Facing up to challenges
Officers at the Correctional Services Department (CSD) have responsibilities that go beyond enforcing law and order.
'Aside from ensuring that prisoners and inmates are treated fairly in accordance with the law, it is also our duty to rehabilitate them with a wide range of comprehensive programmes,' says Daniel Chan Wai-kin, principal of the CSD Staff Training Institute in Stanley.
Finding the right balance between maintaining order and rehabilitating inmates is what new recruits always find challenging, Chan says. 'On the one hand, you tell them to obey the rules and regulations, and on the other hand, you inspire them and help them lead a normal life when they leave. The latter is a soft approach that requires close relationship and mutual trust. The two roles can be quite conflicting. In fact, reconciling the two contrasting responsibilities cannot be totally taught here in the institute, but can only be learned through experience.'
The officer always refers to cadets as 'kids' and, occasionally, he calls the training institute 'heaven'. So every kid must stay in heaven for at least 23 weeks before leaving for the real world.
'We offer 23 weeks of training for recruits to assistant officers II position and 26 weeks for those training to be officers. The latter is more in-depth as officers are middle managers who supervise their subordinates as well as law offenders,' Chan says.
Both training schemes cover areas such as scenario training, physical education, criminology, self-defence, pressure point control tactics, first aid, foot drill and parade, emergency response strategy, penology, resistance control tactics, weapon and arms training, among other courses in law, social sciences and communication. Every cadet is required to take a field placement during the training period.
'Our training programmes are both theoretical and practical. For instance, the courses in criminology, psychology, and penology help cadets understand the human psyche and how to deal with people, which is our main job. And as we are always confronted with unexpected situations, programmes such as scenario training and emergency response strategy are essential,' Chan explains.
Upon completion of training, recruits will be assigned to any of the CSD institutions - rehabilitation, correctional, reception, training, psychiatric centre, addiction treatment centre, half-way house, custodial ward and prison - based on the department's needs.
'We take their preferences into account, too. They are given a questionnaire which tells us whether they prefer to work in the minimum-security, medium-security and maximum-security institution, whether to serve in institution for adults or the youth, for instance. But the operation's needs always come first,' Chan says. 'Once they have accomplished fundamental divisional duties, we will evaluate their overall performance as well as their individual capabilities, and we will try our best to assign them to the position that suits them best. We have more than 20 different types of jobs and duties in the department. For instance, someone who likes dogs would be assigned to the dog unit. 'Right man for the right job' is our belief,' says Chan, who has been with CSD for 28 years.
Applicants for assistant officer II must have completed at least Form 5 while those applying for officer must have passed one advanced level subject in the Hong Kong Advanced Level Examination and Level 3/Grade C in three other subjects in the HKCEE or equivalent.
The starting salary for assistant officer II is HK$14,800 and for officer, it is HK$25,675.
CSD has plans to hire a certain number of assistant officers and officers in the coming months. 'We are looking for those who can live up to the CSD mission and values and are determined to serve society. They must be well-disciplined with a high moral standard and able to work in a team. They should be willing to face challenges and threats and are aware of current issues. They must also possess good communication skills as we deal with people,' Chan says.
Last year, the department hired 330 assistant officers II and 70 officers.