What COs should remember during National Correctional Officers Week

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


Article updated on May 6, 2018.

“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, National Correctional Officers Week Proclamation 5187, May 5, 1984

The value that corrections staff have on providing a public service is largely unknown to the public they serve. (Photo/Michigan Corrections Organization)
The value that corrections staff have on providing a public service is largely unknown to the public they serve. (Photo/Michigan Corrections Organization)

What correctional officers Do Is Important

National Correctional Officers Week recognizes those individuals who take on the often difficult task of working in the field of corrections. Perhaps no law enforcement entity is more underappreciated than the correctional officer.

The value corrections staff play in public service is largely unknown to the communities 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 first hand things most people 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. 

While recognizing National Corrections Officers Week, take a moment to pause and remember that:

  • Each day across this country, correctional officers enforce laws within their facilities, yet some deny their role as law enforcement officials.
  • Each day across this country, correctional officers, 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 across the country, correctional officers offer aid and assistance and direction to those who are unable to help themselves. They constantly 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.
  • 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.

the importance of your mission

It is crucial that during this week that honors corrections professionals, we remember the importance of our mission. By standing watch, walking beats and patrolling fences, we 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, we send 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.

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