June 2013 –
“Don’t forget the work you do saves lives.” (Bob Anez to Corrections employees)
Bob Anez, a longtime Associated Press reporter before he took a position as the communications director for the Montana Department of Corrections, is retiring this week from his service in state government.
Bob’s op-ed below should be mandatory reading for all Montanans . . . but especially for state legislators who demand beyond-a-lot from state government employees, but provide far too little appreciation and compensation for the work state employees do that matters.
Among those seriously under-appreciated and badly compensated state employees are the correctional officers, teachers, counselors, nurses, and clerical personnel MEA-MFT represents who work in the Montana Department of Corrections.
Bless them all. Thank you, Bob. Eric Feaver
Guest opinion: Corrections strives to cut recidivism with limited resources
BY BOB ANEZ – BILLINGS GAZETTE – MAY 31, 2013
Almost eight years ago, I came to the Montana Department of Corrections as someone who had watched and written about state government for nearly a quarter of a century.
I thought I knew how government worked. I thought I knew state employees, why they do the work they do and what motivates them. I thought I knew about corrections.
But the years as a corrections employee have been about learning what I really didn’t know.
I learned that state government is a challenging place to work. Despite the best efforts of employees, government gets a bad rap as a waste of taxpayer money, laced with agencies that stockpile money in slush funds without regard for need or purpose.
Some citizens, and particularly legislators, see government as only a consumer of tax dollars and not a provider of benefits and necessary services. Some seem to believe that departments are in some sort of competition to grow their budgets more than the other agencies and that success is measured in the number of dollars in a budget rather than the effectiveness of programs.
It isn’t so.
What people fail to see is the irony of a dilemma created when elected representatives impose demands and expectations upon government and then refuse to provide the money needed to comply with those demands and meet those expectations.
I have seen government that struggles daily with finding ways to do its job better; to spend money wisely; to be innovative, effective and imaginative; and to do more and more with less and less.
I have learned that state employees try mightily to make government work for the Montanans who pay for it. They recognize their obligation to spend carefully the money that citizens work hard to earn and are forced to pay in taxes.
Most state employees work in largely invisible jobs. They are under-appreciated, under-rewarded and under-recognized for their contributions to a better society.
And then there’s corrections. I learned the most about this profession.
I learned corrections is a part of government that is perceived as an inconvenient necessity. It operates in the shadows, invisible to typical Montanans. The majority of citizens don’t know much about it, and those that do — usually those with a family member or friend in the system — have nothing but criticism for the work it does under very challenging conditions and with difficult “customers.”
Legislators wish it didn’t have to be funded. They don’t get applauded by constituents for spending money on prisons, medical care for inmates, training and equipment for probation and parole officers, or treatment for repeat drunken drivers. They get praise for providing tax relief, giving schools more money and taking care of the poorest Montanans.
At end of the criminal justice system, corrections is at the mercy of court decisions and the laws that drive them. Corrections gets what, to many, are the dregs of society — the sex offenders, the murderers, the drug addicts, mentally ill and the drunken motorists — that society would just as soon see disappear from the collective consciousness. But they don’t disappear. They come to corrections, and adequate funding is needed for their care and supervision.
Finally, I have learned about corrections employees. They are dedicated and passionate about their work. I have seen a constant effort to do more to salvage the lives of those given to corrections for care, and to develop new and more effective means of stopping offenders from getting caught up in that revolving door of recidivism.
Corrections isn’t a glamorous part of government. But it and the employees working in the profession deserve recognition and appreciation beyond what society seems willing to provide.