Monday, April 30, 2007

How I came to work in the correctional field.

I've worked in a lot of fields, in all sorts of positions. Most of them I wasn't particularly suited for, but you've got to do something to pay the bills while you're in school. I've worked in radio, telemarketing, had sales positions of all kinds...

Car sales, for instance - I enjoyed the dance, the play between myself, the sales person, and my victim, the customer. I did not like being disagreed with however, especially by people who didn't know what they were talking about. I didn't enjoy the fact that I felt I was constantly in an adversarial relationship with everyone who came on the lot.

Customer: "I want that new $30,000 car. I want to put nothing down. I want to trade in my 1979 Chevy Nova with 500,000 miles and I want you to give me $2000 for it. I want to pay $250 a month and I'm not going to lease. That's my offer. Take it or I walk."

Me: "You know what, I have someone over here who might be able to help you. Here's Bob."

Bob: "...."

I'm not built for that kind of customer service. My wiring doesn't work that way. Oh, I'm fully capable of being nice, don't get me wrong - as long as the person I'm talking to is reciprocating the guesture. When you're in college though, and forced into a class schedule that you have to work around, you take what you can get.

Which brings me to the corrections field.

In the summer after I had graduated from college and gotten married, I was looking for a long-term job that would hopefully transform into a career.

It was the hip thing to do at the time. All the kids were doing it.

I wanted to avoid sales if I could. I wanted to avoid wearing a tie. I applied to, among other things, the Omaha Police Department and the Douglas County Correctional Center. I took some tests and waited. A few months later, DCC replied and said they wanted me, and the Omaha Police Department had me at #45 on their list (they were hiring 50 or so officers that year.)

I was worried about the cop job. There was a long probationary period. As a cop, you're held to a high standard of professionalism and work under a microscope on a daily basis. You're out there with the uniform and the badge...and you're a target. I was older than most college graduates and had a baby on the way. If I was a few years younger, single...I'd probably take the cop job -but I wasn't.

So I took the correctional officer position. I haven't looked back since -in fact I wish I had started working here years ago. If I'd started back in 1998 or so when I started taking college courses here in Omaha, I'd be at least a Sergeant by now.

The corrections field is the one for me.

We don't carry guns. We don't have batons. We don't have stun sticks, or tazers. Only one person in the building generally has access to chemical spray, and it isn't used often.

We have our hands, our feet and some damn fine people backing us up.

I have a job where I can go to work, hear people complain about things, and I get to say, "No." Sometimes I use even stronger terms.

I have a job where I get paid to charge into a cell where a feces-covered psychopath is waiting to hit me.

I have a job where I can pit my wits and observational skills against people who have been trying to get away with things their entire lives.

Granted, I work daily with people ranging from murderers to drunk drivers to child molesters to prostitutes, but that just gives me stories to tell around the dinner table at Christmas.

It's nice when you can have the mindset that you're actually looking forward to going to work each day.

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