Welcome Correctional Academy 37

Class photo of Correctional Academy 37
Correctional Academy 37

BOISE, Idaho, March 1, 2013 -- A new group of correctional officers is now on the job at IDOC facilities statewide.

The 39 graduates of POST Correction Academy 37 took the Oath of Honor on February 8, 2013, at the Peace Officer Standards and Training Academy in Meridian.

Idaho Maximum Security Institution Warden Alberto Ramirez delivered the graduation address. He urged the graduates to maintain a balance between work and home, to treat inmates the same way they would want a member of their family treated and to take care of themselves, both physically and mentally.

“If you find yourself in a dark place during your career, please be strong and courageous and ask for help,” Ramirez said. “We have many benefits and resources to help you through difficult times.

The academy’s class president, Klinton Hust, urged his classmates to take pride in their uniforms and remember the officers who went before them. “Know that the past happened so that you, as a new officer, are safer, better and are held to a higher standard than ever before. Be that standard,” he said.

Here are transcripts of the remarks made by Warden Ramirez and CO Hust at the graduation ceremony.

 

Remarks by Alberto Ramirez

Warden, Idaho Maximum Security Institution

Correctional Academy 37 Graduation Ceremony

February 8, 2013

POST Academy

Meridian, Idaho


Honored guests, graduates, family, friends, and colleagues. First of all, thank you very much for the opportunity to come and speak today and congratulations.

What an honor to be here to speak to you regarding my experiences and the things I attribute to a having a successful career.

I am excited to tell you about some of my experiences, the need for balance in your life, the importance of support from family and loved ones, and some things I believe will help you to be successful.

MY EXPERIENCES:

I began my career in 1993 following an honorable discharge from the United States Marine Corps. I was 23 years old, married and had two young boys.

I started as a correctional officer just as all of you. I would have never imagined that I would be here today as a warden speaking to a graduating class

For me, my career started off as a between job. What do I mean by a between job? Well, I didn’t begin my career thinking I would spend my life devoted to the profession.

When I started, I needed a job that would enable me to provide for my family. But I soon realized that I was embarking on an honorable and rewarding adventure.

The Idaho State Correctional Institution was where my career began. I spent my first five years at ISCI and promoted to corporal and sergeant before transferring to IMSI.

While at ISCI, I worked numerous posts and shifts. But I found that I enjoyed working the housing units most. I also joined the Correctional Emergency Response Team.

I spent about 12 years as a member of CERT. I had several tremendous training opportunities as a result : Tactical Team Operators Course, Tactical Commanders Course, Sniper/Observer Course to name a few.

I worked as a sergeant for about a year at IMSI before promoting to lieutenant, and I worked as a shift commander on all three shifts at IMSI over the course of the next eight years.

I had a brief interlude from the Idaho Department of Correction as a result of a deployment with the Idaho Army National Guard to Afghanistan in 2005.

Upon my return, I promoted to the Division of Prisons’ emergency coordinator position, and to the Nampa Community Workcenter manager position a couple years later.  Then, I became the CWC operations manager before finally promoting to warden at IMSI.

The variety in posts, shifts, and roles within the organization has been a motivating factor for me, and I would urge all of you to not get stagnate on one shift or post during your career.

There are so many different things you can do within the agency.

BALANCE:

I know in my heart without the love and support of my wife and my children I would have never realized any success as a correctional officer. Family support is critical.

In our line of work you will find yourself often working evening shifts, weekends, and holidays. For those with families it requires sacrifice and understanding from your loved ones.

There may be times when at the last minute you are required to work overtime because of a staff shortage on the next shift, or you may receive a phone call asking you to come in early.

It can, at times, be very frustrating for your family especially if you have to reschedule a planned event at the last minute.

The sacrifices made by our families deserve much more recognition then they receive.

You must maintain balance between work and home. When I first began my career, I volunteered for every overtime opening that I could, and I was willing to work my days off when staff shortages occurred.

I over extended myself, and I put a strain on my family as a new officer. Don’t make the same mistake I made in this regard. Keep balance in mind.  We need you at work, but your family and friends needs you, too.  

You also need to have a way to recharge. Working in a prison environment can drain you and many don’t recognize the drain until it results in burn out.

Remember balance and keep in mind this career is a marathon not a sprint. A good way to recharge is to do something that you enjoy like spending time with family and enjoying a hobby.

The average life span of a correctional officer as reported by the National Institute of Corrections is 59 years old.

On average, a correctional officer will live for about two years following retirement. A major contributor is the lifestyle choices we make.

Make sure you take care of yourselves, eat right and exercise. Make sure you get yearly checkups with your physician.

You owe this to yourselves and to your love ones.

According to a study published in 1997 in the Archives of Suicide Research, the risk of suicide among corrections officers is 39 percent higher than the rest of the working population.

