HANDLING PRISONERS: RULE OF THUMB
- Prison is a total institution like a seminary, soldiers’ barracks, tubercular institution and asylum for lepers.
- The difference however is that in prison, admission is not voluntary.
- That’s the initial view. But the accompanying procedure is a bit technical but clear. Prison should be treated like an ocean going vessel, a big passenger ship in the middle of sea. Everybody is on board passengers and crews alike. Nobody is allowed to get off. The ship must sustain everyone.
- The prison (or jail) officer is like a ship captain and as a matter of course, he must guide the liner and maintain discipline while it is voyaging and on a journey. That is the starting point. Visitors, as a rule, should be treated with respect and reverence unless they act like pirates.
- While on board, which in prisons inmates spend a considerable period of time, prisoners should henceforth be seen no longer as passengers but as students. Prisons should therefore in this manner function like an academe. Prisoners should be enrolled in classes and they should regularly be assessed according to the merits of their participation. (Gone were those days when prisons are instantly understood as hospitals, where prisoners are to be seen as sick persons needing confinement.) A policy on “no-skill-no-recommendation-for-release should be the guiding principle.
- The head of the facility acts like a Dean in the academe. This is where rehabilitation as a course is applied and its discipline imposed. Education is the backbone of every interaction.
- On the whole, prison administration projects a different, shifting persona according to the phase of correctional requirement. The correctional officer follows closely how administration fulfills it shifting mandate. Initially, he is a mariner, then an educator and an institutional facilitator. Failing to act the role promotes confusion and may complicate the way the prison is managed. Worst, one commits a blunder in handling prisoners.
- Having said these, the prison worker therefore should be distinguished from the rest of his counterparts in the whole bureaucracy. Principally, he is a different breed. Unlike his equivalent in a government institution, on a regular basis, he is exposed to deception, to hazards and threats, epidemics and violence, stress and tensions, pain and suffering, sorrow and anguish, torture and agony.
- Unlike in any other persuasion, he must be alert at all times. Negligence is fatal. Laxity is lethal to his state of mind. Carelessness is critical to his survival. Slackness is incurable if not irreversible for his career. Exposure in the prison community is an invitation to crime. He is always at the end of an incident. He is blamed if he commits a mistake; he is blamed if he omits an important stake. He must be nowhere in the prison community. Yet his presence must be felt.
- Prison work is a career for the philosophers, a vocation for the saintly, a calling for the just and a profession for scholars.
- It should never be seen as a livelihood, a source of revenue, or even as a trade. There are those who initially succumbed to the perception that prison is business, that it is a job to be done or a work to be completed, only to realize that it has impinged on his awareness on being fair and has eventually negated his sense of understanding on what is true and proper.
- Handling the incarcerated humanity demands precision and correctness. That is why it is called Corrections.