A Union County Jail detention officer takes an inmate’s fingerprints during the booking process.

The Union County Jail needs more detention officers, said Sheriff Jimmy Edwards.

Edwards is unsure of how many he needs to hire but said he will likely need male and female detention officers.

Detention officers work 12-hour shifts, which could include nights, holidays and weekends. The jail never closes, Edwards noted. Full-time and part-time detention officers may be needed.

The detention officers have many responsibilities, such as giving out medicine. And someone stays in the jail control room at all times to monitor cameras and unlock doors in the facility. Head counts are also conducted.

Detention officers should have a high school diploma or GED and must be honest and dependable, said Edwards. They will go through a detention officer training course and must be at least 18 years old.

The detention officers conduct pod checks to make sure there is no contraband in the jail and help serve the inmates three meals a day. The inmates prepare the meals, but the detention officers oversee the process.

They also help with the booking process, which includes taking the inmates' photographs and fingerprints. In addition, they are part of the bonding process and help with inmate visitation. Some knowledge of working with computers is also helpful.

Detention officers must be fair but firm with the inmates and must be able to handle pressure and stressful situations, Edwards said. The Union County Jail can hold up to 102 inmates, but on average it usually has between 60 and 70.

The detention officers work under the sheriff, and there is also a jail administrator and assistant jail administrator. Full-time detention officers receive retirement benefits and health insurance. They must go through a background check and cannot be a convicted felon.

Those who are interested in becoming a detention officer should go to the sheriff’s office to fill out an application. Working as a detention officer is a good way to serve society, Edwards said.

“It’s an important job,” he said.

It is a job that involves public safety, and it must be taken very seriously, he added.

Sometimes inmates are transported to court or to the doctor or dentist. They must be guarded at all times, and some inmates have to be placed on suicide watch and checked on regularly.

“It’s a big job,” Edwards said.

The inmates must have a certain number of calories each day, and sometimes they go to the exercise yards where they are monitored.

Being a detention officer can be a demanding job and a little “overwhelming” from time to time, the sheriff said.

Detention officers should be able to handle pressure situations while being “mindful of surroundings,” Edwards noted.

Inmates could come in high, drunk or belligerent. Other inmates may try to escape or sneak contraband into the jail, he added.

Some inmates will “try you” to see what you’re made of, Edwards said, adding that detention officers cannot be pushovers. Detention officers must treat the inmates fairly but are not there to be an inmate’s buddy, counselor or preacher, Edwards said.

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