RICHMOND — Governor Ralph Northam has proclaimed May 5–11, 2019 as Correctional Officers’ Week in Virginia, which honors and acknowledges the men and women who serve as correctional officers in the Commonwealth. Correctional officers play a vital role in helping Virginia maintain the lowest recidivism rate in the nation, a distinction the Commonwealth holds for the third year in a row.
Today at a summit hosted by the Virginia Department of Corrections (VADOC), Governor Northam spoke to professionals who work on reentry programs, and also addressed new correctional officers during a Correctional Officers’ Week ceremony held at the Academy for Staff Development in Crozier, Virginia.
“Through their selfless service and commitment to the successful reentry of returning citizens, correctional officers are the cornerstone of safer communities and lasting public safety in our Commonwealth,” said Governor Northam. “They deserve our gratitude and utmost respect for their tireless work, for it is the dedication, professionalism, and sacrifice of these brave men and women that creates a secure and rehabilitative environment at the Department of Corrections.”
Reentry preparation begins with an offender’s first contact with the VADOC, and that first contact is often with a correctional officer. These officers serve as the front line in the Department’s efforts to rehabilitate offenders and they readily implement the VADOC’s mission in its simplest form: helping people to be better.
“This week we honor the difficult and important work correctional officers do each and every day,” said Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian J. Moran. “Correctional officers support people who face challenging circumstances, de-escalate risky situations, and help prepare individuals who are reentering the community.”
Ninety-four percent of offenders in Virginia’s state correctional facilities will one day be released back to the community. Of the 43 states reporting three-year recidivism rates (the number of offenders who are re-incarcerated within three years of their release from prison), the VADOC’s rate of 23.4 percent is the lowest in the country.
“We ask a great deal of correctional officers on a daily basis,” said VADOC Director Harold Clarke. “They work with a challenging and sometimes dangerous population. They keep offenders, visitors, and staff safe, using dialogue skills and evidence-based practices. They teach classes, they model professional behavior, and so much more. Their dedication to this work keeps Virginia’s prisons safe and helps us maintain our low recidivism rate.”
Throughout the week, the VADOC will recognize and honor Virginia’s correctional officers. The Department has more than 12,000 authorized positions and well over half are correctional officers.