In Celebration of National Correctional Officers' Week

By Sergeant Charles Roman
Hyde Correctional Center
North Carolina Department of Correction

May 5-11 is National Correctional Officers' Week, more accurately, Correctional Workers' Week.

Every certified employee in a correctional environment is an officer first, and a nurse, superintendent, case manager, food service worker, etc. second, responsible for the care, custody and welfare of inmates. We establish and administer policies equally regardless of whether the offender is a ruthless, remorseless brute, or a young adult who is basically good but fell in with the wrong crowd, possibly drawn by the prospect of the fast money and prestige offered by drug dealers.

Corrections is an ever-changing profession. The days of the huge, muscle-bound, gravel-voiced, shotgun-toting convict guards are long gone. Corporal punishment is a thing of the distant past. Corrections, like law enforcement, and the criminal element itself, has become sophisticated. More than ever before, the correctional workers of today are college educated and well trained. Extensive background investigations are being conducted to ensure that correctional workers are of sound moral character.

Our system, the North Carolina Division of Prisons, is designed so that inmates have available a positive, credible avenue to the executive staff when they have a complaint or grievance. Inmate medical care, food and educational opportunities are better than ever before. Everything that can be done, with the monies allotted, is being done to provide the inmate with a safe and beneficial environment. Prison is not a warehouse for human beings; we cannot put them on a shelf until their sentence is completed. They have needs, physically and socially, that must be met.

Why would we seek employment and remain employed in this thankless, aggravating and often dangerous occupation? The job is not prestigious; the pay is not especially lucrative; the hours are terrible (a holiday is just another work day); and advancement opportunities are only average. I do it (and the majority of my colleagues do it) because I am very concerned about our incarcerated citizens and about the recidivism rate. These people must be encouraged to lead a constructive life upon their release within the guidelines of the law and within the moral beliefs of our community.

I am very proud of what I do. I consider myself a brick in the wall which protects honest, hardworking society. I love corrections. I studied for it in college and I readily accept the challenges posed by this profession with confidence, enthusiasm and optimism toward the future. I sincerely hope that I will witness a positive change in the recidivism rate and a decrease in the incarceration rate of our youngsters during my career. I hope to play a significant role in improving our ever-changing system.

This letter would be incomplete if I failed to mention the spouses and other family members of correctional workers. It takes special people to put up with us and our schedules. Sometimes we bring our work home with us and it is rarely positive. We must all live with the possibility that we may lose our lives in the line of duty someday.

May 5-11 is our week. It is a time for us to think about the correctional workers nationwide who have lost their lives in the line of duty. When you see the correctional professionals in the community, let them know that you appreciate the service and protection that they bravely provide and please, do not call us "convict guards."