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I am married to the love of my life and am finally able to shower him with all of the attention he deserves. I am now retired and living the life here in Europe. I am an American, he is an Australian, and this is our second overseas address. The first was Shanghai, China and now Munich, Germany. Come along and live the life with us as we continue our adventure of discovering all Europe has to offer.

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Wednesday, July 14, 2010



I just received information from a former colleague that one of my previous co-workers was assaulted on the job this week.  This is shocking under any circumstance, but the fact that my former place of employment was a state prison makes it less shocking and clearly an inescapable occupational hazard. 

Nevertheless, it is a breach of security and for that reason, always unpredictable.  But, in this case, the common reaction was, "It was a long time coming."

      Knowing the proper way to communicate with inmates is a skill. Not knowing how to interact with inmates can be lethal.  Everyone wants to be respected, even the lowest of the low.  Failure to treat another human being fairly will only result in contempt.  Failure to treat a human being fairly in captivity, where he is already being stretched emotionally, is begging for trouble.  

     Correctional Officers have to know how to deal with all kinds of behaviors and quickly learn to be diligent while patient.  It is for this reason that many CO's do not want to know why an inmate has been incarcerated.  Once you know how heinous their crime is, you tend to treat them differently.  Prison staff is instructed to follow procedures and not cause undue stress on the inmates--their incarceration is their punishment .

    However, being a GED teacher in an inmate population is very different from a CO's responsibility.  In the openness of the classroom, there is more opportunity for interchange and discussion between the instructor and the inmate than there is between any other member of prison staff. There is also a greater chance for inmates to share information--of the kind that should not be shared.  And, with more communication, comes the greater the likelihood for conflict. Teachers, to be effective, must know how to manage all of these complexities while displaying a sense of fairness and the necessity to follow protocol.

      There is a very fine line between maintaining control of a classroom and becoming the very authoritarian figure many of these men have spent a lifetime opposing.  Unable to follow societies' rules, they typically have a laundry list of felonies and now have finally landed themselves in prison. 

     The prison I taught at was built as a Supermax in 2000, but now has 180 Minimum Security inmates, 48 Medium Security inmates, 921 Close Security inmates and 7 Maximum Security inmates.  These numbers indicate that the majority of its' clientele are not to be trusted.  They have committed violent and dangerous crimes.  Some have been given life sentences.

     Although the Institution of Rehabilitation and Corrections gives training in interpersonal communication, there will always be individuals who believe that they do not need to perfect their management skills.  Such is the case with the teacher who was cold-cocked this week by an inmate.  With no prior warning, an irritated and frustrated prisoner, with a very short fuse, let his anger get the best of him and managed to incapacitate the teacher. The instructor probably never saw it coming; but he should have--a long time ago.

      Without going into detail, because I don't know all of the facts, I will just go on record saying that after many years of poor teaching practices, it is amazing this incident took so long to happen.  For years inmates have been threatening to do the very same thing to him.  It just took the right man at the right time to see it through.

     This was  unfortunate and could easily have been avoided if the teacher in question would have taken the instruction he was given by the institution seriously, taken his duty as a teacher seriously, and most importantly, followed security regulations.  Putting yourself in danger is not smart, but comes with complacency and a belief that one is indestructible.  It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know what buttons should never be pushed and not to push them.  Continuing to be a catalyst for conflict is a recipe for disaster. 

     As much as I hate to see this happen to any teacher, I have to agree with my former colleagues on this one----it was inevitable. I wish him a speedy recovery and I hope the lesson was learned.

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