Corrections officers go to school, create fellowship

Nathan McCarthy of the Morrow County Sheriff's Office had a point to make with corrections officer Clyde Jackson. In real life, the two men are co-workers. "I just had a son," McCarthy said, portraying an inmate in a simulation. "What am I supposed to do while I'm in here? Can I call?"
Norwalk Reflector Staff
Jul 24, 2010

Nathan McCarthy of the Morrow County Sheriff's Office had a point to make with corrections officer Clyde Jackson. In real life, the two men are co-workers.

"I just had a son," McCarthy said, portraying an inmate in a simulation. "What am I supposed to do while I'm in here? Can I call?"

Jackson, playing the corrections officer, accurately paraphrased what McCarthy said, promising he'd look into the telephone call. He later said the communication technique could feel forced, but you have to "put yourself into the teaching" and then it feels like second nature.

"It's taught to get the person calmed down and relaxed," Jackson explained. "That way he won't do anything abnormal."

The two men were part of the 35 corrections officers from several county agencies taking an interpersonal communications skills course at the Norwalk Armory. The two-day course is a part of state-mandated lifetime certification.

Sandusky County Sheriff's Major Tom Fligor, the instructor, described the class as officers using communication skills with inmates. He and the students critique the seven daily simulations, each of which cover a different topic.

"Most of these officers have been with their (agencies) anywhere from three to four months to two to three years," Fligor said.

Emily Longoria, a Sandusky County corrections officer for the last seven months, believes the course has been helpful. She said Fligor's class has taught her how to deal with prisoners appropriately, "help them anyway we can" and respect their thoughts.

"I treat (inmates) like I want to be treated. It takes a lot of common sense," Longoria said.

She believes the most challenging part of handling prisoners is when they're angry, "trying to get in and see what they're all about."

The 136 hours of overall curriculum for corrections officers has been taught at the armory every April and in Ashland each October or November since 2001. Sheriff's offices at that time in Lorain, Ashland, Wayne, Huron, Erie, Richland, Ottawa and Sandusky counties formed a core group, calling itself "Law Heroes."

The group of authorities created a corrections officer school, which is offered free to 14 sheriff's offices plus the Elyria Police Department. Twenty-eight certified instructors teach the various classes.

"There is no tuition," said Lt. Theresa Shean, the Huron County Jail assistant administrator since 1997, who oversees the "school." "This is saving tax dollars."

An equivalent set of courses would cost a sheriff's office about $850 for each person.

"There's a lot of fellowship created here," Shean said. "It all started with one phone call (six years ago)."