The Other Side of the Cell: A day in the life of a jail deputy

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) - The Sedgwick County Jail houses more than 1,100 inmates.

However, the number of deputies tasked with watching over them has steadily declined over the past few years.

With less staff, some deputies are pulling down 12 hour shifts regularly.

Deputy Jeremiah Willis starts his work bright and early to work one of those longer shifts.

"I'm up at 4:30, out of the house at 4:45." 

The 25-year-old husband and father of two takes the short drive to work, in order to be on time for his 5:30 a.m. squad meeting.

Being short on deputies is becoming all too common at the jail.

"This job is not for everybody, but, those who do have a hope and a dream to be in law enforcement, it's a good place to start."

-Deputy Jeremiah Willis

The Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office says right now, they have 165 deputies. A full shift for the jail consists of 75 deputies.

They are struggling to fill that need since they are currently 66 deputies short.

For Deputy Willis, he's noticed the impact it is having on him and other deputies.

"Being on 12 hours, it's kind of changed for me, I wouldn't say that I'm not burned out," he said. "There are days I want to come home and just be done with the day, the amount of mental stress dealing with everything is a lot to manage."

He says with fewer deputies, it adds to the challenges that already come with the job.

"If something happens to one of our deputies, we have to have people to respond, if something happens to one of the inmates, we have to have people to respond to those incidents," he added. "When you don't have the staffing for the stuff like that, we don't have the manpower to manage those things."

While watching over anywhere from 50 to 60 inmates at one time is no easy task, Deputy Willis takes every day in stride.

"This job is not for everybody, but, those who do have a hope and a dream to be in law enforcement, it's a good place to start."

Because, when his shift is finally over, it is what Deputy Willis goes home to that makes it all worth it.

Some quality time with his wife and two young kids.

"It's rough, but I feel like he understands, my wife understands, my youngest will understand once he gets older."

Deputy Willis says after a 12-hour day, he's normally in bed by 7:30 p.m. to get back up and do it all over again the next day.

He says that only leaves him about an hour or two every night to spend with his family.

Regardless, he says the job he's chosen to do is very rewarding.

The Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office says right now they have 23 people going through the academy that will hopefully help fill some of the vacancies they currently have.

Right now, the starting pay for a detention deputy at the jail is $15.97 an hour.

RELATED LINK | Sedgwick County Sheriff employment opportunities

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