5 agency improvements corrections officers want to see in 2019
We asked our members how they would like to see their agencies improve in the coming year
By Alexandra Wessling, C1 Staff
Better mental health support, increased pay and inmate accountability topped C1 readers’ wishlists for 2019. What agency improvements do you hope to see in the New Year? Leave your comments below.
1. MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORT
From riots to understaffing, the challenges corrections officers face don’t stop when their shift does. Mental health struggles follow many officers home from the tier — and they’re often left to deal with the psychological baggage on their own.
For many, the salt in the wound is that administrations seem to make an effort to offer mental health assistance to inmates, but not to those on the other side of the bars. C1 readers named mental health support as one of the most important improvements their agencies could make in the upcoming year.
“We go through all this training to prevent inmate suicides and inmate safety,” Hillary Randall wrote. “That's what the state is worried about. There is no in-depth discussion, let alone training, for officer suicides or safety. If one [inmate] dies, it's bad PR and they're worried about lawsuits. But if an officer dies, they just hire another one. Inmates get treated better than the ones who have sworn to protect the public from said inmates.”
2. ADMINISTRATIVE SUPPORT
Put in close quarters with and vastly outnumbered by dangerous inmates, COs facing stressful situations or on-duty issues often have only a few means of backup on the tier: each other, and the administration. When the administration fails to stand behind officers, morale falls, danger rises and officer frustration grows.
For a successful 2019, C1 readers hope their administrations start to give them the support they desperately need.
“[Change] the way people are treated,” Mary Elizabeth Reid wrote. “Officers are the backbone of the facility. Treat them as humans, not employee numbers.”
“Take care of your officers before inmates,” Hillary Randall agreed.
Others said they’re looking to the administration to boost officer morale in 2019.
“I think we need to start with getting morale up,” Vin Grossi said. “If we start with finding ways to get a little more positivity in our day-to-day interactions with one another, it will go a long way in improving the quality of the environment.”
“Don’t forget about your staff who may be out on work-related or personal injuries!” Jim Osinski wrote. “I know in New York if an inmate needs something it’s usually done within an 8-hour shift. We have officers injured in the line of duty being forced to wait!”
3. BETTER PAY
Give a lot, get a little in return: Many C1 readers cited insufficient pay as a major issue for 2019.
“Pay would be the biggest [thing],” Eddie Kosiorek wrote. “Gotta pay us more and allow us to actually run [prisons] the way [they] are supposed to be run.”
Fair compensation will combat growing understaffing issues in the New Year and help current officers feel their hard and often dangerous work is valued.
“We haven’t had a true raise in the last 20 years,” Denise Street-Hefner said. “It’s a shame to work for the state and still be far below the poverty level. Correctional officers fall under the category of law enforcement and should be treated as such.”
4. INMATE ACCOUNTABILITY
Prison may feel like a bubble, but infractions inmates commit still matter — or, at least, they should. C1 readers agreed that inmate accountability is a top priority for 2019.
“I would say one many don’t think about is complacency in pursuing criminal charges against inmates who commit felonies on the inside,” Russell Zirkle II wrote. “Whether it be illegal contraband, exposing themself, assault, etc., why can an inmate commit such acts and only face disciplinary action? Why is prison becoming a safe haven for crime to those who don’t choose to rehabilitate?”
“Can we get an administration that doesn’t give the inmates everything and holds them accountable for their actions?” Nathan Joe asked.
“Too much hug-a-thug going around,” Chad Grimes said. “They don't learn how to function in society when they never get told ‘no.’”
5. BETTER EQUIPMENT
A carpenter is only as good as his tools, and a CO is only as safe as the equipment he or she carries on duty. But many officers aren’t getting the equipment they need to protect themselves and their fellow officers — an issue several C1 readers hope to see rectified in 2019.
“I would pick a minimum standard for equipment,” Russ Hamilton said. “A vest, radio, cuffs, MK9, impact weapon and 2 chem grenades. I've just seen too many departments not giving staff the necessities and staff begin to think that is okay.”
“I would like to see better equipment with less pernicious contractual obligations attached,” Kenneth Evan Powell III wrote.