Move Forward: Fulfilling our Purpose in Corrections

purposeIt’s no secret that criminal justice reform is sweeping the nation. From state legislatures to the halls of congress, legislation is being introduced everyday with an eye on decreasing the U.S. prison population and exploring new and different ways of preparing incarcerated individuals for life on the outside.

But in all of this reform, where are corrections officers? Just like “tough on crime” legislation during the 1980s and 90s set a tone for a generation of Americans, alternatives to incarceration and prison downsizing will define yet another.

One thing we know is true: as front line-staff, we must meet these changes head on and develop answers to key questions surrounding criminal justice reform. We must ask ourselves, what purpose do officers serve in this new environment? Are we currently filling a needed function? Do we have the tools necessary to achieve these proposed reforms? What dangers or concerns must be addressed? Is there room for corrections staff in the conversation?

This month’s value in the Move Forward campaign is Purpose.

To answer these questions, MCO has created and is leading a nation-wide campaign to bring the voices of corrections officers into the debate so we can be a vocal partner as these changes transform corrections. We’re calling this effort “One Voice.”

One Voice is made up of leading labor unions, corrections staff, criminal justice reform leaders, academics and policy makers with the goal of building bridges and advancing a unified approach to better inform the policies, programs and narratives that define criminal justice reform.

By collectively bringing all of these groups together, One Voice hopes to shift the conversation from debating the tensions between incarcerated individuals and corrections staff, to one that is centered on protecting the safety and interests of all who are impacted by the corrections system.

From issues like understaffing to overcrowding, corrections officers must have a meaningful influence on the policies that shape our nation’s criminal justice system. By injecting our expertise and point of view, we can ensure the safety, health, and security of all staff, inmates, and others impacted by criminal justice reform.

As stakeholders in these changes, we have a vested interest in seeing the best possible outcome and must fight to include our position, regardless of political agendas or party affiliation.

To aid in this campaign and make sure Michigan is heard loud and clear, we are asking members to fill out the One Voice survey, designed to guide MCO and One Voice on topics and issues important to corrections officers. All responses are anonymous and information will not be shared or used for anything outside the intended purposes of One Voice.

We understand that this survey will take some of your time; however, this is our chance to influence the conversation and inject our experience and knowledge into the state and national debate.  If we don’t act now, reform will end up happening to us, instead of with us.

Thanks, officers, for your help.