As most of us were growing up we learned that if we fell down and hurt ourselves the right thing to do was to get up, dust our selves off and to not cry because we were tough and only babies cried.

For those of us who can relate to this, I believe this line of thinking to be incorrect. It takes courage and strength for someone to ask for help.

If you find yourself in a dark place during your career, please be strong and courageous and ask for help.

We have many benefits and resources to help us through difficult times.  

THINGS TO HELP YOU BE SUCCESSFUL:

How can you successfully carry out your duties? I am sure you have heard the words be firm, fair and consistent. This is extremely important.

You must demonstrate confidence and a command presence.

You must be fair in how you treat everyone no matter what they have been convicted of.

You must be consistent in that you enforce rules without prejudice.

A piece of advice that was and is still very helpful to me was when in doubt, always say “no”. You can research policy and come back and change the no to yes fairly easily. But it is much more difficult to gain compliance when you say yes and come back and say no.

Another piece of advice that I found very useful was to treat the offenders as you would want a member of your family treated had they made a mistake and found themselves incarcerated.

The academy was the beginning but you will need to continue to learn once you get to your facilities.

The learning process never ends in our profession. Change and trying new things is a constant, and it requires of us flexibility and the willingness to learn.

Observe senior correctional staff and identify what makes the style they use successful. Take bits and pieces from those you admire and respect, and use them as you develop your own style.

We each have strengths and weaknesses, and identifying your own weaknesses and working to improve will increase your success.

It is very important for you to always remember the role of correctional officer comes with tremendous responsibility.

You have awesome authority, responsibility, and impact on other people’s lives. What is it that you provide as a correctional officer?

You are ensuring the safety and security of people in the community, but you are also ensuring the safety and orderly operations of the facility you are assigned to.

Offenders are counting on you to help keep them safe so they can focus on treatment and education to prepare for release back into the communities.

The majority of the offenders will return and become our neighbors. You also will provide a role model to the offenders.

The majority of the offenders desire to improve and to do their time, and return to a normal life. The majority of the offenders do not want to cause problems.

Your role is to maintain order in the facilities to provide a safe and secure atmosphere for programs and education to take place.

In conclusion be proud of who you are, what you do, and who you represent. The job of a correctional officer is that of being a peace keeper, role model, and mentor.

I hope that peace and honor accompany you as you begin your career.

Thank you.

 

Remarks by Klinton R. Hust

Class president, Correctional Academy 37

Graduation Ceremony

February 8, 2013

POST Academy

Meridian, Idaho

 

When the Lord was creating CORRECTIONAL OFFICERS, he was into his sixth day of 16-hour overtime when an angel appeared and said, “You’re doing a lot of fiddling around on this one.”  And the Lord said, “Have you read the specs on this order?”

A CORRECTIONAL OFFICER must always bear in mind that rehabilitation is based on self-respect. In the event of rebellious actions or disparaging remarks towards them by inmates they must always maintain a quiet firm demeanor.

A CORRECTIONAL OFFICER has to be able to tolerate the ignorance of some, without losing hope.

A CORRECTIONAL OFFICER must also be prepared to cover a life-threatening situation, canvass the institution for witnesses, write a perfect report, and testify the next day.

A CORRECTIONAL OFFICER has to be in top physical condition at all times, running on black coffee and half-eaten meals when it is necessary.

A CORRECTIONAL OFFICER has to have six pairs of hands.

 The angel shook her head slowly and said, “Six pairs of hands… no way!”  “It’s not the hands that are causing me problems,” said the Lord, “it’s the three pairs of eyes an Officer has to have.”  ”Is that on the standard model?” asked the angel.

 The Lord nodded and said, “One pair that sees through a bulge in a pocket before the Officer asks, ‘May I see what’s in there, sir?’ (When the Officer already knows and wishes he’d taken that accounting job.)”  The second pair, here in the side of his head for his fellow Officers safety and the third pair of eyes here in front that can look reassuringly at a bleeding victim and say, “You’ll be all right, when the Officer knows it isn’t so.”

 “Lord,” said the angel, touching his sleeve, “rest and work on this tomorrow.”  “I can’t,” said the Lord, “I already have a model that can talk a 250-pound inmate out of a rebellious intention without incident and feed a family of five on a civil service paycheck.”  The angel circled the model of the CORRECTIONAL OFFICER very slowly, “Can it think?” the angel asked.

 The Lord said “Can it think!” A CORRECTIONAL OFFICER can recite departmental rules in its sleep; detain, investigate, search, and arrest a gang member on a tier in less time than it takes five Federal Judges to debate the legality of a cell search… and still it keeps its sense of humor. “This CORRECTIONAL OFFICER also has phenomenal personal control.”

 A CORRECTIONAL OFFICER can deal with crime scenes painted in hell, professionally watch over a child abuser not allowing emotions to stand in the way of helping a inmate better himself, comfort a fellow Officers family with a loss, and then read in the daily paper how the department and its Officers are not sensitive to the rights of inmates.

