Working Behind the Wall: A Corrections Officer’s Perspective
By: Detective/Corporal Efren Almodovar
Gang Unit - Passaic County Jail
As an experienced corrections officer with over 20 years’ experience with dual training, I am still bothered when I’m questioned by other law enforcement and even my own department if I am on patrol or assigned to the jail.
Being a corrections officer isn’t the easiest career in law enforcement, and working for a department with over 500 officers, we are just like any other department with a lot of new officers where most don’t know each other’s names. As I speak to other corrections officers throughout New Jersey, I am not the only one that feels like or have been treated somewhat like a second-class citizen for being a corrections officer. As a writer for Blue, I feel that I must express how I feel along with other correction officers. For anybody who has never worked behind the wall, you wouldn’t have a way to know or understand our mindset.
I’d like to start with the fact that we are outnumbered and unarmed when we are working behind the wall. Those who have been in the game of working behind the wall for a while know we become masters of our trade in dealing with people who really don’t like being in lock-up. Having trained thousands of new officers both in corrections and police, I make it a point of saying that everybody should start in corrections because being a correctional officer will teach them how to deal with people from all parts of the world. People skills are a dying art with the new generation. For those who start in the field, it becomes great in knowing when and when not to pull their weapon when dealing with the public. This is what I like to call your “spider sense.” We become great at telling grown people who have problems following orders in open society what we would like for them to do behind the wall. Most of the men and women who start in corrections and do decide to transition over to street cops become good cops in dealing with people on the streets based upon my own observations and evaluation.
Those who still have this mentality that this is untrue might need to change their way of thinking. Let me use this as example: If a street cop is in a fight with a suspect and a corrections officer is on the way to work or going home, does it really matter where he works or only that she was able to help out a fellow brother or sister in blue?
For years, corrections as a whole has not been treated as an equal to other law enforcement but as second class and not getting the true respect that we deserve although we are peace officers in the eye of the law. I take great pride in what I do, and corrections has opened many doors to me as a professional.
Please remember the next time you speak or deal with a corrections officer that we are all really in the same field, it is just that your job is just a little different than those working behind the wall. We have many roles that need to be filled while dealing with people behind the wall and it’s a job that many can’t do. It takes a special person to deal with the worst of society.