|By Kevin E. Bedore , Canadian Federal Correctional Officer|
Name a Correctional Hero. Okay, how about all of the warrior-minded officers that day in and day out enter the concrete jungle of the prison and face the predator head on?
It has often been said that the duties of a correctional officer can be described as long periods of boredom and isolation contrasted with brief unpredictable moments of utter horror and terror. I couldn’t agree more!
Day in and day out the correctional officer keeps coming back regardless of the boredom and terror he or she faces on every shift. Why do they do it? Well, it’s just what warriors do. The thought of everyday folk going in harm’s way is seldom something they think about or should I say care to think about. All law enforcement officers by nature of their protective role are the ones who go to deal with everybody else’s danger.
So what I’m really talking about here is the “untold hero”. “Correctional officers,” “COs,” or as I prefer to call them “Guards” really are a special breed of warrior. Some think it might be derogatory to call correctional officers guards, but I don’t. In true respectful context, a guard is a short form for “Guardian” which by definition is, “one who protects and watches over.”
A guard by this definition is exactly what Lt. Col. Dave Grossman in his famous model about sheep-dogs, sheep and wolves refers to as being the sheep-dogs of our society. The ordinary, innocent citizens of society are the sheep, if you will. They live their lives afraid of the predator wolf as is the case here. The predator wolf inside the prisons has hunted innocent sheep while in society. The police are the sheepdogs that caught the wolf attempting to harm the sheep. The prison guard is the sheepdog that watches over the sheep from inside the prison.
Col. Grossman further illustrates the point by a quote that really sums up the correctional officer in the context of his model: “Hunt the wolf and bring light to the dark places where others fear to go.”
I think this very accurately describes the guard warrior role in society. The untold hero is common among guards. They don’t often get medals, media attention or even recognition from their organization. What they get in return for their humble bravery is the appreciation of knowing they are making society a bit better of a place for the very people that they love most, that is the innocent sheep.
Sometimes it is just the fellow warriors that appreciate the true heroes amongst them. I have been proud and honoured to have been shoulder to shoulder with some of the greatest, yet untold correctional heroes in my career. If it weren’t for these heroes I know society would be a much more dangerous place. Without these warriors at my side, I may not have been fortunate to have made it home to my family on many occasions.
The brave actions of correctional warriors are seldom recognized by the society they protect. The police have an incredibly difficult job as well, but most of the time it is them you see on the news and in the papers arresting the bad guy. After the bad guy is “put away,” you almost never hear about the guard having to deal with him inside the prison, which is more often than many will ever truly understand. The public know very little about guards, other than the fictional portrayal of them in movies and TV. Sadly, the media depicts guards as nasty, brutal undisciplined types resembling those on the other side of the law.
As a citizen, when you see a guard and think he or she is just another overpaid government employee, think about this…
Are you willing to face danger and perhaps thanklessly give up your life to protect society? Not many will make that sacrifice, and to many ordinary folk even the thought of it is terrifying. The correctional warrior accepts this risk every moment they are inside the prisons looking the predators right in the eye and proving that good will always defeat evil.
I talk to many who are not guards and they ask, “Why the heck would you want to work there?”
I don’t really know why, other than somebody has to do it! As far as personal sacrifice is concerned, what is right is definitely worth fighting for. If that is the chance I must take inside, it is completely worth it and some. Like many other guards, I don’t consider myself a hero, but my attitude about my role is based upon many heroes’ reason for doing what they do. It is a way of putting into action my thanks to many told and untold heroes that have gone before me and will come along long after I hear those big steel doors slam behind me for the final time.
While you are safely at home enjoying your time in the peace of “sheep-hood,” think of the sheepdog guard in the prison keeping the wolf securely away from you!
Editor's note: Corrections.com author, Kevin E. Bedore has 28 years experience in law enforcement, 23 as a Canadian Federal Correctional Officer. He began writing as a form of personal therapy to combat the negative effects that the correctional environment was having on him. He then realized that he had discovered something truly amazing that definitely needed to be shared with other officers facing the same challenges he had.
"...All law enforcement and military personnel face unique challenges that many times are not completely understood by the people that they seek to protect and in this confusion there often is a compromise to the emotional well-being of these 'guardian-protectors of society'..."
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This retired "guard" says Bravo. Another fine article. Thank you Officer Bedore.
I also prefer the term Corrections Officer. In regards to public opinion, what part of the public are we speaking of? General public: once they realize what it is we as COs do, they are rather supportive, from what I have experienced; however, if you are talking about the part of the public that has been locked up, had multiple run ins with the law or have family/friends that are locked up, of course their opinion is going to be demeaning towards us, only because of their own inabilities to realize their or their loved one has serious issues with rules, laws or the ability to do right, to which I say, oh well, their opinion does not count! What does count to me is the knowledge that I go to work each day doing 100% more than my best to make sure I come home each night to my family. My supervisors, co workers and my family: their opinion is all that counts!!!!! Keep your head up, be true to yourself, work to make only the important ones in your life happy and do not worry about what others think. if they are talking about you, they are leaving others alone; and it will not be long until their sad opinion is being thrust onto someone else. if they are so openly rude about the service to society that we as Correctional Officers provide, then you know that they are not able to do the same type of work we do, so you can rest assured we are a step above most!!!
This is a terrific Article.....however....it makes no difference how you spin the term "guard" it is demeaning to Corrections Professionals. Corrections Professionals behave differently than "guards". Please do the profession a favor and use the term Corrections Officer or Corrections Deputy. We need and I demand the respect that I work very hard to obtain.....Corrections officer!!!!! The publics opinion will not charge if you continue to use the term "guard". Off my soap box!!!! We are the super hero's of the Law Enforcement field!
Great Article..... We need to show, make public, the "GOOD" officer's< (which is most)and what a heroic, unsung, thankless, yet rewrding career this can be! Thereby changing both public and Officer Opinion's for the positive! Thanks so much..... (Former Y.C.O.) P.Y.C.F.