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Posts Tagged ‘Work’

I get asked all the time by friends and family (and sometimes strangers):

“What’s your job like?”
“So how is it working in a prison?”
“You’re a correctional officer, what is it you do, exactly?”
“What made you decide that job?”

After telling the person that I wanted a career, not just another job, I find myself pausing for a bit; not because I don’t know what I do. I just tend to think back on everything.

When I first started working at a prison, I had no idea what to expect. In truth, before I got hired I had never been inside a prison before. The whole experience of being a correctional officer was extremely new to me. Exciting in some ways, but I didn’t want to seem to eager, lest I do something stupid. My two months spent as a cadet shadowing officers was spent observing and asking as many questions as I could think to ask. I got a crash course in how a prison was run day to day, and another crash course in how to talk to inmates.

Finally BCOT started. 5 weeks away from the prison, spending time on a college campus. We marched like soldiers, were treated like inmates, learned how to handle ourselves (and in my case, fire a weapon), and somewhere along the way we picked up the skills necessary to do our job effectively at our institutions.

I didn’t want to stand out at BCOT. Having high test scores would have been nice, but it wasn’t my goal. I went into BCOT like I went into the cadet portion of my job; with my eyes and ears wide open, hoping to learn any and everything. I didn’t want awards or recognition, I wanted the skills to be a good officer.

I graduated. It was the first time I had walked with my class to get my certificate. I didn’t even do that when I graduated college (I was in London, but that’s a different story).

I had a moment of panic when I accepted my badge and shift placement from my supervisor right after graduation. Standing there with my fellow officers, I wondered if I would be able to do the job required of me.

Observing how a dorm is run and running a dorm are two different things. Day shift and night shift are two completely different animals when working in a prison. As a cadet I spent 8 hours shadowing an officer; as an officer I spent 12 hours on post. My first two nights were hell, but not because I found the job hard. I wasn’t used to working a night shift job at all ever, let alone for 12 hours.

Five inmate counts a shift, every shift, a total of ten counts a day. Accountability/Count is the most important thing in a prison. If you don’t know where your inmates are when you come on post, you’ve had a bad day. If your accountability is right from the start, everything else falls into place.

I remembered what I saw and experienced as a cadet, which by comparison didn’t seem like enough when you’re handed a clipboard, equipment and a dorm of roughly 100+ female (or male) inmates for the next 12 hours. You quickly learn things BCOT didn’t teach you and no one can really prepare you for.

You’re taught not to judge or ask questions about why they’re incarcerated. You learn to not be nosy. You learn to field personal questions, or give broad answers to not give away personal information. You learn that inmates love to talk, and that if you listen long enough, you’ll learn everything about their life. You learn to judge when you’ve heard enough and when you need to hear more. You learn how to pull an inmate aside without attracting attention, how to talk to your fellow officer without being ear hustled, and how to get information from snitches without them being discovered.

I learned how much paperwork it takes to run a prison. As a cadet you see officers filling it out, but rarely did an officer take the time to show you what forms needed to be done each shift, every shift.

You can’t be prepared for how a dorm will react to seeing you for the first time, and there’s no easy way to describe it. Inmate’s attitudes are different every day; and while they preached being fair, firm, and consistent, it can be difficult. I’ve been hated simply for walking into a dorm, and respected for the exact same reason; and not because of anything I had done, but because I wear the uniform of authority.

They don’t teach you pill call at BCOT, but pill call is an important part of the shift. A dorm of 96 inmates is guaranteed to have 1/3 on some sort of medication(s) that are taken at least once a day. Some are on heavy anti-psychotics. Even if you don’t know half of your inmates by name, you can expect roughly 35 out of your dorm to go to pill call. You can’t be prepared for having to run pill call, either. Nothing can prepare you for what you’ll see when an inmate opens their mouth to show you they took their meds. You learn to not think about it, but somewhere in the back of your mind you know you have a good idea of what meth mouth looks like.

