Elkhart County Correctional Officers have a tough job. In conjunction with 90 other corrections officers, those hired work together to enforce rules and maintain order within the correctional facility while interacting with inmates. This is a fairly standard job description for any corrections officer in any jail across the nation. However, being a part of the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Office’s Corrections team requires a deeper commitment to the inmates and community.
“Corrections officers have an important role in our community because those who are placed under our care and responsibility are citizens in our community. We must treat all with respect, including those citizens that have found themselves in a situation that requires their confinement within our facility,” Chief Deputy Sean Holmes tells all new corrections officers during orientation. “By treating people with respect and ensuring their security while staying with us, we meet our vision and the mission of the Sheriff’s Office.”
During her 14-year career in Corrections, Lieutenant Amanda Jones has seen many changes in her field. When she began, the use of force was a strong theme in the corrections field. The Sheriff’s Office focuses on de-escalation training to mitigate physical confrontations, in addition to skillsets which allow officers to appropriately protect themselves and others. Over the years, she has seen a shift toward minimizing force by talking to people. “Respecting them seems to work well,” she says.
While there are frequently openings for new corrections officers at ECSO, interested individuals, do not have to know much about the field. “We are looking for someone who is going to show up and be teachable,” Lt. Jones says. “This is an ever-changing field, so people need to be flexible and open to learning. In corrections, they are always coming up with new ways of doing things, new training, and new procedures to keep everyone safe.”
Candidates who are flexible, open to change, and interested in learning can have a rewarding career in corrections.
“We are not here to punish people. We are here to provide a service to them. Which in turn provides a service to the community. These people will get out, and we should want them to be better because they will impact our community. Their experiences with us will set the tone for their next experience or their friend’s experience because they will talk about what happened while they were here. We should want to provide that service to people,” Lt. Jones explains.
When joining the ECSO team, candidates find success linked to their characteristics as human beings. One characteristic corrections employees share is “compassion” which is the ability to show genuine sympathy, kindness, and empathy for others. While corrections officers have a job to do, ECSO officers do not go about their work in a “badge heavy” way.
“One of the biggest misconceptions is that (corrections officers) don’t care about the inmates, but that’s really what our only job is, we’re here to care for them. We are with them all the time, and we build rapport with them. If something is going on for them, we check-up on them. It’s a hard thing for some people to understand because we can’t always show emotion. It’s not safe for us to do,” Lt. Jones comments.
Many times inmates leave incarceration at ECSO better prepared for life. The Sheriff and Chief Deputy are committed to providing programs and resources to help inmates be better people so they can positively impact the community when they are released. Every offering helps inmates gain coping skills, set goals for their future, and deal with ongoing challenges that have hindered their past success. Everything from GED classes, anger management, addiction counseling, money management, and parenting classes aims to give inmates the tools they need for success in the community.
One popular program is the knitting class offered to the male inmates. This program teaches them a new skill, perhaps a new coping mechanism, and a way to contribute to their community.
“Making these hats brings me peace and relaxation. Knowing that the hats I create are serving a great purpose for the homeless or underprivileged. It lets me know that I can be a part of the solution instead of the problem. I am truly grateful for what this experience has done for me as well as the community,” says Jose, a current inmate.
If you are looking for a career where you make a difference every day, joining the Corrections team at ECSO may be the right next step for you. The men and women who put on the ECSO uniform believe in the professionalism of the job and recognize they represent the Sheriff. Corrections officers believe in treating the citizens under our care with dignity and respect while keeping them safe and providing tools for life after incarceration.