Four years ago, Mercedes Williams (pictured above) made the jump from the food service industry into corrections and has never looked back.
Williams, the most recent female promotion at the Campbell County Jail, was working at Taco Bell when a friend urged her to apply for a job at the jail. After a quick moment of thought, she did and was hired to work the third shift. Walking in the first time, Williams learned the jail isn’t what is portrayed on television. “I thought it would be a more violent environment,” she said. And while those moments do exist, most of the inmates are marking time and hoping for help.
The change in employment not only gave Williams a career instead of a job, it gave her a new perspective. Each day she works in a concrete world where a glimpse of natural light is a luxury.
“I don’t take for granted things like seeing the leaves change color or when it snows,” Williams said.
Working with the 275 inmates on a daily basis, Williams sees the saddest part of humanity. This would be discouraging to most people, but she takes it in stride. “You can’t judge them (the inmates) based on the bad choices they made,” she said.
As with many of the women who are employed at the jail, Williams sees her job as an opportunity to assist the inmates.
“This is not a negative job. I try to make a difference, and that is the part I enjoy,” Williams said. She also sees her position as a corporal as a way to be a voice for the inmates. When the tension in the cells becomes thick because of perceived slights, Williams steps in to try to stop the unrest.
Keeping disturbances at a minimum is a skill she learned in training, most of which was conducted by female officers, she said. Watching them respect the inmates and then getting respect in turn is a key component, she said. In coaching new officers, Williams makes sure to include that in the training.
Moving up in law enforcement isn’t easy for females. Yet, at the county jail, female supervisors are quickly becoming the norm. “He (Sheriff Robbie Goins) sees we can do great things, and he lets us do them,” she said.
“Corporal Williams was promoted last month,” Campbell County Sheriff Robbie Goins said. “She is a natural leader, and we were happy to offer her the chance to advance.”
Part of her career advancement includes unique training opportunities. Last month, she went to the annual recovery court conference. While there, Williams attended seminars that armed her with new information she can use daily such as learning the difference in a substance abuser and an addict.
“It was an eye opener,” she said. “I am grateful for any additional education I can take.”
As Williams spoke about her job, it was with a calm, well composed tenor, but she did admit, that wasn’t always the case. It took her roughly two years to find a good work and life balance, she said.
“It is a very mentally taxing environment,” Williams said. Being a newlywed, she wanted to find a way to stop bringing the job home to her new wife. In the end, Williams learned to establish good boundaries. “When I come home and take off the uniform, I am leaving work at work,” she said. (WLAF NEWS PUBLISHED – 01/04/2019-6AM)