What COs should keep in mind during National Correctional Officers Week

As we close out this correctional officers’ week, we are posting this story to remind you that what you do is so valuable to your communities and logoforwebsiteyour state. MCO leaders and staff are exploring ways corrections officers’ voices can be amplified and truly heard in their workplaces, because what you do matters. If you have ideas or feedback, please share them with us at mail@mco-seiu.org.

The following article originally appeared on CorrectionsOne, the most comprehensive and trusted online destination for correctional professionals nationwide, and is reprinted by permission of the CorrectionsOne editorial team. Visit www.CorrectionsOne.com to access news, commentary, education information, and training resources that help the corrections community.

What COs should keep in mind during National Correctional Officers Week

The important work of correctional officers often does not receive the recognition from the public it deserves

Consider the following:

“Historically, correctional officers have been viewed as ‘guards,’ occupying isolated and misunderstood positions in prisons and jails. In recent years, the duties of these officers have become increasingly complex and demanding. They are called upon to fill, simultaneously, custodial, supervisory and counseling roles. The professionalism, dedication and courage exhibited by these officers throughout the performance of these demanding and often conflicting roles deserve our utmost respect. The important work of correctional officers often does not receive the recognition from the public it deserves. It is appropriate that we honor the many contributions and accomplishments of these men and women who are a vital component of the field of corrections.”

— President Ronald Reagan, Corrections Week Proclamation 5187, May 5, 1984

A Thankless Job

Correctional Officers Week looks to recognize those individuals who take on the often difficult task of working in the field of corrections. In recent years some in society have become unfairly critical, judgmental, and unappreciative of the work of law enforcement officials. Perhaps no law enforcement entity is more underappreciated than the correctional officer.
Unfair scrutiny has long been common place for correctional officers who have for decades found themselves portrayed negatively in the media and mischaracterized in movies and television. The value that corrections staff have on providing a public service is largely unknown to the public they serve. As others in society work to show their support of law enforcement, the correctional officer is often forgotten about or simply left out of the discussion.

Those working in corrections often find themselves in a thankless job. They walk through the gate into the dangerous walled or fenced cities each day where others simply drive by and stare wondering what life is like inside. They witness firsthand those things that most only see on TV, and that those who witness them, would rather forget.

Correctional officers and other treatment and support staff put themselves in harm’s way to advance a mission of protecting the public, staff, and inmates while at the same time helping offenders to change their behavior to become better human beings. The task of returning individuals back to their communities better than when they left becomes more of a daunting challenge as departments are tasked with doing more for less.

Each day across this country, correctional officers enforce laws within their facilities, yet some deny their role as law enforcement officials. Each day correctional officers across the country, armed with little more than a can of pepper spray a pen, walk a beat surrounded by violent criminals, yet some question their courage. Each day correctional officers across the country offer aid and assistance and direction to those who are unable to help themselves. They consistently place themselves in danger to protect individuals whom society has discarded, yet some question their compassion. All of this is done behind the walls hidden from the public’s admiration and while being outnumbered thirty, forty, fifty or even one hundred to one.

Each day across this country correctional officers work double shifts, miss out on family events and explain to their children why they will miss another game because they have to work, yet some question their dedication. And each day across the country too many correctional officers go to work thinking that they are unappreciated and that what they do doesn’t matter.

What You Do Is Important

It is crucial that on this week honoring corrections professionals that we remember how important their mission is. By standing their watch, walking their beats, and patrolling their fences they ensure the safety of our communities by limiting the freedom of those who have harmed them. Then, in what seems to be an even more difficult task, their job is about sending people back to their communities better than they were when they left them. In my opinion, perhaps no one in the law enforcement community does more to ensure our communities live without fear.
To the corrections officers across this country I say this: The public looks to you for safety and protection and this is no small task. It is a task to be proud of. What you do is important. What you do matters. Don’t forget that.

About the author

Rusty is a corrections academy Training Specialist. He began his career in 1997 working as a Correctional Officer at a men’s medium security prison. While working in the prison he also served as K-9 Sergeant, Lieutenant, and Captain. He was a member of the Correctional Emergency Response Team for 15 years and holds current law enforcement instructor certifications in Defensive Tactics, Chemical Agents, and Firearms. In 2013 he moved to his current position where he instructs courses in several topics within the field of corrections. Rusty received his Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice Administration from Bellevue University and completed graduate work at Fort Hayes State University. Rusty can be contacted by by email.