CIRCLEVILLE — It is not uncommon for those who are in jail to go through deep emotional and mental anguish. In order to give notice and recognition to correction officers, along with deputies, and what they do, Pickaway County Sheriff Robert Radcliff presented Certificates of Commendation to five of his staff the week of Jan. 21.
On Tuesday, Jan. 21, a total of four correction officers received Certificates of Commendation with one sheriff’s deputy receiving a Certificate of Merit from Sheriff Radcliff. The four correction officers who received commendations included Casey Williams, Nathan Welch, Charles Reed and Nate Wilson. Sheriff’s Deputy James Phillips received the Certificate of Merit, which was the highest honor of certificates.
On Jan. 14, Deputy Phillips was making his routine rounds in the county jail located on Island Road in Circleville. While making his rounds, Phillips was alerted to one of the inmates attempting to take his own life. The deputy called for immediate assistance before entering the cell himself in order to stop the inmate from his suicide attempt. The other correction officers arrived soon after Phillips’ call for help.
Deputy Phillips is no stranger to incidents like the one on Jan. 14. He has served the people of Pickaway County for approximately 28 years. He has been working at the Sheriff’s Office since 1992.
“He’s not a spring chicken to this,” Radcliff stated.
Sheriff Radcliff was unable to give specific details regarding the Jan. 14 incident because it involved someone being held at the jail. However, incidents such as these are becoming more common as some inmates are sometimes tempted with thoughts of suicide.
“This is something we’re dealing with more and more and more and more and more,” Radcliff told The Circleville Herald. “Our correction officers do an outstanding job… they don’t get a lot of credit.”
Typically when an inmate attempts or threatens the idea of suicide, they are relocated to a safe and secure area of the jail with correction officers and deputies doing routine checks to assure their safety. Radcliff stated with the rampant drug addiction in the area, the inmates the sheriff’s office is dealing with today are “different” along with the idea that “this is the way out of their problems.”
Radcliff emphasized to The Herald that each officer and deputy in his department takes each incident involving suicide seriously.
“If we hear anything that an inmate is talking about hurting themselves… we are immediately working with mental health to get them in here to talk with inmates,” Radcliff commented. “At any one time, we’ll have six to seven inmates on a suicide watch.”
Suicide watch protocol with the Pickaway County Sheriff’s Office involves a routine check every 15 minutes to make sure someone is checking on the “well-being” of a particular inmate. Most of the new officers have a lot of responsibility to uphold as a correction officer may be an entry level position for many.
“To me, it’s important to recognize them,” Radcliff said. “This is part of their routine duties… it’s still deserving of recognition.”
The Sheriff added that giving recognition to these types of public employees is important because it shows they are doing their jobs to the best of their ability. While Phillips is a proven and seasoned veteran, the others involved in the Jan. 14 incident are not as experienced.
Officer Wilson has been with the sheriff’s office since 2002. Officer Reed started his career in 2005 with the county sheriff. Both Williams and Welch are the newest members of the force starting in early January of this year.
“So you had two brand new people and then several seasoned officers… in those positions, they don’t, a lot of times, get the thank you or the pad on the back,” Radcliff commented. “The face of the sheriff’s office is all of the employees.”
Radcliff has worked in the jail division for 12 years being in charge of the division. He stated that he remembers all of his past experience in the jail sector and he advises those who expand to different areas in the office to “remember where you came from.”
“Those people have a tough, tough job,” Radcliff said. “It’s easy not to recognize people… they do an outstanding job.”
With attempted suicide becoming more and more prevalent, the Sheriff did not disclose how many attempts happened in the month of January this year. However, he did state that one attempt occurred this past weekend which goes along with Radcliff’s estimations. He was traveling out of DuPont when he was contacted about another inmate attempting suicide.
“It’s just like I said,” Radcliff stated. “When I talk to sheriffs across the state… everybody is facing the same thing.”
Mental health is a major driver to drug addiction, according to the sheriff. He added that when someone commits a crime, chances are they may be suffering from mental health issues. He also explained that with various types of illicit drugs being pushed in communities, some may make individuals prone to committing crimes or “act differently.”
“It’s changed since I was jail administrator,” Radcliff explained. “Again, we take every situation as a threat we are going to deal with.”
The Pickaway County Sheriff’s Office has been working closely with the court system in the county to combat mental health and drug addiction issues. Inmates at the jail are able to sign up for programs to help in those areas. Programs as well as basic health care costs are funded out of the office’s budget as Radcliff stated it is his department’s responsibility to make sure all inmates are healthy — mentally and physically.
“We can’t deny them medical services,” Radcliff stated. “But that’s something a lot of people do not realize.”