Tuesday, May 24, 2016

I've Got Friends in Low Places

As I was leaving my post the other night, an inmate yelled through the window, "Drive safe Mr. Koerner, see you Wednesday!"  I replied, "Ok, thank you."  Normally that would be a nice farewell, but the fact the inmate knew my schedule without me telling anyone bothered me a bit.

Most of my readers know I work in Corrections.  I am a Correctional Officer for the state of Florida, and formerly a ReEntry/Transition Specialist and prison educator.  My goal is to become a Chaplain one day.

It's a hard job that pushes me to my physical and emotional limits.  I have dreams about it at night and some weeks I get little done other than work.  At the prison I have twelve hour days, 60 hours one week, 24 hours the next, then I do it again.

The reason I do it is because God told me to, plain and simple.  In the prison dormitory I supervise about 130 men.  Their crimes range from everything imaginable, including multiple DUI's, sex offenses, fraud, drug crimes and murder.  Some will be released this year, some never.

When I was a Youth Development Agent for the 4-H program, every summer I taught summer camp for children of incarcerated parents.  I could see the developmental wounds their upbringing had caused and decided something had to be done.  Yes it's good to help the kids, but more importantly I told myself, "What we need to do is get these parents out of prison and have them raise their kids in a home of love and positive virtues." Then I ask, "Lord, how can I help with this?" Then an opening appeared on the Dept. of Corrections website.

97% of Florida inmates will be released from prison.  When they do, will they take care of their families or recidivate (commit another crime)? Is there anything I can do to make a difference? I cannot answer this question because only time will tell. But what I do at work is treat the inmates like human beings who deserve respect and hold them to the rules, policies and procedures.  I do not give special privileges to some or degrade any. I hold my dormitory inmates to a high standard and expect their best (but prepare for the worst).

My experience thus far has been a positive one.  I don't know if I'll remain in security for a long time, but working with these men in some capacity is something I feel the need to continue. My inmates are responding to respect with respect back to me, and I appreciate it. It is creating a positive environment that is more safe than it used to be.

It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones. - Nelson Mandela


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