Jail commander Chad Hermann said finding qualified and capable female corrections officers “is like finding a needle in a haystack.”
With that thought in mind, Hermann and Plumas County Sheriff Greg Hagwood were excited to introduce new officers Hannah Blevins and Christina Ross last week.
Hagwood said Blevins and Ross represent a trend of young, local people joining the department.
“It’s becoming a new generation throughout the agency. … A changing of the guard,” Hagwood said.
“The commitment, enthusiasm and a winning attitude of the younger officers … It has made such a tremendous difference in the atmosphere throughout the entire agency.”
The county’s newest corrections officers will need additional training before they can independently handle all of the duties required at the jail — including transporting inmates. But Hermann said they will fill a critical need for female officers at the short-staffed jail.
Hermann said the jail, which is still six officers short of being fully staffed, needs at least six female officers to cover all the shifts. That’s assuming no one gets sick or injured. “There’s no putting a ‘Closed’ sign on the door,” he said.
The addition of Blevins and Ross will give the jail seven female officers.
Both Blevins and Ross said they were thrilled to be working for the sheriff’s office. They have been working for the jail on a part-time basis.
Blevins, 22, is a 2009 graduate of Greenville High School. Ross, 34, graduated from Portola High School in 1998.
Blevins said she wanted to work in law enforcement since she was in seventh grade.
“This feels awesome,” she said with a beaming smile.
Ross worked in the child care field for nearly 13 years before joining the sheriff’s office.
She said some of the skills she learned working with kids can be applied at the jail.
“It’s important to realize that inmates are human beings also,” Ross said. “They have made mistakes. It is good to see some of them grow.”
With Assembly Bill 109 (inmate realignment) in effect, Hermann said the jail is forced to take a very proactive approach to help inmates better themselves. Jailers are increasingly being asked to perform duties traditionally handled by probation officers.
At the same time, county jails across the state are dealing with inmates who are more prone to violence. That’s because many offenders who used to be sent to state prison are now serving their sentences in the county jail.
Hermann said a correction officer’s job is more dangerous than ever.
“I think it is important for the general public to understand the amount and type of work they do,” Hermann said. “And many of the inmates we are currently dealing with … they have the propensity for violence.
“It’s unprecedented. It’s because of AB 109, but it’s also because of society. We are seeing a more violent clientele.”
Hermann said he is working diligently to recruit new corrections officers. Although he said he recently lost two candidates to other agencies, there are three or four others currently undergoing background checks and testing.
The sheriff said he is optimistic about the direction his department is heading.
“We’ve been struggling over the last several years, and operating at a real deficit,” Hagwood said. “And the addition of outstanding officers like Blevins and Ross is keeping with the trend that we have been enjoying in recruiting and identifying and retaining quality, dedicated, local people, who want to stay in their community.
“We look forward to them having a long and very successful career with us.”
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