Working at a detention center is one of the most challenging jobs in the public safety industry. Working nights, holidays, and weekends, corrections employees often have to deal with great stress throughout the workday. At times, inmates may become violent and unpredictable. Employees work in tight spaces and are often required to work overtime. A lot of training must be completed before beginning work in this field.

Corrections Officer Matthew Whitley has maintained a pleasant and professional demeanor as he continues to build on his formal education.

Credit: St. Mary's County Sheriff's Office

Whitley, age 25, was born and raised in St. Mary’s County. He attended and graduated from Frostburg State University with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology.

While obtaining his education, he worked as a public safety dispatcher for four summers in Ocean City, Maryland.

When it came time to get a full-time job, Whitley applied to become a public safety dispatcher in St. Mary’s County. Still, his mother informed him that the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office was also hiring corrections officers.

He applied to the Sheriff’s Office and has been a corrections officer for three years, working at the St. Mary’s County Detention and Rehabilitation Center.

“It’s not bad,” he said of his job. “I have fun, but I can make anything fun. You gotta spice it up now and then,” he said.

But Whitley didn’t stop at a four-year degree while he continued to work full-time.

During the height of the pandemic and while also looking for a house to buy, Whitley completed his master’s degree in Psychology from Southern New Hampshire University.

Whitley could be reimbursed for continuing his education as part of the benefits package for St. Mary’s County government employees.

And Whitley is still not done with his education. He is pursuing a doctorate in Psychology and is about 1/3 of the way completed. If he stays on the academic course, he will complete his post-Master certificate program in 2 ½ years.

Once completed, Whitley would be the first St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office employee and its long history of earning a Doctorate.

Even as he continues his formal education, Whitley said he’s not planning on leaving the Sheriff’s Office.

With tuition reimbursement provided by the county for employees, Whitley advised his peers and co-workers “utilize any opportunity given to you. If they’re going to offer something to you, take it.”

“Officer Whitley has set himself apart as a leader in the corrections profession since hired and was the class speaker at Corrections Entrance Level Training Program graduation,” Warden Mary Ann Thompson said. Officer Whitley sets the example of working full time and achieving higher education goals which the county government assists with tuition reimbursement.”

“Corrections Officer Whitley is an impressive young person and represents the very best of the Sheriff’s Office and the corrections profession,” Sheriff Steve Hall said. “He is enthusiastic about his work and knows that continuing his education enhances his opportunities by bringing additional skill sets within the detention center. We are grateful to have him on our team.”

Upon completing the entrance level training program, all corrections graduates receive nine Criminal Justice credits from the College of Southern Maryland in Introduction to Criminal Justice, Juvenile Delinquency and Corrections: Law, Theory and Operations.

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