Hi everyone - I've worked in corrections both as a "floor" nurse and in administration/management. I have worked with both adults and juveniles.
I think that the facility dictates your opinions. My experience has been mostly in California. I have found that County and State facilities have great correctional officers - and they can make or break your experience. INS facilities often have private correctional companies working for them - and they can be a nightmare. The "rent-a-cop" that I have found working in facilities that typically deal with immigration offenders, does not want to become too involved with violence. They feel they are not making enough money to risk their safety. Now, I'm not saying that all facilities are the same, and that all private companies are the same. I'm saying that in my experience, those officers that are trained by the county or the state, and that have good benefits, are far more likely to have professional responsibility. I have found them to be downright "gifts" to the RN or LVN who is working with inmates. I've also had the experience where an officer will walk away, off the medical unit, leaving me to deal with a problematic inmate. A radio communication, going out over the whole jail will most often fix that situation. Also, a call to the watch commander will help.
I believe that this type of work demands a respectful relationship between the medical staff and the correctional staff. Good performance commands respect - in both disciplines. Communication is the Key.
This is difficult to ascertain on a job interview. But at least you know to ask the questions. "Do you have good communication/understanding with correctional staff?" is a good question. Keep your eyes and ears open, which is essential in this environment.
And last, but not least, the RN or LVN has to recognize that they are not in a clinic or a hospital - they are dealing with people who are locked up, have criminal records, and have suffered. If you don't think you can deal with that, then stay away. As nurses, we are called on to care for all types of patients. If you can't treat them as patients, not criminals, then you should probably look elsewhere. This type of job demands "compartmentalization". Treat your patients within the facility, then go home to your family - two totally different environments. And always remember that every day brings a different challenge. I've had inmates try to get information out of me about my kids - you have to be aware and remember where you are. Danger is all around - plus sometimes inmates look good to other inmates if they have "information" about staff....and sometimes it's not lethal - it's just their environment. If you have information as an inmate, you have power. If you think you have skills to offer in this environment, try it out. Just be very sure about your opinions about inmates, etc....and what other people's opinions are too....I've had nurses in hospitals accuse me of being sympathetic to criminals. It's not for everyone - but if you can handle it, it's a great job. Look within yourself and decide. Good Luck!