The Aiken County Sheriff's Office is seeking applicants to serve as detention deputies in the Doris C. Gravatt Detention Center.
The jail has multiple positions available for people of varied experience levels. Capt. Nick Gallam, jail administrator, said the jail has seen a decrease in the number of applications received.
“Our biggest problem is we haven't been able to find candidates recently,” he said. “A lot of times, people don't think about the jail as a career. Everybody sees the police officer in the car and they want to do that. There are some good careers inside of the jail.”
Most of the new hires will be working in the jail's housing units, which currently hold about 300 inmates, Gallam said. Pre-trial detention is the “biggest chunk” of what detention deputies do.
Deputies will have a variety of responsibilities, including managing inmate behavior, making periodic checks of housing units, performing personal and cell searches, maintaining control and discipline of inmates, instructing inmates in general housekeeping, reacting quickly and calmly to emergency situations and establishing and maintaining relationships with the public, internal staff and law enforcement agencies.
To apply for a position, a candidate must be 21 years old, a U.S. citizen, possess a high school diploma or GED, have a good driving record and no criminal history, pass a pre-employment drug screen and possess good moral character.
Gallam said great communications skills are perhaps the most important skill a candidate could possess.
“Twenty years ago, when you were hiring someone for working in a jail, the mindset was you needed Buffo the big, burly 300-pound guy,” he said. “That was the way they did things. Now, it's about managing the inmate population. Size, gender, that doesn't really matter so much nowadays.”
A high number of applicants are typically weeded out for criminal histories, bad driving records or not meeting the minimum requirements, according to Gallam. Others lack proper interviewing skills or can't pass preliminary testing, which includes a polygraph test.
“You take 20 candidates and end up with two people you can hire,” he said.
Some criminal offenses are looked at on a case-by-case basis, but Gallam said a candidate with a criminal record rarely gets hired.
“There are some things we can work with, but those are very, very minor things,” he said. “We also understand that people do things when they're young and dumb and don't realize what they're doing to their future. Sometimes those are salvageable people.”
Previous law enforcement experience is not necessary to become a detention deputy.
“To be honest, sometimes I like having that blank slate that we can train. Experience is always good,” Gallam said. “We've sent several folks on the road patrol from the jail that are awesome deputies because of the skills they learn inside this jail.”
A candidate who is hired will have to go through a two-week training class on fundamentals, theory, policy and procedure. From there, they will work with a field training officer for 10 working shifts. Then, they go to the S.C. Criminal Justice Academy for three weeks.