|"The prisoners know Redmond means business," said Jim Mecoli, the assistant deputy warden in charge of programs. "When she's making the rounds, they know they better have their rooms clean." Mecoli calls Redmond "the point person" in the prison's housing unit for young offenders.
Redmond's selection was announced by Director Ken McGinnis. "What strikes me about Ms. Redmond is the initiative she has taken in her job. She is committed to helping maintain a safe prison and to making a positive impact on the lives of these younger offenders. She uses her own time to help other officers work with these very difficult to manage offenders," McGinnis said.
When the Level IV housing unit in which Redmond worked was converted for younger offenders, Redmond chose to stay in the unit. She worked with other staff, including Special Education Teacher Connie Carriveau to design and put in place a special program to deal with these young inmates.
Redmond and Carriveau rewrote the housing unit rules when they realized many prisoners were only reading at a third grade level and couldn't understand some of the words.
Redmond keeps records on all the prisoners in the unit - some as young as 14 - documenting their behavior on a daily basis so unit staff can monitor their progress in a special program there.
She wakes them up for school in the morning, inspects their rooms and curtails any inappropriate behavior.
"Do I see you horse playing?" she asks two prisoners who share a room. Is a prisoners being too noisy? "I hear your voice above all others."
In preparation for these younger offenders, Redmond studied up on adolescent behavior on her own time, and she learned how to conduct a cognitive restructuring counseling program that involves teaching the prisoners more critical thinking skills.
"My experiences as a parent and a step-parent are invaluable in dealing with these prisoners," said Redmond. "They do all the things kids do...testing you everyday and doing anything they think they can get away with."
At the beginning, when the first batch of new young prisoners came in, Redmond and the rest of the staff were frustrated by the poor behavior of the prisoners.
"I was writing so many tickets that I had to take them home at night to finish them", she said. "Some days I was spending the best part of myself here."
Redmond joined with other staff to improve the behavior of her charges and misconducts have dropped by 50 percent since early this year. "Now I go home a little easier and I look forward to the next day and seeing more improvements," she said.
The daughter of a Flint police officer, Redmond said she grew up in a family that ran by rules. That's how she plays it at Thumb.
"Teachers are always glad when Redmond is on duty," said Carriveau. "They know the unit will run well."
"I've taken from it what I've put in it", said Redmond, who also trains other staff on how to manage these offenders. "I'm happy in my life's work."
She holds a bachelor's degree from Spring Arbor College and is active as a volunteer with an organization for persons afflicted with cystic fibrosis.
One of five finalists, Redmond's selection was made by a committee of the Michigan Correctional Officers' Training Council. The Officer of the Year title is awarded to a state corrections officer who has been involved in innovations or creative efforts on the job, who has outstanding personal characteristics, who has made professional contributions to the field and who has been involved in community activities.
The finalists were: Tony M. Russell of the Carson City Correctional Facility, James S. Loxton of the state's boot camp program for adults new Chelsea, Donald M. Johnson of the G. Robert Cotton Correctional Facility of Jackson and Steven M. Blumberg of the Ionia Temporary Facility.
The Officer of the Year, the other finalists and all those nominated from prisons and field operation regions across the state will be honored May 6, at a banquet in the Kellogg Center on the campus of Michigan State University in East Lansing.