Respect, earned or deserved?



Working in a woman’s correctional institution I learned very quickly about respect.  The inmates are pretty open about whether or not they respect people, if you call it that…articulation is a real problem in jail.  I have worked all of the units in this facility, and I am in the unit that they have unofficially deemed the “Mental Health unit”.  Unofficially because it depends on who you ask. One supervisor told me and all of the inmates seem to know it.  Screaming and tantrums are part of the regular routine in my unit.  I leave with headaches often.  But what is curious to me is the respect aspect of my job.  In the academy, they tell us often that respect is earned not given.  It is true, just because we have a badge does not entitle us to respect automatically.  There are about 150 residents on any given day, and I know almost all of them.  I get a huge amount of respect when I walk through the facility.  I have been told my many of them that “You treat us like we are humans” and they say that is why they respect me.  Inmates know they can trust me, I am not crooked.  I used to try and give advice but it like throwing salt to the wind, every time you think that maybe you made some headway, the next day is the same.  It is almost always the same, it is just like the movie “Groundhog Day”.  It is also the definition of crazy – doing the same thing every day expecting a different result.  And the circle goes around.

If there is someone disrespecting you in a place like this it can be because of a lot of different reasons.  First and foremost, if you carry yourself like an asshole in a place like this, then you get no respect.  If you lie to someone and get caught, forget about it.  Sometimes it is just some rude person that has always had a problem with law enforcement and think they are bad asses, and want to look tough by disrespecting you in front of an audience.  Most of the time, it is the younger inmates but today, the one that is acting up is one who is very, very old.  Old enough to know better, but I guess the meth must have burned her brain.  She has been enjoying making under the breath comments towards me as she rounds the corner from my desk.  She has “meowed” at me when I raised my voice.  She growls and gives dirty looks.  It is all very unsettling, and annoying.  I truly count the hours until they have to lockin, sometimes it is exhausting trying to be neutral and not get angry, consider the source, all of those other clichés that you hear thrown around.  I am the type of officer that picks her battles, but it truly made me smile on the inside when I learned she would be here through Christmas.  That is fucked up because I am a kind person, but kind people have their limits as well.

Time off in this career is essential.  It takes time to regroup and de-institutionalize.  When the OT is really bad we are not afforded that opportunity.  I have a year in here and swing in my brain from I will do this forever to wanting to have a different position in the facility.  We are able to use our overtime as “comp time” which is nice because I can play the calendar and take some time off to try and not get burnt out.  I am literally listening to the annoying one “Cackling” in her room.  It doesn’t matter how many times I ask for it to be quiet, or how many times I say close your door, it is clearly a pleasure for her to bother everyone and anyone.  No matter how many people in here and there always has to be the one.  always.  Because I try and give respect I am once again picking my battles.  Looking forward to my next day off. #COstruggles #patience




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