CDCR Ethics and Professionalism

Ethics and Professionalism is a trait that CDCR seeks after in our Volunteers and Program Providers. Ethics and professionalism at CDCR begins with getting the facts straight, then carefully considering the relevant, ethical values, and weighing the consequences of the alternative actions. Misconduct is identified as but is not limited to the following:

  • Engaging in a personal relationship outside of your professional duty/service
  • Inappropriate correspondences between the inmate and yourself
  • Engaging in sexual conduct or romantic involvement
  • Trading/bartering/lending in personal transactions
  • Providing/receiving personal favors
  • Giving/receiving gifts
  • Inconsistently enforcing facility rules to favor inmates
  • Discussing facility operations or confidential information that may jeopardize the safety and security of the facility to inmates

Get the FACTs Method

Facts – What are the facts?

Alternatives – What options are there to resolve the issue?

Consequences – What will be the result of the misconduct?

Tell – Involve a supervisor or manager.

Rationalization occurs when a person chooses one value over another or when situations are ignored altogether.  People tend to rationalize to make themselves feel better when they have deviated from what is right. Here are some of the common rationalizations:

It doesn’t hurt anyone. This is used to excuse misconduct based on the false assumption that one can violate ethical principles so long as there is no clear and immediate harm to others, it treats ethical principles simply as factors to be considered in decision making rather than as a base line.

I’ve got it coming. People who feel they are overworked or underpaid rationalize that minor “perks” (acceptance of favors, discounts, or gratuities) are nothing more than fair compensation for services rendered. 

Everyone’s doing it. Safety in numbers is a false rationale fed by the tendency to adopt cultural, organizational or occupational behavior systems (ethical or not) just because they are the norm.

I’m just fighting fire with fire.  This is based on the false assumption that promise breaking, lying, and deceit are justified if those a person routinely deals with engages in deceit.

Ethics and Professionalism Keys to Success

Mean What You Say – Express yourself genuinely.  Do not make a promise unless you have thought it through first and can carry it out.  Inmates will test you, call your bluff, and see if you follow through on your promise.

Appropriate Relationships – Be honest, objective, and disapproving when warranted.  Be friendly, but not overly familiar.  Never give out your home address, telephone number, or loan any money to an inmate.  Do not discuss personal matters with inmates, or in the presence of inmates.  Be consistent and fair.  Enforcing rules for some and relaxing them for other inmates is inconsistent and unfair.  It is also a form of overfamiliarity.

Respect – You must respect the inmate’s individuality and basic rights.  Avoid prejudices and feelings of superiority.  Categorizing an inmate is unfair and dehumanizing.

Don’t Pry – In given time and comfort level, inmates will converse with you about their commitment offense, family, or any other guilt-associated matter.

Build Rapport – Make it known that you will not be manipulated.  If a situation arises that you consider “borderline,” consult your supervisor, CRM, or uniformed staff before acting.

Handling Hostility – An inmate may confront you with hostility. At such times, do not force conversations upon them and do not respond in a hostile, sarcastic, or anxious manner. Keep your composure and ignore the hostility or withdraw for a while. Chances are that the inmate will regain their composure. Report any incidents to your supervisor or CRM.

Don’t Over-Identify – An inmate’s current situation is not your problem. Over-identifying with inmates has the potential to bring on a we/they syndrome. 

Don’t Expect Thanks – You may not receive thanks or any show of gratitude from inmates.  They may feel it, but they may not know how to express it.  They may not appreciate your work until they leave the program.  Do not take it personally.

Inappropriate Conduct – If an inmate makes an improper advance, handle it appropriately.  Report the matter to your sponsor or nearest uniformed staff member immediately.