KEESEVILLE — The men and women of corrections often feel like they’re the forgotten members of the criminal justice family. But there’s an organization, the Correctional Peace Officers Foundation (CPOF), whose aim is to change that.
Formed in 1984 by five corrections officers in California’s Folsom Prison, the CPOF is a not-for-profit foundation whose charter originally was to provide a death benefit for corrections officers killed in the line of duty. They formed after a corrections officer was killed in Folsom prison, and they realized that the state provided very little for the benefit of the surviving family.
Their mission has grown in recent years, to include a Catastrophic Assistance Program to assist members of the “family” who are undergoing a catastrophic event.
“We just lend a helping hand,” said Jay West, a retired corrections officer and CPOF’s representative in Upstate New York. “We take care of any type of crisis the family might be having.”
The Catastrophic Assistance Program will provide money to help after a fire, if there’s an illness in the family, the death of an immediate family member, etc.
Under their original charter the CPOF covered just corrections officers, but now covers civilian employees as well. Their only parameters are anyone who takes care of incarcerated felons.
The CPOF is a voluntary organization, and has grown to more than 80,000 members nation-wide. West regularly goes to the numerous prisons in the North Country and explains to officers and staff what the CPOF does, and how to get involved. Some are not even aware that the CPOF exists. CPOF and the Fraternal Order of Police are the only non-official organizations allowed into a facility.
West said that some corrections families are shocked by the fact there are people who are actively trying to help.
“It’s not relief on their fact, but a little bit of ‘wow, somebody wants to help us,’” said West. “It’s very, very humbling.”