Letters to the Editor 5/12/2005

Honor our protectors

Across the country, this week, National Correctional Officers Week, honors the men and women who keep our communities safe through their contributions to the field of Corrections. Here in Arizona, Correctional Officers Week is a special opportunity for this state to express pride in your public service and your positive impact in public safety.

Those who serve in the correctional officers series today, nearly 6,700 strong, perform their duties under difficult, sometimes dangerous, circumstances on the yard, in the chow hall, on the catwalks and tiers.

Usually outnumbered, it’s their job to keep the peace with few of the tools issued to other peace officers. Drawing deep on talent and training, our officers successfully govern a population with a reputation for being unruly. Our co-workers routinely spot problems before they get big and regularly fix them on the spot. They lead the inmate population by example and earn our admiration for their mastery of the field’s best practices.

This year’s average score for our security workforce’s core competency testing is better than last and it will continue to improve. Our officers strive towards excellence.

Our correctional officers are concerned about the public’s safety now. Our correctional officers are also concerned about the public’s safety later after inmates are released. To ensure the public enjoys the longest lasting public safety possible, our COs routinely partner with the department’s programs and support services staff to make sure more inmates use their time productively throughout their incarceration.

Now, more inmates are engaged in school, work and treatment than ever before and every prison is working with the crime victims’ community to provide victim-focused community service to the state’s four corners.

The measures of success achieved by staff in the corrections series are outstanding. Our officers’ proactive problem solving processes are reducing the number of untoward incidents department-wide. In the past year alone, serious rule violations are down 20 percent, and over the past two years, staff has cut inmate-on-inmate assaults 35 percent and inmate-on-staff assaults 24 percent. They are changing this organization’s climate and its culture; even sustaining an environment in which inmates raised over $45,000 this year to give to three of Arizona’s statewide crime victims organizations.

The state expects a lot from the men and women who work in its correctional facilities. Our officers rise to that challenge and give them more.

Today, 179 officers wear two uniforms — that of our department and our country’s armed forces; another 79 are on active reserve. Over the years, many have served at home and overseas.

This group is matched in commitment by others who give back to our communities as generous donors to SECC and LETR. You are among the state’s biggest and best contributors to these worthy charities. Over the years, our officers have also paid the ultimate sacrifice. We remember and mourn our six colleagues who lost their lives in the line of duty. We will never forget them.

The state knows no better crime fighters than our staff in the corrections series. I am proud to serve with you.

Dora Schriro

Director, Arizona Dept. of Corrections

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