CANON CITY, Colo. — John Brownfield Jr. became a corrections officer following deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq.
Brownfield was later charged with accepting bribes from inmates seeking tobacco at the U.S. Penitentiary in Florence, Colo. He told the judge that when he came home, he suffered insomnia and nightmares, drank more heavily, was quick to anger, "reckless with everything" in his life.
U.S. District Judge John Kane suspected post-traumatic stress disorder.
"Figuratively speaking, Brownfield returned from war but never really came home," Kane wrote in a ruling sentencing Brownfield to probation and treatment.
Nationwide, law enforcement groups are taking notice of veterans starting or returning to jail or prison jobs.
Police and corrections officers are loath to show weakness, and few seek help to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder, said Caterina Spinaris Tudor, founder of Desert Waters Correctional Outreach in Canon City. She said PTSD developed abroad can be retriggered on the job by varying scenarios, including assaults, hostage situations or suicides by inmates or fellow officers.
The outreach center serves corrections officers in Colorado's Fremont County, home to 13 prisons.
"We forget their heart is beating behind that hard shell," Tudor said. "Let's look at the problem instead of pretending it's not there."
Brownfield was only 21 when he was honorably discharged from the Air Force in 2005. As his former lawyer, Vaughn McClain, put it, his job was picking up body parts.
Brownfield had dug out bodies of adults and children following an explosion. He removed dead soldiers from helicopters, according to court documents.
Working in prisons isn't that different from working in a war zone, Brent Parker, of the Colorado Department of Corrections, told a conference here on prison workplace culture. "The only difference is in the military, you cycle back to the real world eventually, hopefully," said Parker, a field training supervisor.
Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?
Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.
If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.
Thursday, September 09, 2010