A Social Media Generation: The Next Step
Saturday, January 1, 2022
by: Anthony Schein, CJO

Section: Guest Editorial

Officer Anthony Schein, CJO Northwestern Regional Adult Detention Center, VA

Officer Anthony Schein, CJO

Officer Anthony Schein, CJO, has been a correctional officer at the Northwestern Regional Adult Detention Center in Winchester, Virginia since 2011. Working through numerous posts such as direct supervision, booking, special management, and community corrections, he is currently the Home Electronic Monitoring Officer. Corrections is a part of him, and he hopes to do what he can to advance the field. He is a lifetime member of AJA and a Certified Jail Officer. He can be contacted at aschein@fcva.us.
A Social Media Generation:
The Next Step

The world of corrections has gone through many shifts and cultural changes throughout the years, but it seems we are on the brink of one of the largest adjustments yet. Although Generation X (born 1965–1979) tends to be the ones currently in charge of the institutions, they are slowly but surely reaching the age of retirement. We are now on the brink of the Millennial takeover.

As a Millennial, I do not consider myself part of the stereotypical variety. You won’t see me driving a Prius to the local coffee shop, “checking in” on Facebook, or posting a picture of my Venti double-shot café mocha with the caption “It’s that kind of day.” However, this is the culture that I now see within the field. It has snuck in, and none of us could have seen it coming.

You may wonder why those of us in corrections should be concerned with this. The correct answer would be “recruitment.” I think it is safe to say that you would be hard-pressed to find any correctional facility that would say they are fully staffed. We work in a thankless industry, but a necessary one. What child tells their parents “I want to grow up and be a corrections officer?” Instead, kids want to be cops because they can be the heroes.
Don’t get me wrong, I am neither jealous nor jaded about that fact. I am very happy staying out of the public eye. As corrections officers, we tend to be featured in the news only when something negative happens. Otherwise, the public is perfectly content forgetting about our existence entirely. Perhaps it is time that changes.

Come Out of the Shadows

How do we reach the Millennials and get them interested in working at a jail? To me, the answer is clear. We must come out of the shadows and remind people that we do exist. We must get involved in the community, just as our brothers and sisters in blue do.

Like a lot of Millennials, my social media of choice is Facebook. Often, I see local police and deputies posting about their community-related activities. They happily attend or even manage their own community charity events. One such event I can think of is called “Coloring with Cops,” where local children and parents can come and hang out with some cops, color some pictures, and get to know the officers. The local police department just adopted a puppy, named it “Leo,” and now write posts about Leo on social media. I also see them participating in the social challenges that go viral, such as the Lip-Sync Battle and Running Man Challenge. Plenty of police agencies posted their videos of them, but I was hard-pressed to find too many correctional agencies doing the same.

What does all this accomplish? Well, it humanizes the law enforcement field. We live in a time where it is popular to dislike the badge. Many young people hate us, and it is hard to battle against something so trendy. But even in the face of adversity, we must fight it. We must be persistent.
We can do this by showing our lighter side. We can do this by showing our humorous side. We can do this by showing our human side. Luckily, we live in an age that is so connected this isn’t really hard to do. Police agencies are already doing so through social media, and so should we. My facility has a cat who has been guarding our perimeter for more than 10 years. We lovingly named this cat “Misdemeanor.”

I can do a mean Running Man. Last year, we had a slew of officers humorously talking about creating a lip-sync video to a Britney Spears’ song with the hashtag #freebritney. These are all things that would be fun to share with the world and can help destigmatize our image. We have the technology, the means, and the motivation. I think it’s time to make that shift.

Don’t Start a Boy Band

Now I’m not saying to jump in cold turkey and start a boy band. Perhaps start small. Create or revamp your social media pages. Millennials tend to favor Facebook. Generation Z (or “Zoomers”) tend to gravitate toward Instagram, and they are slowly creeping into our work force as well.
Everyone loves YouTube. Think about making a modern recruitment video, showing all the opportunities and positions your facility has to offer. Don’t forget to mention competitive pay and retirement! Send your staff to job fairs, and ask them to volunteer for charity events. The old ways of newspapers and word of mouth just do not have the same effect anymore.
One of the biggest concerns of this generation is identity and diversity. Throughout my career, I have realized that I am lucky enough to be working in a highly diverse field. Every day I am surrounded by coworkers from different walks of life. We are comprised of a team of individuals of varying races, cultural identities, sexual orientations, religions, and gender identities.

I work with people whose hobbies include hunting and fishing, video games, marathon running, slot cars, and even ballroom dancing. Some of us are adult students who are still pursuing a degree. Some of us are the angry mom at the little league game who really disagrees with the umpire’s call. My point is this: Every one of us has a story to tell, and it is unique. But one thing brings us together, and that is our career in corrections.

If we want to assimilate this generation into our ranks, then we need to adjust to a new mentality. Veterans of the industry may look at this mentality as a weakness, and this train of thought is an adjustment for me as well. While this may be one of the biggest culture shocks yet, I see it as necessary. I also see it as inevitable. So instead of resisting this change, we must embrace it and make it our own.
Show the Public We Exist

In conclusion, let’s put ourselves out there. Let’s show the public that we exist, that we are humans and that they do not need to be afraid of us. Let’s show the community that we do work in a noble field, and we wear our badges with pride, not shame.

Corrections is not just a job to us, but part of our identity. I am proud to be a corrections officer. I would like to share that with the world—and perhaps we all should.

We can do this by showing our human side. . .

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