TCAT’s new criminal justice program unveils functioning jail cell

The TCAT campus at Arney Street was not content with just offering a new criminal justice program, a unique program for such a technical college. They decided they wanted to be the best, and they built their own, fully-functioning jail cell in order to accomplish that goal.

Myles Cook, a criminal justice instructor at TCAT, said they discussed the possibility of the jail cell early on while conceptualizing the program as a whole.

“In a correctional setting, 95 percent of what you do takes place in or a few feet away from a jail cell,” Cook said.

As a result, he said the cell is crucial to being able to provide students with realistic experience with the material.

The Carter County Sheriff’s Department donated the door, the cots and the sink/toilet combo. TCAT removed the standard lock and made their own, so Cook has his own key to the cell, and students welded new hinges for the door. It also features a viewing window so more students can view what is going on inside the cell.

He said this kind of experience from a technical college is unique to the state of Tennessee as a whole.

“Law enforcement and corrections is a certifiable skill,” she said. “And if you’re trying something new, […] I believe, with eight months of our training, we can put the best corrections officers out of this program the state has seen.”

This level of confidence, he said, comes from his own personal background. Cook said he spent 10 years in law enforcement and has been teaching similar programs at East Tennessee State University for years.

With an expanded eight-month program instead of traditional police academies, he said they have more time to go deeper into the kind of training students will need.

“We go over things that are not taught at academies,” Cook said.

Among these topics include de-escalation, inspections, prisoner transfers and much more.

As for the certification itself, Cook said he is in talks with the Tennessee Corrections Institute as to the details on how to make that certification official for students in TCAT’s program.

“We are still working through the process,” he said.

Those interested in applying for TCAT’s criminal justice program or simply interested in obtaining more information can do so by contacting Cook at myles.cook@tcatelizabethton.edu or by calling 423-543-0070, extension 1028.

“It is a new paradigm,” he said of the program.

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