Best Way to Train for the Street? Work in Corrections. What’s YOUR Opinion?

June 6, 2023

We received considerable feedback on our most recent newsletter that featured the article, Defeating the Blur: Rethinking Traditional Police Training to Close Quarter Spontaneous Attacks by trainers Chris Butler and Dan Fraser.

One response in particular shared an interesting perspective related to his belief that there is a correlation between working in corrections and developing a high level of situational awareness and attack preparedness that could be well applied by police officers on the street.

Here is what Pinellas County, FL Deputy Ian Rosado shared. We’re interested in your thoughts on this. Please e-mail your comments to:

“I’ve said this in nearly every one of my responses to these force-based topics. If this country wants a feasible, affordable “fix” to this kind of preparedness, the solution is simple. Bridge the gap between Corrections and Patrol. It’s decades overdue.

“I’ve worked for my agency for nearly 18 years. I started in the jail in 2005. I carried all the experience I gained in that position with me to the patrol car in 2013; experience that far exceeded, and was more beneficial, than the training the majority of my peers on the road have/had.

“Whether you want it to or not, violence will find you in the jail… and often. You will learn to fight. You will learn to read body language, spoken and (more importantly) unspoken gestured threats, street lingo, etc. etc. etc. The training is too varied to cover. You work amongst the threats, in their world and on their terms.

“That training is free for the taking. All that needs to happen is that all officers/deputies should have to start their career in Corrections.

“In my time, I’ve only met two kinds of cops who are opposed to this: The ignorant, arrogant cowards who don’t have what it takes—who are easily identifiable on the road as the guys and gals that pull an ECW with lightning reflexes at the first sign of a fight—and the ones who can honestly admit they aren’t comfortable in that hellish setting.

“The second group is easier to work with than one might think. NOBODY wants to be in Corrections. Any rational, law-abiding adult has the common sense to detest and fear a Correctional setting. It is in navigating this fear and unease that the training occurs. Skills and tactics are acquired and sharpened. Indispensable knowledge is gained. Patience is nearly mastered. Rapid threat assessment becomes instantaneous.

“Patrol activity simply does not offer the quantity and quality of confrontational training that Corrections does. No amount of training or simulation on the patrol side can measure up to the reality of experience that is gained in Corrections.”

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  1. Anonymous

    I worked for sheriffs Office and as part of our duties we worked the jails, while there you get to have known crooks lie to you all the time

  2. Det. Robert Aviles

    I agree completely that an officer can learn more and faster working in the correctional setting, but I can honestly say with over 25 years in Law Enforcement that I don’t believe corrections would have been for me.

  3. Jon Meek

    Agreed, a lot of the people you deal with in the local county jail are “doing life on the instalment plan” so you get a chance to know the 10 % of the population you will be dealing with 90% of the time on patrol. I have also seen that you can “build a rapport” with some of them which just might give you an edge with them on the street. A former co worker of mine had his life saved by a 3 striker who, after witnessing my coworker get hit and injured by a drunk driver, went to his aid, called for help and stayed with him until help arrived.

  4. Dave Fenstermaker

    Prisons in California have gang units that investigate crime in prison and collect intelligence on gangs. It is not hard to call them and set up a briefing and visit the prison with your team especially if you work for a city police department. They will provide updated information and take you on a tour of the facility such as the cells and yard area to observe the prisoners.

  5. Douglas Bertoglio

    At my prior agency (retired!!) we spend 6 months training up Deputies to work on the street. Then, we toss them into a jail or courthouse for 2-4 years. Bummer; huh?
    On the up side, that Deputy will deal with more “real” criminals in a month than many of straight to the street city coppers will in a year or more. This is especially true in today’s California, where misdemeanors are rarely booked into the jail and even more rarely prosecuted. This leave just the most hardcore crooks in the jail system.
    When that Deputy gets out on the street, he/she will be able to read tats, clothing, attitudes, etc. It was my experience that crooks on the street treat former jail Deputies differently than they treat city coppers. They know the Deputies are more savvy.
    You will learn how to talk to people. How to read people. How to use your brain rather than brawn to gain compliance. And, you will, in all likely hood, learn what it’s like to get into violent brawls and come out on top.
    While very few people like working corrections, it can be a valuable learning experience that you can take advantage of.

