B is for Boss

Continuing on today with the Behind Bars theme:

Boss is a common term heard Behind Bars; at least in Texas, it is.  This one is easier for outsiders to understand, but it is often used by the upper echelon or the so-called ‘Free World’ employees as a derogatory term, depending upon the vocal inflection and context.  The offenders or whatever you choose to call them, generally use the term ‘Boss’ attached to either the word ‘man’ or the word ‘lady’ as a semi-respectful, generic term for Correctional Officers or other uniformed employee they don’t know by name.  It is completely acceptable for the offenders to call these uniformed employees “Officer Smith”, “Mr. Smith” or “Bossman”.  It is not acceptable for offenders to call CO Smith “Hey, You!” “Smith!” or “John!”  It is up to the individual Correctional Officer to make sure that offenders address them properly or else, they will lose respect in the eyes of the offenders and that is not a good thing.  Then he or she will become known as “Boss Friendly”, which means the “Boss” is not doing his job and does not command respect or compliance whenever he or she is working with or supervising a group of offenders.  Not a good situation and in fact, dangerous.

On the other hand, Correctional Officers or uniformed employees may address each other as Mr. Smith or Miss Smith, but it is not proper to call each other by their first names.  Ranking Uniformed Employees are usually addressed by their Ranking Title and their last name, i.e. Sergeant Smith or Major Smith as a sign of respect.  Again, it is up to the employees to make sure that other officers are addressing them properly, especially in front of the offender population.

Where we run into trouble with the word “Boss” is that persons employed by the prison, but not required to attend the Security Training Academy or Inservice Programs, think that the term “Boss” is silly or demeaning and use it as such.  For example, I was what is commonly known as a Kitchen Captain.  This meant I was officially an FSM IV (Food Service Manager IV).  My pay ranking fell between that of a Security Captain and a Security Major.  In other words, I was not quite as well paid as the highest ranking security personnel on the unit, but I was paid more than a Security Captain.  I had the same training as a Security Officer plus I had additional training for Food Service duties and I was in charge of a substantial yearly budget.  Unfortunately, the non-uniformed personnel often called me “Bossman” even though I had metal collar insignia and sleeve patches designating me as a Department Head.  These same people would never call the Security Major or Security Captain “Bossman”.

This was one of the most puzzling situations I encountered during my career with the prison system.  It seemed I could sometimes depend more upon the support of the offenders than my own colleagues in many circumstances and that, my friends, is an enigma wrapped in stupidity

6 thoughts on “B is for Boss

  1. Very interesting!

    Konstanz Silverbow
    A to Z c-host

  2. brendancarroll says:

    Thanks for stopping by again, Konstanz.

  3. I didn’t know anything about this topic – thanks for sharing! Good luck A to Z-ing!

  4. Patty Craig says:

    I feel happy that you are talking about the past. It seems very scary and stressful. Thanks for the lesson in prison props.

  5. Jericha says:

    Brendan, what a fascinating A-Z topic! So interesting to hear your perspective. “Aight” is a word my firends & I used to say a lot in high school, although we spelled it “aiight.” I still occasionally use it quasi-ironically in text messages. The deployment of language in different circumstances is a very illuminating subject – here with the word Boss, for example. The Sikh gentleman who owns my local liquor store calls everyone ‘boss,’ for example. I don’t doubt there are a few layers of meaning or resonance that I’m missing.

    • brendancarroll says:

      Exactly so, Jericha, I would guess that owning/operating a liquor store might actually put him in contact with lots of people, but in any case, it would be very interesting to hear where he learned it, if you could possibly ask him. We might learn something new. Thanks for the comment!

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