Incidents at a prison are a dime a dozen. A shift that doesn’t have at least one fight, verbal or otherwise, is considered too good to be true. Inmates will fight over anything and will argue over even less.

They don’t teach about passing out mail, or laundry, or all the forms inmates will ask for. They teach you defensive tactics and how to cuff an inmate, but they don’t prepare you for your first inmate escort. They don’t teach you about everything that can happen that will require a witness statement. (They teach you how to write a witness statement, but until you have to write one, you never knew how to do one properly.)

They tell you about recidivism and the turnover rate of officers. You hear this, but you experience first hand officers resigning or being fired because they were more corrupt than the people they supervised, or because they couldn’t handle the job. Losing fellow officers is hard because 9 times out of 10 you walk into roll call barely able to fill every post. But you suck it up and learn that it is what it is, and if an officer leaves because they were corrupt, it’s better to work short staffed than have a full shift of officers you can’t trust.

Training doesn’t really prepare you for that trust, either. You learn that as you go. You want to look on the officers you went through training with as the ones who have your back first and foremost, but that isn’t always the case. Sometimes the one you can depend on the most to help in a situation is the one you least expect.

They don’t teach you how to pack and inventory property at training, yet as an officer it’s part of the job. They don’t teach you how you’ll adapt as an officer, or how you’ll reflect back on when you were a cadet to where you are now, and take stock of what you do and put up with on a daily basis without fear or a second thought.

Not everyone knows what a correctional officer does, and if you ask us, sometimes we can’t form the sort of response you want to hear. This isn’t because we don’t know, we know all too well what we do on a daily basis; but because we do so much in a shift we can’t begin to tell someone who hasn’t worked in our place.

Like I said, all the training in the world can’t prepare you for how you’ll run a dorm of 100+ inmates, and unless you’ve done it, you’ll never be able to imagine it. Everyone wants to know what you’ve seen or been through, but they don’t realize that shift to shift we go through a lot, sometimes before we get our post assignment in roll call and after we’ve handed over our post to the next shift.

I’ve been cursed, called every name under the sun, and been yelled at by disgruntled inmates, just because I came on shift and accepted my post. I’ve had inmates threaten to hang because they weren’t getting their way, and had inmates so needy you couldn’t give them enough to keep them quiet. I’ve had to run to assist fellow officers restrain an aggressive inmate, and strip search inmates going into lockdown or a safe cell. I’ve pat searched kitchen staff, and confiscated all sorts of contraband. I’ve been trained to detect changes in behavior, gained a “6th sense” about situations and my dorm, and had to diffuse verbal altercations I just knew were going to turn violent.

I’ve had inmates test my authority and my ethics to see what I would and would not let them get away with. I’ve had inmates try to get me to pass for them, and had to stand my ground and say no, I’m not that officer. I’ve had inmates try to bend the rules so they could see their girlfriend, or volunteer for a detail so they could stay up past lockdown.

I’ve heard all manner of filth come from an inmate’s mouth, in normal conversation. I’ve had to make sure girlfriends didn’t lag behind everyone else for that extra “together time”, told inmates to “get somewhere”, and caught inmates in middle of their…business, toilet or otherwise. I’ve opened inmate mail and read the filthiest things you can (or can’t) imagine.

I’ve had inmates flood their cell, throw a tantrum that would make a toddler pause and take notes, bang their head, and refuse their medicine and had to assist in force medicating via a shot. I’ve had to put inmates into restraints to curb aggressive and self-injurious behavior.

I’ve heard more gossip than you could find in a high school lunch room, and played counselor to inmates needing to vent. I’ve been disrespected by some and respected by others. I’ve been thanked for listening and been cursed for being too busy. I’ve made more rounds than I can remember and counted my dorm over and over again. I’ve had an inmate be at the end of her life, fall out in her cell and be taken out in an ambulance, only to die in the hospital a few days later. I’ve been yelled at and lectured by fellow officers, made mistakes and learned from them. I’ve been expected to have all the answers or at least find as many answers as I could before my shift was over.

