SCA - Class 6
Well, I see that some of you were brave enough to join me over at the jail. Thanks for coming along for class 6 of the Sheriff’s Citizens’ Academy.
Arriving at the county jail, we were taken upstairs to the meeting room. Sgt. George Fox was our first instructor of the evening and he talked about conceal and carry. Since I’ve been interested in that for a little while, I found it quite informative. I’m not sure if I’m ready to get my conceal and carry permit, purchase a gun and practice shooting all the time, but at least I know more about it. One thing I had always wondered about was if I had a conceal & carry license in Missouri, would I be able to to take my gun to other states? Sgt. Fox told us that many of the other 50 states will honor a Missouri conceal & carry permit. However, there are some who don’t. “If you are going to be in another state and they do honor Missouri’s permits, you should make sure what their laws are about conceal & carry and abide by them,” he told us.
One member of the class asked if it was required to tell an officer who pulled you over that you have a conceal & carry. “No, it’s not required,” Sgt. Fox said. “It might be a good idea to tell them, just so they know. And it will depend on the officer who pulls you over, if they want to see it. Some might ask to hang on to it until they cut you lose. Personally, I’m not worried about the ones who have conceal & carry, it’s the other people.”
To get a conceal & carry card in Missouri you must be 21 or older, 18 if you are a member of the military, not have pled guilty on any charges, not have any history of violence and no more than two DWIs. It really isn’t hard to get a conceal & carry permit, but you do have to practice. We were also told that in Missouri, we have a thing called “Castle doctrine” which means that your home is your castle and if you feel threatened, you can pull your gun out and defend your “castle.” It used to be that you couldn’t shoot anyone breaking in to your home unless they tried to hurt you first. (That doesn’t make much sense to me.) You don’t have to have a permit to carry your gun and use it in your own house (but I wouldn’t recommend it as you might break something), your yard or your car. If you carry it anywhere else, you have to have a conceal & carry.
When we talked a little about concealing a gun, Sgt. Fox showed us a video of a teen standing before a table. He looked like a normal kid with a kind of long, untucked shirt and loose jeans. Then as we watched, he began to pull guns out. They were tucked everywhere! He even had a rifle! In the end he had about 12-14 guns lying out on the table. “See,” the sergeant said, “it’s not that hard to hide a gun.” He also said that ladies have an easy time since they carry a purse.
One person in class asked about open carry. “You can open carry,” we were told, “but if you are in a store and some bad guy who is planning something sees your gun, you are going to be his first target.”
Once Sgt. Fox was done, he turned the class over to our next instructor.
Captain Becky Stevens is the one in charge of jail. She told us a little about herself and introduced the lieutenant who works with her. They showed us the tazer first. No, they didn’t do it on anyone. “It really hurts,” Captain Stevens said. “During training, everyone had the opportunity to see what it feels like. You don’t have to, but most people want to know what it’s like if they are going to use it on others. It’s not fun! It only lasts 5 seconds after the trigger is released, but those are the longest 5 seconds of your life. I felt like I couldn’t breathe.”
They also have an ankle tazer that is worked by a remote, but they’ve never had to use it. “We’ll always take it along when we’re transporting people to court or somewhere, and we let everyone know we have it. We always get asked, ‘Who is that for?’ and we tell them it’s for whoever doesn’t behave. You can bet they’ll be good then. If there is someone who starts out as unruly, we’ll go ahead and put it on them. We do like to mess with them sometimes, and we’ll tell them that if they get too far away from the person holding the remote, it might go off. Or if they step in a mud puddle, it might go off. But we’ve never had to actually use it.”
She next showed us how they secure the inmates if they have to transport them somewhere. They have a “belly chain” which is a chain which goes around the waist. Handcuffs are put on in the front unless the person is being unruly, then they have to wear them in the back. These are fastened to the “belly chain.” And then everyone wears shackles around their ankles.
A few videos were shown from the jails many cameras and we saw a few fights. They never lasted long because within half a minute there were at least two officers to break them up. Of course they also had to show us a few funny videos of the nightshift.
After a few questions, we were told to split into two groups and Captain Stevens and the Lieutenant (sorry, I can’t remember his name) would each take a group on a tour of the jail. Dad and I ended up going with Captain Stevens. She told us she hadn’t wanted the job of Captain (She had risen in the ranks of the jail to Lieutenant.), but after the tornado hit Joplin, Sheriff Dunn came to her and said, “You’re captain of the jail.” “It wasn’t a question,” she told us. “It was an order and I took it as a complement.”
Our first stop was the kitchen. Just recently the jail has started preparing all the meals. They had gone with another company in order to save money, but now the captain thinks they can save more if they do it themselves. “So far it’s working,” she said. “Of course we get some complaints but—” and she shrugged. They have five inmates and two guards working in the kitchen at a time. They get oatmeal, milk and fruitcake for breakfast. (They can’t give them regular fruit because of what they will do with it, but they can put it in their cake and get it to them that way.) Their lunches vary with a few hot, cheap meals like macaroni & cheese or meatballs. Suppers are peanut butter & jelly sandwiches. “If deli meat goes on a really good sale, we might give them meat and cheese sandwiches sometimes.” (How would you like to have oatmeal and fruitcake every breakfast and peanut butter & jelly every supper?)
Moving on, we saw the laundry room which is constantly in use, and then we had to wait for the door to be opened electronically after Captain Stevens called over the walkie. One of the other members of the academy whispered to me, “Okay, I’m getting really freaked out now!” I think it had something to do with the captain asking if the way was clear for us to go through.
It was rather strange walking down the hallways and seeing in a few windows where inmates were. In one room a group of women were gathered for a meeting. Going farther down the hallway, passing through two doors and climbing a circular stairway, we came to “the tower.” From there we could look down into each “pod” and see the inmates. We also saw the screen where the officer in the tower can watch all the cameras at once from his chair.
We saw “admission” which is where everyone goes first who arrives for jail, the control room which is the hub of the jail, the storage room where all the boxes with belongings from the inmates are kept until they leave, and the warrants department where hundreds of warrants and other things are processed.
Completing our tour, we headed back up to the meeting room and waited for the other group to arrive. While we waited, Captain Stevens told us a few things that had happened to her. “You know,” she said, “the people in jail, for the most part, are great people who made some wrong choices and ended up going down a wrong path. We treat them with respect as much as we can and they usually do the same for us. We’ve even had some inmates offer to come to the aid of the officers in fights or be willing to defend us.” One other thing she told us was that working in the jail was a lot like babysitting. “You do a lot of repeating yourself. ‘Don’t do that.’ ‘Stop talking.’ ‘No, you can’t do this or have that.’ ‘Sit down.’ ‘What did I just say?’ And so on.”
The other group arrived and we were told we could leave if we wanted or stick around and talk. Most of us decided to leave even if it was only 8:45. “You can come back and visit us any time,” the lieutenant told us, “just don’t come to spend the night.”
This ends our time at the jail. I hope you were able to learn something new. Our next class will be at MSSU where we will be doing FATS and shooting handguns. Join me there! Until then, this is Rebekah.