AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Travis County Sheriff’s Office says they’re in desperate need of more corrections officers.
In August, they asked the county to allocate money for at least a dozen more, but now current Travis County corrections officers say they’re not looking for just anyone, they need women.
“I had never seen a female police officer, ever in my hometown. When I moved to Austin, I saw a female police officer and I saw how strong they were in their uniform and I said why not me,” Captain Nelda Pena, with the Travis County Sheriff’s Office Corrections Bureau, says.
Pena began with the department when she was 26, and now, 25 years later, she’s the head of the largest building of the corrections bureau with 1300 inmates. She supervises over 226 people.
“I have a lot of family members who weren’t part of the good side of law enforcement, “Pena says. “I wanted to help people, that’s basically how simple it is.”
Now she’s calling on other Central Texas women to help. She says the job is not as scary and intimidating as Hollywood depicts it to be.
“Why not you? Why not you? If you ever thought about being a public servant, the Travis County Sheriff’s Office is the office for you. We’re not there to judge, jury or sentence them, we’re there to help them through a very difficult time,” Pena said.
Female corrections officers do have to work with male and female inmates, but she says any security concerns are addressed at the academy and on an ongoing basis.
“Our women that work there are working with male inmates as well as female inmates, and believe it or not when you feel you cannot do it, we as females tap into a communication,” Nelda says. “No matter what, we have a wonderful training academy. We have wonderful people that can help you navigate through your process.”
If an applicant makes it to the academy, they will learn things like how to detect if an inmate is trying to deceive you as well as self-defense techniques.
“You may not think you’re able to handle that stress, but women tap into something deeper, we tap into something that we will go out of our comfort zone and once you’re in there, you know you’re making a difference,” Pena said.
After more than two decades, Pena says she’s never looked back.
“There’s not a single day I don’t go to work that I don’t thank god, for giving me the courage to join a law enforcement agency when I wondered could I do it?” Pena said.
Find out more about hiring opportunities at a panel discussion with female officers at ACC Highland, 6101 Airport Blvd., Room 2212 on Thursday from 6-8 p.m.
You can also email TCSO.Recruiting@traviscountytx.gov for more information.