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Corrections Employing and Supporting Veterans

November 10, 2020

By Rachel Ericson (Noll)

DOC Communications

people in military uniform saluting flag

For years, the Washington State Department of Corrections has been a proud employer of veterans. As part of regular recruitment efforts, Corrections regularly participates in job fairs, whether in person or virtually.

In addition to standard job fairs, the department also makes the effort to recruit veterans by holding a particularly special class of job fairs at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, and other military bases in the state. Allowing the department to speak with our nation's service members as they look to transition to civilian life and employment and providing an additional opportunity to family members and spouses of veterans, who may be looking for employment.

The department is also committed to identifying Incarcerated Veterans (pdf) among its incarcerated population to support successful transition back into the community.

Last year, Stafford Creek Corrections Center launched the first Washington correctional facility-based American Legion Post, giving veterans incarcerated at Stafford Creek the ability to hold meetings, discuss current events and track congressional bills related to veterans.

Corrections is committed to honoring the service of veterans, regardless of whether under its employment or currently within its custody.

A Veteran Employed in Community Corrections Division

Kimberly Allen, a community corrections program manager for the Community Corrections Division, recently celebrated her 28th anniversary of employment with the department. She started with the agency as a community corrections officer, working with individuals on supervision in the community.

The Community Corrections Division has the vital role of supervising active caseloads of formerly incarcerated people in communities across Washington. Those employed as part of community corrections provide guidance, support and evidence-based program opportunities for all individuals returning to the community.

Allen served four years as part of the Air Force, before receiving an honorable discharge and joining Washington Corrections.

“I had experience in law enforcement, and wanted something similar, but different from patrol,” Allen said. “I liked the structure of Corrections, the relationship with law enforcement and working with individuals in the community.”

Allen says that living overseas helped broaden her perspective of diversity in a way she had not previously experienced, growing up in a small town in Washington. Her experience in the military, coupled with her desire to help others, gave her a greater empathy for individuals on her caseload.

Occasionally, she would have veterans on her caseload, and her understanding of the lack of resources and the challenges that exist for veterans returning to civilian life allowed her to both help and relate in a different capacity.

In addition, she participates regularly in critical incident reviews. This is a type of risk review after an incident occurs. For example, someone on supervision may have an incident with law enforcement. The critical incident review allows for an analysis of what went well, areas of improvement and how the agency can improve procedures, policies, training and practices.

“With Corrections, I found a similar camaraderie as I experienced in the military,” Allen said. “The structure, being held to a higher standard and looking to the mission are important values in both the military and Corrections.”

A Veteran Employed in Work Release

Joseph Meier is a corrections officer at a Work Release Facility. For the past 18 years he has diligently worked for the department.

Work release facilities are an important part of the agency and assist incarcerated people with transitioning between life in prison and life in the community. Those in work release facilities have the opportunity to find and retain employment, build family relationships, develop life-skills and reintegrate into society.

Prior to his employment with Corrections, Meier was active duty Air Force for 8 years, and later, part of the Washington Army National Guard.

The transition from military to civilian life can often be a struggle, but finding a job that allows the use of previously learned skills can make a big difference.

Meier says that having the structure of the military, putting on a uniform and having intensive training all prepared him for work in Corrections. The transition made sense because the environment was something he was familiar with, something he says other veterans would be able to expect if they chose employment with the department.

As a corrections officer in a work release facility, Meier says he consistently takes a pro-social approach to his interactions with residents. When residents are struggling with communication or appear to be having difficulty with their behavior, the work release staff focus on working with them to find healthy ways to express themselves.

“We are here to rehabilitate and transition residents back to society. We interact with them, find the root of their problems and help them become productive members of society,” Meier said.