SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – The Sheriff’s Office held their 50th western Massachusetts correctional officer academy graduation at Western New England University Friday morning.

A total of 41 men and women were recognized for completing the rigorous Western Massachusetts County Correctional Officer Academy. Over the last three months, these recruits were trained in everything from de-escalation and conflict resolutions, to defensive tactics.

There was also a grueling fitness component, as they were tested physically just as much as mentally. They relied on each other to get through the hardest days and now they get to celebrate their accomplishments with friends and family.

22News spoke with Sheriff Nick Cocchi about the importance of recruiting these officers and preparing them with the tools needed to serve in this facility, “There’s still people out there that raise their hands and get involved in public service and come in and work at their local sheriffs office. We educate them, we mentor them, we coach them. Everything we can do to keep them safe during their career. And what they do is they come in and they give the justice-involved men and women an opportunity to regain their dignity and self respect and go back and be law abiding citizens.”

Cocchi continued saying that he wants these recruits to be cognizant of the variety of issues that they many encounter, especially those related to mental health and substance use disorders, so that they can react accordingly and best serve those they are working with directly.

The 41 new correctional officers will take their first post this weekend with the help and guidance of other staff at the facility to ease them into their new roles within the department.