Why correctional turnover is so high

Much of what makes corrections so dangerous can be easily fixed, if only society understood the importance of incarceration


Corrections, generally, takes place among three main levels of government: federal, state and county. Across all three frontiers, corrections remains to be the “most known unknown” out of the entirety of law enforcement.

The public is aware of the fact that criminals are incarcerated after conviction and are also aware of the fact that correctional institutions require funding, often having a detrimental impact on taxes. The public seems to realize that corrections is necessary, but the persona of corrections in the public atmosphere is one of loathing.

Corrections is not viewed in a positive light, nor do taxpayers seem to appreciate the corrections facet of the criminal justice system. Generally speaking, no matter what level of government corrections may fall under, it will undoubtedly be the first to have hiring freezes, budget cuts and underfunding.

Corrections is an intricate system filled with trials and tribulations on a day-to-day basis. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
Corrections is an intricate system filled with trials and tribulations on a day-to-day basis. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

Corrections is known, but the ideals behind corrections and all of the funding that is required to successfully operate safe and stable facilities are unknown.

UNDER THE MICROSCOPE: training correctionAL officers

Let’s take a look at general training in the state of Georgia. The Georgia Department of Corrections mandates that correctional officers receive four weeks of training prior to starting employment.

These four weeks are to adequately prepare correctional officers for dealing with inmates who have committed terrifying acts of violence, are gang affiliated, violent sex offenders, and, in numerous cases, dangerous and erratic sociopaths.

Correctional officers have four weeks to understand interpersonal communication, defensive tactics, radio communications, report writing, gang identification, mechanical and chemical restraints, search and seizure methodology, as well as rapport building, institutional policy and procedure, and other paramount tenants of supervision.

Need I reiterate that these officers must be proficient in all these skills and take post in institutions that are understaffed?

On any given day, an officer may be outnumbered 70 to one by inmates and an officer’s only two weapons are typically pepper spray and their ability to deescalate hostile situations verbally. Society fails to realize that correctional officers do not carry firearms while inside of institutions and that interpersonal skills are far more utilized in corrections than any other form of weaponry.

The importance of proper training

In contrast to corrections training, the Georgia Highway Patrol requires 31 weeks of training prior to graduating and becoming a trooper. This is practically eight times longer than the corrections academy.

Does this mean that individuals who are tasked with the responsibility of taking criminals off the street should receive superior training to those who are assigned the task of supervising these criminals once they are incarcerated?

Corrections is an intricate system filled with trials and tribulations on a day-to-day basis. For example, when you provide an inmate with disciplinary action, you are forced to deal with the fact that you will see that same inmate the next day, and the next day, and the day after that.

As a corrections officer, you have to supervise and provide discipline to inmates who literally live where you work. This disparity in training does not hold true just for Georgia; states all over the nation tend to pump far more funds and training into patrol agencies than they do jail divisions, departments of correction and the federal prison system.

curbing a high Turnover rate

Is it not shocking, then, that corrections holds the highest turnover rate in all of law enforcement?

The starting salary for corrections professionals is typically lower than their patrol counterparts, the training received by corrections professionals is collectively less than other agencies receive, and the work corrections professionals do tends to be overlooked by society.

All avenues lead to the conclusion that corrections is simply not as good as patrol.

When this type of message is being portrayed and perceived, there will inevitably be issues. Staff corruption, incompetence, and high turnover rates are three of the most notable negative issues associated with corrections. This does not fall on the shoulders of corrections leaders; however, it falls on society and on the highest pillars of government.

Corrections leaders can only hire, train and employ individuals based on the funds that are allotted to them. Salaries, training and staff retention can only seriously be positively affected by taking a second look at what correctional officers actually do and to place a higher value on these brave men and women.

The concern with the enforcement of laws from a patrol standpoint is strategic, calculated and much needed, but the failure to recognize that the more money spent on the enforcement of laws will lead to more individuals being incarcerated is counterproductive.

MAKING AN INVESTMENT IN CORRECTIONS

Corrections requires adequate funding and training in order to combat the high influx of offenders, the complexity of gangs and the revolutionary ways that offenders have learned to “beat the system.”

Staff allegiance, retention and respect would most likely be the result of corrections being recognized as an equal to that of the patrol counterparts. As a collective system, patrol and corrections need to be equal so that law and order can prevail and offenders can be more tactfully monitored, disciplined and rehabilitated.

If the right hand never washes the left hand, then the left hand will remain dirty. Invest in corrections, the brave men and women who enter this field, and the ideals of corrections and rehabilitation.

References: 

1. Georgia Department of Corrections. http://gdc.ga.gov/

2. Georgia Department of Public Safety. https://dps.georgia.gov/

This article, originally published 05/06/2014, has been updated.

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