Guide to Performing Well in Corrections

Candid Advice About the Importance of Performance

Notwithstanding all the academy training you are currently in or already completed, it all equates to putting it into practice and performance. No matter the title you keep as a criminal justice practitioner, how you conduct yourself is under constant scrutiny. The caliber of peace officer you are will be judged from day one. Your duty performance becomes permanent record, so make it stellar!

The criminal justice profession will always have incumbents come forward with a well-founded spark, a constitution to serve, and a bright outlook on a career with unique challenges. As a cadet, how well you fill these inspirations is squarely upon your shoulders. Accepting this fact is perhaps challenge number one: Exhaustive preparation and unwavering focus are qualities sought by law enforcement recruiters. Are you thoroughly prepared? Can you deliver?

After training is under your belt, raising your hand at a swearing-in ceremony is your pact to your department/institution and your oath to the public to whom you attest mission fulfillment. It would behoove you to not only utter the scripted words...but to live by the tenets represented in the breadth of the U.S. Constitution. Lead by example, right?

Physical Appearance and Presence

Just as you did during academy training, look sharp! Always. If you have not already done so, indoctrinate into your life/workplace the adage coined by C. S. Lewis: "Integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is watching." Never deviate from this perspective. Negative influences will always arrive and try to sweep your legs out from under you. Combat such evil forces with these words of wisdom and appropriate actions!

Abide by Rules and Regulations

One aspect of duty performance is represented by the patch and badge worn on your uniform shirt. Besides Constitutional stipulations, your respective agency/prison facility has its own set of rules and regulations. Abide by them. Although stepping out of the box is more and more acceptable nowadays --expected and respected, even-- the rudimentary guidelines must not be forgotten or quashed. Remember, you gave your word (oath) to perform according to not only your constitution but our nation's governing documents as well. Don't let yourself and others down.

Demonstrate Leadership Qualities

Cadets have a wide open field of promotional opportunities. Based on your observed performance in and out of the academy, you may be availing yourself to leadership positions down the road. It all amounts to your probationary activities, which are being recorded to sift out candidates for supervisory or administrative positions down the road.

Do not discount your skills. Without cockiness, retain a focus on your essential chores and duties adhering to agency requirements and statutes governing criminal justice practitioners. Survival and self-preservation must be your primary focus during duty time (and to some extent, off-duty too). A crucial ingredient to ensure success is reliance on your abilities, bolstered by those of your colleagues.

Egoism often serves to alienate and creates animosity. Be careful. Keep vigilant regarding your performance of duty...and the rewards shall follow. Perhaps your performance-based evaluations will result in a promotion or a host of milestones throughout your career.

Performance Based Salary

Speaking of performance-based incentives, now is a good time to talk dollars and "sense." Yes, using common sense and wisdom can translate to enhanced earnings potential.

As with most career paths, your work performance often equates to salary increases. How well you are rated in terms of your conduct can translate into raises, sometimes healthy ones. Also known as incentive-based elements, job scores are designed to encourage cadets to not only score "average" but to excel in areas whereby excellent performance ratings manifests in higher compensation. With regard to job performance, implementing common sense along with training principles is a win-win option. Do your job and do it well...and you can line your wallet better.


Not only among your colleagues and superiors can you attain a sound performance reputation, but also with the public (offenders and inmates included). Many will notice how you operate, how you treat people, how you interact with colleagues, and how you garner and give respect. Interpersonal skills is an essential component of duty performance, especially in the criminal justice arena. The better you relate to people (and reciprocally), the more progressive you and your agency are perceived.

The inverse is true: Sub-par performance is automatically associated with poor reputation. People will not take you seriously. You have opted to work in a human services industry, so brush-up on interactions with people if you deem you may be lacking in this area. Like giving your word, reputation is everything.

Demonstrate Consistency

Performance is a constant, as well it should be. One notable success does not mean you reached your pinnacle and you can just settle, arbitrarily and indefinitely. Build upon your performances, set thresholds to fill new challenges, act with vigor, and stand tall with fortitude. Achieving the rite of passage often associated with law enforcement is a framework; you acquired a certain status, now advance further. Other plateaus await. Consistent practice will get you there.

Keep Abreast of New Policies

Learn the newest job-related methods and officer safety techniques. Analyze the newest statutes and repeal of outmoded ones. Know your stuff! Ask questions. Take career-oriented courses. Any/all of these will enhance how well you do your job.


Take it constructively, not personally. It is typically easy to discern when a person criticizes someone to make themselves feel superior. Conversely, it is glaringly transparent when a person is authentically seeking to help us grow and prosper by deliberating our performance. What often follows is advice pertaining to what to do or what not to do. Either way, harvest these personal nuggets for professional performance enhancements. Be not dissuaded by naysayers. Clearly, these types settle for mediocre. Not you!

Be glad someone is taking the time from his/her day to steer you in the right direction. When the opportunity arises for you to offer your advice, you can confidently assume that same person is asking for your opinion because he/she observed your stellar performance. Compliments come in myriad ways. Trust is the endemic ingredient. Asking you to share and render advice is the clearest form of validation. Then, you know you have done some thing(s) correctly.

Always Strive to Perform

In a nutshell, perform diligently, like you naturally know how. Biologically, we are designed to perform. How well we do is up to each of us. Poor judgments derail us, served up by a human characteristic known as learned behavior. Watching a colleague do things the wrong way is a learned behavior...and a direct path to shoddy performance. Conversely, gut instincts persuade you to emulate the performance of the best leaders under whose tutelage you should pay acute attention.

Mimic laziness and you will be known as a sloth-like cadet. You may be fired in the process. Assume challenges and abstain from the hands-off approach and you will find great value from your work efforts. You were born different. Be different. Give it your all and your all will receive dividends beyond your imagination and find immense rewards from your career.

And, remember, do the right thing even when no one is looking!