~ Tuesday, May 9, 2017
Remarks as prepared for delivery
Good morning, everyone. Thank you, Acting Director [Tom] Kane, for the introduction, and for your leadership of the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
I am honored to join so many brave officers, hardworking Bureau of Prisons staff, and devoted family members and friends, as we mark this year’s National Correctional Officers Week. President Reagan did a wonderful thing in 1984 when he established this annual commemoration during the first full week in May. Today, we gather once again to honor the tens of thousands of correctional officers and employees who serve throughout the United States, including the more than 40,000 employees of the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
Our country’s remarkable system of criminal justice stands on three pillars. Two of them get most of the attention. The first pillar is our police and investigators, who uphold the law by protecting our neighborhoods, investigating crimes and catching criminals. The second pillar is our courts, which ensure that our rights are protected, that defendants receive a fair trial, and that cases are decided by the facts and the law.
But the third pillar, our corrections system, is just as crucial — yet too often overlooked. It serves justice, by ensuring that our nation punishes criminals properly for their crimes. It also protects us, by separating criminals from the broader public, deterring others from breaking the law and rehabilitating offenders so they can return to society and build a better life as law-abiding citizens.
A safe, secure, and humane corrections system is essential to upholding our nation’s promise of justice for all. The work of building and sustaining that system belongs to the men and women we honor today — our correctional workers.
Your jobs are demanding, and often dangerous. You work in tough environments, where the threat of violence is always present, and the need for vigilance is constant. And you know that every time you and your colleagues walk through the sally ports of our prisons, you put your personal safety — and even your lives — on the line.
Since the creation of the federal correctional system in the late 19th century, 26 federal prison employees have given their lives in the line of duty. Today, we remember all of these brave individuals, and we pause to honor one of them in particular: Officer Robert L. Hoffmann, who was killed in 1983 when he rushed to help two fellow officers who were being stabbed by an inmate.
More than three decades later, the Department of Justice still mourns Officer Hoffmann’s loss — and we honor his memory, and the memory of all these fallen heroes. But we do more than remember and mourn. We also celebrate their lives, and give thanks for their devotion to the cause of justice. And we recognize and thank all the brave men and women who uphold their legacy today by carrying on their good work.
Your service keeps our country safe and ensures justice for all Americans. I am grateful to each of you, and proud to be your colleague.
May God bless our fallen heroes, and may God bless our country.