Corrections officers spend career locked in caring for inmates

May 08, 2021 at 08:00 am by Lisa Marchesoni

Rutherford County Adult Detention Center
Rutherford County Adult Detention Center

They are locked in a secure facility with inmates charged with various crimes ranging from theft to murder for 40 hours every week. They serve as medics, counselors and caregivers to the elderly and sick people who can’t care for themselves. They deliver meals and take out the trash.

They are about 143 correctional officers at the Rutherford County Adult Detention Center, some who spend their entire career locked up with inmates.

“We’re the servants of this county,” Elrod said. “We are locked up, taking care of county citizens. We choose to stay locked in with them.”

These Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office Detention Division employees are being honored during National Correctional Officers and Employees Week May 2-8.

Jail Administrator Chris Fly, Elrod and Deputy Julia Anderson discussed some of their professional duties in their chosen fields of corrections.

Fly has worked as a correctional officer for 24 years. He served as a sergeant and accreditation manager at the Rutherford County Correctional Work Center and assistant director at the Rutherford County Juvenile Detention Center. He joined the Sheriff’s Office as captain five years ago before being promoted to deputy chief two years ago.

Elrod has worked as a correctional officer 23 years at the Adult Detention Center and Anderson has worked four years at the detention center.

The correctional staff’s primary duty is the safety and security of the inmates. Fly said correctional officers are prone to physical assaults by inmates.

Fly said correctional officers work with the medical staff to deal with inmates experiencing mental health crises, psychological breakdowns and detoxification, the administrator said. Officers help feed inmates who cannot feed or clean themselves for medical reasons.

Julia Anderson
Brian Elrod
Chris Fly

Elrod said the detention center gives structure to inmates. Many inmates enter the facility with weight loss, lack of sleep and poor health conditions.

He believes correctional officers help save inmates’ lives through nurses providing around the clock medical care and medications, food approved by dieticians and good hygiene.

Inmates may also volunteer for educational or life skills programs to improve their living skills during their incarceration, the captain said.

“Being in jail is one of the worst times of their lives, and we have to be attentive and give them the help they need,” Elrod said.

Detention Deputy Anderson assigns trusties to duties around the facility supervised by correctional officers such as plumbing, painting, mowing lawns, repairing cars, cleaning, doing laundry and preparing meals in the kitchen.

These duties by trusties train them in skills and responsibilities to train them to obtain jobs once released, she said.

“We build rapport with the inmates to know when something is off with them,” Anderson said.

Elrod said the correctional officers listen to the inmates’ concerns about their lives and problems.

Operating the detention center is one of the primary duties of the sheriff, serving as the backbone to the office.

“Our troops are professionals,” Elrod said with pride. “They are very smart individuals who are the undertaking of this profession. This is one of the hardest professions.”

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