By Ben Lawson
After careers ranging from selling propane to working for the school system, Captain Don Parton feels that law enforcement found him. Now operations captain at the Sevier County Jail minimum security facility, he’s in his element.
The Sheriff Department established the annex in its new location in 2008 and Parton, who had also been operations captain at the main jail, took over administrative duties. Since then, he’s seen the facility grow in unique ways under the care of Sheriff Ron Seals, who often operates under a limited budget.
“Sheriff Seals is very innovative,” he said.
One initiative was the installation of video screens and phones in the annex’s inmate dorms that allow for video visitations, thereby eliminating the need to constantly transfer people to and from the dorms. Inmates are also able to order their commissary on kiosks in the dorms, which are then ordered and delivered by an outside company, reducing the burden on the jail staff. With 238 inmates and 32 jail personnel, any measure can be very helpful.
“Unfortunately, there’s no shortage of people,” Parton said.
The annex is used to house non-violent offenders. All booking procedures take place in the main jail, but the annex is equipped with facilities such as a medical room for the intakes. Every part of the complex is under surveillance by 64 cameras.
Parton is particularly proud of the 20 different inmate programs offered each week, which include church services, Alcoholics Anonymous, GED classes, drug and self help programs.
He offers donated Bibles to any inmate who requests one and goes through 15 to 20 cases a year. The inmates keep the Bibles when they are released.
While he hopes the programs will help people clean up, he stressed that it ultimately comes down to the individual.
“People have to be ready to change,” he said.
With drugs and alcohol being the biggest reasons for incarceration at the annex, Parton said they see more repeat offenders than new faces, though the latter is on the rise.
“The sad thing is when you see the kids of people you’ve had in the jail,” he said. “That family cycle has to be broken.”
Parton understands family’s influence: he said his father-in-law’s career as a captain with the department likely influenced his decision to apply. That’s a decision he’s content with.
“These are good people to work for and with,” he said. “I can see myself retiring from here.”
Captain Right at Home
By Ben Lawson