The image of a jailer and his jail has changed over the years, as has the way prisoners are treated and, of course, what jailers are called. They aren't jailers anymore - they're corrections officers.
"People used to think of a guy who worked in a jail as being 9 feet tall, 300 pounds, muscle-bound and barely smart enough to write his own name," said Lt. David Boucher, a corrections officer at the Davis County Jail in Farmington."That's changed for the better. It had to change," said Boucher, pointing to a notebook three inches thick of recent court decisions mandating how prisoners can be kept.
In the old days, a person wanting to be a deputy sheriff first worked in the jail, as a sort of training or apprenticeship, then was "promoted" out of the jail and into a patrol car.
It could also work the other way. A patrol officer who presented disciplinary problems or who made mistakes was yanked off the street and given jail duty.
Either way, at any one time it was likely that a majority of the uniformed officers patrolling the halls and cells of the jail weren't there by choice. Sometimes they took their frustrations out on the prisoners, who were more than happy to retaliate, given the chance.
But law enforcement agencies have wised up through the years, partly through their own initiative as well as through lawsuits filed and won by disgruntled prisoners.
Other things have changed, too. Officers now celebrate their profession with Corrections Week, May 8-12 in Utah. Davis County corrections officers and their families will mark the occasion with a potluck dinner and some other events, Boucher said.
But jail tours and open houses are a thing of the past, he said. "We really can't do that any more. We'd have to put everyone back in their cells, tighten security, and add to the staff's workload.
"We can't put prisoners on display, that's not what the jail's for," said Boucher. Boucher has 33 corrections officers on staff, including women, to supervise an inmate population that averages between 130 and 150 in the 148-bed facility. The jail is overcrowded, peaking in February 1988 at 187 inmates.
The problem will be alleviated somewhat in 1990 when the county expects to move into a new 250-bed facility in west Farmington, a jail that could eventually expand to 400 beds.
"We've got 148 beds here, but the jail wasn't built to handle that," said Boucher. "The booking area and our support facilities like the kitchen and laundry go back to when the jail was built with 34 beds. It's a strain; the staff operates under stress."
It takes a certain type of indvidual to work as a corrections officer, Boucher said - a person who likes working with other people, someone endowed with patience, a level head and not easily conned.
"A corrections officer can't have a short temper. They have to be quick-thinking, articulate and have an understanding of the people they deal with," said Boucher.
"They're dealing with people who've lost their freedom, but who will never give up their dignity."