What an eerie feeling it is to stand in an abandoned jail cell. If these walls could talk, oh, the stories they could tell. What a surreal feeling it was to stand in the containment area where countless people over the decades were processed and locked up. What a haunting feeling it was to stand in the very spot that a violent inmate decades ago attacked and murdered a detention officer. The cold, dark cells almost seem to ready confess the tales of their former captives, but just like many of those captives, they instead exercise their right to remain silent.
What an interesting day would be in store for the 2017-18 Leadership Shelby class on Justice Day. Less than a mile away from the long abandoned jail, the gloomy faces of current detainees stare back at the class as we stride through the modern and high tech facility – The Shelby County Detention Center. Each man and women in the facility has a story to tell of a terrible mistake or decision made. Unlike the abandoned jail, this time, the silence is broken as our group listens to two inmates as they tell their tragic tales to the group. In one there is resolve – a genuine plan for rehabilitation, one that will hopefully last when he is released. In the other there seems to be doubt. Hope without action is but a dream. I worry this individual will repeat the mistakes that landed him here in the first place.
As Jailer Darrell Cox showed us during the tour of the facility, it takes a brave person to work inside these walls. To keep order, to monitor, to help rehabilitate. Standing in the brain-center of the Shelby County Detention Center and watching how the staff monitors and keeps order of so many inmates via countless cameras and other security measures was very impressive. Knowing how dangerous some of the inmates could be it was an honor to watch these courageous corrections officers working so hard to keep our community safe.
Speaking of keeping our community safe, what a treat it was to see the inside of our 9-1-1 emergency dispatch. What a vital role this service plays in the well-being of our community. It is easy to take for granted how important these men and women are but touring the facility gives one a real appreciation for the work they do.
From Family Court Judge Marie Hellard discussing the difficulty in presiding over bitter divorces and custody battles (and the all-to-seldom joy of an adoption preceding) to the wide array of criminal cases heard by Judge Donna Dutton – the perspective from “the bench” was fascinating. Learning of the many challenges facing the community, as well as some of the highs and lows of policing from Sheriff Mike Armstrong was most interesting. Sherman Riggs, Erin Ratliff and David Bullock shared their experiences and challenges serving the community as private attorneys.
To conclude our day, we visited the Kentucky Correctional Institute for Women at Pee Wee Valley. The sorrow of the women there will shake your core. They are paying justly but dearly for their crimes. Each yearns for freedom again, but at the same time, some fear it greatly. After many years some have become institutionalized and worry if they can become positive members of society again. Some are trying to make a difference for others while serving their time. Such is the case for those training service dogs for those in need on the outside. The sense of pride the Paws with a Purpose afforded the women was inspiring. It helped put a hopeful conclusion to a day touring the various aspects of our judicial system.
Learning the roles and challenges of those in the profession – from jailers and judges to police and attorneys – proved to be a very enlightening day.
Leadership Shelby Class of 2018
*If you would like to learn more about Leadership Shelby’s mission to develop leaders that exhibit integrity, dedication and selfless service resulting in positive change for our community, visit www.leadershipshelby.com.
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