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What Do I Even Do Here?
By Corporal William Young
Published: 09/24/2018

Warden So, the other day I was shopping for ammunition at a local outdoor sporting goods store and I was having a hard time finding exactly what I wanted. I was searching for cheap range ammo that wouldn’t completely cover my pistol in filth. As I was comparing and contemplating this major purchase I was approached by an employee. Mr. Employee asked if I had any questions and I explained my dilemma. Mr. Employee immediately grabbed a blue box of ammunition off of the shelf and said that he highly recommended that particular brand. He went on to say that the best part of purchasing that particular brand was that every time a box was sold, the company donated one dollar to a foundation that is set up to help the families of law enforcement officers that were killed in the line of duty.

I could tell that he was really excited about pushing this particular brand of ammunition. His eyes lit up as he told me about all of the awesome things that this foundation did for the families and for the children of the fallen law enforcement officers. He had a great pitch and his excitement was almost infectious, but because I am a well-adjusted, open-minded, and optimistic Correctional Officer, I had to know if the foundation was set up just to help the families of fallen Sheriff Deputies and Police Officers or if it included Correctional Officers as well. He looked at me a little funny and said that he was pretty sure that it was set up for the families of fallen law enforcement officers only.

Now, at this point I should have given some sort of automatic response, nodded my head, and walked away, and had my wife been with me I would have. But she wasn’t so I didn’t.

I took a deep breath and told Mr. Employee that as a Correctional Officer I was a little upset that a company that donated a dollar to the families of fallen law enforcement officers didn’t consider Correctional Officers “law enforcement”. I told him that every day, one of us is gassed, head-butted, kicked, punched, grabbed, stabbed, or worse. I told him that I didn’t appreciate the fact that if something happens to me in the line of duty, that my family would be left to fend for themselves but if a Police Officer dies in the line of duty, people throw parades, print up T-shirts, and this company donates a dollar.

Without missing a beat, Mr. Employee defended the mission of the foundation and said that Police Officers put their lives on the line every day to protect the community. He said that Police Officers are the only reason that I have a job. Then sat the blue box of ammunition back on the shelf and asked me “What do you even do?”

I took another deep breath and I asked him where he thought all of the murderers and the rapists and the drunks and delinquents go when they get arrested. I asked him what he thought happens to a guy that was just sentenced to eighty years in prison. Does he think that person just disappears? Does he think that the lying cheating fighting kicking killing strong arm robbery suspect stops being a lying cheating fighting kicking killing strong arm robbery suspect?

And then he did it. He looked me right in the eye and said “yeah, but you guys aren’t really law enforcement or first responders, you’re JUST CORRECTIONS.”

So, my initial reaction was to unload on this guy but I didn’t. I didn’t because I can’t get mad at a guy for not understanding the importance and the severity of what it is we do because we as Officers don’t even understand the importance or severity of what it is we do.

Yeah, I said “we”.

We constantly downplay and minimize the importance of what we do on a daily basis. I have my theories as to why we do this but I’ll save that for another article.

So what do we do?

Well, for starters, we put on our uniform and our badge and our boots and our duty belts and we check out our keys and our restraints and we patrol the most dangerous areas in our respective communities. Inside, there are no old ladies that need help crossing the street. Inside, there are no children waving at us as we walk by. And inside, there is no discount coffee for us at the gas station. Inside, every single person that we encounter during our shift is someone that society via the justice system has determined unfit to walk and live amongst the general population.

We give rescue breaths and apply compression to slow the bleeding. We deploy chemical agents and restrain combative Inmates. We stop it before it starts and we end it before it gets out of control. We grab the extinguisher and we pull, aim, squeeze, and sweep, and we hold up the lifeless body while our partner cuts the rope.

But wait, there’s more.

We spend copious amounts of time with our population; talking to them, counseling them, and mentoring them. We plant seeds in our population. We plant seeds and hope that they grow in to something good and productive. At times this can become discouraging as we see people come and go but we can’t be afraid to plant seeds in a garden that we may never see grow.

We have the opportunity and the potential to change a person’s life for the better. The way we interact with our population, the way that we behave and speak and act towards them has a direct impact on how they behave and speak and act when they get released back in to society.

See, you are so much more than JUST CORRECTIONS. You are a public servant that performs a dangerous and thankless job selflessly serving your respective communities with professionalism, dignity, and honor. You should hold your head high and be proud of yourself and your profession. There aren’t a lot of people that can do what you do as well as you do it!

Corporal William Young has worked as a Correctional Officer for 14 years. He has worked throughout his facility in various areas ranging from Sanitation to Segregation and is currently assigned to Community Corrections as a Work Release Officer. Corporal Young is a certified Emergency Preparedness (LETRA) instructor and also teaches Motivational Interviewing and “From Corrections Fatigue to Fulfillment”. Corporal Young is a member of the Crisis Intervention Team and the Crisis Negotiation Team.

The agency for which he works is not in any way responsible for the content or accuracy of this material, and the views are those of the contributor and not necessarily those of the agency.

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