NJ Dept. of Corrections graduates new class of officers despite COVID disruptions

The New Jersey Department of Corrections Academy has graduated its latest class of officers, despite disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

News 12 Staff

Jul 23, 2020, 11:56 PM

Updated 1,361 days ago

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The New Jersey Department of Corrections Academy has graduated its latest class of officers, despite disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was, get back to the barracks, pack up your stuff and get out of here as safely as you can,” says Officer Liam Christensen.
That order came on March 19 for over 100 correctional officer recruits at the training academy in Sea Girt.
“I was just the whole mindset, like, wow, I went through 10 weeks of this. If they want us to, they could just tell us, ‘Oh, you’re going to have to start from the beginning when everything calms down,’” says Officer Imani Johnson.
But within days, the academy staff had reinvented the training on the fly to teach the recruits remotely. This was done at first using just one Zoom account.
“We didn’t cut corners for any type of training, any type of academics,” says academy director Aaron Ervin.
Christensen says that recruits still had to wear their uniforms and uphold grooming standards.
“It was a very professional demeanor that we had to maintain,” he says.
And the recruits say that the pandemic brought them closer together.
Photos: The Heroes of the Coronavirus Pandemic
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“When we were in the pandemic, it was moreso of, ‘Wow, we’re really becoming a family with each other.’ I actually check up on this person daily and want to make sure they’re also OK,” says Johnson.
The recruits did return to the academy in June for a 16-day continuous block of training, including self-defense.
“Masks were given, temperatures were taken. Continuous cleaning throughout,” says Ervin.
The class graduated on July 17. The training was supposed to take 14 weeks, but instead took nearly six months.
“They wanted to get this done. They had a drive, a desire to complete training, to graduate and they put a lot of time and effort in. They took care of business” says Ervin.
The Department of Corrections plans to start another class at the academy in late August.


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