‘I can’t stay home’
While the rest of the world was instructed to stay home as the spread of the coronavirus developed into a global pandemic, Maria Gibbs used her social media platform to send out a powerful message. On March 29, the State Corrections Local 105 member updated her profile picture with a photo watermarked with the words, “I can’t stay home. I’m a correctional officer.” In the center of the lettering, Gibbs stood strong, confident and poised.
Those simple words encompassed the type of dedicated correctional police officer Gibbs was, as she continued to show up at the Central Reception and Assignment Facility Trenton (CRAFT) every day, despite the risk. In the Gibbs household, where her husband also serves as a correctional police officer at New Jersey State Prison in Trenton, that risk was especially high. For weeks, Gibbs focused on the job at hand, until emerging symptoms of COVID-19 prevented her from going to work. On April 22, Gibbs passed away due to cardiac and kidney issues related to the disease. She was 47 years old.
“She sacrificed herself for her job,” stated Local 105 President William Sullivan who voices the danger members like Gibbs face on a daily basis. “There’s no slowing the spread in a correction facility. You can’t close the doors and say see you in two weeks.”
With 19 years of experience as a correctional police officer, first working at Northern State Prison in Newark and then transferring to CRAFT, Gibbs knew what it took to do the job justice.
“She was stern, and she was fair,” insisted CRAFT Vice President Donald Molder who worked with Gibbs for five years. He describes Gibbs as the officer who was committed to getting things right. She was an independent, strong minded worker who wasn’t afraid to speak up to make sure inmates got the proper placement and treatment.
“She made sure the inmates had what they were supposed to have and if they weren’t supposed to have it, she got it from them,” Molder detailed. “She pretty much did her job the best way it can be done.”
In addition to being a strong officer, Gibbs was a loving mother of four. Her impact shined brightly on April 29, as more than 500 law enforcement vehicles flashed their lights while passing the funeral home where family members gathered for an intimate service.