National CO Week? Yep, they deserve it!
Many years ago I was speaking to a delightful group of senior citizens in a college campus setting, telling of the work of HFP. In describing conditions in our prison system, I expressed concern about corrections officers who mistreated the mentally ill, who loved their badge and their power more than the subjects they were working with, and who felt that no punishment was too great for law violators.
Following my presentation, a sweet grey-haired woman raised her hand. “I just want you to know,” she said, “that my son has a college degree, has chosen to serve as a correctional officer, loves his work, and takes his job seriously. He's proud of what he does!” That was a very important reminder to me: We should not paint with a broad brush!
We forget that COs are not properly trained to care for the mentally ill, are not paid enough for what they do, are overworked (due to staff shortages, (some are ordered to work double shifts!), and are generally despised and often mistreated by the prison population.
I’m bringing all of this up because this week in May has been designated National Correctional Officers Week…a week designated annually to recognize and honor the women and men who work in the field of corrections. It is sometimes referred to as Correctional Workers Week.
It is well deserved.
HFP recognizes and celebrates the nearly 500,000 correctional employees across the United States working in our prisons and jails. A spokesman for the union that represents many of these employees described them as, “extraordinary human beings that run towards danger when most people go the other way.”
I would also like to pause to remember, especially, those men and women who have died in the line of duty. We are grateful and indebted to them and their families.
Somber points, as we observe this week…
-Assaults, violent acts and transportation related fatalities are primary causes of correctional officer fatalities.
-Incarcerated persons frequently have higher rates of chronic conditions compared with the general population. Correctional workers are often assigned to work in shared spaces with incarcerated persons. If communal, high-touch surfaces are not properly cleaned and disinfected, correctional workers are exposed to viruses that can cause illnesses such as a common cold, flu, and hepatitis A.
- Rates of infectious diseases are far higher among the incarcerated population compared with the general population (5 times higher for HIV, and 17–28 times higher for HCV). Needlesticks or sharp object injuries or infection may occur when correctional officers perform pat-down searches.
Here in Michigan our state operates 27 prisons, and these facilities are populated by more than 32,000 men and women. It takes some 6,000 COs to care for these people. Our prisons are understaffed, and their workers are overworked and underpaid.
We thank them for their service.
I conclude with two quotes.
"No job is more dangerous or more thankless than a correction officer.” -Unknown.
“Blessed are the peacekeepers, for they shall be called the children of God.”-Matthew 5 :9