“Ad astra per aspera” is the state motto of Kansas, which translates to “to the stars through difficulties” – a sentiment that has never felt more true than it does today. It emphasizes our values and optimism that, even when faced with the most difficult hardships, we come together as a state and keep our sights set on what’s important. We launched our #AdAstraStrong campaign to highlight “stars” throughout Kansas who are going above and beyond to give back to their community and provide hope during these challenging times. Stay tuned for more star stories and stay #AdAstraStrong.
If you know a Kansas “star” who is shining bright and helping others during the COVID-19 outbreak, nominate them on Facebook by sharing a brief description of their story with the #AdAstraStrong hashtag or email us at email@example.com. We can’t wait to tell more stories about the inspiring people who are embodying the strength and resiliency of Kansas right now.
Our next star, Lisa Smith, has been working for nearly 13 years as a corrections specialist at Shawnee County Department of Corrections. Often overlooked during the COVID-19 pandemic, corrections officers like Lisa battle the daily stress and challenges of keeping their facilities and communities safe and secure. And Lisa does it every day with a positive attitude and mission to help offenders write a new chapter in their lives. We caught up with her recently to learn more about how she’s helping her community and how her co-workers have banded together to keep people safe during these challenging times.
Please tell us a little about yourself and the work you do.
I have been a corrections specialist for almost 13 years at the Shawnee County Department of Corrections. I am scheduled to work in various areas of the facility such as all of the general population and segregation modules, work release annex building, control center, and roving. My main focus at work is to provide safety and security for the facility while ensuring that inmates follow all policies and procedures.
How did you decide on a career in corrections, and what do you enjoy most about your job?
I was looking for a stable job and my husband, who was working in corrections at the time, encouraged me to enter the corrections field with him. I quickly realized this was not just any job, but a career where I could make a difference in the criminal justice system and in the community. I hope the impact I make on offenders who enter our facility at their lowest point is to help them realize they can write a positive new chapter in their lives.
Do you feel like the corrections field has been overlooked during the COVID-19 pandemic? What do you want people to know about the work you and your colleagues do?
The corrections field is often overlooked in general because it’s not considered to be prestigious or a job that anyone would desire to do. Our contributions to the community are rarely seen by the public. Like those in the healthcare field, we have to deal with many offenders who have all types of troubled backgrounds, such as communicable diseases, medical and mental illness, substance abuse, and violent histories. But our goal is to send offenders back into the community better than when they arrived at our facility so that they may be productive members of society.
What has been the most challenging aspect of your job since the COVID-19 outbreak?
The most challenging aspect of the job is ensuring that we’re doing everything that we can to prevent the spread of COVID-19 with the resources that we have available. At the same time, we still have to ensure that the inmates continue to receive their basic rights while in jail such as keeping up with hygiene, medical and mental healthcare, and other legal accommodations.
How do you keep your positive attitude during these challenging times?
Since I consider myself to be a spiritual person, my main source during challenging times is God because I know that I can always depend on Him. But I’ve also been fortunate enough to work with dedicated coworkers and administrators who work together to achieve a safe workplace environment. I remain confident in the training that I’ve received and the policies and procedures that we have in place at our organization to deal with these challenging times.
Is there anything else you’d like to share or tell your community?
As corrections officers, we understand that not being acknowledged does not diminish the value or importance of how we are able to keep our community safe. We know that correctional facilities are identified as high risk for COVID-19, but everyone in our facility has done a great job in pulling together and encouraging one another through these trying times. I will say that it is nice to receive outside support and recognition for the job that we do! Thank you, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas!