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For corrections to be recognized, we need to speak up

We are at the point where we need to move forward and be recognized as law enforcement professionals; we cannot do this by remaining in seclusion

There are those that are quick to judge what we do from a distance. Their judgment is centered on a belief that is far removed from the stone walls in which we, as correctional officers, patrol. Their belief stems from a world that has been shaped solely for entertainment purposes and, with that in mind, reality has been separated. With entertainment as the only defining perspective of those who are far removed from the authenticity of what we do and what we accomplish, their point of view becomes tainted by both situational and behavioral extremes that are fashioned for no other purpose but to receive higher ratings.

We can’t place fault in the individuals who have received their train of thought from the media, because, being in isolation from what we do, their thirst for knowledge of the unknown will cause them to accept all incoming information at face value. Their need for proper validation is limited because the work of corrections is concealed in the shadows of justice and their pursuit for the truth can only be attained from one source: the media.

Again, we cannot fault these individuals because their thirst for knowledge has led them to the only fountain willing to provide them with a drink. Social events, provided by us, in which we as correctional officers can attend and spread the word have been severely limited because our presence is few and far between. We vent, in frustration, for equality with others who enforce the law, but that voice is only a whisper.

Inmates walk in the yard in front of a cellblock at the maximum-security Mount Olive Correctional Center in Mount Olive, W.Va. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Inmates walk in the yard in front of a cellblock at the maximum-security Mount Olive Correctional Center in Mount Olive, W.Va. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

In separation, we voice our concerns to a limited few, who remain within our circle, but make no effort to venture out. Our ability to fight, stand tall and, most importantly, be heard, in regards to who we are and what we represent, remains within the confines of a very small community who has yet to break free from the boundaries of the wall in which they reside.

Where is our voice? The true voice of corrections! The media has led the way uncontested by those who “walk the walk.” They have been the voice of reason to those who seek a better understanding of the elements that make up the correctional system. Unchallenged, the media is able to invent a twisted perspective that the uninformed will blindly follow. We collectively need to untwist this perspective and bring to the light the professional work we accomplish deep in the shadows. This is not an option!

We are at the point where we need to move forward and be recognized as law enforcement professionals. In order for this above recognition to occur, we cannot stand in isolation from the public. We need to stand united with the public and we need to be the ones that provide them with a drink.

We need to stand tall with our brothers and sisters and we need to inform the public that we are law enforcement and our duties are defined by the legal code of the state in which we are employed. Behind the wall where we patrol, and away from the public’s view, is a society that is built on aggression and predation. Behind the wall is a world filled with individuals looking to usurp the legal powers within and create a utopia that remains lawless and uncontrolled.

Therefore, we, the correctional officers, become the only line of defense between chaos and disorder. In this battle, many have been sacrificed, but only a small few get recognition. There have even been debates about the eternal placement of our fallen and whether they have earned the right, among others in the law enforcement profession, to be remembered in a manner that brings permanent recognition to the civil service they provided. These are senseless debates that can only strive in our silence. If we remain silent and continue our existence in seclusion, the sacrifices that are made by those within the wall will continually fail to reach the level of recognition it has rightfully earned.

We can no longer stand idle and witness our profession be bastardized by those who have never set foot inside the wall. We need to speak up and be the voice of reason when the media chooses to belittle our profession. We need to be proud of the position we have attained and the duties in which we perform. WE need to let the public know that we are the law behind the wall and those that are confined within are kept secured by our sworn duty to protect and serve the public.

We are the ones that hold the keys to fear and civil unrest. We complete the circle of law enforcement and enforce the rules within so the public can sleep safe at night. If there is any question in regards to who we are and what we stand for, we need to be there to answer said questions.

In closing, we need to stand united and have our voices heard. We need to remove ourselves from the dark and bring to light the true role of a correctional officer and how we walk the final line between control and anarchy. We complete the circle of justice and stand united with other law enforcement agencies in their pursuit to create a society that can peacefully sleep at night knowing their greatest fears are locked away!

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