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Is Every Job Work?

Recently, dozens of correctional officers and teachers who oversee South Carolina’s juvenile offenders walked off the job Friday to protest low pay, staffing shortages, and safety concerns.  The employees left their shifts at the state’s Department of Juvenile Justice facility on Broad River Road in Columbia about 7 a.m. in protest of issues that have wracked the department for years, including staffing shortages, long shifts, lack of protection for officers and meager wages.  Many said they had no plans to return to work until the department greatly enhanced staffing levels and called for the ouster of the agency’s director.

Correctional officers and teachers at the Broad River Road Complex, some of whom walked off the job and others who were not working but came in to show their support, gathered outside the facility, some with posters.  Senator Katrina Shealy said lawmakers would protect them and make sure workers still had a job after the walkout, even if it meant calling on the National Guard for backup, so workers don’t have to work long hours.  “We can increase their salary,” Shealy said, explaining that the state has money set aside for hiring that can be used to raise the salaries of juvenile corrections officers. “We’ve got that money allocated for those pay bands,” she said.

Shealy also expressed concern about the children in the facility not having enough to do because of the lack of staffing.  “Kids used to come out of here with a trade,” she said. “Kids don’t come out of here with anything now, except how to become a better criminal.”  Shealy called on facility management to come out and talk to disgruntled employees and reporters, saying, “Man up, get out here and talk to your employees.”

Briefed about the walkout while he was at a hurricane exercise event, McMaster answered press questions about his thoughts regarding the protest and the current state of DJJ.  “I’ll ask everyone to go on back to work. We’re well aware of the problems. We’ve asked for additional money I think 4.2 million in pay to be in the budget and it is in the budget, approved by general assembly,” McMaster said Friday, “There’s no excuse for anyone to walk off of a job particularly this kind of job where leaving their post puts not only the young people in danger but puts enormous stress on those officers who are still in facilities trying to do their job and keep everyone safe.”

The first page of the DJJ website sets forward their mission statement:
The South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) is a state cabinet agency committed to serving South Carolina’s youth offenders. DJJ is responsible for providing custodial care and rehabilitation for the state’s children who are incarcerated, on probation or parole, or in community placement for a criminal or status offense. DJJ also provides a variety of prevention and intervention programs for at-risk youth.

Our vision is to see youth offenders in South Carolina become productive citizens by leveraging Agency resources and community partnerships to set youth on the best possible trajectory for their lives, lowering youth crime rates and recidivism in the process.

The legal process is not just the Courtroom.  It starts before the arrests and it ends after the punishment is completed.  The incarceration of a person, puts that person at the mercy of those that are charged with the responsibility of that person.   This is even more true for children, such as those that are incarcerated in the Department of Juvenile Justice.   The mission statement itself states that they are ” responsible for providing custodial care…for the state’s children.”  I wonder how the state would respond if parents walked out of their job of providing care to their own children.  Never mind, I know what they would do, that is why the DSS was created and is half of the Family Court’s role.    Will DSS look into the abdication by another state agency for their abdication of their responsibility to the state’s children?

I do not dispute that these children are convicted of crimes and incarcerated.  However, how many of these children have committed these crimes due to the lack of a good role model who can lead these children in the proper direction.   Does an officer deserting these children help these children rehabilitate?   Lets go deeper.   The complaints of the officers are a lack of officers, longer shifts, lack of safety; each of these has a root cause: Not enough employees.  There are two reasons for that – people do not want to be in law enforcement or there is not enough money provided in the budget to fund the additional officers.  Both of these stem from the actions of the legislative branch, yet it is the legislative branch that has spoken out in support of the walk out they caused; whose only real victim are the children of the State of South Carolina.

Thus, I ask you: is every job work?  A job is not work, when it is a service.  Being in law enforcement is not work, it is a service.  Being a teacher is not work, it is a service.  Being a doctor is not work, it is a service.  Being a representative in the government is not work, it is a service.  Being an Attorney is not work, it is a service.  There are many positions that have greater purposes than simply receiving a paycheck.  When you are charged with a responsibility of caring for ones children, medical wellbeing, and/or legal rights then the pay is not why you do it.   If you are doing it solely for what you are to receive, then you have missed the purpose of the position.  If your attorney or law firm has forgotten that they serve you and not themselves, then give us a call at Goldfinch Winslow.

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