on the
first C.O.
to become

New York City
Correction Commissioner
Jan. 18, 1984 -- Sept. 22, 1986

2004 Women History Month marks 20th anniversary
of DOC newsletter featuring story and images of
McMickens swearing-in as Commissioner
The First
Name of the
first C.O.
to Become
was Jackie,
as in ...
The front page of the Winter 1984 issue of the DOC newsletter Inside Out featured a headline announcing “First Correction Officer Named Commissioner” and a photo in which the podium nearly hid the new Commissioner whom family, friends and colleagues called Jackie but whose letterhead read Jacqueline McMickens.

Her first Inside Out Commissioner’s Corner
(Winter 1984) excerpts:
. . . the first selection of a uniformed member of this department to be its Commissioner should prove beneficial to every member of our agency . . . the decisions we reach from this point forward will be the ultimate responsibility of someone who has worked at every level of this system . . . the Commissioner no longer has to remember to try to mull the consequences from the perspective of an officer or a captain or a tour commander or a warden.

I have been all of those people and I can assure you I could not forget what those jobs are like even if I tried.

This department has been in the hands of some good and well-meaning people over the years. Pointing up the potential advantage to all of us of placing its control of someone from the ranks does not diminish their abilities and accomplishments. Indeed, there may well have been a time when our ranks were so limited in size and scope that a choice from within was inappropriate.
The Inside Out quoted from newspaper interview given by her after the swear-in:
". . . 'This job cannot be learned in a classroom,' Commissioner McMickens said.

"'Our officers serve an apprenticeship, in effect, and with the tremendous expansion we are in the midst of as well as normal rates of turnover, a very large percentage of our staff is relatively new.

"'We have to do as much as we can to help these officers educate themselves. . . .'

"'My mission is pretty much to make this place a good place to work and to cary out its mission as cost-effictively and creatively as possible,' the new Commissioner told the New York Times in a 'Woman in the News' interview the day of her appointment.

"'People ought to work in an environment as livable as possible.'"

But many of us know that those days are long past. I was neither the first nor the only member of the Department of Correction qualified to lead it. I am the first so chosen and that role carries with it some unique responsibilities and opportunities for me and for many of you as well. . . .

Some would say that with so much to be done this is hardly the time to embark upon new programs or weigh new philosophies. I say this is just the time because we are moving so rapidly to expand and remake our system.

The new beds we are adding and most of those we now have will be in operation in the 21st Century, as will the new staff we bring on and we ought to be sure that the instututions we create today will be adaptable to the needs of tomorrow. Would that our predecessors have done as much for us.

Why do we exist? A rookie officer can tell you in his first week "Care, custody and control of inmates." But time changes the meaning of words. Once, "care" meant providing a bar of soap and some toilet paper -- and we couldn't do that very well. Now, "care" is spelled out in our standards and decrees, but those are in large measures composed of language crafted to respond to complaints.

I would like to think that somewhere along the line we can devise our own notion of what we can accomplish to make jail something more than a negative and wasted experience for certain inmates. Then it will be those of us charged with providing the "care" who are spelling it out rather than toeing a line somebody else has drawn.

At the outset, I noted that my accession said some very positive things about this department. It was not the first member of this agency qualified to lead it nor am I the only person so qualified today. But everything starts from somewhere and I happen to have been the first person so chosen.

I will try to serve in the best traditions of our department and to live up to the good wishes and expectations many of you have expressed to me in the past few weeks.

In nearly 20 years, I have been taught by a great many individuals, some of them still on the job. Rather than express may gratitude to them by name, I would like to thank all of you who have helped to build this agency and to improve the image of the Department of Correction to the point that someone from the ranks would be considered qualified to lead it.

If we perform the way I know we can in the months and years ahead, the next time a correction officer rises to commissioner it won't be big news.

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