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124 years, 4 deaths: Memorial honors corrections officers

More than 30 years after his wife was murdered by an inmate at a state prison in Jackson, William McCallum sat in the sunshine in downtown Lansing on Sunday as colleagues prepared to unveil a memorial to Josephine McCallum and three other state corrections officers killed in the line of duty. The mood was solemn. But McCallum was glad the day had finally arrived. "It's been a long time, but I'm very happy for my son and me, especially, to get some recognition for her," McCallum said. "It's been a long time coming. She went through a lot and we went through a lot. But it seems like there's a different group of people in now (who) are really starting to recognize the corrections people and the dangers they go through. I mean, they're unarmed, standing in a group of 600 people. I don't know if I'd want to be there." The Fallen Officers Memorial at the Michigan Organization headquarters on West Kalamazoo Street honors the four of those who were corrections officers killed by inmates: Haight, Earl DeMarse (killed Sept. 25, 1973); McCallum (killed March 24, 1987); and Jack Budd (killed Dec. 27, 1987). While fallen officers are memorialized at individual corrections facilities, the MCO memorial marks the first centrally located, public memorial where people can pay their respects to all who've died in the line of the duty. Nearly 200 people looked on as MCO officials unveiled the black stone marker bearing the four officers' names and the images of a prison tower, handcuffs adorned with prison keys and The Correctional Officer's Prayer. A memorial had been proposed and worked on in fits and starts over the years, but the memorial finally unveiled Sunday was first proposed in late 2015 after a group of retired corrections officers breathed new life into the idea. Since then, the union has worked on fundraising and planning and unveiled the memorial Sunday at the start of National Corrections Officers Week. "This monument is something very special," MCO President Tom Tylutki said. "All of us are hoping that this provides a place for family, friends and colleagues to honor these corrections officers and remember and honor their sacrifice." Terry Bridges, a corrections officer for nearly 30 years, said he worked with Josephine McCallum and trained with Budd. McCallum was professional and reserved. Budd quickly taught him everything he needed to know about a particular cell block, he said. "This is not a job for everybody," he said. "Not everybody can do it. And it's a thankless job." Heidi Washington, the state's corrections director, called Sunday's event "bittersweet." It was a vigil for those who have given their lives but also a celebration of those who still put their lives on the line every day. "I think it is also important that we continue to highlight the stress we all face in the job and to recognize it and to offer solutions and support for the men and women who work inside of our institutions," she said. Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union, said corrections officers are still fighting for respect. MCO is part of SEIU. "Too often, the lack of respect and understanding of the dangers officers encounter has led to the kind of tragedies this memorial was built to reflect on," she said. Corrections employees still face daily dangers. Employees were assaulted by inmates 118 times in 2016, the department reported. An uprising at an Upper Peninsula prison last fall required more than 100 armed emergency response unit personnel to be called in. Before Sunday, Josephine McCallum wasn't memorialized anywhere, aside from her initials on a building, William McCallum said. "Right after she died we started a fund for people who wanted to get into corrections and (for) helping people in the community," he said. "When Jack (Budd) died, we just incorporated Jack and her together. It’s a scholarship-type thing."