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Hundreds attend funeral services for fallen TDCJ officer

U.S. flag at half staff with TDCJ memorial in background
Photo by David Nunnelee

Close to 1,000 of Susan Canfield’s correctional colleagues and officers from other law enforcement agencies lined the streets of Huntsville on the morning of September 29 as two horses pulling a black hearse were reined in outside the Bernard G. Johnson Coliseum at Sam Houston State University. Behind the hearse rode seven of Canfield’s fellow field officers from the Wynne Unit who dismounted to carry her flag-draped casket inside the coliseum where she was celebrated as “a true Texas hero.”

Canfield was killed in the line of duty on September 24 while attempting to stop two offenders from escaping from the Wynne Unit. The seven-year TDCJ veteran was 59.

Wynne Senior Warden Charles Bell described Canfield as a committed correctional officer with an infectious smile.

“She had pride, she had intelligence, and she had commitment,” Bell said. “That smile will be one of the things that will be remembered by all of us at the Wynne Unit. What Officer Canfield did for us is the reason I stand here today.”

Her husband, Charles Canfield, a field-training officer for the Houston Police Department, said his wife was a compassionate woman who showed extraordinary courage in her actions to protect public safety.
“We always wonder if we have it in us, if we truly, deep down have it in us to act so selflessly and courageously,” he said. “Susan proved she did. Susan proved she had it.”

State Rep. Lois Kolkhorst of Brenham and Sen. Steve Ogden of Bryan spoke at the funeral services and presented the Canfield family with the Texas flag that flew over the capitol building in Austin on the day she was slain.

“Today, she is a heroine for what she gave all of us here in Texas,” Kolkhorst said. “She gave something bigger than herself for the safety of all Texans.”

For scenes from the funeral, click here.

New uniform designed for comfort to give TDCJ officers choice of dress

For the better part of three decades, TDCJ uniformed security staff have reported to work dressed in their distinguishing gray uniforms with blue trim. And while gray and blue remain primary uniform colors for officers, most of them will soon have the option of wearing a uniform with a different look and feel.

Correctional officers wearing new uniforms
At center, Goree Unit CO V Marshall Mitchell wears the standard uniform now issued to TDCJ officers. At right, Region I Training Academy Sgt. Caesar Garcia is dressed in the new "Class B" uniform that consists of a navy polo shirt and gray battle dress uniform (BDU) trouser. At left, Wynne Unit Lt. Cyndi Gurrola wears a combination of the two uniforms

Photo by David Nunnelee

The Correctional Institutions Division (CID) recently finalized the design for what has been labeled the “Class B” uniform for officers working in all TDCJ facilities. Modeled on gear issued by the military, the new uniform consists of a polo shirt in Navy that can be worn with either the current gray uniform trousers or with a battle dress uniform (BDU) trousers of the same color. Today’s “Class A” uniform will remain an option for wearing in its entirety.

Texas Correctional Industries will produce both pieces of the new uniform. Distribution could begin as early as next summer.

Production of the new uniform follows favorable comments from officers who were surveyed and wore the outfit in field-tests. In all, 9,139 surveys were initially sent to employees at 94 TDCJ units. Of those who responded, 78 percent rated the new uniform excellent or good overall. Sixty-eight percent said they preferred the polo shirt to the standard long-sleeved dress shirt, and the same percentage said they would want to be issued their full allotment of four shirts in the new style.

Also, a number of officers, including a sergeant at each training academy within CID’s six regions, were issued the new uniform for wearing over 30 days and asked to expose it to as many units within their regions as possible during that time. All rated the prototype they wore as excellent or good in several categories, including comfort.

CID Division Director Nathaniel Quarterman said the design of the new uniform actually came from the correctional officers who will wear it.

“This is a uniform designed by correctional officers for correctional officers,” Quarterman said. “We’ve had a dress uniform, but we haven’t had a working uniform. This gives us a working uniform.”

The standard TDCJ uniform correctional officers wear today was last upgraded about 10 years ago when pleats and service stripes were added to the long-sleeved dress blouse, a wider blue stripe was added to the pant, and a shoulder patch of the American flag was sewn on.

Quarterman said the new uniform was designed with the comfort of officers in mind, especially those who must wear thrust vests in cellblocks and other areas of TDCJ facilities that lack air conditioning. The new optional shirt is a light blend of polyester and cotton that breathes and holds its shape through repeated washings. The pocketless shirt has patches on each sleeve and one on the front. The gray BDU trousers have large leg pockets for carrying items and have no blue stripes.

Quarterman said the coats and smocks now worn by officers will remain unchanged. However, officers will not be able to wear the Roper-style boot with the new uniform.

Uniforms weren’t really uniform within TDCJ until the mid-1950s. Before then, archive photos show that officers typically wore a non-distinctive, tan-colored shirt and pants, oftentimes with a necktie and broad-brimmed hat. The first standard uniform introduced by then-prison assistant director Jack Heard was light brown with dark brown trim. Dark brown neckties and hats similar to those worn by bus drivers of the day were also standard issue. Officers also then wore a metal badge on the front of the shirt that sported a green and silver patch on one sleeve.

The familiar gray and blue colors of the modern-day TDCJ uniform were introduced in the late 1960s. Officers no longer wore badges, but ties and hats were still part of the ensemble. The ties were taken off in the early 1980s, and ball caps later replaced the visor-type hats.

The Class A uniform can still be worn, and wardens may require it at some duty posts. While the new uniform is more casual in style than that of what is now issued, Quarterman said officers will look professional wearing it.

“That’s why you set policies and procedures, to keep the uniform professional,” he said. “The Class A and Class B uniforms will be held to a high standard, and that high standard is professionalism. ”

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