Detention Officers Help Inmates With Rehabilitation

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Some see them as jailers, but the work of detention officers is really to help inmates begin to rehabilitate themselves.

Cpl. Swede Carlson, one of the officers in charge of the Payson jail of the Gila County Sheriff's Office, said detention officers try to help the inmates get through the process and better themselves while they are in the facility.

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Among the 11 men and women serving the community as detention officers at the Gila County jail in Payson are (standing, from left) Mark Dearden, Cpl. Swede Carlson, (sitting, from left) Linda Isban and Mike Lorka.

The detention staff at the Payson jail has a combined 32 years experience in law enforcement.

The officers with the most experience are Sgt. Tim Scott, who has eight years with the GCSO, and is assigned to the department, and Carlson, who has four years.

"The detention staff is a team that works in unison and is the best staff I've been associated with," Carlson said. "We have high morale and are totally dedicated to serve the sheriff."

That dedication extends to working in the community with the sheriff's youth program, providing fingerprinting services for Rim country youngsters, under 18, at different commercial sites around the town.

"Fingerprints are a tremendous asset to law enforcement agencies if a child happens to come up missing," Carlson said.

The next fingerprinting session is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday, June 21 at Bashas'. The program is part of the sheriff's ongoing youth project. To make donations to the project, call Maj. Bill Gaddis, (928) 425-4449.

The Payson jail was built in 1964, housing the entire county contingent for Northern Gila County, according to Carlson. It could very soon join the ranks of one of the oldest, continuously used jails in the country, he said.

Now it has bunks for 27, but it has often exceeded its capacity, Carlson said.

"Unfortunately this facility is outdated with the needs of the city and county. Our sheriff, John Armer, being the dedicated man he is, has a positive vision for the county and sees a multiplex agency and court facility being established in northern Gila County. He is waging an ongoing campaign to secure funds, lands and materials to get the project going," Carlson said.

Carlson came to the county's detention staff through the Gila County Search and Rescue team and the Forest Service.

He and his wife bought a home in Strawberry in 1990 for a weekend getaway from the city, and moved in full-time in 1995. Once they were settled, Carlson joined search and rescue and was with the team until 1999. At the same time he went to work for the Forest Service, fighting fires and working as a Forest Protection Officer.

When the opportunity arose to join the county's detention team in 1999, Carlson took advantage of it and has been there ever since.

"One year after I started, I was promoted to corporal and took over the supervisory position," he said.

The biggest challenge is not the inmates, but the limited resources.

"We need more officers. Budget restraints have been a problem, but the sheriff and Chief Bill Fogle are working very hard to correct that, and so is my boss, Commander Bill Gaddis," Carlson said.

The reward of the work is being able to serve the county and its residents, he said.

The detention staff, deputies, detectives and the rest of the GCSO staff have an excellent rapport, Carlson said.

"We are one team, one unit, one office," he said.

Discussing technical advances in his business, Carlson said the size of the Payson facility has limited its use.

"They have had computer upgrades," he said, "The county, through the efforts of the sheriff, has a Spillman program which is multi-departmental and has streamlined our recordkeeping. Plus, through the sheriff's efforts, we received a new phone system just in the last six weeks, including a new 911 system."

As for the future?

"Payson will continue to grow, and the need for the sheriff's vision (of a multiplex agency and court) will not be an option, but a necessity," Carlson said.

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