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Off the Clock
By Terry Campbell, Professor, Purdue University Global
Published: 09/10/2018

Father reading Imagine your work day is winding down and things have been relatively quiet. Decision time soon, now what do I do when I leave the prison and head home. This does not sound overly difficult, however this often creates additional issues. Areas to consider; what are my shift hours, and time when I get off. Do I have family at home waiting, are they sleeping, are they in school, how are my family relations, do I stop off at the bar for a sandwich and drink, or do I head home? Are there any internal temptations and demons I have to deal with? Do I have control of my life or does something else? Am I truly able to relax when I arrive home or do I find myself needing some outlet, am I drinking more than I used to, am I tempted to try other illegal substances, who am I hanging around with and why, what is my physical and mental conditions, and the list goes on and on. So much for making a simple decision.

If we cannot control our lives, how are we expected to deal with the work day stressors. We know the negative results often from poor decision making. Sound decisions come from people being personally in control of their lives. I think it is apparent we need to work and have not yet reached retirement age. We are not as young as we used to be when we first started our corrections career. If we are experiencing poor health issues, becoming dependent on alcohol and/or drugs, do not want to go home and deal with family issues, and other stressors this becomes problematic. Perhaps the time is now to do a personal assessment and decide if there are life changes we need to make. If so, stop making excuses and accept the responsibilities and accountability and start the change process. If you recognize issues and cannot take the next step to change, then intervention now is a priority.

Often the warning signs are present, yet we are hard-headed and choose to ignore them.

The sad part of this is we are often the last to know. Co-workers, family, and yes even the inmates recognize this. The only people we are fooling is ourselves. Take the assessment as I mentioned earlier and look in the mirror to decide if you like what you are seeing. In the work place, if we allow ourselves to let our guard down, others are quick to take advantage, especially some of the inmate population. We cannot afford the distraction and put ourselves and others at safety risks. Remember advice from the academy and do not become comfortable and share personal things with the inmates. Yet, this often occurs daily. Again, if we do not control this, the door is opening further for us to start down the slippery slope. Are you willing to forfeit your ethics, retirement, family, and others? I hope not.

Let’s shift and look at some proactive ‘off the clock’ involvements. Personal satisfaction is a key component of a well-lived life. Maybe you have children or other family and play with them. The age of the children will determine the level of activities. Make time and spend some quality time with family. Do you work out and are you physically active? There may be some limitations, however, this does not prohibit you from participating at some level. I used to run a lot and as the aging process and knee surgeries took place, I took up bicycling and walking.

Ask yourself, what activities am I involved in? Self-defense, sports, reading, games, music, and exercise are beneficial. Do you have some special talents that can be shared with others? Have you considered volunteering at schools and other agencies, or even Big Brothers and Big Sisters programs? Maybe even participating in some prison ministry outreach programs. You know from your corrections background, a vulnerable group is our youth. Perhaps you can work with youth as a positive mentor. Remember, we take so much for granted and there are many in society who need some type of mentoring and/or assistance.

If you are doing these things, do an assessment and see if there are any areas where you can improve upon. Where are you at in your career? Are you considering a career change, promotion, have you started looking at retirement? Do you know what resources are available in the community or through work where you can obtain any types of service? Do not place yourself in a position of I will take care of this at a later time. Before you know, you are near retirement and do not have a plan in place or may have to continue working elsewhere to supplement your income.

Life is supposed to be enjoyable and not dreaded. Decide what you want out of life and your career, and take the necessary steps to change. You have to take control of your life and be proactive and build upon your positive attitude. Surprisingly, you will begin to feel better and improve in so many ways. Be thankful for what we have and what we have achieved. Do not continue with the negative aspects and take control now. I do not know about you, but I am planning to be around for a while. There may be some areas I have limited control over. However, those areas I do have control over will be positive and provide for a happier life.

Thanks and stay safe out there.

Terry Campbell is a criminal justice professor at Purdue University Global and has more than 20 years of experience in corrections and policing. He has served in various roles, including prison warden and parole administrator, for the Arkansas Department of Corrections. Terry may be reached at tcampbell@purdueglobal.edu.

Other articles by Campbell


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