In 1984 President Ronald Reagan declared that the first week of May would be set aside as National Corrections Officers Week.

KGVO reached out to Sergeant Jeremiah Peterson to talk about the Missoula County Detention Center, its staff and the important part it plays in our community.

“The Missoula County Detention Center employs around 105 people and it houses almost 400 inmates,” said Sgt. Peterson. “There's a contracted section that is DOC or Department of Corrections inmates and then of course we have inmates that are held on local charges, and then we actually have a juvenile wing as well that can hold up to 24 juveniles.”

Peterson said the jail staff has worked hard during the pandemic to not only fulfill its mission as corrections officers, but to keep everyone safe from COVID as well.

“They've sacrificed a lot,” he said. “They've done an amazing job. I am very proud to say that our facility of the three large facilities in Montana, the number of COVID-19 cases that we've had at last count was 38, which I think is amazing, because we can’t very often dictate who comes in the doors and so they've just done a really good job of following the protocols and the new procedures as far as keeping themselves and keeping those inmates safe,” he said.

Peterson said one of the challenges at the jail is to properly segregate the more dangerous and violent offender from those who are involved in minor offenses.

“Quite often those folks are very, very violent, and very volatile,” he said. “And so it's very important that our officers are safe on a daily basis. And they do have a lot of challenges, but the reality is, they are there with those inmates day in and day out, and they have to develop ways of getting rapport in order to safely do their jobs, and make sure that the inmates are getting their needs met, and getting that done in a safe manner as well.”

Peterson was asked about the influence of drugs like methamphetamine, fentanyl and heroin, and that many times people who have been arrested are under the influence of drugs when they arrive at the jail.

“We have an excellent medical staff that works 24 hours a day in the facility,” he said. “They've done an amazing job this past year above and beyond a lot of their normal duties and so we work closely to ensure that the needs of the inmates are met. Sometimes that is a real challenge because unfortunately the drug crimes here in Missoula, are through the roof, and we're seeing more and more and that really adds to the unpredictability of those folks when they come through the door.”

Peterson expressed great pride in the staff at the Missoula County Detention Center who pull 12 hour shifts 24/7 in sometimes difficult and dangerous conditions.

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