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COVID-19 takes a much-loved corrections officer | READER COMMENTARY

The Clarence M. Mitchell Courthouse on Calvert Street in downtown Baltimore where lawyers, corrections officers, judges, clerks, criminals and ordinary people mix, work and sometimes forge lasting friendships.
The Clarence M. Mitchell Courthouse on Calvert Street in downtown Baltimore where lawyers, corrections officers, judges, clerks, criminals and ordinary people mix, work and sometimes forge lasting friendships. (Baltimore Sun photo by Gene Sweeney Jr.)

The justice system is rough in Baltimore. As a public defender, I’ve been in it for 17 years. But constant glimmers of light like that of one particular corrections officer (CO) are what keeps attorneys and staff in the system going. I don’t even know this CO’s first name. I just called her by her last name, “Ms. K” (abbreviated here for privacy) for over a decade and she called me, “Todd.”

“Hey, Todd!” she’d shout at me at work or when I rode by Central Booking on my bike after a long day. When I was a baby lawyer at the North Avenue courthouse struggling to find my way, frustrated at the realities of court, Ms. K, who brought my clients to court, was always operating on a positive note. She was constantly there to give feedback, praise and respect for what I was doing as a public defender. She humanized our clients and the proceedings. As I moved to Circuit Court so did Ms. K.

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So, when I heard that a CO from Baltimore had passed from COVID-19 it upset me knowing the tough work they all perform. To hear that it was Ms. K., breaks my heart (“First Maryland correctional officer has died of coronavirus,” June 8). The same sentiments of so many folks who work in the courts echoed all over social media. She has encouraged me for years in my advocacy and she even pushed me to propose to my wife!

Now when I go to the lockup to see a client, there will be a void where Ms. K’s ray of sunshine once shown. Her attitude made us all better in court and in life.

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Todd Oppenheim, Baltimore

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