I can’t accurately tell you what I really do as a correctional officer. Our job description is safety: protecting the general public from the inmates and the inmates from themselves and each other. But that’s just part of it. These things that happen day to day, shift to shift is part of the job. So don’t be surprised if a correctional officer pauses the next time you ask what our job is like. It isn’t because we don’t know, it’s because we’re remembering everything we do and we have too many stories to tell.

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I’m so terrible at keeping a regular blog.  I say something similar to this every time I post.

Anyway, I was going back to college to get a degree in Criminal Justice and focus on a Bachelor’s in Cyber Crime.  Well at the tail-end of August, beginning of September, I landed a job.  I’m now a Correctional Officer in training.  This means that yes, I’ll be working in a prison.  Naturally I’m really excited. I’m also nervous, but I don’t think that’s an overwhelming emotion at the moment. I start tomorrow (October 3), which is perfect because my unemployment is about to run out.

I start my new job on Monday, and Wednesday I’ll be going to a concert in Atlanta.  I’ve been excited for this concert since it was announced in July, and it literally feels like I’ve been waiting forever for the tour to begin.  Well, now it’s here and I couldn’t be more excited.  I’ll be seeing Imperative Reaction, System Syn, and God Module.  I’ve been a fan of Imperative Reaction and System Syn for roughly 5 years now, and I’ll confess I only just started listening to God Module (around the time the tour was announced, but I love everything already), and I’m amped for the chance to see this show.  There’s also going to be online friends I’ve connected with through our mutual love of these bands (and Combichrist), and Lisbeth, wife of Ted (frontman of Imperative Reaction) will be there to sing on stage for a few songs.  My friend and I have VIP passes, so we get to hang out for a little bit before the show.

So, all in all, I think this winter will be much better than my summer (which I posted about).  Now I just need to survive the correctional officer training. 🙂

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Er, I’m quite rubbish at keeping up with blogs, obviously.  I mean, you’d think with me being unemployed ONCE AGAIN, I would have ample time to write petty nonsense in this thing.  I don’t know, at any rate, I haven’t been keeping track of much.

Let’s see, as I mentioned above, I lost my job in November.  Once again I was laid off.  It’s possible I should move back home with my parents, but I’m trying to see if I can find another job first.

December 4th I saw Trans-Siberian Orchestra.  I have to say the concert was fantastic.  It was everything I hoped it would be ever since I started listening to them at age 14.  I went away from the show feeling dazzled and slightly deaf, but so happy I saw them.

One week later (December 11th), I flew to New York with my friend Kim and saw Rammstein.  I can honestly say without a doubt it was the BEST concert I have ever been to.  To be a part of that history, to see them in the U.S. for the first time in almost 10 years, and in Madison Square Gardens, was nothing short of awe-inspiring.  Marking that off my bucket list was pretty awesome.

I went away from that concert with the ultimate feeling of euphoria, even more deaf than the week before, also hoarse.  It didn’t matter, I was/am so happy I saw them.  Words can’t describe the happiness.  I, like the other fans who saw Rammstein in NY, hope they decide to eventually tour the U.S.

What else?  Oh, well…tomorrow is my birthday.  Yeah, happy birthday to me.  I’ll be at my cousin’s, doing laundry and reading and hoping the day doesn’t suck too terribly bad.

Update over, I’ve nothing more to write.

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Blogging whilst at work.  I’ve been meaning to write something for quite some time, but I’m only now getting around to it.

General catch-up

3 weekends ago Atlanta hosted Gay Pride.  I went to the festivities all 3 days (Friday to Sunday) and meant to blog about it.  We see how well that went.  I’ll write up a separate entry soon, because all the fun that was had cannot simply fit into this one entry alone.

By a stroke of luck at a local Barnes & Noble, I got my hands on the Complete Sherlock Holmes: Vol. 1 & 2.  I am part way through the The Sign of Four.  Finding quiet time to read is difficult at best; I’ve taken to locking myself in the bathroom and bringing the book to work with me for some alone time.  I’m not complaining, I rather enjoy it.

