2102, 2024

Being Nice Could Save Your Life – Now AND Later

February 21, 2024|Blog|

Working in corrections is a very complex endeavor. It’s difficult, boring, challenging, and full of contradictions. Are we cops, social workers, enforcers, or teachers? Actually, we are asked to be all these things. And while training has improved over the years, today’s correctional professional remains under-trained in some important areas and maybe over-trained in other areas. People come into corrections for a variety of reasons, but most probably want to help on some level. We want to help protect society, be part of the law enforcement team, and maybe even help the offenders. Most corrections professionals begin their career with a positive attitude and an empathetic heart for humanity. Unfortunately, after some well-intended training and a few months on the job, we quickly become jaded, cynical and may even feel to “fit in” we need to become more hardened in our approach. Becoming hardened may be the result of being hurt by offenders – physically injured or scarred from [...]

1402, 2024

Why We Need SafetyNet Accreditation

February 14, 2024|Blog|

For the past 21 years, Desert Waters has persistently and passionately pursued and promoted correctional staff wellness, primarily through education and research. The last several years have seen this topic take the front-central seat in national and international discussions. Reasons for that include concerns about work performance, work engagement, legal liability, retention, recruitment, and facilitating positive interactions between staff and justice-involved persons. Since staff wellness is now recognized as being mission critical, many agencies are implementing components of staff wellness programming—which is great news! Wellness is a complex area of study and service, and employee wellness programming is a rather new area of pursuit for some employers. Fostering occupational wellness is particularly challenging—a “tough nut to crack”—when addressing wellness needs of correctional staff. Some reasons for that are that correctional employees: are often chronically stressed; operate in cultures of toughness and denial, where acknowledging being negatively affected by the job and needing help are frowned upon and shamed; are [...]

702, 2024

Safeguarding Staff Wellbeing By Applying The Big 7 To Interactions With Persons In The Criminal Justice System

February 7, 2024|Blog|

In this article I’d like to share with you some thoughts on ways to possibly reduce the occurrence of avoidable high-stress events at work, and the wear-and-tear (whether visible or invisible; physical, psychological or spiritual) that you suffer due to these events. One type of these high-stress events is the escalation of conflict due to clashes with other staff or the justice-involved persons you manage. In the October 2022 issue of the Correctional Oasis we addressed staff bullying as a major source of staff stress. In this issue I’d like to talk about an approach to potentially avoid or de-escalate conflict and reduce tension in your interactions with those in the criminal justice system who are under your care. My goal is to humbly offer you some tools towards your wellbeing – “your safety and your sanity,” and towards the fostering of healthier, lower-stress work environments than what you may be experiencing now. I say humbly, because you are the ones doing the heavy lifting. You [...]

3101, 2024

Wellness Playbook for Champs

January 31, 2024|Blog|

It occurred to me one night during a conversation with a fellow corrections friend that the wellness game being played in corrections agencies seems very déjà vu (French for “already seen,” AKA “old news”) for some reason. It hit me when I was driving to work this morning: the corrections wellness game is mostly about defense. Correctional agencies have long suffered the effects of not being able to change, this we know. We have been saying for decades that prison reform is needed and yet we never seem to achieve that reform. We sit at conferences and trainings that show us immediate steps we can take to respond to the “issue of the year,” and yet meaningful long-term strategies elude us. There are always reasons given for that (even good reasons) that include staffing, political climate, budget constraints, etc. But then I have noticed that over the years when litigation strikes and mandates come, there seems to be a fairly immediate strategy for the [...]

1307, 2023

Prison Reform & Staff Wellness Are Inextricably Linked

July 13, 2023|Blog|

For the past 20+ years, Desert Waters Correctional Outreach has been dedicated to devising ways to improve the well-being of correctional staff – a desperately needed and noble endeavor. As a result of this work and the efforts of others, such as One Voice United and Chicago Beyond, we at Desert Waters have concluded that correctional staff wellness is not only crucial in its own right, but it is also a foundational component of a much broader and also desperately needed mission – prison reform. In this article I share my thoughts on how prison reform and staff wellness are highly interrelated, and why I am firmly convinced that we cannot have one without the other. (a)Why There Can Be No Prison Reform Without Staff Wellness Prison reform aims to improve living conditions in prisons, and to provide programming and treatment that increase the probability of successful rehabilitation and reentry of incarcerated persons. For that to be possible, we need a reduction in the [...]

