Life as a Detention Officer: Interview with Tyshon Hinton

Detention officer Tyshon Hinton at the Law Enforcement Training Center in Wake County on June 15, 2017. This was the first picture he ever took in uniform as a detention officer. (Photo courtesy of Tyshon Hinton)

A detention officer is responsible for the supervision, safety, and security of each and every prisoner who is doing time in the jail or prison.

Officer Tyshon Hinton is currently working as a detention officer in the Wake County jail.

North Carolina alone contains 56 detention and correctional centers. The Wake County Detention Center opens for visitors between the hours of 9:00 a.m. through 4:30 p.m. Located between Garner and Raleigh, the jail is the main headquarters where inmates are first convicted of felonies and bail is still acceptable.

One may never really think about what it is truly like to work as a detention officer. Officer Tyshon Hinton is just one of hundreds of officers working in North Carolina. One of the youngest starting detention officers working for Wake County, Hinton first began his career as a detention officer when he was 21.

The Interview:

Q: What made you want to become a detention officer?

A: “[I wanted] to join SRT (Special Response Team), which is an elite team that helps out other officers with difficult situations. But I had to start in the jail first and be a deputy in order to do so.”

Q: How long do you plan on staying in law enforcement?

A: “At least 25 more years, until I’m ready to retire.”

Q: What is the hardest part of working in the jails? Easiest?

A: “The hardest part is never knowing what is going to happen. There is never really an easy part of working in the jail.”

Q: What is one of the stereotypes you get, but is not true at all?

A: “Not often, but it is really funny when I am driving in my uniform and everyone suddenly starts to drive better.”

Q: What kind of requirements do you need to become a detention officer?

A: “You have to be 21 with a high school diploma and no criminal background.”

Q: Describe a day working in the jail?

A: “Basically I’m in charge of observing what is happening in the jail, supervising interaction between inmates, and making sure no one is harming themselves or others.”

Q: How do you manage your sleep schedule if you only work night shifts?

A: “I get to work around 6:00 pm and I get off around 7:00 am, and then try to work out for about 30 minutes. I just go home and rest and get ready for my next shift. It is almost like I am nocturnal.”

Q: Do you think TV shows and movies accurately portray what a jail is like?

A: “No they don’t, there are a lot of false advertisement images. It is a lot laid back than what the movies make them seem. But for prison, they are more accurate.”

Q: Has anything funny ever happened while you’re working?

A: “Yes, a lot of the inmates have a great sense of humor. It makes the atmosphere not so heavy when I am working.”

Q: What are one of most tragic situations you’ve seen during your time as an officer?

A: “Suicide is definitely one of the hardest situations. It rarely happens, but recently, a female inmate tried to hang herself. But, DRT (Detention Response Team) and the nursing staff and I came just in time to rush her to the Wake Medical center.”

Q: Do you ever get any judgement or harsh looks from people when you’re in you’re in uniform?

A: “Yes–all the time–especially after any crime or unnecessary force that used by an officer. If a wrong action of an officer goes viral, many people will think that all officers are planning to do harm. Some people do not realize that not every officer abuses their power or authority to harass people. It really makes it harder for the community to trust the good officers.”

Officer Hinton will soon be transferring his current job so that he can be part of the Detention Response Team, which will allow him to be full time deputy working in and out of the jails. As a deputy, Hinton will serve as a peace officer working under Sheriff Donnie Harrison.

As officers continue to serve all around the nation, take a moment to appreciate them and how they put their lives at risk every day to keep us safe.

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