Criticism of call-offs at county prison unfair

This is in response to the Sept. 2 Mirror editorial on the overtime at Blair County Prison and the cost it is placing on the county.

Warden Michael Johnston is faced with many problems running the prison without having the added stress of the Mirror’s opinion inciting officers to be up in arms.

The challenges include keep a building running, which is crumbling from its foundation to its antiquated equipment like air conditioning, food storage, security equipment.

Perhaps if the public knew the truth instead of an opinion based on half truths, they would feel a bit more at ease.

Yes, prison officers are currently allowed six “occurrences” per calendar year.

Yes, there is no contract in place at this time due to arbitration; these officers are not allowed to strike. Imagine what would happen if they did.

Yes, there are numerous “call-offs” at certain times throughout the year, though the reasons are simple.

Do you work every weekend and/or every evening allowing little to no time to see your family? Do you work every holiday?

Were these “call-offs” or overtime shifts filled because of workers on family medical leave for the birth of a child or another medical reason?

Were these shifts filled because a child became ill, or perhaps the child plays sports and made it to the finals, though there was not enough time for the parent to put in for a scheduled day off?

Perhaps five minutes prior to the end of your shift, you are told to stay for another eight-hour shift for the third day in a row, so you call off for your next shift because you are mentally and physically exhausted.

Perhaps there was a shakedown, and extra staff was needed. Perhaps there are officers out for training or training new officers, requiring the training officer’s shift to be covered. Perhaps there are inmates out painting at the airport, cleaning up a city park or picking up trash.

Perhaps there are inmates who have medical appointments requiring two officers to transport, leaving two shifts to be filled at the prison. Perhaps an officer was injured in an altercation in the prison and not allowed to be at work. Perhaps an officer is off due to suspension for calling off or being late.

Perhaps there has been a death in the family. Perhaps administration requires an extra officer due to an unknown special detail.

These all create overtime.

These officers deal with people no one wants living in their neighborhood.

They are responsible for keeping murderers, rapists, child molesters, drug dealers and many more behind bars. They are placed in harm’s way daily, subjected to numerous diseases and afflictions from scabies, lice, MRSA and HIV.

They do this willingly, without praise or thanks, when they are injured or scared emotionally or when one decides to attempt suicide or worse yet, succeeds.

They understand the risks they undertake each day. They do not carry mace or any weapon; they carry knowledge from training and experience to adapt to their daily routine, which is never just routine.

If you feel the number of days allowed for personal use or sick time are too many, I am assuming you work in a position with little or no stress.

Get actual facts prior to pointing fingers at officers who keep the less desirable members of Blair County secure behind prison walls.

Emily Raymond