By Scott Salley
Chief Scott Salley is head of corrections for the Collier County, Florida, Sheriff’s Office. He presented this speech to the 130th basic recruit class of the Southwest Florida Criminal Justice Academy in Fort Myers.
I truly am humbled and honored to address the graduating 130th corrections basic recruitment class. Beginning tonight we will share a common bond, one that many of you in this room have earned—a bond that has allowed you to witness, observe, interact, and train and test for a dangerous profession. Your graduation tonight is more than a milestone in your career. It is an “open door” for many other possibilities. However, those same opportunities in your career are competitive and require an enormous amount of determination for fulfilling.
As some of the graduates anxiously wait for this ceremony to end, they have concerns about the future—questions regarding job placement, career paths, numerous “what ifs” associated with corrections, and, finally, what tomorrow will bring. These all are valid concerns that these graduates struggle with at this time. All I can suggest to you is patience! Communities across the United States demand the availability of well-trained and honorable corrections officers in the near future.
Corrections is a noble profession. With that statement you must understand that some people will dislike you for what you represent. Do not take it personally. To survive in this volatile environment, I suggest each of you to remain in top shape—educationally, physically, and emotionally. With this same mentality, your philosophy should be tightly wrapped with a “blanket” of honesty and unrelenting integrity. While on duty do only those things that you would do in front of your mother.
…the corrections profession is not just about ‘locking up people and throwing away the key.’
There will be inmates who spend most of their time planning how to destroy your intrinsic values. Do not fall for this type of unacceptable behavior. Ironically, you may be placed in a position to protect these same inmates during their incarceration period. Understand clearly that our society expects a much higher standard of conduct from you because you now are the authority.
Courage and fairness represent predominant characteristics of a grounded corrections professional. You are expected to treat inmates—including their family members, legal counsel, visitors, and others—with fairness, respect, and dignity while you display courage in the performance of your sworn duty. As you prepare to graduate tonight, hopefully, each of you will recognize the fact that you have entered a profession that is stressful and capable of causing a hazardous lifestyle both on and off duty.
One of our universal objectives is to educate the general public that the corrections profession is not just about “locking up people and throwing away the key.” Sooner or later inmates, detainees, and prisoners will be released into society. As a profession we should prepare these individuals for their eventual release from jail or prison. This approach is more than plausible. It has routinely been proven that newly released inmates with a workable plan for their infusion into our communities save significant tax dollars.
In summary the 130th class graduates seated on this stage are challenged to do the right thing for the right reasons, many times not in their best interest, but in the best interest in the community they have sworn to protect. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak at your graduation!