Finally, the angel bent over and ran her finger across the cheek of the CORRECTION OFFICER. “There’s a leak,” the angel pronounced. “I told you that you were trying to put too much into this model!” the angel exclaimed.

“That’s not a leak,” said the Lord, “it’s a tear”

“What’s the tear from?” asked the angel.

“It’s for bottled-up emotions, for fallen comrades, for commitment to that tattered piece of cloth called the American flag, and for lady justice.”

“You’re a genius,” said the angel.

The Lord looked somber and said “I didn’t put that tear there.”

Over the last 5 weeks, we have been training to be successful.  Many hours have been spent prying our eyelids open to make sure we didn’t miss the next power point slide.  I had thought about using power point for my speech, but I’m more amused by the blank looks of my classmates who are wondering when I’m going to pull the screen down, and tell them my objectives.  At this point the wheel is turning, but the hamster is dead.  Many hours have been spent drawing our plastic guns from the holster inside and out of the classroom.  But I never understood why most of them were pointed in my direction.   Many hours have been spent bending each other in ways that would make a yoga instructor blush.  I’m sure some of the family members here today have been exposed to a couple joint locks, or poorly placed strikes.  We spent many hours trying to get the burning sensation out of our eyes, and finding it in our hearts to forgive the person who sprayed the fiery substance into our face.  And at the same time, holding in every curse word ever taught to us in any language.  We learned that with a simple pull of a trigger, we could make neat holes in paper targets with real bullets.  We learned in that same week, there is no safe supply of doughnuts on the firing range.   We spent many hours completing scenarios of how to talk to unruly offenders in a way to get them to do what we want.  Only to have our hearts crushed time after time because playing tag with an offender in said scenario, just isn’t appropriate.  Finally, we learned, and spent many hours being a professional.  Out of all other things that will be taken away from the last 5 weeks, this is priority number one.

Fellow classmates, take pride in the uniform.  Never forget the officers before you.  Many roads and bridges have been made, and then burned, rebuilt, burned again, only to be built once more.  Realize that it has not all been in vein.  Know that the past happened so you as a new officer are safer, better, and are held to a higher standard than ever before.  Be that standard.  Be the officer that is looked up to, and is a role model for all staff, a role model to the community and a role model to your own family.  Walk with your head held high every day, and take pride in what you do.  If you make a mistake, own it, learn from it, and then use it to be better than you are.  Don’t turn it into a negative, because the job has enough negativity to last many lifetimes.  Find positives in everything, even if it’s the slightest thing you’ve witnessed or done.  Believe that people can change, and they will.  It won’t be over night, but it will happen.  Believe that you can never stop growing personally and professionally in this career.  Lastly, believe in yourself, because it starts with you.

Families, friends and loved ones.  Take the time to listen to your officer.  Give them time to come home, change, and decompress for a couple of minutes.  Allow your officer to switch from officer to dad, husband, mom, sister, lover, or friend when they get home.  Set a time to allow them to talk to you about work, and when that time is up, stop.  I’ve incorporated this into my own life, and it has been a very positive thing.  This will keep your officer from bottling up, and keeping the stress locked inside, and it allows you to hear what really happens in prison without causing you stress.  You will find that prisons here are nothing like what is portrayed on television, and stress is mostly caused by simple mistakes during a daily routine.  We all want to be perfectionists, and it’s just not going to happen.

The loved ones that you are here to support today are a new mold.  They have been shaped by Idaho POST academy instructors, outstanding trainers, support staff, fellow classmates, and the realization that they have the capability to be successful.  I’ve watched the confidence in many go from very low, to a level so high, they would be ready to be on their own today.    I’ve watched time after time as one officer would encourage another officer for small tasks, or huge progress in their training.  I watched as we picked each other up off the ground multiple times in order to make sure their brother or sister would succeed.  We didn’t win or lose as individuals, but we did so as a team, and we have won this challenge.

Don’t let the training end here at POST.  Take what you’ve learned, complete OJT, complete your probation, and continue to learn.  Be better than what you ever thought you could be.  When you think you can’t go any further, remember that your brothers and sisters are there to help you continue.  Finish the fight.  Set a standard and never go lower than that standard.  If it will embarrass your family, or loved ones, don’t do it.  Do not settle for good enough.  If it’s good enough, it’s not good enough.  Make it great, be great.  Finally, if you are at a complete loss, just ask yourself, “What would my class president do?”  Then find a doughnut, a comfy chair, think of a horrible joke, take a deep breath, and start again. 

Thomas Edison said, “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” 

It’s been an honor to train with all of you.  I wish you all the best, and pray for your safety.  I consider you all my friends, and hope that you find this career very rewarding. 

With that, I would like to close on this final thought.  Life is full of temporary situations, ultimately ending in a permanent solution.  Thank you.

Story published: 02/28/2013
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