Frank J. Burns: Correctional Service of Canada honors officer for exemplary service.
Burns says things have changed in corrections since he took his first job as a security officer at Dorchester Penitentiary. "Conditions have improved vastly since then," he says. "Relationships between inmates and staff are better now. Thirty years ago, inmates might not even know correctional officers' names and vice versa. Now everyone knows one another, and communication is better."
Good communication skills are key to Burns' success as a correctional officer. "I have a good rapport with inmates," he says. "If there's a problem, I'll talk to them about it, and they'll usually take my advice." He recalls one incident in which inmates refused to leave the recreation yard for three days. "I went out there and talked to representatives of the inmate committee," he says. "I suggested that they go inside, eat a hot meal, get some sleep and talk to the administration in the morning about their complaints." A half hour later, Burns got a call telling him the standoff was over and the inmates were going back inside.
After working as a coal miner and a high school physical education teacher, Burns began his corrections career in 1962 at Dorchester. He stayed there for a few months and transferred to Blue Mountain Institution, which was then a minimum security work camp. In 1966, Burns returned to Dorchester as a recreational officer, and he moved into his present position in 1979. He says he wanted to get into corrections because he wanted to work with people, "especially after working in a coal mine for five years."
Burns says he has stayed in the field for so long because it presents a challenge and never has gotten boring. "I am interested in people," he says, "and I have always been somewhat athletic."
His athletic abilities served him well as recreational officer at Dorchester, where Burns and two other officers organized a softball tournament between inmates and local residents of the neighboring town of Sackville. This marked the first time in Canada's history that maximum security inmates had travelled outside their institution to play a local team. "It was very successful," he says. "We had no problems, and everybody had a good time."
Burns has learned a few things in 31 years. Among the most important, he says, is to "be fair, be honest, and don't make promises you can't keep."
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|Title Annotation:||The 4th Annual Best in the Business|
|Article Type:||Cover Story|
|Date:||Jun 1, 1994|
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