Unbanned Protection

Corrections work has always posed physical danger demanding a need for personal protection.  Over time, various devices have been available to aid us in protecting ourselves and controlling inmates.  Our facilities differ in policies, protective equipment, and allowable practices which seem to be ever changing often with the inclusion of more restrictive limitations as we seek to conduct corrections operations in a safe and secure manner for all.

Although our personal protective equipment in corrections can be limited, our spiritual and emotional protection is limitless due to the attributes of Jesus Christ.  God is unlimited and cannot be bound. The encouragement necessary to combat every attack we face is supplied by Him, including any oppressive regulations related to being able to do our job. We can find Christ as our dependable shield of defense through the power of the Holy Spirit, the Bible, and prayer. As use of force reports get more complicated, the simplicity of Christ has not changed.

 

Will You Fight?

When I had completed the interview process at my department, the Captain who was interviewing me let me know I got the job.  Right away I thought of all the reasons I was not qualified and began to voice my hesitation.  The Captain looked at me and said, “Will you fight?”  I answered affirmatively, but not with intensity until the third time he posed the same question with emphasis.  At my third reply, he said, “You’ll have ample opportunity.” Indeed, the many battles continue in every realm–physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.

The Psalmist David reveals that his heart is in the right place as he begins this Psalm 144 with praising God.  It is a good practice for us to learn to acknowledge and praise God in everything that takes place and in everything we are preparing to do.

God not only gives strength, He is strength.  It is a good thing to have strength.  Not everyone is equal in strength.  Strength comes from God—this makes it worthwhile.  Strength is no good without an ability and willingness to use it.  There are a lot of strong people that are not willing to fight—they have no desire.  Strength is no good unless it’s taught, trained, and used.

Corrections work necessitates that we not only fight in order to defend when attacked, but also that we be willing to go to the fight and not just fight, but prevail.  In corrections, we war every day—it’s a constant.   Our hands are taught and trained for the physical encounters, yet the spiritual battles outnumber the physical.  May our hands be trained to reach for the tools of war (the Bible) and our fingers to turn the pages. Psalm 144:1 “Blessed be the LORD my strength, which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight.”

Survival Challenge

Survival Challenge

In a 30 day survival challenge, a person is totally living off the land; eating what can be caught and prepared, facing the weather, away from family and normal everyday routines.  An importance is placed on knowing the main dangers of the setting for the encounter. These expeditions take place in a variety of settings including desert, wilderness, and arctic environments and in a variety of different countries, with a varying number of participants, yet all with the common goal of surmounting the natural world to survive. During this time, things are experienced that may be attempted to be related to loved ones, but they will never totally comprehend, no matter how hard they try.

When out in the elements, a shelter is constructed from available materials.  In this survival situation, your whole focus becomes on your next meal, water, fire, and shelter.  There are a limited number of tools and items that can be taken by the participants in a survival challenge. You are not really going anywhere or making any progress, and at the end, your only accomplishment is that you survived.  

Energy has been totally spent thinking, observing, and planning in these surroundings, where you are always trying new food items and devising creative plans to catch things. At the end of the experience where you’ve had constant exposure to the elements and been completely terrified at times, you are totally exhausted, and can only go home and crash, finding that family does not understand what was experienced or the full impact on the physical body. These demanding challenges test mental, physical, and spiritual endurance and resources, with a successful outcome putting us in a position of self-reliance, which feeds pride.

Numerous parallels can be drawn to corrections work, where our survival challenge takes place in a variety of settings, such as Bureau of Prisons, County Jail, or a State Facility, each location having its own unique set of daily dangers.  Here we are trying to find or build our own shelter, having left the security of our home. Every day presents a degree of difficulty in corrections work, however, not every day is a hard day during a survival challenge. Sometimes your concerns are more minimal if you have enough food and water to make it through the day because of an abundance you got the day before.  Incidentally, you may have to eat the same thing every day for a long time without any variety. In corrections, you may need to draw strength from the same set of verses for a long time. You’d like to have something different or may want things to change, but it’s profitable to return to the fundamentals, finding that some of the same passages from the Word of God are able to sustain you, like they have so many times before.  

In a survival situation, things that a person would not normally eat begin to taste good.  In order to discern, you have to be eating all the time. Job 6:30 “Is there iniquity in my tongue? Cannot my taste discern perverse things?”  We are to “abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good”(Romans 12:9); requiring us to feast on the Word of God daily to be able to discern the difference.  If we don’t, we may find ourselves feeding on destruction, thinking it’s good.

Seasons in corrections work can feel like a survival situation; we get in the mode of going from shift to shift, day to day, mandatory overtime to mandatory overtime.  As months role on, and we are routinely short-staffed, vulnerability mounts as extra duties pile on and additional demands draw our focus. Our professional tools are limited by out departments, but the Bible has an unlimited amount of tools in it that we can utilize in our personal survival challenge of corrections work.

May we remember, there is more to life than just surviving; even though our loved ones cannot fully understand, they need us to do more than just make it.  In corrections, the survival challenge is everyday.

Integrity

Integrity is where it all starts and encompasses every realm of our lives.  The dictionary defines integrity as “entire, the unimpaired state, particularly of the mind; completeness; moral soundness, purity, incorruptness, uprightness; honest, and whole.” This is quite a goal in corrections work.

Valuables are often locked up securely or kept in a secret place.  One of the most priceless qualities we can have is integrity, yet it is so easy to lose and the least guarded.  Maintaining integrity can be easier when there are no temptations around or when you are surrounded by others who have integrity, but it’s often hard to maintain integrity working in the hostile environment of corrections, whether it’s integrity of the body or the mind.  The devil knows how to work on our integrity with the particular struggles that we have as individuals in relation to the multiple facets of our duty. Ever have a sound, noise, or a voice that’s irritating? You can handle it for a while, then you have got to leave. What if you can’t leave? Your integrity will need to be maintained on purpose or destruction is inevitable.  Protect this valuable possession.

