Bailey named top correctional officer
When Rusty Bailey found out he had been chosen as the top corrections officer at the Steele County Detention Center, he became emotional and shed a few tears.
Bailey said that’s remarkable in of itself because he doesn’t cry much.
And why the tears this time around?
“Because I care about this job,” said Bailey.
Bailey has served as a corrections officer at the detention center for the past four years. He works the overnight shift from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., watching inmates and dealing with their needs.
Jail Administrator Anthony Buttera said Bailey was selected for the top honor because of his attention to detail and getting every task done the right way.
“He takes great care in producing a quality product and interacting with the inmates,” said Buttera, adding that Bailey takes his job seriously. “He is personable and has the desire to do his job well.”
While he may be fairly new to Steele County, Bailey had previous corrections experience at two other county facilities in Oklahoma. One of the centers housed up to 600 inmates, many of whom were violent offenders and contracted through the U.S. Marshals Service.
Bailey hasn’t minded coming to a smaller facility like Steele County, which has averaged about 50 prisoners per day over the past year. No matter what size the facility is, he said he is focused on providing a “safe and humane environment” for the inmates who end up in jail.
What Bailey likes about Steele County is how the center offers direct supervision within some of the pods. “It allows me to directly communicate with inmates,” he said. “When you go in there with them, there is less of a chance of something happening. It allows you to hear what’s going on.”
Over the years, Bailey has found it’s important to show inmates that “you are a person, too.” He said he strives to treat everyone the same and doesn’t favor anyone over another.
“It all goes back to respect. We’re all people,” said Bailey, adding he also wants inmates to realize he has a job to do.
It’s not uncommon for Bailey to have conversations with inmates to build rapport with them. “I want to let them know they can talk to me,” he said. He added some have opened up to let him know what they are dealing with in their lives.
For Bailey, being a corrections officer is more than just guarding inmates and keeping them locked up. He offers interpersonal skills as a way to connect with inmates personally.
“You’re a counselor, psychologist, teacher, coach and mentor,” he said. “You’ve got to be everything in one. I want to have a positive influence on them.”
He also offers lots of chit-chat as a way to build respect and trust with the inmates. Bailey said he loves sports, so he often finds himself talking about specific basketball or baseball teams and sharing statistics.
“We want them when they go back out into society to be better prepared for what they are walking into,” he said.
But Bailey also said he has to remember not to let his guard down and become complacent with the inmates for everyone’s safety.
Bailey initially considered going into law enforcement, but after what’s happened around the country in recent years, he said he is content with his decision to go into corrections.
Bailey grew up in Hill City, Minn. and received an associate’s degree at Grand Rapids. While in college, he worked at a nursing home, which he says helped develop his interpersonal skills with people of different needs.
As focused as Bailey is on his job, he said he is also well aware of what needs to happen away from work. While there is a high burn-out rate for corrections officers, he finds various hobbies to focus on. He enjoys snowmobiling, camping, traveling and garage sales. He and his wife also have two young children. They live near Dennison.
“Having hobbies outside of work helps you stay in this job longer,” Bailey said. “You don’t want to think of work outside of work.”
Just days after being given the corrections award, Bailey also was notified he had been selected as a training officer, where he will teach new corrections officers how to do the job.
Steele County has been recognizing top corrections officers since 2018. Bailey will be given the opportunity to attend the Minnesota Sheriff’s Association annual convention in September.