Thursday, March 13, 2014 5:02 PM
Photo by Kayla Faria. Department of Corrections’ graduates line up and prepare for graduation, passing friends and family before the ceremony Friday afternoon at Dr. Henry A. Wise Jr. High School.
Published on: Wednesday, July 24, 2013
By Kayla Faria
Twenty-six graduates in black uniforms lined up without polyester choir robes, mortarboards and tassels. “Pomp and Circumstance” was replaced with the at-attention chant “Started divided. Ended as one. Class 2013 dash one.”
The Prince George’s County Department of Corrections swore in 23 new officers during a graduation ceremony Friday afternoon at Dr. Henry A. Wise Jr. High School in Upper Marlboro.
The 23 officers and three institutional support staff civilians completed the 16-week correctional entrance-level training academy that provides the training and knowledge necessary to work in the correctional facility.
Photo by Kayla Faria. Graduating Officer Daniel Reinhardt celebrates with his family after the graduation ceremony. Collin Reinhardt, 3, high fives Cpl. Sylvester Yankuba, his father’s correctional training instructor.
“This feeling is amazing. I will always remember it. It’s good to finally be called an officer,” graduating Officer Mallory E. Amaya, of Beltsville, said after the ceremony.
Students in the academy learn about how to interview inmates, run background checks and get involved in inmate substance abuse and education programs. For officers, the academy also includes a “rigorous” physical component, according to the Prince George’s County website.
“Just a lot of sweating,” Amaya said. The 23-year Prince George’s County resident characterized the training as “tough” and “challenging.”
It included 1.5 mile runs, push-ups, sit-ups, punching, kicking and other defensive tactics.
Photo by Kayla Faria. Graduating officers stand at attention after receiving their plaques Friday afternoon at Dr. Henry A. Wise Jr. High School. They were awarded for completing the 16-week correctional entrance-level training academy.
“With the support from my fellow classmates and the instructors, we got through every day,” said Amaya, a family and human services student at Towson University.
Graduating officers were awarded plaques. Some received awards for physical fitness, most-improved physical fitness and academic achievement.
Amaya delivered the class speech after graduating Officer Lauren Thomas recited the class poem.
Amaya and Thomas talked about fearing OC spray day — when student officers are pepper sprayed, then asked to perform certain tactics and handcuffing maneuvers.
Academy instructor Cpl. Sylvester Yankuba said the drill helps officers get in a “mindset” that allows them to maintain control in the event that an inmate seizes and uses pepper spray against them.
But the 8-year instructor argues interpersonal communication skills are the “best defense mechanism” for officers directly supervising inmates that are not behind bars.
“We don’t have weapons in the unit dealing with these guys,” Yankuba said. “We talk to them because that’s the only way we think you can change somebody’s behavior — by being with them around — because we found out that, if you keep somebody behind bars for too long, they’ll start acting like animals.”
Communication skills are the best defense, but team-building skills are the most important thing the graduates learned, Yankuba added. He echoed the comments of Director Mary Lou McDonough who called the department “a family” after urging the graduates to come to work with a good attitude.
“When (we) are in that jail, we are all brothers and sisters,” Yankuba said. “It’s, like, we officers against the inmate, technically, because — if something goes down — you got my back, I got your back. You need me. You don’t have to like me, but guess what? We are both here to do this job and go home safe.”
Amaya reflected on the first day of the academy — April 8 in her address to the class.
“On the first day, there were 25 different individuals with 25 different personalities. We come from different communities and different families. We did not realize that we were pieces to the same puzzle,” she said.
Still, Amaya maintains the experience, culminating with a graduation marked by uniformity, has not stripped her of her individuality.
“We are individuals, but at the end of the day, we are a team,” she said. “We did it.”
Department of Corrections graduation slideshow: