The dangers of being a correction officer spotlighted in Effingham County
The Effingham County Jail houses, on average, 175 inmates with 30-35 being female.
The correction officers are outnumbered at the jail 20-1.
For the first time in more than four years, command staff allowed cameras in the jail to document the perils these officers and so many others face everyday.
Derick Seckinger is a Lieutenant in corrections at the jail. He said the officers face a wide array of criminals in the facility.
“We could be dealing with a simple traffic violation. Also, we may be dealing with someone who has been charged with homicide or a violent crime or a gang affiliation,” he said.
The jail has four different blocks and inmates are classified when they arrive.
“Complacency is definitely enemy number one,” said Seckinger.
Cassidy Cox has been a corrections officer for just over a year.
“Sometimes forgetting where I am, it’s easy to get comfortable here and around inmates,” said Cox.
Commanders say a few moments of complacency can have dangerous, or even deadly consequences.
“When you let your guard down, you're susceptible to attack or injury,” said Seckinger.
Officers say part of the job is having the ability to read an inmates behavior.
“You actually have to talk with them and bring them down. Their body language will be cut off with their arms crossed, they may be in a fighting stance,” said Seckinger.
Officers say respect at the jail is a two-way street.
“Give them the same respect as you would give anybody else, but by still maintaining your composure,” he said.
Whether inmates are in a minimum or maximum security block, officers face threats that can alter a life in a split second.
“Our safety is number one. At the end of the day what we want to do is, actually, want to leave and return home to our families,” said Seckinger.
Right now, there is no state mandated training for correction officers, even though there are regional training academies throughout the state.
Sheriff Jimmy McDuffie requires all of his officers to attend two weeks of initial training and more than 10 hours a year for additional training. Courses include crisis intervention, self defense and suicide prevention.
He told FOX 28 the Georgia Sheriff’s Association is looking to increase training statewide.
Officers are trained to always be vigilant, which can ultimately save their life.
“Be aware of your surroundings, know what the inmate population is doing and actually don't put yourself at risk and always have clear route to your exit,” said Seckinger.