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Thank you for your service, Montana Department of Corrections professionals. I appreciate the work you do.

I have had the opportunity to serve alongside corrections professionals for the last several years and I am proud to have represented them. The work that Montana’s corrections professionals do daily is difficult and underappreciated.

Officers, licensed professionals and all the varied support staff in the field and at headquarters work to make lives better and to keep Montanans safe. They are human service professionals — balancing accountability and enforcement with community support and life coaching. They work daily with some of the most challenging and dangerous individuals among us. And because of that, they often find themselves in harm’s way.

In an era when times are challenging financially, governments are not adequately funded.

Criminal justice reform in Montana looks promising as an opportunity to create some financial efficiencies in the state’s correctional system, while modernizing the system and making services more effective. However, Montana’s correctional infrastructure is aging and needs serious attention.

As more offenders are supervised in our communities, the workload for our officers becomes unsustainable and less effective. And yet Montanans value living in safe communities, so investing in our state’s correctional system is imperative and worthwhile.

It is challenging to work as a public servant in today’s environment. Somehow, public servants have become lesser individuals in some people’s eyes. Some are so quick to devalue the work that public employees perform and constantly criticize the way in which correctional employees perform their jobs.

As a fellow employee who has had the opportunity to spend time in our state’s correctional facilities and to job-shadow probation officers in the field, I am impressed. While I cannot change the perception of the naysayers, I can publicly express my appreciation for your work.

As a citizen and taxpayer, my thanks to all Montana’s public employees.

Loraine Wodnik of Helena is a retired deputy director of the Montana Department of Corrections. 


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