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Press Release

TCAT student dreamed of being a correctional officer and working at Montgomery County Jail

By Janine Wine

Communications and Marketing Coordinator

TCAT Dickson

CLARKSVILLE, TN - Clarksville resident Zaria Heinrich dreamed of following in her grandfather’s footsteps and becoming a correctional officer. In January, she took the first step to making that dream a reality by enrolling in the Criminal Justice: Correctional Officer program at Tennessee College of Applied Technology – Dickson’s (TCAT Dickson’s) Clarksville campus.

“My grandfather was a C.O. (Correctional Officer). I wanted to be like him. He worked as a C.O. in California for about 20 years,” Heinrich explained.

One of the reasons Heinrich elected to further her education at TCAT Dickson’s Clarksville Campus was the length of the program. “I did not want to spend four years in college. I did not want to be in school that long,” Heinrich said.

The Criminal Justice: Correctional Officer program is one of the newest programs on the TCAT Dickson Clarksville campus. It takes two trimesters to complete which means students can graduate and be workforce ready within eight months. That is music to the ears of Assistant Chief Deputy of Detention Operations Joe Thomas who serves as the Jail Administrator for the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO), a local TCAT industry partner.

Thomas is always on the search for qualified candidates to fill correctional officer positions for the Montgomery County Jail. “The Detention Services Bureau (DSB) consists of 201.5 personnel, 163 deputies, and 38.5 support/administrative personnel. We currently have 125 deputy personnel assigned across four squads that execute the daily operation of inmate custody and care supervision. We currently have thirty-four vacancies,” Thomas stated. “A great candidate for MCSO DSB (Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office Detention Services Bureau) is an individual eager to learn the profession, honest, loyal, flexible, willing to take risks, and the ability to learn from their mistakes,” Thomas added.

Heinrich is eager to learn all she can to prepare herself for a career in corrections. “My favorite parts about the program so far have been learning how to interact with and treat inmates and learning defensive tactics,” she said. But she has also learned how to conduct body searches and cell searches, practiced scenarios allowing her to gain skill sets on talking inmates down and deescalating situations, use a taser and a handgun in various interactive computer-simulated scenarios, to read and understand case law and inmates’ rights, and has even polished her public speaking skills.

Instructor Joshua Miles invites guests to the class to portray inmates, so students learn how to deescalate situations. Miles has had firsthand experience working in the corrections system. He worked in Washington State in a reception prison that housed 1,200 – 1,400 inmates. Miles has been able to share his real-life experiences and knowledge with his students to better prepare them for correctional officer jobs. “It is good for us to practice so we know how to physically handle situations in the future should we need to do that,” Heinrich said.

Miles adds a good dose of public speaking to the expected course topics so his graduates can effectively talk to inmates, co-workers, and superiors. “I assign them three big projects where they work on individual public speaking skills. They choose from topics we have covered and provide an outline to me. One presentation is on case law. I encourage them to pick a case law they are interested in. If they are interested in it, they will learn more,” Miles explained.

While enrolled at TCAT Dickson’s Clarksville campus, Heinrich has also completed basic first aid training, and has attended the Tennessee Corrections Institute (TCI) basic course where she received her certification. After graduation, her TCI certification will allow her to begin working in a correctional institution immediately.

Thomas is familiar with the Criminal Justice: Correctional Officer curriculum taught at TCAT Dickson’s Clarksville campus. He acknowledged an individual agency may have specific qualifications that are required by the agency but said, “TCAT Correctional graduates walk into an agency fully state certified to go to work on day one.”

Heinrich sees herself continuing her work as a corrections officer in five years. “I plan to stay a C.O. I don’t plan on moving out of corrections now, but if the opportunity presents itself, I would consider being a road deputy,” she explained.

Thomas reported those starting in corrections officer positions become good candidates for promotion into other roles in the MCSO organization. “Forty-five percent of those starting out in law enforcement as correctional officers are promoted to other positions. One hundred and fourteen of the 255 enforcement personnel (on staff) started in the Detention Service Bureau. The agency has a total of 453 personnel.” Thomas said.

The application process for those wishing to work as corrections officers in the MCSO is two to three months. Thomas believes it is a worthwhile career and would recommend it. He cites career advancement, versatility of discipline, and promotion opportunity as reasons why individuals should consider a career in corrections and law enforcement. “In addition to the correctional officer, the MCSO has a Correctional Emergency Response Team (CERT), twelve-member high risk transport squad, two canine teams, a Security Threat Group coordinator and are considering adding a negotiator and or investigator to our ranks as these skills are routinely necessary within the jail setting,” Thomas said.

Heinrich is looking forward to touring the Montgomery County Jail later this summer as part of her class. She will also be job shadowing at Montgomery County Jail for one to two weeks before graduating from the program.

Heinrich will graduate in August after being enrolled in the program for only eight months. “I’m over halfway finished. It’s exciting. I am hoping to get a job with the Montgomery County Jail. That’s where I want to work,” Heinrich said.

Potential students interested in learning more about the Criminal Justice: Correctional Officer program offered at TCAT Dickson’s Clarksville campus can call 615-441-6220. Tours of the campus can be scheduled online at



TCAT Dickson is a Tennessee Board of Regents institution, is accredited by the Council on Occupational Education, and complies with non-discrimination laws: Title VI, Title IX, Section 504, and ADA. Located on Highway 46 in Dickson, the technical training college also has extension campuses in Clarksville, and Franklin. Additional information about the school is located at

TCAT Dickson Clarksville Campus student Zaria Heinrich practices skills to get her Basic First Aid certification. Heinrich enrolled in the Criminal Justice: Correctional Officer program at the Clarksville extension campus where she plans to graduate in August.


Zaria Heinrich, a Criminal Justice: Correctional Officer student at TCAT Dickson’s Clarksville campus, receives her Tennessee Corrections Institute certificate for completing the 45-hour basic course from her TCAT instructor Joshua Miles. The completion of this course will allow Heinrich to begin working immediately in a correctional facility upon employment.

Zaria Heinrich, a Criminal Justice: Correctional Officer student enrolled at the Clarksville campus of TCAT Dickson practices doing a cell search and looking for contraband in a simulated inmate cell inside her classroom.

Criminal Justice: Correctional Officer student, Zaria Heinrich, practices verbal de-escalation tactics and when to deploy a taser on a simulation in her classroom on TCAT Dickson’s Clarksville extension campus.