  6. Jason Jacobo

    I totally agree with Deputy Rosado’s comments. I also started my career as a Deputy Sheriff by working the jails/ corrections. The jail was a great training ground for perfecting my low profile (not low risk mind you!) searching and handcuffing techniques, strategic communication and hands on arrest control/ grappling skills. I dealt with unruly inmates every day, I talked to inmates every day, I searched inmates every day and I was involved in fights with inmates every day (especially in intake!). I gained a good amount of experience in a relatively short amount of time.

    The skills I obtained when working in a custody environment translated well to patrol and were of immense benefit. I found I was able to effectively de-escalate most situations and I tended to use my communication skills first, as I was extremely confident with my hands on skills. I read body language well and had more insight into gang culture, from dealing with members from different gangs while in the jail.

    I’m on year 25 now, and I still utilize the invaluable skills I learned in the jail, on patrol. Thank you for your response Deputy Rosado!

  7. Eric Herman

    In my opinion, the most difficult and hard to train aspect of policing in any law enforcement environment is learning how to talk to people effectively and doing so at their level. Sometimes that is an easy going and friendly conversation. At other times, it is a loud commanding voice with specific instructions. Often it is somewhere in between. Sometimes multiple types of conversation can happen with the same people within seconds.
    The key is knowing precisely when to use what type and demeanor, attitude, and tone of voice. I have seen this struggle with the typical new-to-the-streets police officer time and time again; both as an FTO, and as a civilian visiting other communities. Sadly, I have seen then same struggle in veteran officers who work in a minimal call volume environment in a low crime community.
    The best police officers in any department consistently have exceptional communication skills with all manner of people. There is no better place to learn exceptional communication skills and patience than in an active corrections environment.

  8. Steve Van't Hof

    I agree. I spent 30 years with one of the largest Sheriff’s Departments in Michigan. Anyone hired in had to spend time in the corrections division first before transferring to the road. The lessons and interpersonal skills learned in the jail setting were invaluable. Unfortunately, this all changed in the late 70s and early 80s when a two-tier system was established to separate career paths between road patrol and corrections work. Not only did new street hires lose out on the valuable experience it also led to separate unions and a somewhat noticeable “us versus them” mentality between the road and jail employees.

  9. Tim Woods

    The two settings have their unique sets of situational awareness. I worked in a juvenile detention center for three years before becoming a police officer. Once you build a relationship with the people inside you can learn a lot about intelegance gathering. you also have to learn how to deescalate a situation while maintaining control of a situation. I agree with the author, you can gain valuable experience by spending sometime working in the jail. However, I don’t think it has to be a requirement to be successful in law enforcement.

  10. J. Estrada

    I agree you can learn valuable lessons in a correctional facility. Studying the enemy is always valuable. However, if you do not have any type of hands-on training or ground fighting skills, no amount of correctional facility experience will help you learn how to defend yourself. Whether it’s a dirtbag in jail/prison or on the streets, defending yourself efficiently and effectively is not something you gain when the attack begins. You must have those skills before the attack happens. Learning those skills will give you confidence to defend yourself, which also gives you confidence to make split second decisions before a possible attack. As far as not wanting to work in those conditions, we can’t just assume one is too scared to do so. Who wants to babysit a bunch of adults who have yet to mature, never take responsibility for their actions and want to hurt or kill you.


    I totally agree. I have worked in a correctional setting for 3 years prior to my 26 years in detention. Both of those settings are very much alike. Most of the patrol officers that I have come into contact with are very uncomfortable in the detention setting. I have had patrol officers tell me how terrified they were working inside the jail among the detainees. The detention and the correctional settings teach you the language (street slang, gestures) and you will learn so much if you watch and listen to what is going on around you. You will learn how to defend yourself, how to talk to them and be respected. You will learn how to detect changes in moods which can help save lives (stop suicides or stop assaults). You will learn patients when dealing with certain situations and certain people. You will get training in dealing with people with mental health issues. That training can help you in life outside of your job. I think that if an officer has training in detention or corrections before they become patrol officers they will have more confidents, more patience, and they will be more street ready.

  12. Anonymous

    Agree, if you can’t deal with people in a controlled environment, you want deal well with them on the street.

