In good hands at WTRJ

Published 6:52 pm Friday, October 2, 2015

When she started working at the Western Tidewater Regional Jail at its opening in 1992, Tanya Blair was already blazing trails for women in a profession normally dominated by men.

Earlier this week, during a special promotion ceremony, she set a new precedent once again, becoming the first woman in the jail’s history to be promoted to the rank of captain.

Capt. Tanya Blair, a Forest Glen High School graduate, brings a level of compassion and sensitivity to her job that might be surprising to many. She told the Suffolk News-Herald’s Tracy Agnew this week that she enjoys the opportunity the job gives her to help both staff and inmates play their part in the jail.

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With staff members, she encourages them through times that can be physically demanding and emotionally exhausting. One visit to a jail is an eye-opening experience for most folks, and the people who work in the facilities deserve all the support they can get. The conditions in a jail can be harsh, even for those who get to go home at the end of the day.

Perhaps even more important is the responsibility Blair takes for helping inmates to acclimate to their new lives behind bars. Many of those who wind up at Western Tidewater Regional Jail are finding themselves in jail for the first time, she said. For them, especially, the experience can be overwhelming and even dangerous.

Without ignoring the fact that those who have been sentenced to spending time behind bars are there for the punishment and not to be coddled, Blair said she makes it her business to help them know the rules, the expectations and the culture of the place they’ll be spending the months to come.

“You have to tell them what you expect of them,” she said. “Treat people the way you want to be treated, you’ll have a better stay.”

Blair’s promotion puts her in charge of 27 staff members in the intake and release, property, classification, work release and workforce divisions of the jail. We have the distinct impression those divisions and their employees are in good hands.