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  • Doug Tjapkes

Credit where credit is due. Many COs doing a fine job!

I was the guest speaker for a group of senior citizens. While describing conditions in Michigan’s prisons I made some disparaging remarks about a few Correctional Officers who were giving one of our clients a bad time. During the Q and A session following my presentation, a very nice gray-haired woman raised her hand. “I just want to say,” she said, “that not all Correctional Officers behave the way you described.” She went on to add, “My son is a Correctional Officer. He has a college degree. He takes his work seriously, gives his best every day, and he’s proud of his work!” That was a very important reminder for me, and for all of us in this prisoner advocacy business. It’s very much like those “rotten apple cops” who make all police officers look bad. Because of some misbehavior, we get to thinking that all cops must be mean and crooked, even though we know better. So it is with Correctional Officers. We hear and read reports of COs abusing and neglecting the mentally ill, smuggling contraband into the system, and treating visitors with disrespect. Then, with a broad brush, we paint all Correctional Officers the same color. And that’s not fair. A lot of attention is being paid to unsung heroes during this pandemic, especially first responders, doctors and nurses. Little is said about prison workers. And so, among the long list of other unsung heroes during these difficult times, we’d like to add Department of Corrections employees. Yes, there are some rotten apples. But there are also many fine, dedicated officers faithfully working without praise or fanfare day after day. In many ways, their job is far more dangerous than that of a cop, yet their wage doesn’t match that of police officers. Our team is witness to the fine efforts and tremendous dedication of many COs in the Michigan prison system. In declaring the first week in May as National Correctional Officers Week, back in the 1980s, then President Reagan said this: “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.” We agree. A tip of the HFP hat to many fine officers in our prison system.

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