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Heroes Wanted: NJSP Starting Wall of Fame to Highlight Staff Members’ Important Roles at Prison
By John Cokos, New Jersey Department of Corrections
Published: 03/11/2019

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New Jersey State Prison (NJSP), like many other New Jersey Department of Corrections facilities, recognizes employees of the month, but the administration wants to take it a step further.

“At times, people thinks it’s a thankless job,” said Monica Rivera, a Senior Correctional Police Officer at NJSP. “And sometimes it is.”

Thankless is the last thing NJSP Administrator Bruce Davis wants his staff members to feel about their jobs.

“As the new administrator here, I rely on leaders at many different levels to help maintain an organized and professional operation,” Davis said. “So it was a shared agreement that we make sure we acknowledge the people those leaders rely on as well.”

The notion of highlighting individuals for a job well done is not new at the prison, though it may need some reinvigoration.

“We’ve always had employees of the month, but no one ever really knows who it is,” added Rivera, who is involved in many aspects of the prison’s operations, “so Mr. Davis told me to get creative so we could incorporate more employees and get more photos up on the wall. I call it the Wall of Fame.

“We want to recognize the people, the mentors and team leaders who really make a difference here. That’s what we’re trying to do,” Rivera added. “I guess you might say it’s a morale booster.”

Many of the correctional police officers at the prison have taken on duties in addition to their roles as custody officers. This group is one of those the administration wants to recognize.

“We have a small group of officers who serve as tour guides here. They shine bright and help us maintain a good image,” Rivera said. “We have volunteer firefighters. And there are countless more.

“Hopefully it will be an incentive for everyone to do his or her best, you know, cross your T’s and dot your I’s.”

Rivera pointed out that the Wall of Fame is not just for custody officers.

“Civilian employees, like our communications operators, work hard to make sure each unit is adequately manned, especially around the holidays.” Rivera said. “We want to bring light on them and let them know we appreciate what they do as well.”

One member of the custody staff believes employees like the idea of being acknowledged even though they won’t always openly express that desire.

“We joke with each other, ‘Hey your picture’s on the wall. How do I get up there?’ Meanwhile, deep down inside, people are really asking the question,” said Correctional Police Sergeant Sean Patterson.

“It’s not just for an internal audience either, visitors will see our outstanding staff as well.”

The wall, which already has a number of employee photos hanging, is still in the beginning stages. The process by which employees will be chosen for placement on it is still being determined. One thing is certain, the wall is there to stay.

“The nickname for NJSP is The Wall,” Rivera pointed out. “And people ask, ‘So, where’s the wall?’ Well, here it is.”

John Cokos, a former Navy Mass Communication Specialist, began working for the New Jersey Department of Corrections’ Office of Public Information in May 2018.


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