Lexington’s jail has been under new leadership for nearly a year. Much of that time has been spent rebuilding morale and staff. Rodney Ballard, with three decades of experience in law enforcement and corrections, took over as Community Corrections Director last spring. Ballard has put many inmates to work in the center’s kitchen. Once they do their time, he hopes many can find jobs as cooks.
“We’re hoping, when they complete these three courses, I’m going to buy them a chef coat, out of their commissary money, they’re going to be able to work and wear their chef coat. And when they leave, take the chef coat with them because we’re hoping when they apply for those jobs in the restaurants, they’ll be one leg up on people on the outside because they’ve been trained and they can skip that process,” said Ballard.
Inmates addicted to alcohol and drugs are still a challenge, but Ballard is trying to break the cycle of substance abuse.
In years past, the turnover rate in prison guards was relatively high. But, over the last few years, Ballard says there’s been a significant drop in resignations. Council member George Meyers adds some former employees have returned to the detention center.
“It’s a tough job obviously, and I think you’re right. Some people get in there and realize they’re not the right fit for it and also it might be that the economy, some people took a job because they needed a job and maybe some things have changed and now they’ve done something different. But, one of the things that we can look at is you’ve had five people that came back,” added Meyers.
Council member Diane Lawless says the center should now consider an anonymous survey of employee satisfaction. With a baseline set, Lawless says Lexington can do a better job of maintaining morale.