Province honours correctional officers

Prince Albert Correctional Centre. Herald File Photo

A provincial government initiative to recognize the work of correctional officers is receiving support from both sides of the aisle.

The Government of Saskatchewan proclaimed May 7 as Correctional Officer Appreciation Day Tuesday. The day will be set aside each year “to recognize the contributions of corrections officers, facility youth workers and probation officers who bring skill and professionalism to their job,” the government said in a press release.

Minister of Corrections and Policing Christine Tell made the announcement while introducing corrections staff, one from each provincial facility and from community corrections, as guests to the legislature Tuesday afternoon. Lunch events for other staff took place at each facility and probation office across the province.

“Throughout the galleries there are correctional officers, facility youth workers, probation officers and community youth workers,” Tell said.

“They have joined us to help celebrate the first official correctional officer appreciation day. These hardworking people help to rehabilitate offenders through counselling and programming … To help make society safe and secure.”

Tell said the workers bring skill and professionalism to a job often invisible to the general public in a role that can be “demanding and complex.

“They are the unsung heroes of our criminal justice system,” she said.

Starting next year, Minister’s Awards of Excellence in Community and Custody Correctional Services will be handed out on Correctional Officer Appreciation Day.

NDP justice critic Nicole Sarauer also welcomed the officers to the legislature.

“I’d like to welcome all of the correctional workers and thank them for their work,” she said.

“Often, their work goes unnoticed by so many in our province, but the work they do is unparalleled. I’ve had the opportunity to visit all of our correctional facilities, and can attest to the hard work they do in some very extreme circumstances.”

The proclamation of Correctional Officer Appreciation Day also earned praise from the Saskatchewan Government and General Employees’ Union (SGEU).

Correctional Officers have some of the toughest jobs in public service. And often it can be a thankless job, as their service to the community is mostly far from the public’s view and behind closed doors,” said SGEU President Bob Bymoen in a press release.

“The dedication, courage and professionalism exhibited by these front-line workers deserve our full respect. We are very pleased to see these devoted members recognized for the vital role they play in public safety.”

In their press release, SGEU described correctional officers as counsellors, first responders, referees, supporters and caregivers “for some of society’s most dangerous, and often its most disadvantaged.”

This was the first year the appreciation day was celebrated. There are about 2,200 correctional officers, facility youth workers and probation officers across the province.

“We thank the minister for proclaiming this day, and we look forward to working together to continue to highlight and honour these brave people both now and in the future,” Bymoen said.