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Working for justice

Capt. Catrena Ross worked her way up the ranks, from detention officer to jail administrator at the Beaufort County Detention Center, from high-school graduate to an associate degree in criminal justice.

Now, she has an advanced detention officer professional certificate, the first detention officer in Beaufort County to have been awarded the honor.

The credential encompasses an array of requirements: training points, educational points and years working on the job. With 12 years on the job combined with the degree from Beaufort County Community College, Ross was in prime position to achieve the N.C. Department of Justice award.

“It’s a great honor, the highest certificate you can get for a detention officer,” said Sheriff Alan Jordan. “It’s a further indication of her dedication to become the best detention officer she can be.”

While working full time at the detention center, operated by the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office, Ross was taking classes at BCCC in 2008, attending night classes when courses weren’t offered online. In the process, a high GPA and recommendation by an instructor led to Ross being named an ambassador for the college by BCCC’s Board of Trustees. Because of the role she performs as a representative for the school via volunteer work and promotional appearances, Ross’s tuition, outside of books, is paid in full for two years. In the fall, she plans to transfer to a four-year college to continue her education, which she said plays a vital part in her job on daily basis.

“Working in (the detention center) is one thing,” Ross said, “but now I know the legal side of it. Now I understand why these people are here.”

Ross believes that sharing what she has learned through training has a positive impact on everyone in the detention center, especially as it has given her the legal reasoning that supports explanation of the practical workings of the facility.

“If I’m educated, it means my officers are educated and the inmates are educated,” she explained. “I can offer as much help as I can, not just to those (working) here, but to the people leaving here, going out in the community.”

Recently named to the committee exploring options for a new Beaufort County jail, Ross juggles her career as jail administrator with schooling and being a mother to four children. With one daughter graduated from college, another in college at North Carolina Central University and two foster children at home, she relies on the support of her mother, Virgel Ross, to help her achieve the goals she’s set.

“She works very hard to improve her craft. She takes it seriously,” said Jordan. “It shows in her work and her interaction with employees and detainees and other stakeholders in the jail.”

Officer Richard Crandell, who has worked for Ross for three years, agrees: “She’s really helped build the jail to where it should be, code and standards-wise. She’s a great officer.”