Harrisburg, PA -- Last week, Department of Corrections officials concluded its employee spotlight initiative by honoring food service, reception, inmate employment and prison administration staff.
"Our greatest strength is our employees, and I have thoroughly enjoyed honoring them through this initiative," DOC Secretary John Wetzel said. "Our final week of this initiative focuses on those who keep the prisons running through food, work around the facilities and so much more."
The initiative was a way to recognize DOC employees and all the adjustments and changes they've made due to COVID-19, and this final group being honored has had its own challenges to overcome. Yet despite every new regulation and increased staff call-offs due to the pandemic, they were able to efficiently and effectively keep the facilities running.
"Whether it's safely providing food or safely receiving new inmates, these employees have continued to step up to mitigate this virus," Wetzel said. "This pandemic has continued to change every facet of how we do corrections, yet our staff has found a way to get things done."
DOC leadership recognized these key staff members in various ways including recognition banners, letters, emails, cakes, cookies and pizza, facility newsletter articles, gift cards, handwritten thank-you notes, and specially designated parking spaces.
Food service staff work in the kitchens to prepare and plan the meals for inmates and staff. They oversee inmate workers and ensure meals are ready three times a day, including alternatives for dietary restrictions. The pandemic has altered menus and changed where inmates eat as dining rooms were closed in favor of meals on the units. These employees rolled with the changes and never missed a beat, continuously feeding their facilities every meal.
For reception staff, COVID-19 presented new challenges as they tried to minimize contact and diligently track inmates for potential contact tracing.
Inmate employment personnel oversee the various jobs performed by inmates, including custodial and groundskeeping work. As units were frequently on and off enhanced quarantine, these employees frequently had to adjust work plans and schedules while ensuring the facility needs were met.
Administrative staff were also challenged this year with the new procedures and constantly adapting to new guidance they needed to institute and communicate to staff and inmates. In some cases, working from home, rather than onsite at the prison, enforcing the agency's work to keep staff and inmates safe during this pandemic.
While last week was the final week of this employee spotlight initiative, DOC leadership will continue to find ways to recognize and celebrate staff.
"I've said it many times, our staff truly are our greatest resource," Wetzel said. "Someday we will look back at this year in awe of what we were able to overcome and accomplish, and it's all thanks to the amazing employees serving in this agency every day."