York County Jail Corrections Officer Lori Marks and Jail Administrator Nathan Thayer examine a tablet like the ones recently distributed to jail residents, who can view educational material, conduct job searches, read eBooks, or other programming offered through the secure closed loop intranet system. Marks, the jail’s classifications officer, was recently named Corrections Officer of the Year for 2022 by the American Jail Association. Tammy Wells Photo

ALFRED — Corrections Officer Lori Marks remembers the first time the door shut behind her when she entered the secure area at York County Jail in Alfred as a new employee 15 years ago.

“It’s unsettling,” she recalled. “But you find your own way.”

Marks has indeed found her own way and has earned the praise of those she works with — along with that of the 3,000 member American Jail Association, which recently named her 2022 Corrections Officer of the Year. She will be headed to Long Beach, California, in the spring to receive her award at the AJA’s annual meeting.

“Over the years I’ve come to be really passionate about what we do,” said Marks. She said when she sees former jail residents in the community, she enjoys hearing about how they have made changes in their lives, and of their successes.

“I feel good being a part of that,” she said.

Marks is the classifications officer at the jail — the officer who looks at a new resident’s history, education, whether they have been violent in the past and other factors to determine whether they will be assigned to a general housing unit, maximum security, or a special management area of the jail during their stay. She also calculates the “good time” trusted residents may earn for working in the laundry, or cleaning hallways and the like, that can shave days off their sentences.


Lori Marks, a 15-year employee at York County Jail, was named the 2022 Corrections Officer of the Year by the American Jail Association. Tammy Wells Photo

And she takes part in new programs — like a brand-new initiative to provide tablets for residents that allows them to view educational podcasts, check job openings, read eBooks, attend online religious services, get substance abuse information, and receive messages from family through a secure system, and more. It is not the internet, but an intranet, a closed loop private network that comes with restrictions — like no availability of social media.

The new heavy-duty tablets assigned to residents were issued about three weeks ago, and Marks said she sees a benefit to those who use them. Many features are free; residents may pay a fee for additional offerings, said Jail Administrator Nathan Thayer. Those who cannot have the tablets in their cell have access to them in the unit’s day room.

“It’s been huge for morale,” said Marks.

Thayer said he recently received a message signed by 15 residents thanking him and others for changing the culture of the jail and making it a better experience.

Marks was a single mother of three working a full-time job and two part time jobs in 2007 when a friend who worked at the jail suggested she apply.

“I wanted a consistent paycheck, stability and benefits,” she said. After thinking about it, she applied, was hired, and began her career in the secure units, working the midnight shift for several years. She began her day shift job in classifications in 2014 — and continues to work overtime on the floor, as do other corrections staff, because of staffing vacancies.


Marks, who lives in Alfred, said she was surprised when she learned she had won the national award.

Sheriff William King, who announced she had received the honor at a recent ceremony at the jail, says Marks has earned it.

“Lori exhibits a ‘can do’ attitude and never complains even when the workload is overwhelming,” said King. “She maintains a positive attitude and her positivity is contagious. Being a corrections officer at York County Jail is challenging because of the staffing levels, COVID, and an ever-changing resident population. Most importantly, when things seem unsolvable, Lori finds a solution because of her in-depth knowledge of the facility and the criminal justice system.”

As well as her regular duties, King said Marks coordinates presentations for youth groups to remove the stigma of corrections work, participates in briefings for defense attorneys to familiarize them with the jail procedures, and is a member of the York County Intelligence Task Force where she is a regular contributor. She has been featured in a York County corrections recruitment video, was York County Jail Officer of the Year in 2018 and has twice served as an acting lieutenant. Marks was instrumental in establishing a dedicated unit for those enrolled in the Medically Assisted Treatment program for those with substance misuse, among her other endeavors, King said.

“I’m truly humbled” by receiving the award, said Marks. “I try to work hard. I was raised that you give 100 percent. I hold myself to pretty high standards and try to live up to it, and I genuinely care about this agency and the people who work here, and I strive to move forward in a positive direction.”

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