“That wasn’t on my Outlook calendar,” Burgess said with a laugh. “But it’s part of the job.”
The community corrections officers typically stay with offenders at the hospital until they can be sure the offender can’t leave. While there’s a public safety component, officers say there’s also the human component.
“Particularly when you have a severely depressed offender with mental health problems, you want to make sure they’re taken care of,” Burgess said. “Sometimes community supervision means issuing arrest warrants, and other times it means connecting offenders with mental health professionals. It requires a lot of different skills.”
Burgess joined the Department of Corrections in December 2006 after working five years at the Grays Harbor County Jail. He describes his time as a community corrections officer as an “eye-opener.”
“When I worked at the jail and I saw an offender arrive I thought of it as ‘Welcome to my home,’” Burgess said. “But now that I’m in community corrections and I go to their homes, I can better see how they end up in jail. You start seeing the bigger picture, what causes that to happen.”
Preventing offenders from ending up in jail, in part by connecting them to critical services, is the part of the job that Burgess enjoys the most.
“Knowing that we sometimes save people’s lives makes this job special,” he said.