To be taken hostage, least likely to be hurt. How's that for encouragement?
I spent four hours this week learning how to survive being taken hostage. Act calm, think survival! (That's ACT=S for those of you who like formulas.) It's not training to be taken lightly. There have been too many incidents of hostage-taking in prisons to ignore.
However, the more sobering fact is that I'm probably more likely to be taken hostage when I'm out in the grocery store or the mall. And no one there will care that I'm a chaplain.
Not long after I started working in the prison, I heard that bit of wisdom at the top of this entry: Chaplains are most likely to be taken hostage, but they are the least likely to be hurt. That has given me a certain bravado on the one hand, but I've been skeptical too. I can't afford to become complacent.
I have had offenders tell me that, no matter what was going on, I'd be protected. And I've made no secret of the fact that I grew up with four younger brothers and know how to handle myself. I also spent ten years as a high school teacher and I have on occasion, used my teacher voice to talk with 150+ rowdy inmates.
Does being a chaplain really protect me? on some level, but I know other chaplains who wouldn't be so lucky. Does being a woman protect me in an institution with almost 2000 male offenders? Probably not.
So what do I do to protect myself? In the long run, I try to treat each person I meet with respect. That goes a long way in this setting. I'm good at listening. I know when to shut up and I can tell a guy who's getting to wound up to "get off the hamster wheel" without him going ballistic on me.
I keep my Irish paperweight within arm's reach.
I practice saying, "Knock it off" at least three times a week.
I make a point of being around when people are in crisis so that when something happens, people know they can trust me.
But in the end, I won't know if I'd survive being a hostage until I have the experience.
It was a good four hours. On the other hand, the "Speaking with Confidence" video was a yawner last Monday, the gang tattoo identification was interesting--even if they never explained the guys who have a rosary tattooed around their neck or Our Lady of Guadalupe covering the whole back. Okay, maybe those aren't gang tattoos, but still!
Training. Got to love it.