Video by Jeff Baur, CDCR TV Director (Specialist)

Meet Ron Mason, a correctional officer for more than 20 years who is sharing his talent as a writer to help his fellow correctional officers through hard times.

Mason, who works at Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison, Corcoran, found Desert Waters Correctional Outreach after the suicide of a fellow officer. Desert Waters is a nonprofit with the mission “to promote the occupational, personal and family well-being of the corrections workforce through the provision of evidence-informed resources, solutions, and support.” The organization provides consulting, staff training, and staff wellness resources.

Mason began writing as a tool to process his thoughts, and has continued as a regular contributor to Correctional Oasis, Desert Waters’ online magazine. Topics he has covered include leadership, dealing with trauma, and building a support system.

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Correctional Officer Ron Mason

To me, correctional fatigue is a slowly chipping away at you every single day working inside the fence. Inside the walls.

About six years ago, I got involved with Dr. Caterina Spinaris and Desert Waters when I was looking for help dealing with a correctional suicide of a fellow officer.

In my relationship with her over the last five years, I learned more about dealing with stress, about correctional stress, correctional suicide.

Then about 14 months ago there was another suicide of someone who was very influential on my thought process, and I started writing.

I would write out different things that were going on.

Different events. Different emotions.

Just anything that came to my mind, it would come out as a big jumble.

And then by the time I got done with it – because I never rewrite it, it’s one time through.

Then I started sending Dr. Spinaris and Desert Waters my writing, and she found it very useful to try and break the ice with other correctional staff and let them know that there’s people out there that feel just like them.

When I first started writing about the stresses of the job, it was due to the hurt I was feeling in seeing people I cared about committing suicide, and not wanting to feel like that.

I wanted it out of my system before it did hurt that much.

I get nervous every time I sit down to write and I’m going to turn it in to somebody to use.

But then when you say, “No, your writing helps others,” then that makes me smile.

And I’m forever grateful to her for giving me that opportunity to help others know it’s OK to look for help and let people know you’re hurting.

And it’s OK to ask for help when you need it.

I hope that my writing makes you think.

That’s all I’m asking for, make you think and make you feel.

And then ask yourself the questions, “How much does this resemble me? How much of this is what I’m enduring?”