By SHAWN RYAN
---- — PLATTSBURGH — In a job like corrections, it’s good to know that somebody has your back.
For many correctional officers and civilian employees in northern New York prisons and jails, that somebody is the Correctional Peace Officers Foundation.
And the national organization is hoping for more local members.
The 85,000-member-strong, nonprofit organization, which was started in the mid-1980s at California’s Folsom Prison, covers sworn officers and civilian personnel in 33 states, as well as the federal Department of Corrections.
It has members in all of the prisons in the North Country.
“The main mission of the organization is to preserve and support the surviving family members of those officers who are killed in the line of duty,” said Jay West, a retired correction officer who lives in Keeseville and volunteers as the Correctional Peace Officers Foundation representative for this part of New York.
Along with providing support for the families of slain correctional employees, the foundation recently started a Catastrophic Assistance Program, which offers money for undergoing devastating situations, such as a house fire or serious illness of a member or family member.
West said the Catastrophic Assistance Program helped numerous members in the North Country just this past year but, fortunately, has not needed to aid the family of a slain officer from this area. It did recently assist the family of a downstate officer killed in an automobile accident during an inmate transport.
“I just want them to be aware that we are always there, and we can do nothing until somebody says, ‘Hey, did you hear about that guy, etc. etc.?’,” West said.
Correction employees support the Correctional Peace Officers Foundation with voluntary, tax-deductible contributions from their paychecks. Amounts typically range from $2.50 to $12.50 per pay day.
“We help everybody out there, whether you’re a supporting member or not,” said West, explaining that contributing members can expect slightly more in support. “But we never say no. I’ve never heard CPOF say no.”
He points out that it’s not always the amount of the check that is important but rather just knowing that there is someone out there willing to offer a helping hand.
Once a year, the foundation participates in Project 2000, a four-day event where surviving family members of slain correctional staff are brought together for remembrance ceremonies and activities for the families, especially the children.
West estimates that close to 1,000 people nationwide attend annually.
The Correctional Peace Officers Foundation maintains contact people in each of the upstate prisons to provide information about an officer or civilian in need.
West tries to visit each of the jails in the North Country at least once a year to explain the organization’s mission and recruit new supporting members, but it’s hard to reach reach everybody, given shifts, assignments and days off, he said.
TO LEARN MORE
Correctional employees who are interested in joining or learning more about the Correctional Peace Officers Foundation can contact Jay West by phone at 569-6813 or by email email@example.com.