504, 2022

A House Divided CANNOT Stand: The Critical Need for Staff Unity

April 5, 2022|Blog|

I’ve heard many a time the saying that perception IS reality. Since perception at times may in fact be misperception, and not actual, true reality, I take this saying to mean that the way we perceive situations can “push our buttons” and cause us to react in certain ways regardless of whether the perception is accurate or not. In the workplace, if having healthy and harmonious staff relationships matters to us, then staff’s negative perceptions of their agency—whether founded or not—must be addressed, discussed, clarified and worked on as needed, or else these negative perceptions will breed division and discord. What I’m about to discuss here is a very delicate matter at the heart of the philosophy of corrections in the United States. We probably agree that the pendulum (regarding how and why corrections is being carried out in the United States) has swung from a strictly containment, “warehousing,” even punitive model to a more rehabilitative and treatment-oriented model, [...]

703, 2022

An Ounce of Prevention

March 7, 2022|Blog|

Historians tell us that in 1736 Benjamin Franklin pointed out to the citizens of fire-threatened Philadelphia that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” This statement emphasizes that when we know that there is a substantial risk that a certain hazard will occur, it pays off to do what we can to reduce the likelihood that this hazard will befall us. The energies poured into such preventative efforts are likely to give us a high return on our investment by preventing ripple effects of suffering, possibly irreparable harm and even possibly loss of life. These are reasons why prevention should be an essential component and a foundational principle of corrections staff wellness programs. Sound research studies have established that corrections staff face a formidable occupational hazard which, for ease of discussing it, I call Corrections Fatigue. (By Corrections Fatigue I mean the cumulative and combined negative effects of all types of occupational stressors encountered in corrections [...]

2802, 2022

Sleep…Who Needs It‽ The Complexities of Excessive Mandatory Overtime and Sleep Deprivation

February 28, 2022|Blog|

News articles that address chronic sleep deprivation and excessive mandatory overtime for correctional employees are now common: “I would start my shift on Sunday night,” . . . “I would be too tired to commute home, so I would sleep in the jail in a former jail cell, in an inmate bunk. I would get up, eat out of a vending machine, do my next 16-hour shift and then I wouldn’t go home until Friday morning.” (Washington, 2021). When [she] could not face another 16-hour workday at the Philadelphia Department of Prisons, she started paying a coworker $20 per shift to take her mandatory overtime assignments. (Pennsylvania, 2021). A typical work week sees officers working 84 hours over seven days; mandatory overtime can see staff working an additional 36 hours a week. “That’s at a minimum,” officers [are] going home exhausted saying, “We can’t risk our lives anymore.” (Alaska, 2020). “Six 12-hour shifts with a day off equals 72 [...]

2102, 2022

COVID-19 in 2021

February 21, 2022|Blog|

Instead of a reprieve, 2021 has followed closely on the heels of 2020 in terms of relentless demands posed by COVID-19 realities on staff of all ranks and disciplines – front-line staff, mid-level supervisors and administrators. FRONT-LINE STAFF Based on an unpublished research study conducted by Desert Waters Correctional Outreach in 2021, and also based on our conversations with staff across the country, staff’s biggest challenges in 2021 boiled down to health and functioning concerns. Staff’s biggest challenges in 2021 boiled down to health and functioning concerns. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson) Staffing shortages (that were perhaps already severe) worsened due to COVID-19, leading to high amounts of mandatory overtime work, and staff’s partial chronic sleep deprivation, becoming the norm at certain agencies. Staff have spoken to us about feeling trapped, stuck and having been taken hostage by their agencies due to having lost their freedom to go home at the end of their shifts. Uncertainty about the implementation and efficacy of new policies dealing with COVID-19 [...]

302, 2022

More Beautiful Where Broken and Mended

February 3, 2022|Blog|

The Japanese have an artform that has evolved from mending broken pottery.  It is called KINTSUGI, which means golden joinery, or KINSTUKUROI, which means golden repair. Artists who use this artform repair broken pottery by mending areas of damage with coating covered or mixed with powdered gold, platinum or silver. Pottery repaired in this manner is considered to be more beautiful and more unique than it was when it was still intact, before it had been broken and ever so carefully and tenderly repaired. And it is, indeed, more beautiful than before, with veins of gold running along its side, shimmering and glimmering, and making the pottery vessel functional and usable again. I wonder if the same may not apply to us. We all have areas in our lives or in our person where we have experienced “breaking,” even getting shattered. As fragile human beings, as time goes on, we simply cannot escape getting cracked and chipped and fractured as we [...]


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