This may be one of the hardest blogs for me to write because it hits so close to home. Literally. Recently, two prisoners escaped from a maximum security prison about five miles from my house. Even more importantly, my husband, a corrections officer, works in Dannemora at the Clinton Correctional Facility. It’s been disturbing to watch some of the more sensationalized broadcasts about this escape and the factors that led to it. Our wonderfully supportive community, knowing how difficult this coverage is to see, printed up and distributed wristbands that say, "Dannemora Strong" to remind us to keep our chins up.
I’ve had to endure hearing newscasters claiming that officers (please don’t call these trained professionals guards, Anderson Cooper) are all sleeping on the job, dealing heroin to inmates, conducting other illegal activities on the catwalks behind cells, and are befriending criminals for their own, personal gain. It’s demoralizing to watch my husband work double shift after double shift, coming home to eat, sleep and get back up to work, while every armchair “expert” and even ex-prisoners wax on about the wanton disregard for rules or professionalism at Clinton-some even calling it a "country club" for prisoners when, in fact, it's where the very worst offenders are sent because it's widely known as the toughest jail.
Greg is a trained officer with over twenty years of experience, who, like the vast majority of other law enforcement officers at the jail, takes great pride in his work and place of employment. The actions of a few (or a couple) of employees should not be reflective of the dedication and hard work these brave men and women do every day. I, for one, would not choose to spend my work day shut in with murderers, rapists, thieves and the like and I’m thankful to corrections officers for doing this job and doing it well.
While law enforcement officers are often beloved heroes in romance novels, we rarely, if ever, have a corrections officer featured. Why, I wonder? They are the unsung heroes, rarely seen, who are all that stands between us and hundreds of really horrible people.... gangs members and other criminals we wouldn't want to meet on the street, let alone on a cell block of over two hundred inmates overseen by you and only one other officer. Instead of running these professionals down, we should take this opportunity to understand how truly dangerous this job is and thank them for putting their lives on the line every day.
My husband has taken at least three trips to the ER after fights he’s had to break up in the jail- one time for a broken hand- another for a slash from an inmate with HIV- which necessitated a year of nail-biting tests to ensure he hadn’t contracted the disease (he didn’t)- and another for a fractured eye socket when he was punched. He’s also witnessed, and intervened, when a good friend got stabbed eleven times, confronted armed inmates alone at night, taken away weapons, drugs and other contraband when frisking, endured riots in the yard that involved shots fired and tear gas, and been locked in with the inmates for four days straight during an ice storm. Yet Greg never complains. It’s his job and he’s proud of it.
I wish the nation would be, too.