we care? Because, simply, it serves us well! It is an equation that makes sense: line officers should care about what the inmates are doing because it directly affects their ability to perform their job.

“Caring” about inmates does not just benefit them and contribute to their rehabilitation — it also directly impacts our safety. For example, I’d much rather have an inmate attending a class and occupied in self-improvement than remaining idle while thinking of ways to hurt officers and other inmates. We should make it a priority to care about whether every inmate is getting the needed and necessary programming that keeps them busy and gets them ready to return to society because, if he doesn’t, he is doomed while he is in our custody and doomed to return to the system again after he’s released. And I am pretty sure the second time you get him back he’s not going to be any easier to handle.

We should care about whether our inmates are leaving the system better than when they came in, and I don’t mean better criminals. We should care about our inmates’ physical and mental health, as their health and well-being impacts their families and our communities.

Corrections professionals should be more self-reflective. We should pledge to work on continuous improvement. Improvements made in your professional life will surely carry over to your personal life.

Make your 2011 New Year’s resolution to be a better corrections professional and, unlike your promise to lay off the donuts, don’t let this one fall by the wayside.

Laura E. Bedard began her work in corrections as a jail administrator in 1984. During her tenure as administrative faculty for the College of Criminology at Florida State University, she ran a study-abroad program in the Czech Republic lecturing on crime topics in an emerging democracy. In 2005, she became the first female Deputy Secretary of the Florida Department of Corrections. There she was responsible for 27,000 state employees and over 200,000 offenders in the third largest correctional system in the country. Dr. Bedard has published and lectured on a number of corrections-related topics including women in prison, mental health issues and correctional leadership. Dr. Bedard is currently serving as the Chief of Corrections for the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office in Sanford, Florida.

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