  13. Ofcr. Rick Williams

    I have been in Law Enforcement since 1994, spending the first 4 years in Corrections and having worked on Road Patrol and other special assignments since then. I can tell you to this day, I still rely on my experiences as a Corrections Officer. You experience things in Corrections you don’t learn in the academy as stated in this article and I would add you also learn how to deal with all kinds of people from all different walks of life and backgrounds. You learn through these experiences in the jail how to communicate in different ways and to diffuse situations.

  14. Corey Jacobsen Wyoming State Parks Rangers

    I started my civilian Law Enforcement career in a county jail, even though I tested for a street position. In hindsight, the change in the Department’s policy to hire Detention Officers to street positions frustrated me to no end, but it definitely was the best move for me. I realized early on that I was going to have to suck it up and learn how to confront the inmates, which I later realized was going to help me if I ever went to the street, but little did I know how much it would help. After almost fours years in the jail, making many mistakes and learning the hard way at times, I stuck with it and finally got to the street. During my FTO training, I realized quickly that my increased level of patience and my rapport with the regular clients (frequent flyers) of our jail greatly helped with my ability to do the job out on the street. Being familiar with the back story of most ‘clients’, and having at least a slight understanding of how they viewed things (and what their previous crimes were) was very beneficial to me.

  15. Anonymous

    I totally agree with this. I have been in Law Enforcement for about 20 years. I started in a Maximum Security prison, left there to go work for a Sheriffs office in the jail, and now a Lieutenant in the Federal sector for a Police Department. I have this argument at least once a week with my upper management that will not hire new officers that only have a corrections background. They must have been in Law Enforcement, conducted patrols, and had arrest authority at some time in their career. My thought is I would much rather have a “cage kicker” as my boss calls them, then an officer that may have had arrest authority 10 years ago. I personally know Use of Force incidents are drastically lower when I have former Corrections employees on my force. Communication skills are much better, because they did not get to just arrest people and drop them at the county jail and never deal with the subject again. We in Corrections deal with that subject the street cop pissed off from first contact all the way to the Booking floor. Corrections Officers and Deputies most important weapon is their communication skills and high level of situational awareness. I really appreciated seeing this article the same day I was turned down on hiring a “cage kicker” from the job fair because they never had arrest authority.

  16. Andrew T

    It appears to make some sense and I can see the value in it. The down side is people who do not want to work corrections would be shut out of the patrol position. Those people may be a good fit and candidate. Another thought is often correction officers become suspect to all and jaded . This may prevent them from performing the job that is expected today.

  17. Sgt D. Ballantine

    I may a little bias due to me working in Corrections for 23 years but I have heard a lot from some of the guys that are on the road that working Corrections 1st helped them greatly moving to the street. Yes, Corrections is not for everyone and for you that say, I couldn’t babysit adults, is the wrong way of looking at Corrections. The cops that have worked Corrections and then went to the road have a better understanding of how to just talk with people. They have also been able to deescalate situations because they have dealt with that person behind bars There are really only 2 weapons we rely on, our voice and taser. We learn how to communicate very fast and figure which way works on the individual.
    On a different note, the skills you learn while working corrections is how to secure an inmate. We do this all the time and are able to wrap someone up quick and safe. I see video’s of road cops just doing a malay of whatever they can do what they think works. So in my opinion if more street cops had time in corrections and learning that skill they would transfer this to the road with your partners.
    One last thing, we recently had a new recruit start in Corrections waiting for a spot in patrol. (He was a Police Officer for 10 years in a different city) After some time I brought him in the office and just wanted to talk to him abut what he thought of working in the Corrections setting. He told me it was very eye opening because in the past he would just take the arrestee to the booking room and would leave. He wasnt to hip on working Corrections until a spot was open for patrol but he was very happy he took the time behind bars. He gave me an example of a time he was part of a very uncooperative stop. He told me this new rookie that was only his 3rd day on the road (who came out the jail) came up with his FTO and the arrestee looked at him and said he would only talk to him. He couldn’t believe how fast this guys demeanor changed and how this rookie cop was able to control the situation just because of his interaction within the jail. Seeing that and him now working in Corrections, also agrees that he thinks it very beneficial working Corrections even if its for a couple of years can help working the streets.


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