How to Succeed in Corrections: Lessons Learned While Working in a Prison

AUTHOR Anthony Gangi
LAST RELEASE DATE August 14, 2023
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How to Succeed in Corrections: Lessons Learned While Working in a Prison

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This book covers the many lessons that the author learned on his journey from officer to administrator. Each short chapter contains a summary of an important lesson learned, followed by two lined pages for the reader to add his or her own experiences.

From Anthony Gangi:

Being a leader and taking on responsibility is a lot to ask of anyone, but it is a must when it comes to surviving a career in corrections. Staff must have the ability and heart to take the reins and make decisions that are centered on selflessness and, in some cases, sacrifice. In corrections, it is a must for the agency to cultivate leaders who are willing to take the ball when times are tough. Working in corrections will have its challenging moments. There will be many who, as they move forward in their career, will face setbacks that may force them to lose their sense of self. These setbacks can include a bad decision made while under serious amounts of pressure, failure to be promoted, or any other moment in which the effort applied fails to bring about the outcome needed or wanted.

Sad to say, not everyone who enters corrections is meant to be a leader. Today, with many jails and prisons battling understaffing, there are many correctional agencies that are hiring quantity, as opposed to quality. This desperate act may put trainers in an impossible position to transform recruits, as opposed to cultivating them. Transforming is harder than cultivating, because transformation is a total shift of one’s foundation, rebuilding the individual from scratch. Cultivating means working on the abilities that already exist. Cultivating is all about maintaining the spark that has the potential to bring the highest level of value and professionalism to this career. 

This book is my journey, covering the many lessons that I received from the challenges and experiences I faced when I decided to step up and embrace the role of leadership. This is not a book that claims to have all the answers, because being a leader is an ongoing process. Leaders never stop learning! Leaders never settle. For those who decide to open this book, it is my hope that they become inspired to reach their greatest potential. This book is about my personal journey into the choices I made.

By reading this, I hope others are motivated to find the leader within themselves, share their own experiences within the blank journal pages provided in each section, and most importantly, create their impact by gifting their completed journey to someone who not only needs to hear it, but wants to grow. Let this book be a beacon of light that is fueled by YOU and let that light shine on others who may be in the dark waiting to be found. Mark Victor Hansen said it best; “Each one, reach one. Each one, teach one. Until all are taught,” So, let me begin with my lessons and then you can finish this book with yours.

Chapters include:

Academy First

Always Look to Step Up Your Game

Recognition vs. Appreciation

Areas of Strength & Areas of Choice

As a Leader, Direct Your Attention and Focus

As You Move Up, Don’t Forget Your Roots

Ask. Tell. Make.

