News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion
FRIDAY, AUGUST 31, 2007
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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

‘Guards’ inappropriate term to describe correctional officers

To The Daily: I read your article on the death of inmate Farron Barksdale and found the article interesting and informative, but kept coming back to the second sentence that read, “Barksdale was discovered unresponsive in a cell by guards.”

What the heck is a guard? I remember that term being used by uninformed members of the media and public to refer to correctional officers, much as “pigs,” “local yokels,” “smokies,” “donut chasers,” etc. were used to describe law enforcement personnel. But I thought those derogatory terms had passed us by.

Correctional officers employed by the Alabama Department of Corrections now go through extensive testing and background checks, have minimum standards, attend a 12-week academy, are required to undergo additional advanced training each year, and are trained in firearms, first aid and behavior modification. They also go through continuous training throughout the year to keep abreast of changes in our legal system that deal with the care, custody and control of inmates.

The word “guard” hardly describes the duties and responsibilities that are put on correctional officers who patrol state prisons, work releases and other locations housing state felons.

I know you have heard terms some use to describe persons in the media that are unflattering and biased. So I wonder why someone in the media would continue to use names that are both unflattering and disrespectful to describe state correctional officers?

I hope you will take the time to visit our training academy, interview correctional officers and staff, and get first-hand knowledge of what it takes to become a correctional officer. You will find out how difficult it is to be an officer and how hard it is to train and retain good staff members.

I hope in the future you will not use the term “guard” when referring to state correctional officers.

Capt. Robert Simmons
St. Clair Correctional Facility
Springville

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