By Ben Lawson
Although she had never thought of law enforcement as a career before joining the Sevier County Sheriff’s Department, Kim Rayfield has since become a vital part of the jail’s function by overseeing one of its most complicated tasks.
Growing up, Rayfield spent time working at the Apple Tree Inn, which her family owned. At that time, the idea of working at a jail had never crossed her mind. That changed the day she was offered a part time position in corrections by then sheriff Bruce Montgomery in 1997.
Originally they were helping each other out. He needed to replace an officer on maternity leave and Rayfield was temporarily laid off. But the job clicked and a year later she came on full time.
“I had never thought anything about law enforcement before,” she said.
Working in corrections saw Rayfield interacting with the inmate population, which then was less than 200, and maintaining the safety and security of the facility. Although she worked with both male and female inmates at the time, that is one of many changes over the years, with officers mostly working along gender lines now.
“I miss being back there at times,” Rayfield said. “Now I sit behind a desk all the time.”
In her current position, Rayfield is in charge of sentence management. Part accountant and part social worker, she calculates misdemeanor sentences and schedules release dates. For felonies, she coordinates with the state. This is where complications can arise, as the overlapping sentences from the county and Department of Corrections can cause confusion with the inmate and his or her family over when exactly they will be released.
Since the state handles its own sentencing guidelines for felonies, Rayfield often finds herself attempting to explain to upset family members why the release date isn’t what they thought.
“That’s what I deal with the most, families,” she said.
The confusing system requires Rayfield to keep track of all judgments with help from the court clerks, on top of dealing with inmate prison transfers, which can be ordered by the state at any time without warning. Rayfield attributes her skill in negotiating the system to good training by the chief jailer.
“I learned from the guru, Captain Kent Hatcher,” she said.
As the inmate population has grown, Rayfield has seen many repeat offenders come through the system. This is a trend she would like to see stop, as she feels anyone can make a mistake and should likewise have a chance to correct it.
“What I like to see, the biggest thing, is for them to get out of here and not come back,” she said.
Rayfield said she loves law enforcement and would recommend it to anyone, especially corrections work, which she feels should be a stepping stone for officers who want to get out on the road, as a way to really see how the system works. As for her, Rayfield doesn’t intend to go anywhere.
“Whatever they want me to do, I’ll do it,” she said.
Corrections All About the Numbers
By Ben Lawson