The Washington County Detention Center has seen an increase in violent attacks over the last six months because of overcrowding. With the jail’s deputies heavily outnumbered by the inmates, detention officers say their job is a tough one.
5NEWS got an exclusive look inside the jail, as reporter Katelynn Zoellner spent a day in the life of a deputy to see what the job is like behind bars. (See the video above)
Melinda Conner has worked as a detention officer at the jail since 2004.
“Each day is different and could hold different possibilities,” she said.
And it’s the detainees that decide that.
“If they want to be calm, then it’s normally a calm day,” Conner said. “Depending on the severity of the situation, it can be a little chaotic.”
Even when tensions get high, Conner said it’s her job to make sure inmates are taken care of.
“It’s my job to make sure they have all of their necessities,” she said. “It’s my job to make sure they are not in danger.”
Deputies do jail checks every hour to make sure there are no issues in the cells.
“They are a babysitter with a whole bunch of kids that are some good and some bad,” said one inmate.
Two inmates that share a cell with each other said they get along well.
“We never argue or anything like that, so I would say we are like sisters,” an inmate said. “When we argue it’s more like sisters picking on each other.”
But not all of the inmates at the jail are peaceful with each other.
“Not all of them are going to get along,” said Conner. “That’s because not all of them have the same kind of personality or beliefs as everyone else.”
Even though the job of a deputy can be tough, Conner said her goals are the same every day.
“My goals are to do the job to the best of my ability, do the right thing and get home at night,” she said.
The jail houses more than 500 detainees, ranging from rape and murder suspects to what deputies said are non-violent offenders.
Helder said lack of state money is to blame for the overcrowding issue. In the first half of 203, the detention center saw 13 violent attacks. In the second half, that number was up to 63.