Last night I attended a local sheriff’s training event called; “Citizen’s Academy.” It is a ten week course that anyone in the community can sign up for to learn more about the law enforcement work being done in our community. The focus for last night’s session dealt with the county jail. I was invited because of our company’s work with the residents of the jail and the classes I teach to incarcerated fathers.
Before it was my turn to present the Chief Deputy spoke about the jail, the residents, how they cook the food, book and transport residents, the contraband they find, the amount of people they house in a given year. Following this, some of the correctional officers, their commanders and medical staff shared stories about what everyday life is like working with an incarcerated population. The stories were mostly negative, interesting and scary. Most people don’t like being locked up and can show it in some unseemly ways. I listened as they described their typical shift experiences and reflected on the different atmosphere and environment I’ve experienced in the dad classes.
Most of the men I’ve taught have been respectful and willing to learn. They’ve opened themselves up to a new way thinking, doing and being. The correctional officers see the worst and, to survive, are trained to expect difficulties and how to diffuse conflict. I on the other hand sit with guys for a couple of hours a week and mostly receive their best efforts. They don’t volunteer to go to jail but volunteer to take the class. They don’t want to be stuck in a cell all day but do want to come to a different setting whether for a new way to think or simply a new set of walls to stare at for an hour.
It’s amazing how two sets of people can look at the same place, people, circumstances and see things vastly different. Perspective is a fickled thing.