Throughout our lives, we are influenced by many people and some of those relationships are life changing. When those encounters occur at a low point in life, their words and actions have an even greater impact. Because of this, the head of a Detention Center can have a major influence on how a person moves forward… their self-esteem, the choices they make, the path they determine, the resources they can access, all can turn a mistake into a new opportunity.
Sometimes, we all get caught up in the rush through life; always in a hurry to accomplish the next thing, get to the next appointment, buy the next “must-have”, and in that process, we can miss some critical elements of life. Our vision can become distorted, affecting our judgement. When that distortion lands you in jail, it’s time for a reset. Where do you turn?
While incarceration is punitive, it is also rehabilitative, but only with the right people and proper resources. At the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office, we continually seek to bridge that gap between what has occurred and what is possible in the future.
When a person is at a Detention Center, among the many changes they face, they suddenly have plenty of free time to reflect and decide their direction in life. Oftentimes, they may want to make a change but are uncertain of how to do it or where to secure the resources.
This is when having the right person at the right time becomes a life-changing experience. It is a prime opportunity for the Captain of the detention facility to truly make a difference.
We are fortunate in Eagle County to have had such an inspirational leader in Greg Van Wyk, who famously said, “My main objective is to work my way out of a job”. And, while there will always be mistakes made, and people arriving at the Detention Center needing guidance, he can confidently retire knowing that he has been the inspiration for so many, who moved forward and never returned… creating a life for themselves and their loved ones that will match their hopes and dreams, and some were able to do so because of programs that were implemented by the Sheriff’s Office.
Many of those programs were developed with public, private, non-profit, and faith-based partnerships, covering everything from education, to food and housing, to medical and mental health services, and other essential needs. That ECSO/community interest also sparked some additional unique programs.
Since education improves job potential, and job potential improves finances, and financial stability tends to reduce crime, we provide additional resources to help. One includes a partnership with Colorado Mountain College for GED prep with a voucher for continuation upon leaving. There are also options for vocational study and financial literacy courses. We have numerous workbooks and journals to help inmates prepare for various certifications.
We will also soon be offering a program in hospitality (a major economic driver in this valley), which will enable participants to receive a “Serve Safe” certification, which provides vocational kitchen training, in conjunction with Colorado State University Extension Office.
For those battling addition, we have an upcoming program that will include a lifestyle fitness-based focus towards sobriety, with peer mentors as instructors, and on-demand videos for those still in detention or unable to participate in-person. It’s part of an entire lifestyle reboot. When possible, we offer jail worker programs that, in some cases, allow inmates an opportunity to keep their jobs and help to reduce their sentence.
After 8 years of innovative thinking, creative implementation, and unwavering dedication to helping those in his care, Greg is retiring and passing the baton on to Elizabeth (Betty) Sanchez, a 10-year veteran of ECSO but he has been working toward this for quite some time with a specific “Succession Plan” that would train and prepare future leadership, charting individual annual progress.
This Plan, created by Greg, is a training matrix. It includes skills training, crisis intervention, leadership strategies, and other necessary skills to exceed traditional competencies and excel to become the best in their field. There is also incorporated, unique training to build upon talents that may extend beyond their current responsibilities.
This training is offered to all, from year-one onward. No one is exempt, or treated with preference, in attaining the necessary skills to move up. This brings the entire department to a higher level of professionalism.
Betty Sanchez sought to improve her abilities, every chance she got. She was inspired to apply and pleasantly surprised when she was offered the position of leading the Detention Center to its next level. She is someone with an engaging smile and bright personality, who can also be tough, when necessary. She is intelligent, disciplined, and dedicated.
Betty has always wanted to be in law enforcement and discovered her ideal spot to be in the Detention Center because it allowed her to work closely with those who are seeking to turn their lives around. She understands this well, as she had family members who once needed firm guidance in becoming the people they were meant to be. It gave her a perspective that makes her uniquely qualified for this position.
Her Hispanic heritage provides insight to cultural differences, and a bilingual capability makes communication easier, while establishing trust and strengthens bonds, so necessary for progress. She smiles knowing that her children are proud of her work. Like every parent, she wants to be a positive example, and give inspiration that anything is possible.
Greg’s advice to Betty, “Blaze your own path”. We will greatly miss Greg Van Wyk and are honored to have Betty Sanchez as our next Detention Center leader.