Wednesday, September 9, 2015

How to deal with working the holidays as a Correctional Officer

I have seen so many posts about Labor Day activities and to be honest, I've been slightly jealous. I know that it isn't Thanksgiving or Christmas, however, it's still time that can ben spent with family nonetheless. My weekend consisted of work. I have worked almost every holiday since entering the field of corrections.

On the left are the girls and I and on the right is Tony and I. (Yes, we both are C.O.'s!)
Excuse the quality of the pictures, but these were taken on the day I graduated the Virginia Jail Basic Academy!

I'm not feeling sorry for myself and I don't expect others too since I was well aware of the job and it's unfortunate schedule. Last year, we ate turkey a few days later and Santa came a day earlier. I have tried to make the best of the crummy schedule and will continue to do so. Fortunately, I am off Christmas Eve this year and won't have to go to work until Christmas night. The girls certainly don't suffer and since we split time between their father and my house, they will still spend time with family.

I found this quote on Facebook the other day and found it fitting for the line of work I have chosen. It's a field that many don't consider. It's a job that most ignore or forget exists, but is very much real for those to enter the confines of the secured area as well as the families.

Dear Correctional Officer,

I want you to know that I see you.
 I see you running late to your child’s ballgame because the disturbance jumped off ten minutes before shift change and you had to complete reports before leaving shift. I see you leaving for work, not knowing if you will be coming home. I see you putting on cell extraction gear to move an offender suffering from mental health who has barricaded himself in a cell after painting his naked body with feces and vows to kill the next person that he can get his hands on. I see you working alone, keeping the peace with 150 offenders in an open dormitory today, doing no less than ten thousand things exactly right, yet being counseled because you misspelled a word on a report. I see you working inside the razor wire, steel and concrete on Christmas, Thanksgiving and most holidays. I see you trying to raise a family on a paycheck that isn’t a tenth of what you are really worth. I see you showing more genuine concern for the health and welfare of the offenders in your charge then most of them have ever seen in their lives. I see you holding that line so that citizens can be safe in their communities. I see you working the street in the scorching heat, gusting snow and the pouring rain. I see you as the offender attempts to belittle you and disrespect your character just because he resents what you stand for. I see you responding to the emergency as others are running from it. I see you carrying out your duties with your experience and training as you are completely unarmed and extremely outnumbered. I see the look on your face when someone calls you a guard. I see that you are tired. I see that you are frustrated and misunderstood. I see that you are weary and hurting from working two jobs, trying to keep the wolf off of the door. I see that you are flesh and bones just like me. I see that you are a human being that has a heart that beats for your calling to serve and protect. I see you standing on that post and I am damn glad that you are standing on that post. I see your cause and I want you to know that I appreciate it.

Knowing how to handle the stress of working the holidays mentally, emotionally, and physically are key to maintaining some normalcy.

Mentally prepare yourself for the upcoming holidays. Get in the mindset that you're working the upcoming holiday. Try to stay positive and don't show negativity. Negativity can bring a person down and make things much worse than they need to be. Being positive not only encourages your coworkers, but shows that you can handle the stress of being away for the holiday. Being prepared mentally also allows you to soundly access any potential incidents that you may need to act quickly upon without hesitation. Know that with it being the holidays, tensions and emotions are high. Just knowing that could be the difference in everything.

Emotionally prepare yourself for the holidays. Knowing that there could be times when there might be something that could be damaging emotionally in this field, makes quite a difference. Learning how combat your emotions and not let them show plays a major role in working the dreaded holiday schedule. When emotions show in corrections, offenders then attempt to manipulate those to their advantage (not all the time, but more than we would like to think.) If they are shown an ounce of resentment for the schedule, situations could arise and they could potentially be hazardous and put others at risk. It's a hard thing to master and it's something that I still struggle with now.

Physically prepare yourself by getting sleep. It may be hard to do since you want to spend time with loved ones, but it will ensure your safe return to them. When we are tired, we tend to make mistakes and errors, which is something that ultimately could be dangerous. Making sure to eat is another physically preparation that needs to be taken seriously. If proper nutrition isn't received, there are consequences that could occur. Not to be taken seriously only during the holidays, but all time!

Being a correctional officer is a stressful job. It's even more stressful knowing that holidays aren't an automatic day off and quite the opposite. Preparation is vital to safety and security to yourself and others. Making sure to take the time and doing so is an effort that can help to cope with the unfortunate holiday work schedule.

How do you manage to to work through the holidays if you have to do so?
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