Leading the Way

05/04/2015

Proud of Correctional Officers' efforts

By Sheriff Chris Donelan

'My Turn' - Greenfield Recorder

Today, May 4, through Friday, May 8, is National Correctional Officers' Week.  This is a yearly opportunity, signed into law by President Ronald Reagan, to recognize the hard work involved in the often difficult field of corrections.

Each year, we have some events at the House of Correction during the week to express our gratitude to our officers, but I felt compelled this year to reach outside the facility to let the general public know about this yearly event and why I believe my Officers are very much deserving of recognition.

Corrections has changed across the country.  The argument about punishment versus treatment is as old as jails themselves.  In Franklin County, we pride ourselves on not following this historic debate, but leading it in the 21st century.  Proof of this came recently when Michael Botticelli, director of National Drug Policy, referenced the Franklin County Sheriff's Office when he gave opening remarks to a conference of 3,000 addiction doctors in Austin, Texas.

Over the last several years, we have transformed the Franklin County House of Correction from a jail that offered treatment into a locked treatment facility.  We offer the men sentenced here what all addiction specialists recommend for addiction treatment:  long-term, inpatient, co-occurring treatment focused on trauma and addiction.  Men receive targeted and intensive treatment set on their individual risks and needs.

In addition to treatment, we offer educational opportunities, vocational training and our re-entry house which allows men to connect with classes at the community college, jobs in their hometowns and supports in the community.  We are building historic partnerships with local businesses and the Greenfield and Regional Housing Authorities to help with housing and employment for our men upon release.

What we are doing is leading the nation in treatment and re-entry, as referenced by our mention at the Texas conference, and we could do non of it without our Correctional Officers.

When we embarked on this monumental shift in priorities in Franklin County corrections, I asked the Correctional Officers to be open-minded, to dedicate themselves to being partners with our treatment staff and to accept that ALL of us - officers, clinicians, support staff and even the Sheriff - are responsible for ensuring that every man sentenced to this facility has the opportunity to engage in our treatment and re-entry opportunities.

Many of our officers have voluntarily taken training in substance abuse and mental health so as to better understand these issues and how they affect criminal behavior.  These correctional professionals are working in our new model and interacting with offenders, being respectful of their circumstances and trying to contribute to each offenders' successful outcome.  We have trained Correctional Officers engaged in treatment and education programs.  They sit in classrooms and treatment groups and facilitate discussions.

I like to say that Franklin County is not your grandfather's House of Correction.  The old model of a jail guard counting heads and enforcing rules is out the window, replaced by educated professionals who work as part of a comprehensive team to help offenders change and grow.  What we are doing here is intensive and requires all of us to communicate, pull our weight and work as a team.

National Correctional Officers' Week begins today.  I am writing this piece because I am extremely proud of all of my Officers and the work they are committed to each and every day.  I wanted to express that pride to the greater Franklin County community so that all of you know how difficult this job is, that these men and women do it very well, and that they are deserving of all of our recognition.

 

 

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