Cumberland Times-News

Editorials

July 31, 2013

Correctional officers should be respected by the state

As a recently retired correctional officer in Western Maryland I know that my fellow officers at the maximum security North Branch and Western Correctional Institutions perform a dangerous and necessary job.

Around the clock, every day of the year correctional officers put our lives on the line to protect our neighbors from the most violent, convicted offenders.

Seven correctional officers have been assaulted and five more injured responding to inmate on officer assaults in an unprecedented spike in violence at NBCI over the past few weeks.

While assaults by inmates on officers are not unheard of they are typically infrequent. Seven assaults in a roughly two week period is an unprecedented spike.

The most recent attacks occurred late on July 22. Correctional officers report that supervisors told them at roll call meetings, that intelligence officers had intercepted phone calls from an inmate which tipped them off that a credible threat that an assault on an officer was going to occur.

Officers were told to “Watch your backs.” But correctional officers watch our backs and the backs of our fellow officers every day.

The Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services failed to put the facility on lock down to prevent the assaults that we all knew were coming.

Correctional officers must be able to have confidence that their leaders have their backs. The recent spike in violence and the failure of supervisors to take any preventative action shakes the confidence of hard working correctional officers in management.

Correctional officers represented by AFSCME Maryland, Council 3 recently met with Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services Secretary Gary Maynard to find out how the department intends to change operations to proactively disrupt these attacks in the future to improve safety for Maryland’s hard working correctional officers.

Officers look forward to working with the department to develop pro-active ways to disrupt the ability of inmates to assault one another and officers. But our patience and our confidence is not limitless.

 Ron Lohr

Retired correctional officer, WCI

Flintstone

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