A look inside the Chemung County Jail
It is a phrase heard in the news all the time. "The suspect is being held in the
county jail." What is rarely heard is what takes place inside those facilities and who are the men and women who keep order among the inmates. Our Bill Mich got a tour of the Chemung County Jail and has more on life inside for the corrections officers.
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ELMIRA, N.Y. -- "At first I didn't know what to expect. You walk in the door and the door closes behind you and you're locked inside just like everybody else who is incarcerated here. Through the years, you learn how to deal with people, how to talk to people and how to help people."
This is Officer Anthony Vitucci's sixth year as a corrections officer at the Chemung County Jail. During that time, new inmates have come in on a daily basis, right off the street, leaving officers with the task of feeling out a delicate situation, as they may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or simply may not be too happy about being in jail.
"Everybody's human, everybody has feelings and you treat that person like you want to be treated and expect respect," Vitucci said.
The environment in the jail is tense. Inmates are broken into different classifications, some required to be alone 23 hours a day, others interact with each other for 14 hours a day. So the duties of a corrections officer can vary depending on their post. State regulations say one corrections officer can be responsible for up to 60 inmates at one time. That's potentially 60 different personalities to handle. Some may be subdued, others out to make your day as tough as possible.
"It's just something that you get used to and you find out quickly whether you were built for this job and if you were it just comes natural," said Vitucci.
The Chemung County Jail can hold 264 inmates at full capacity and currently the population sits at 208. A few officers have compared their job to being like a parent... a parent for a very large family.
"You have to teach these people, the people that are incarcerated on sometimes how to live and how to do right and how to do wrong," Vitucci said.
But verbally communicating and teaching inmates is just a part of life inside the jail.
This job requires officers to constantly be on their toes. Incidents with inmates can occur at any time and any place in the jail. Even here in the visitation room.
"There could be assaults that take place. There could be normal arguments, disputes. Hostage situations, you name it. With this job it is a day to day basis, minute by minute basis. You never know what to expect. We could go a week with running without any fights or anything like that or we could have a fight a day for a week. In corrections, you just never know," Vitucci said.
The work day requires any officer to be ready to go from zero to sixty at the drop of a hat. There is the constant potential for verbal and physical abuse toward officers from inmates. As many officers said, it takes the right kind of person to work in corrections not only in Chemung County but any jail. Officer Vitucci has been doing it for more than half a decade.
"Any regrets? Not at all. Not at all," he said.