Samuel Richardson said, “Calamity is the test of integrity.” The body will lose some integrity due to age and other corrections environmental stressors. Our mind can lose integrity by intemperance and by the constant attack from the harassing load and constant weight of corrections work. Even so, there are practical things we can do to combat those losses.  Most importantly, spiritual integrity can increase continually: the older you grow in the Lord, growing and maturing as a Christian, the more integrity is gained. This is possible because of Jesus Christ. He is complete and entire. We are to have the unimpaired mind of Christ; Philippians 2:5 “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.”  This encompasses the life of integrity that God calls us to live, including treating those in our custody right, using whatever level of the force wheel is necessary.

A Corrections Christmas Day

A Corrections Christmas Day

The family gathers round

They are missing you most

But they understand your duty

And the importance of your post

 

Thank you for your faithfulness

At your station this Christmas Day

I want to express my gratefulness

But it’s more than mere words can say

 

There is no one to pass the turkey

Or ring the Christmas bell

As you fulfill your vital mission

Checking cell by cell

 

It is still Christmas Day

Yet there are no halls decked with holly

And the scenery behind these walls

Is anything but jolly

 

No shared holiday traditions here

Of tinsel strewn upon a tree

And mistletoe under which to kiss

Or praying child on bended knee

 

Here in this concrete city

There are familiar things today

Of miserable choices and clanging steal

From which you’d like to turn away

 

One has responded to the call

Hope arises in my mind

He has brought a gift

A precious treasure to find

 

From Bethlehem’s manger to Calvary’s Hill

All the way to this jungle of concrete and steal

He has brought hope and peace for you

Strength and comfort that are real

 

The manger of Bethlehem was lonely and lowly

For our dear Saviour’s birth

May you fully comprehend

The excellence of His worth

 

I am thankful for you corrections officer

And for this gift of salvation today

So you can have the best and what matters most

This blessed Christmas Day!

 

If These Gloves Could Talk

 

If these gloves could talk they would break the silence revealing the things we’ve touched and handled that we don’t want to speak of yet are imbedded in our minds.  Seeing and hearing what we see and hear affects us, but there is an additional effect when “hands on” must come into play.

 

Gloves are for protection in a number of ways; there is no hesitation in using them and no doubt about the necessity.  May we be as diligent in applying what is needed to protect our hearts while we serve in the corrections environment. Proverbs:4:20-21,23 “My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings.  Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart…Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.”Comfort and peace can be found as we communicate with Him, trusting in His Word.

Tactical Triumph

Escape is not retreat. Rather, escape is a tactical move that allows you to get back into the fight. The reason you work to escape is so you can come back to fight again; it enables you to get repositioned for engaging.

As corrections officers, we have temptations that are somewhat universal for our profession, they are common, but look what God promises here with the things we face: “a way to escape that ye may be able to bear it.” I Corinthians 10:13 “There hath no temptation taken you, but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”

There are tactical moves we have learned in training that we use to get out of holds, to free ourselves from the grasp of one who has seized us.   We practice many different scenarios, but in our profession, we cannot predict every scenario that we will engage in physically. However, God has provided an escape for every temptation we will ever engage in spiritually, including emotional disturbances from our duty that grip us.  

What “temptation” are you facing today?  The temptation may be anger, fatigue, financial, despondency, callousness, depression, emotional isolation, paranoia, relationships, or countless others; whatever it is, God has provided so we will be able to “escape.” This provision allows us to “be able to bear it” as we fulfill this position He has ordained for us on the line that protects society.  This escape cannot be made on our own; we need Him.

Corrections work tends to entice our flesh to find a way to escape from what we have seen, felt, heard, and smelled that plays over in our mind and has so permeated our being yet we cannot find a way to express to another person, finding relief.  There are different things each of us are drawn to try to use out of desperation, convenience, or familiarity, and although some of those things may bring a temporary numbing, anything other than God’s methods and moves is of no true remedy. Let’s practice His tactical moves.

 

Headed for the Brow of the City of Corrections

Photo from dc.florida.us

Headed for the Brow of the City of Corrections

As we walk and work in the city of corrections, I see some parallels for application from Luke 4:16-30 in which Jesus was led to the brow of the city.  It is a curiosity to me, but He allowed them to lead Him a high point of the city. The Bible doesn’t say how they led Him, maybe by the arm, but He willingly walked on His own.  The full intent of those leading Him was to cast Him head long; then the Bible says, “but he passing through the midst of them went his way.”

What leads you to the brow of the city?

  • Some are led by pain, grief, and sorrow.   Isaiah 53:4 “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and    carried our sorrows”
  • Some are led by anger.  Proverbs 25:28 “He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city  that is broken down, and without walls.”
  • Some are led by others. Galatians 5:7 “Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye      should not obey the truth?
  • Some are led by failure.  Proverbs 24:16a  “A just man falleth seven times and riseth up again
  • Some are led by fear.  Isaiah 41:10 “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God:  I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee: yea; I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.”

There are all kinds of ways to be led to the brow, especially in the corrections environment. By God’s grace and mercy, we can pass through the midst and go His way.  It is a serious matter, we cannot afford to be cast headlong.

Everything that He did was for us and to teach us.  It has taught me that no matter how far someone or something has taken us or led us off our path, we can turn and go His way, if we have trusted Christ. Even if we allow ourselves to be taken, as He allowed himself to be taken, we can still turn, pass through the midst, and go His way, the way of the cross.