Avoid the Perspective of Staff Retaliation

Be Careful Who You Vent To

Be Creative and Flexible

Don’t Forget the Context

Choose Growth Over Being Comfortable

Be Wary, Practice is Not Always Policy

Confidence is Built Through Consistency at the Highest Level

Communication is Key in Corrections

Connect Yourself to the Right People

Courage takes Practice

Develop Trusting Professional Relationships with Work Peers

From Day One, Staff Must Believe in their Position of Authority

Being More Proficient Comes on the Back End of Doing What You Love

Believe in the Effort More Than the Outcome

Evolution is Inevitable

Don’t Be an Obstacle, Be a Resource

Working as One

First Impressions Can be Brutal 

Discovering a Mentor

Workplace Gossip Destroys Morale

A­ Prison ­Should ­Never­ Run ­Based on Assumption

Don't be Someone You are Not

Don't Look to be Popular, Look to be Respected

Expectations vs. Rules

How you Feel About What You Do Matters

We Are a Family

Make the Intangibles, Tangible

Promote a Pro-Social Purpose

Your Behaviors Determine Your Identity 

Volunteer Yourself

Keeping Your Word 

Never ­Be­ Afraid­ to­ Ask ­for ­Help

Run ­­Towards ­a­ Purpose

Seek Authenticity as You Strive for Perfection

Think with the Endgame in Mind

Take Time to Process Your Thoughts

Trust Allows for Conflict and Conflict Allows for Growth 

Remember, ­Correctional­ Staff ­Work­ for­ the Agency, Not the Inmate

Inconsistency ­Among­ Staff­ Makes us Vulnerable

Know­ Policies­ & ­Procedures

Wearing the Uniform Doesn’t Automatically Give Staff Respect
Give Every Cell Search 100%
Be Wary of Inmate Porters/Workers
 Bring Experience into the Classroom
 Can Fear Motivate?
 Commitment vs. Promise
 Controlling the Interaction with an Inmate
Correctional Leadership is Not a Perk
 Creating Positive Employee Morale
Custody and Medical Working Together
Dealing with a Disrespectful Inmate
Dealing with a False Rape Allegation
Dealing with an Inappropriate Request from an Inmate
Dealing with Inmate Flattery
 Debriefing After a Major Incident
Deterrence for an Inmate is Subjective
 Don’t be a Firestarter
Don’t Chase the Charge
Don’t be Desperate for Information
 Don’t Let the Prison Environment Change You
Don’t Rely on the Supervisor to Run the Unit
The Lobby Officer
Don’t Cut Corners & Don’t Take Shortcuts
 Don’t Let the Corrections Profession Get to You
Emotionally Dealing with an Inmate Suicide
External vs. Internal Justification
Stop the Unfair Generalizations
Going Back to Work after Being Assaulted
Guilt as Leverage Heightened Perspective Equals an Elevated Purpose

I Think I Know that Inmate
Identify the Prime Mover
Isolated Responsibility
Don’t Get Emotionally Involved with an Inmate
Don’t Micromanage Your Frontline
 Evaluated Experiences
 Formal Discipline Should Never be the First Option
Genuinely Care for the People in your Charge
 Good Leaders Look to Empower, Not Control
Holding Inmates Accountable
 I Told You So
 If it Feels Wrong, Say Something
 Inmate Manipulation is Adaptive
 Inmates that Cry Wolf
Inmates Using Suicide to Manipulate
Lack of Resources Make for Innovative Inmates
Never Accept an Inmate’s Offer to Protect You
Never Let an Inmate Pull You Out of Your Prescribed Role
Never Allow an Inmate to Circumvent Authority
Never Underestimate the Process of Inmate Manipulation
Situations Can Make us Vulnerable
Staff Must Always Look Uniformed in Their Uniform
The Inmate Grievance System Can Help Prevent Inmate UnityJust Say No
The “US vs.Them” Mentality Truly Divides
Wait for Backup
That Inmate is Not Worth Losing My Job Over
Know Who You Are
Play the “What If” Game
Undue Familiarity Shifts Loyalties
Unnecessary Rules
The Wall of Silence
Report Writing
Why am I Taking Inmate Privileges Away?
 Purpose Brings Unity
 Loss vs. Gain
Liability Divides
Rebuilding Trust
Think Long Term Max or Min
Don’t be a Positional Leader
Training Officers Must Have a Love for the Job
Staff Need to be Wary of their Own Limitations During a Search
Trainers Need Credibility
Is Moving Up Worth It?
Leadership by Walking Around
Listen to Those in Your Charge
Making an Impact
Middle Management Must Speak Three Languages
Position Talent Accordingly
Move Them to Overnights

Never Partner a High Achiever with a Lazy Supervisor
 Proactive (Strategic) vs. Reactionary Measures
Recognizing the Journey
Saying “No” to Power
See Potential Liability
Sink or Swim
Speaking Truth to Power
Staying Visible
“Thank You” Board
The Collective Punishment of Staff Kills Morale
The Importance of Labels
The Importance of Roll Call / Line Up/Shift Briefing
The Working Environment Allows It
There is no Such thing as Passive Success
Transform vs. Cultivate
Transformational Leadership in Corrections
Unknowingly Accepting Negativity
The Disgruntled Employee
What Does Universal Precaution Really Mean?
Never Assume You Are the Smartest Person in the Room
You Knew What You Were Getting Yourself Into
Working Together/Alignment/Commitment
Supervisory Discretion
What Causes Inmates to Unite?
The Corrections Profession is a Viable Career, not Just a “Stepping-Stone” to Becoming a Police Officer
Understanding the “Why”
Corrections is not a “Stepping-Stone”
A Leader is not Defined by Position
Yes, Correctional Officers are Law
Corrections Journal

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