Cumberland Times-News

Editorials

July 13, 2013

Prison guard

It’s a tough job that rarely comes to our attention

Officials say there was no connection between two recent assaults upon officers at the North Branch Correctional Institution, and we see no reason to question that conclusion.

It’s just one of the occupational hazards connected with what these officers do for a living.

Each time they report for duty, they must deal with people who have been separated from society and put behind bars for a reason.

Of the nearly 1,400 inmates at NBCI, about 1,000 are there because they were convicted of murder or manslaughter. The institution’s population also includes inmates transferred from other state correctional facilities because of assaultive behavior.

If ever there was a job that requires someone to watch his back — and the backs of his associates — it is that of a correctional officer. Not only do these officers have to mind their own safety, they may be called upon to deal with assaults by inmates upon other inmates.

What makes people take on such a job? Why, for that matter, do others become police officers or firefighters or enter other professions that repeatedly put them in situations where their physical well-being and even their lives are at risk?

You would have to ask them, bearing in mind that some quickly discover it’s not for them and go elsewhere. For those who stay on the job, it becomes the fiber of their very being — as surely must have been the case with the 19 firefighters who died recently in an Arizona wildfire.

When we respect and honor those who stand in the line of duty as police officers, firefighters or others who serve and protect, let’s not forget the correctional officers who ply their trade in places where we’re not likely to see and appreciate all that they do for us.

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