WEDNESDAY, MAY 23, 2018
After more than a quarter of a century with the Jackson County Department of Corrections, Captain Nilda Serrano still loves her job and spending time at what she calls her second home.
“Our second home is in the building and the jail. It has become a second home because I spend a lot of time here and I care about the staff that I work with,” she said. “A lot of people ask me how long have you been there? Why have you been there so long? Because this is what I like to do and I feel that I am given my one little piece of sand to help somebody else.”
After serving in the Army for eight years Serrano started her career with Corrections in 1992 and told herself, “I’m not going to stay here more than five years, but I started liking everything that I was doing. I had great trainers and they pushed me to stay saying, ‘You can move forward here’. I stayed and I am still here with three years to go (until retirement).”
Over the years Serrano worked her way up from corrections officer to become the first female to be promoted to captain and shift administrator in 2016. She is also the first Hispanic to reach the rank of captain.
“We’ve never had any females. We’ve never had a Hispanic so I am very grateful they gave me the opportunity. It shows that it doesn’t matter who you are, if that is where you want to get, that’s where you are going to go,” she said.
Serrano attributes her success to always wanting to learn. When given the opportunity to train as an acting sergeant, she took it. She also asked to participate as a disciplinary officer. “I wanted to learn all the areas, so I was always open to learning and there wasn’t a floor that I didn’t get to work because I would put in a request. That’s going to give you the possibility and probability of being promoted to another position,” she said.
Serrano is originally from Puerto Rico and her skill at speaking Spanish has been a plus for the department. At one point she was the only Hispanic negotiator. She has translated inmate manuals, rules and regulations and inmate screening. She also does translating for the courts.
“I get all kinds of calls in the middle of the day and the middle of the night if they need somebody to translate for an inmate that is in intake. The staff feels that, hey I can call her she is going to answer her phone,” she said.
According to Diana Turner, Corrections Department Director, another of Serrano’s assets is that, “She is known for being a by the book supervisor with a commitment to policy and procedure.”
One thing that will never change is that everybody needs to be treated fairly, Serrano said, officers and inmates alike. “I don’t even look at what they are there for I just know that there is a job that needs to be done. They need to be taken care of.”
“We never know who is going to end up in jail. Your relative or kids, sisters, brothers, whoever. “We’ve had every type and any type you can think of. Professional people, lawyers, football players, all kind of different people come to jail for whatever the reason is.”
According to Serrano it is a correctional facility so it is there to help people. There are programs so inmates can earn their GED and training to help get jobs and prepare them to get back into the community. “A lot of us look at the inmates and say hey what are you doing, you are very smart. What are you doing here?” The facility also encourages treatment for alcohol and drug addiction. “We are continuously pushing them to do something better for themselves. Not for us, because it doesn’t benefit us, it benefits them.”