Every year, Wright County recognizes the largely unheralded work done by corrections officers and employees who work in our county jail. At its May 2 meeting, the Wright County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a proclamation naming May 7-13 as Correctional Officers and Employee Week in Wright County.
In 1984, President Ronald Reagan signed the proclamation creating National Correctional Officers Week. In 1996, Congress officially changed the name to National Correctional Officers and Employee Week – acknowledging all the men and women who play a role in supervising those in jails, prisons and community-based facilities throughout the country.
Lieutenant Kent Lipelt came before the board seeking adoption of the resolution, highlighting the critical work corrections employees perform every day.
“Wright County corrections officers are most deserving of our respect, our thanks and the highest praise,” Lipelt said. “They are well-trained, always on watch and prepared to meet any challenge. The men and women working in the Sheriff’s Office Jail Division make a difference in our communities. They work with and manage more than 4,000 offenders a year in our county. Their abilities and reputation have allowed us to successfully work with multiple jurisdictions assisting them with overcrowding issues as well as disciplinary and behavior management problem inmates.”
One of the critical aspects of corrections in Wright County is that those in the jail aren’t viewed as just numbers to the corrections officers. Regardless of the circumstances that brought them to jail, the corrections staff works tirelessly to bring out the best in the inmates so that when they are released from custody they are equipped with the tools to help them be productive members of society.
“I work in the programs department and like serving the community by hopefully helping inmates get a better leg up when they leave,” Corrections Officer Joseph Vollbrecht said. “All the programs we offer give them an opportunity to leave better than when they came in. You can see that the help you’re giving them throughout the whole process will assist them when they’re released.”
A jail would seem like an unlikely place to have an abundance of job satisfaction, because nobody who is behind bars wants to be there. But the Wright County corrections staff is mindful that each inmate has the potential to find a better path moving forward. The variety of people they deal with and the progress they see in someone looking to better themselves can be extremely gratifying.
“There is always change in this job,” Lieutenant Brandon Steen said. “It’s never the same mundane job every day. It’s rewarding when you see that you can impact someone’s life – both inside the community and outside the community. Every day brings a new opportunity to make that impact.”
With a steady flow of inmates coming in and others being released when they’ve served their time means there is a constant turnover of people the corrections staff works with and there is a lot of satisfaction in playing a role in trying to help shape a better future for those who have found their way into incarceration.
“You have such a variety of duties – no two days are exactly the same,” Corrections Officer Cynthia Dupont said. “You’re able to impact a variety of people’s lives. It’s not always about the negative of being in the facility. It’s always backed up to help them take a step forward in their lives.”
Wright County Board Chairman Darek Vetsch summed up the sentiments of his fellow commissioners by saying that Wright County serves as an example of how corrections can be done the right way. There is compassion and a genuine investment in trying to make sure that inmates are given the opportunity to make positive changes in their lives and leave the Wright County Jail with a new lease on life moving forward.
“Wright County is blessed to have amazing men and women working in our jail who make huge impacts in the lives of individuals who are facing difficult challenges both inside and outside of Wright County,” County Board Chairman Darek Vetsch said. “We can’t thank them enough for the work they do. Not all jails are the same. What makes Wright County stand out is that we have dedicated men and women that work with the inmates while they’re in custody to help improve themselves and prepare them to get back out into the world, make their lives better and get them on a path to success.”