RICHMOND — Virginia’s corrections officers have adjusted to tremendous changes in the past year, demonstrating dedication, adaptability and resilience in the fight against COVID-19. This week, the Department of Corrections will honor those men and women performing this essential job. Governor Ralph Northam has proclaimed May 2 to May 8 to be Correctional Officers’ Week.
“This has been a year like no other,” said Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran. “It has tested every facet of Virginia’s prison system and staff. The Department and its corrections officers have faced the challenge of a lifetime and done a tremendous job. They have shown us why Virginia is a national leader in corrections.”
COVID 19 has upended work and home life across the globe and killed hundreds of thousands of Americans. The Department has lost five staff members and 56 inmates to the disease. “This pandemic has affected us deeply, and the amount of work and coordination with outside partners we’ve seen in one year has been remarkable,” said Virginia Department of Corrections Director Harold Clarke. “Our staff has worked incredibly hard and made tremendous sacrifices, and as a result we fared much better in this pandemic than most congregate care settings. And now, more than 70 percent of our inmates have had at least one vaccine dose, helping us see light at the end of the COVID tunnel.”
In recent years, VADOC made a cultural shift to emphasize learning, communication and best practices. This has proven highly beneficial during the pandemic, as officers and other staff adjusted almost daily to changes required by a novel virus. Officers have followed the Department’s pandemic response plan, as well as guidelines offered by the Center for Disease Control and the Virginia Department of Health.
This recognition, in place nationally since 1984, serves annually as a way of saying thank you to the men and women who step to the front line every day to maintain and promote public safety.
“This year, as we reflect on what we have learned and continue to learn as we battle a global pandemic, we are reminded just how acutely important our corrections officers are to their facilities, staff, inmates, and the larger community,” said Director Clarke. “Virginia’s corrections officers deserve our gratitude and profound respect for their willingness to face the dangers of this pandemic. We also owe thanks to their families who have supported these officers.”
Throughout this week, the Department will recognize and honor Virginia’s correctional officers.