On June 28, Sgt. Brian Gaiser will retire from his 20-year career with the Harvey County Detention Center. In his 20 years of working at the jail, Gaiser has served under four Harvey County sheriffs.
"It's been a long haul," Gaiser said. "...You know it's time to get out when you've been dealing with people and all of a sudden, you start dealing with their kids."
Gaiser began working in the facility on June 28, 1998, just months after it was constructed. His interest in law enforcement was sparked by watching his father volunteer for the Harvey County Sheriff Reserve Unit. Gaiser stepped into that same role in 1995 and would go on to work part time for Sedgwick's police department.
"I did my fair share of writing tickets and bringing people to jail when I worked in Sedgwick," Gaiser said.
Gaiser decided to apply for a full-time position at the detention center, looking for a more predictable schedule and a climate-controlled environment.
"Working an injury accident or whatever, it's cold out there — and during the summertime, those guys have to wear a vest and it's just hotter than the dickens," Gaiser said.
After being hired, Gaiser began learning a multitude of duties including monitoring the board that controls access points, typing up bonds, answering phones, facilitating inmate programs, booking prisoners and dealing with visitors.
"Brian's been great for us," said Harvey County Sheriff Chad Gay.
"When I first started, we didn't have any training; you learned on the job," Gaiser said.
Gaiser wanted to become a supervisor and earned that position in 2005.
"As a supervisor, you have more stress because you've also got to worry about all the people who work at the jail; you've also got to worry about all the other agencies that come and bring people in," Gaiser said.
Working in corrections takes an abundance of patience, an aptitude for multitasking and the ability to think and react quickly.
"You can't be at 100 percent; you've got to be at 110, 120 percent," Gaiser said.
Detention deputies are called upon to handle a variety of situations that arise in the prison, from fights to belligerent individuals to notifying nursing staff of an inmate's medical issues.
"I've got a good crew; my crew knows what they're doing," Gaiser said. "I let them take care of whatever they need to take care of and I step in if there's an emergency or a problem."
The stress associated with a career in corrections can take a toll.
"I look at things differently now than when I first started," Gaiser said. "I don't trust hardly anybody."
Gaiser's methods for dealing with the stress of his job included spending time with his daughters, listening to music, exercising and fishing.
"When you first start, you're all excited, you want to learn, and then you deal with these people, deal with the same repeaters who come in all the time and it kind of wears you out. Mentally and physically, it wears you out," Gaiser said.
Over his career, Gaiser said there has been an increase of inmates dealing with drug addiction and mental health issues.
According to Gay, roughly 20 percent of the jail's inmates have diagnosed mental illnesses.
"With the state cutting the funding for mental health, this is where they come," Gay said.
There has also been an increase in programs, giving inmates the opportunity to attend 12-step programs, earn their high school diploma and take classes on parenting and anger management.
"That is a good thing, because that gives these guys something to work on," Gaiser said.
The Harvey County Detention Center can hold up to 136 prisoners, with an average occupancy over the past year of 95 inmates. The jail is currently — and unusually — fully staffed with 21 employees who work 12-hour shifts.
You must be at least 18 years old to work in the jail. Applicants must have a valid driver's license and undergo a background check, personality evaluation, interview, polygraph and physical test.
Gay said though minor offenses do not keep people from being hired, approximately 90 percent of applicants do not pass the polygraph.
"Sometimes, it may have been something stupid they did when they were 16 and now they're 21 and we can live with it. If you lie about it, you're gone," Gay said. "If we think you're being deceptive on the polygraph, then you don't have a chance."
Felony convictions and recent drug use are other red flags on an application.
The sheriff's office looks for people who are both patient and strong-willed to become detention deputies.
"You've certainly got to have that desire to serve your fellow human," Gay said.
Gay said new detention deputies are now paired up with an experienced deputy to show them the ropes.
Since the jail houses federal prisoners, detention deputies also train with patrol deputies to learn skills such as self-defense and Taser techniques.
"That's a good thing," Gaiser said. "That strengthens our department, and I like that."
In the future, Gaiser said he hopes to see an increase in wages for law enforcement officers.
"I don't care if it's corrections or if you're working as a city officer or the highway patrol or sheriff – it takes a special person to do that," Gaiser said. "I think the morale would be a little bit higher with everybody if their pay would go up."
After retiring from Harvey County Detention Center, Gaiser plans to work in security. His family's involvement in law enforcement will be carried on through his daughter, who currently works in corrections and is seeking to join the Kansas Highway Patrol.
When Gaiser meets a former inmate on the street, it is not unusual for them to shake his hand.
"You've got to give them respect to get respect back," Gaiser said.