Staying calm in the face of aggression has earned Southside Regional Jail Sgt. Belinda Allen recognition from her leaders.
The facility named Allen its Officer of the Quarter to close out 2015, an honor Allen learned about from her immediate supervisor, Lt. Samantha Robinson.
“I was shocked,” Allen said. “She called me at home and told me, and I know she nominated me because I was in an incident.”
The incident in question occurred near the end of October, Allen said. She described the incident in which she had just escorted a prisoner from a visit with his attorney. The prisoner was under controlled movement procedures, meaning he was cuffed to a waist chain and shackled whenever he was out of his cell, and so when Allen returned him to his cell she had to remove the shackles and then the handcuffs and chain.
“He told me he was going to hit me,” Allen said. “So I was ready for him to do that, and when he swung, I blocked it.”
Allen then backed out of the cell, but while waiting for the door to close, the inmate spat on her.
“I walked away,” Allen said. “I called my Lieutenant to take a breather, and gave him an institutional charge.”
Allen said she was told she was nominated because of the calm way she handled the incident, not retaliating or even getting that angry about it.
Allen credits her Crisis Intervention Training for how she controlled herself during the encounter.
“(The training) had a lot to do with it,” Allen said. “I just did what I was trained to do. I pushed him back in the cell, got the door shut and walked away.”
Allen has come a long way since dropping out of school at the age of 17, saying she left because there seemed like a lot more for her outside of school than inside. However, attending the School After School program got her graduating in 2004. She was working at Walmart when she decided she needed a change of pace.
Corrections. to her, seemed to be a good option.
“I had seen it on TV and I wanted to see if it was really like,” Allen said.
Allen found herself hired during a job fair by the Sussex 2 Prison, and as she attended the training academy, she found herself getting excited about what she was going to be doing.
“It was interesting,” Allen said of the work in Sussex.
Allen worked a series of jobs at the prison as part of being a corrections officer, including what’s called a “gun turn,” carrying a rifle on the roof of the facility to monitor the yard.
One job she enjoyed was working visitation, where she found it fascinating to see how many people would try to smuggle contraband, mostly drugs, to inmates inside the facility.
“One guy came in with a cane and didn’t know our canine would be there that day,” Allen said. “The cane was stuffed with drugs.”
However, the drive to Sussex was long and required her to get up at 4:30 a.m. to get there on time, so she began to look closer to home for work and found it. On August 1, 2005, she started at Southside Regional Jail.
Three years later she was promoted to Corporal and in 2012 received her promotion to Sergeant, where she would like to remain.
“I like where I am now,” Allen said. “Nothing has changed with my promotions either, I still come in here with the same mindset I had when I was an officer. I just want to come in and do my job.”
For anyone who might be considering a career in corrections, Allen said she likes her work and is hoping spend the rest of her career at the facility.
She also has some advice.
“It’s not what you see on TV,” Allen said.
“Don’t come in here acting one way one day and the next day you’re different. Be the same way every day all through your career.”