Knowing your purpose: 445 AW Services apprentice works to fight crime
By Lt. Col. Denise Kerr, 445th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
/ Published March 14, 2014
WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio --
One of the benefits of being in the Air Force Reserve is that it gives you the opportunity to explore different career fields, learn new skills, and meet a diverse group of people.
Senior Airman Brittany Nelson, a 445th food services apprentice, is a deputy jailer at the Campbell County Detention and Restricted Custody Center in Kentucky. As part of a cadre of 17 other jailers, Nelson watches over inmates, conducts searches and indictments. She also recently took a test to qualify as a Newport police officer. Her job during the week is a far cry from the duties she performs during drill weekends.
Twenty-five year old Nelson said her calling for working in law enforcement was clear when she graduated from Lincoln College with a criminal justice degree. Upon graduation, she interned in Kenton County for more than a year. She has been a deputy jailer at Campbell County since February 2013.
The CCDCRC can house up to 600 county misdemeanor or felon inmates, as well as state felons. Her 12-hour shift starts in a roll call that assigns dorm or booking duty.
"If I am assigned dorm duty, I conduct a head count, read and check emails," Nelson said. Nelson supervises approximately 70 male or female inmates and ensures they shower, receive medication, and bed check every 15 minutes.
According to Nelson, the jail is similar to a large gymnasium with a flat screen television, radio and eight phone booths. Most of the fights occur around the inmates volleying for a chance to use one of the antiquated phone booths. Inmates with phone cards or money on the books can talk on the phone as long as they like.
Despite what some might assume, she does not feel threatened when she oversees the male inmates. Nelson recognizes a lot of them as her former classmates from high school. "For the most part they offer me respect. Ninety percent of the job is communication and I know how to talk to them," she explains.
Even though she occasionally gets harassed or called names, Nelson likes the thrill of be in danger.
Nelson briefly explained what happens to inmates when they break or the rules or behave inappropriately. It's not quite the solitary confinement of Pelican Bay though.
If sent to the "hole," inmates share a cell with 14 other inmates. Their mattress is taken away from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. They are not allowed commissary, television or phone privileges.
Nelson said the excitement of being assigned to booking for the evening is great because "that is where the action is."
During booking duty, jailers bring the inmates into a garage called the "sally port" to fill out paperwork to create a citation. The jailer will ask inmates if they have any drugs on their person. If they answer truthfully, it will be a misdemeanor. If the drugs are smuggled in, he or she will receive a felony charge.
"I would say that 75 percent of the women are in jail due to drugs," Nelson said. "On weekends, we generally get drunks and prostitutes."
If someone is picked up for drugs, it is an automatic strip search. The inmate will be told to squat and cough to compel any hidden contraband.
After the search, they are hustled into the shower and Delicer shampoo is immediately dumped on their hair to get rid of any lice. Then the inmates are dressed in black and white striped CCDC uniforms and moved into the jail's general population.
The jailers attach a bracelet that has their picture, date of birth and inmate number. Inmates are charged $10 a day, even if they are jailed for just eight hours.
The inmates never leave the gymnasium except to visit the small enclosed recreation area. Family members are allowed to place money in their loved ones accounts through a kiosk in the lobby.
It is never routine or tedious being a deputy jailer, and Nelson plans on making law enforcement a career. The Air Force has already helped her meet objectives in one area.
"The physical fitness standards are similar to the Air Force: 1.5 mile, push-ups, sit-ups and an agility obstacle course," Nelson said.
Nelson's fellow Reservists believe she can succeed at her goals.
"She has been here for four months and made a favorable impression in a short period of time," said Senior Master Sgt. Kelly Kruger, 445th Force Support Squadron sustainment services flight superintendent.
"The Air Force has definitely prepared me for doing what I love to do: making a difference in helping the community," Nelson said.