Writing reports as a Correctional Officer is one of the most important daily duties that you will be required to complete.
The importance of good report writing for correctional officers should not be discounted as your written communication skills will speak volumes about you as an officer without you even saying a word. Which is probably why many have begun using incident reporting software so make sure your computer skills are on point as well.
For better or for worse, the reports that you write will directly reflect your competency level as well as your proficiency & professionalism as a Correctional Officer.
Basic Requirements for Report Writing
Understand that the reports that you write are utilized to preserve the knowledge of a particular situation or a series of events and as well as accurately record the details of these events. Constructing your reports in a chronological order from a sequential viewpoint is key. Format and content are also important aspects of your report that you should be aware of.
Most if not all correctional officer training academies and schools will provide intensive training on all aspects of proper report writing to new officers, the Do’s & Don’ts of generating reports, and the importance of grammar, spelling, and sentence structure. Think before; during and after you write your reports and stick to the basics.
Remember that the incident reports you write are a formal presentation of the facts as you have recalled them that provide a permanent record of your actions as well as your observation of events and offenses as they have occurred. Based on the seriousness of the events related to the reports you generate, they may have higher visibility at various levels of the criminal justice system to include your supervisors, attorneys, judges, counselors, family members, media, defendants, and members of local government.
7 Key Elements of Report Writing
In order to accurately articulate you thoughts or ideas of a particular event or incident, it is best to ask yourself a set of basic questions that must be answered and are recognized as the essentials of report writing. Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How – these questions all should be asked and answered as you complete your reports.
- Who (ID)
- What (Violation or Offense)
- When (Time & Date)
- Where (Location)
- Why (Motive)
- How (Method of Operation)
- Action Taken
In addition to the W-W-W-W-W & H, you should also include an ACTION. What was the end result? What was the outcome? What was the response? What actions were taken in regards to the information you presented earlier in your report, whether it is a final action or it is a pending action.
The Five “C’s”
As you are in the process of gathering information for your report while at the same time making sure that you are answering and addressing the seven key elements of report writing listed above, but also remember to follow the “Five C’s” of proper report writing.
Using the Five C’s can be summarized by sticking to the facts, using complete sentences, avoid slang or prison jargon, stay on point and be direct, avoid wordiness, strive for accuracy, no grammar or spelling errors, and be fair & objective in your report writing.
Finalizing Your Reports
Read the reports that you write, proof read them, make corrections if necessary, and then reread them again. Make sure that your report is error free, that you’ve address and answered all questions that may arise later. Ensure that your report paints a clear picture of the series of events that took place.
Take pride in your reports in the same way you take pride in job, sign & date and send forward.