I’ve felt creative as of late, a smattering of poems and a partial story have been written.  None of it complete, should work on this.

My general rantings, however, deal with the atrocities on the Georgia interstates that claim to be suitable drivers.  They’re not.  They’re brainless, devolved beasts with 2-ton death missles, and that’s putting it mildly.  I don’t know what’s been emptied into the water supply to make everyone bat-shit crazy when it comes to driving on the interstate, but it’s been effective.  Maybe it’s the weather or the recent full moon.  Whatever the case may be, it’s made me think about modifying my car; perhaps into something along the lines of a tricked-out death machine you see in video games.

Not realistically possible for my make and model car, but I digress.

What else?  OH, Emilie Autumn’s second printing of her novel The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls finally shipped.  Now if mum will send my copy to me, all will be right in the world.  I cannot wait to have my copy actually in my hands.

OH!  Also, I’m so excited about Rammstein playing their first U.S. show in 10 years!  They’ll be in NY on Dec. 11th, and I HAVE TICKETS TO BE THERE!!  I’m so excited about this, I cannot wait for November to pass.

I also have tickes for Trans Siberian Orchestra next month.  More excitement.

At any rate, that seems to be the gist of it.  I’ve noticed since picking up Sherlock Holmes my speech has gotten far more proper.  As it should be, I suppose.  Not many in America know what proper grammar is.  Indeed, half my peers still use their/there/they’re and your/you’re improperly, and we’ve been graduated from high school 6 years.  No matter, at least I can say grammar/literature class were my best studies.

I’ll end this now, work to be done.

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Until recently my job searches have been proving fruitless at best. Everywhere I sent my resume or tried to contact never came through. In this economy, it’s understandable, albeit highly frustrating.

The day before yesterday I was searching the Job Bank on the Georgia Department of Labor website (again), hoping I could find something, anything to picque my interest. By this point, I wasn’t even searching a specific job category, just choosing different Georgia locations and scanning the job listings.

Then I saw it. Fayette County, Deputy Sheriff. I looked over the minimum qualifications (minus the fact there’s training and testing to undergo), and have applied. Hopefully something comes through. If all else I could go through the police academy. I don’t know what it is, but I would really love to be in law enforcement. I can’t describe it, I can barely explain it, I just know I would absolutely love to be in that career field.

I’m crossing my fingers and hoping against hope that I get the opportunity to at least fulfill one of my dreams before I die. Not to sound morbid or anything. We all have a bucket list, or a career dream list. While the job title of “cop” isn’t on that list, it is a step in the right direction to where I want to go. The means to an end for all of this is simple: Eventually, I would really love to work for the FBI.

This is something I never thought I would want to do, but there you have it. I want to be an agent. Like I said, eventually. As the cliche goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Now I just wait and see what happens.

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Anyone not living in barren wastelands (or under a rock, as the cliche goes) knows the United States’ economy is terrible.  Since this past summer things have looked bleak; the housing market crashed, millions lost their jobs around the country, and everyone’s keeping a wary eye on the stock market.  Add in the credit/bank bailouts, and the overall money-grubbing and corruption in that area, and the U.S. ceases to be a world power, and starts to look more like a failing steam engine now on the brink of utter disaster.

Okay, perhaps it’s not so bad.  President Obama is taking steps to ensure we don’t fail, and states have seen slight drops in unemployment as the NYSE has finally rallied back from the brink of a crash.  But everything is still terrible on the workforce front.  According to the U.S. Department of Labor site, unemployment was still high around the nation for the month of October (please forgive this, those were the only recent numbers I could find for the nation as a whole).

My home state of Georgia, while not the top state for highest unemployment numbers (U.S. DoL numbers for October rank Michigan in the top spot), still reached a new unemployment record high in July with 10.3 percent.  Since then the numbers have fluctuated very little, especially in the north east portion of the state (where I live).  The rural parts of the state (and the country) are being hit harder than most people realize.

