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Recruiting and Retaining Female Deputies

Recruiting and Retaining Female Deputies

Jackson County Sheriff's Office

Synopsis: A multipronged strategy addressed issues with low recruitment and retention of female deputies.


Problematic Behavior Or Activity

The Jackson County Jail in Medford, Oregon, houses approximately 50 female inmates at a time (out of a capacity for 230 male and female inmates). The number of women incarcerated in Jackson County Jail is growing every year, as is true throughout the country. The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office (JCSO) employs 37 male deputies and 7 female deputies. The female deputies must work mandatory overtime to staff the women’s units of the jail. For decades JCSO has had trouble recruiting and retaining female deputies. In part this was because female inmates were housed in the basement of the jail and staff did not like to work in that location. Female inmates are now on the first floor, but recruitment of women for the deputy position remains an issue.

Impact On The Community

Having an insufficient number of female deputies on staff to cover women held in the jail puts both the deputies and inmates at risk. Mandatory overtime may lead to increased stress and overall fatigue with the job. Staffing the women’s units with male deputies increases the risk of sexual and physical abuse among guards and inmates, and may increase the risk of allegations–some of them inappropriate–against male deputies.


Program Description

JCSO conceived of a multipronged strategy to address its problems with recruitment and retention of female deputies.


  • Colleges and Universities - JCSO is focusing its recruitment efforts on colleges and universities and improving its overall marketing about the deputy position. For instance, JCSO developed a video that provides a virtual tour of the jail. The video is shown at colleges and universities, along with a presentation highlighting the specific duties of a deputy. When at job fairs or other events at educational institutions, a female deputy brings nuisance contraband found in the jail to demonstrate some of her responsibilities in the jail. JCSO is also making its staff available to be shadowed by interested recruits, and provides a sign-up sheet at the job fair or event. Finally, JCSO is talking to the director of the criminal justice program at the university to coordinate internship programs.

  • Social Media - JCSO is posting its job openings on Facebook and Twitter.

  • Local TV stations - The sheriff’s office plans to secure spots on local news network, and aims to use the resulting interview and news story to educate viewers about the role female deputies play in the safety and security of the facility and to demonstrate the qualities a female deputy possesses, such as strength and empowerment.

  • Testing - JCSO now ensures that a female deputy is involved in the testing process for job candidates. Female recruits seem to feel more at ease doing the Oregon Physical Abilities Test when they meet women who have passed the exam. During the interview process, JCSO now asks female applicants some gender-specific questions, such as, “Will you feel uncomfortable supervising male inmates as well as female inmates, giving them directives and enforcing rules?”


  • JCSO instituted specialized training programs geared toward women, such as defensive tactics.

  • JCSO is making an effort to provide female deputies with greater opportunities and assign them to positions in the jail that historically they did not hold. For instance, female deputies are receiving training to be officers in charge and field training officers. They are now assigned as utility officers and will soon be assigned as defensive tactics instructors.


The funding needed to implement this program was minimal. The biggest cost involved was for making a recruiting video.


Program Impact

The program has not operated long enough to report any outcomes. But the program will assess its success by sending anonymous surveys to the students who participated in the recruitment presentation at the colleges. In addition, people will be asked to “like” the video and provide comments via social media. Ultimately, the most important measures of success will be whether recruitment and retention of female deputies improve. JCSO will track how many female applicants appear for the next testing and the extent to which female deputies are involved in key agency positions, such as field training officers and officers in charge.

Critical Success Factors

It was difficult to implement this program, but one factor that helped is that the command staff decided to apply the strategies to all recruitment efforts—for male and female applicants. Buy-in was not an issue because staff members recognize the need to improve efforts to recruit women.

Lessons Learned

Keep trying new ideas and push to make them happen. Agencies across the country have problems recruiting female deputies. This is the right time to initiate this type of program.