Dealing with Inmates Can be Intimidating for a New Corrections Officer
I would never have admitted at the time that I was afraid of dealing with inmates when I first walked onto a prison yard but, I was. As a Corrections Officer, we received all the problem inmates from the other prisons in California, and most of the staff that worked at this new prison were new officers like me. The inmates knew this and were ready to test our knowledge of the rules and ready to see if we were afraid to enforce the rules. Keep in mind; most of the inmates were more physically fit than some of the officers. This is why the ability to effectively communicate becomes so important.
During my training at the academy, we engaged in numerous scenarios to try and prepare us to deal with inmates in a variety of different situations. The preferred method is to resolve issues through effective communication and negotiation skills, which takes time and practice to master. For me, it was effective at least 80 percent of the time. Since I love to talk anyway, I used this opportunity to talk to inmates with decency, respect, and common courtesy. You learn after awhile that some of them just want someone to talk to, listen to them, and treat them like a human being.
There is that line that you must be careful not to cross because their job also is to try to manipulate you, if possible. It becomes a game for some of them because they have a lot of idle time on their hands. Once they understand that you will not cross that line and you remain professional, you develop a mutual respect between each other. We had a saying that, “When dealing with inmates it is important to be firm, fair, and consistent in your behavior and with what you tell them.” If you say you’re going to do something, do it. There is nothing wrong with asking an inmate to do something verses telling him to do something. Once again, it comes down to how you communicate with inmates whether your day will be stress-free or filled with problems.