Aspiring correction officer overcomes homelessness

Aspiring correction officer overcomes homelessness
Photo courtesy of John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Williamsbridge resident Fama Thiam has overcome impossible odds in the pursuit of helping others.

Thiam, a first generation American of Senegalese descent who speaks English, French and Wolof, and her family moved to Mott Haven when she was 12-years-old.

Her passion for criminal justice was inspired by viewing police procedural and legal drama television series such as ‘Law & Order.’

Originally, Thiam studied to become a nurse, but explained that she did not feel the same passion for the field compared to criminal justice.

While pursuing her dream, Thiam and her family’s life were faced with an unexpected obstacle.

Upon returning to NYC after a two month vacation in Senegal, Thiam’s family was evicted from their 497 Tinton Avenue apartment and had no choice, but to move into a shelter.

Their dire situation was exacerbated when she was separated from her father and brother due to their stay in a men’s only shelter.

The Cadet Education, Empowerment & Development for Success, a collaboration between John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the NYC Department of Correction, helped Thiam cover the cost of renting an apartment in Williamsbridge.

Thiam had to stay with a friend of hers until she received the money to purchase the apartment.

She moved her family from the shelter to the apartment and they are doing well.

“As a correction officer, I hope to change the negative mentality most people have about the job because of what’s shown in the media and in the newspapers,” she explained.

Thiam added that she hopes to show everyone the positive aspects of what correction officers do such as establishing good relationships with inmates and fellow officers and bring more programs which can help inmates rejoin society as good, hardworking citizens.

Despite her parents’ initial reservations about her becoming a correction officer, they remain supportive of Thiam’s career choice.

As part of her studies, Thiam has toured Rikers Island and works alongside correction officers stationed there.

Though some inmates have tried intimidating Thiam, she remains undaunted and is always escorted by a correction officer.

She will graduate from John Jay College of Criminal Justice with a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice in May.

Thiam is set to enroll in the NYC Correction Academy in August.

The Correction Academy prepares recruits for their careers by providing on the job training and daily briefings on the duties and responsibilities of a corrections officer.

Staff are educated and trained in interpersonal communication skills, defensive tactics, firearms training, first aid/CPR, adolescent inmate behavior management, mental health training, inmate disciplinary procedures, preventing workplace violence, report writing, suicide prevention and intervention, and use of force/use of restraints procedures.

For additional information about the CEEDS program, visit