While it’s unfortunate that city businesses are cutting jobs to make up for losses, the money crunch felt around the nation is making the biggest impact on the small business owner in the rural regions.  Home growers, local farmers, and the small towns that revolve around and thrive on these even smaller businesses are facing the very real reality that they won’t be able to make it.  In areas of the state (and the country) where suburban or metropolitan areas are miles away, and outsourcing business to China to save money is not an option, the fight to stay afloat in today’s economy has become one of the toughest fights my generation has had to face.

Essentially, if President Obama’s other bailout plans and plans to grow jobs doesn’t come through in time, the breakdown of the country will start in the rural areas of the nation and then radiate outward.  This rings true in Georgia, where roughly 29 percent of the state is used for farming (40,000 farms across the whole state).

The small towns I keep mentioning need more help than perhaps Washington realizes.  I may sound biased in this, but I can’t help it.  I live in a small town in north east Georgia and I see first-hand how the unemployment rate is affecting people.  Around the area I love, more people are unemployed than employed, and come January 2010, I will be among them.  Having been told a week ago that I was losing my job, I am now faced with the same issue so many other Georgians are facing: finding a job.

Coupling the unemployment with the news that state officials are appealing for more money to keep paying unemployment benefits, and the situation goes from bad to worse.

I had originally thought about doing nothing more than bitching about the fact that I’m losing my job in January, how my soon-to-be former employers could have avoided this, blah blah blah, but that’s not really what I’m trying to do here.  Yes, it is true that the layoffs at my job could have been avoided; and avoided very easily, but that’ s no longer the point.  Bitching about my looming situation will do nothing to change the unemployment numbers either, especially seeing as how I will be adding to the numbers soon enough.

The point is that it’s not just my job, or my town, or my state.  It’s the entire country.  It’s everyone’s job, everyone’s town, everyone’s state.  I’m not alone in this, and stating that fact definitely hasn’t made anything suck less; and it certainly hasn’t made the job hunt any less detestable for me.  I’m one of several hundreds of thousands of people in the same boat, and although I had this mindset before my job “ran out” on me, I say now with definite clarity along with the other disgruntled voices of the nation:

Something needs to be done about this. Quick.

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Headaches of my job

While I’ll be the first to step up and say my job is easy, it’s not without its problems.  The only thing is that when things go wrong at this TV station, even a little problem has major fallout.

Take Sunday night, for example.  My shift was from 2PM – 9PM. (If you’re unclear about what I do, I give an extensive break-down here.)  While I was going through the log for my shift (mainly double-checking breaks and show times, always a good practice), I noticed that although I join our movie network at 9PM (when the schedule says I’m supposed to be off, and when we go “unmanned”), there’s four breaks to run; two in the show at 9PM and two more at 10PM.  There’s also the lottery that airs at 11PM and a show that’s supposed to be recorded at midnight.

If I’ve lost anyone here, please bear with me.  Let me explain this again, perhaps a little more simply if you don’t understand TV speak.  My schedule had me working 2PM – 9PM.  At 9PM, we start running programming from a movie network.  At 9PM and 10PM there’s two one-hour shows, each show has two local breaks (local breaks mean our station has to play commercials at these specific times).  There’s also a lottery that airs at 11PM (we get the lottery from a satellite receiver), and a show that’s supposed to be recorded at midnight (this also comes from a satellite receiver).  Each of these things require a person; a person to run the breaks, a person to set up the receiver to air the lottery, and a person to start recording the show.

All this being said, it should be clear there was a scheduling error, bad form on my boss’s part to be sure.  I understand why he’d schedule me to get off earlier, because I have to commute an hour to Athens for the morning news (a live show).  My coworker told me earlier that someone was supposed to come in and do all the other stuff when I was supposed to get off.

Well, my coworker David came in at ten till 11PM and relieved me.  My boss called me after I had gotten home to tell me it was a logging error on behalf of the traffic department.  He then commend me on staying and making sure all breaks ran, and then gave me the next day off.  It wasn’t all bad, sometimes good things come out of the bad things.

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