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Don't forget prison line officers

February 16, 2008|By LLOYD "PETE" WATERS

Recently, I had a retired correctional officer come up to me and say, "Did you see that Del. John Donoghue is introducing a bill to increase the retirement compensation for senior correctional supervisors?" He then handed me a copy of the article from the newspaper which outlined Donoghue's bill.

"What's so special about senior supervisors receiving additional retirement money while ignoring the plight of the regular line staff and others who make many of the same contributions each and every day and live on a small bit of pocket money called retirement after working for 25 or 30 years. Why would Donoghue do something like that?" the retiree continued to grumble.

After reading the article and contemplating Donoghue's proposal, I could not honestly provide an adequate answer for the retired prison employee.

Working in a prison is a tough job. One who looks at the likes of Brandon Morris, who murdered a correctional officer, can only imagine what staff might experience when dealing with such a human, who most of the time acts and behaves like a crazed ,rabid animal.

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At the Washington County Hospital it was a line staffer that was killed in the line of duty, not a supervisor.

At the House of Correction, it was the line staffer who was killed in the line of duty, not the supervisor.

How is it that Donoghue's bill then excludes the line staff?

Now don't get me wrong, a good supervisor is worth his or her weight in gold, but the line staff bleeds just the same and sometimes more than the supervisor. So how can we legitimately ignore their sacrifices when proposing an increase in retirement benefits?

Although not all of the incarcerated individuals represent the magnitude of Morris savagery, the prison population today is certainly more prone to violence and gang activity than ever before. Who would find job satisfaction when confronted with such violence and other job negatives in this environment?

For all the staff members who work in the prisons on any given day, the job can be very demanding and difficult.

Although I applaud the fact that one politician has even taken the time to recognize the shortcomings of retirement benefits for some of those prison employees who work there, I would ask this same individual to not forget the little person who also plays an integral part of this operation.

On my Internet search I could not find the retirement benefits provided to Maryland elected officials. Perhaps they represent a pittance compared to many other retirees, but then again maybe not.

All people in life are just looking for a fair shake. I applaud Del. Donoghue for at least directing a little of his thought and attention to the plight of prison staff.

I would, however, offer that not only the supervisors should be in line for his support. Napoleon was probably more correct than not when he said "soldiers generally win battles; while generals get credit for them."

Good supervisors are very important to any organization, especially the prison system, but it is not wise to minimize or ignore the contributions of the foot soldiers when thinking about a better retirement system for prison staff.

Lloyd "Pete" Waters is a Sharpsburg resident who writes for The Herald-Mail.

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