Accepting a challenge from her family has lead Rena Childs to a 20-year career with the Jackson County Department of Corrections.
“People informed me I was too passive and corrections was not for me so that challenge made me come here and I’ve been great ever sense,” Childs said. “They said that I was too nice and that I was not going to make it in corrections. ‘Pick another field,’ but I was determined to do it and make it and I’ve made it so far. My brother and other family members were very concerned about me.”
Childs, an Inmate Services Coordinator, said that since the jail is a more male populated facility there are many challenges for women working there.
She said when she first started at the facility inmates would make inappropriate remarks and sexual advances, “You know you had to stand your ground and let them know that no you cannot do that. You have to be very forceful and authoritative, you have to be like that to make sure they don’t cross the boundaries. And once they cross that boundary you have to let them know that it won’t be tolerated.”
Corrections is a career she would recommend for other women, “It is a challenge and you get the training that helps you move successfully ahead in the job. If you are a person who can listen and can follow orders then you should have no problems at all. If you want to be in this type of environment you have to be open to all kinds of changes.”
Childs said the advice she would give to other women starting a career with corrections would be to stand their ground. She said that if she sees something out of order, if another woman is having problems with an inmate, “I will come to help and I will let them know how they need to present themselves in front of an inmate or anybody. You don’t just laugh in front of people and shrug it off because if you do that it is going to come back and they are going to constantly keep doing that over and over. So you need to stop that right now. Most of them do listen. You have to stand your ground don’t just take anything.”
The opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life is what Childs really enjoys about her current position as an Inmate Services Coordinator. She talks with inmates on a daily basis, “We ask them what is going on with them and what their needs are from the facility,” she said. “As long as we communicate with them we have an understanding, if no one communicates with them it creates frustration and can contribute to incidents, so we have to communicate.”
“It is a very important job and I feel like it is awesome,” she said. “I really do, I feel like it is awesome because you really get to help people. “
“If I see someone that is emotional or is crying and don’t know what is going on with them we will sit down and talk. They will let me know what is going on with them, I will research it and follow through with them, let them know what is going on and they say thank you,” she said. “Just hearing one person saying thank you is all I need. I would like to help everybody, but if I can help one person that’s all I need. I love what I do, I really do.”
“I think this is one of my callings to be here to be able to assist other people with knowledge that they are not able to receive from the outside to be able to help them move forward. Say if it’s an inmate and they get released, we have many opportunities for them to move forward if they take the initiative.”
Childs started her career with the department as a Corrections Officer and worked her way up to the Corrections Emergency Response Team and now to Inmate Services Coordinator. “It’s been an interesting journey,” she said.
Childs has two children that she has never really shared her experiences with. They were young when she started at the facility, now aged 26 and 27. “I really don’t take my work home to them. The only thing they knew was that I was a corrections officer and that I went from corrections to CERT to ISC, that’s all they really know.”
Before starting in corrections she worked in electronics for Allied Signal installing components on circuit boards. When the company began laying off staff she decided it was time to move on to a new job elsewhere. “I just wanted to go into a different field.”
Childs is now hoping to stay with the department until retirement and longer. “I just love helping people. Helping people whether it be a coworker or inmate, anybody.”