For Sonya Troutt, overseeing daily operations of the Sumner County Jail for more than two decades has been more than just a job, it has been a calling.
“I love helping people,” Troutt said. “We see people come in that side door at their worst, but we see them get better each and every day for the most part that they stay here. We just want to send them back out into the community to their families and their loved ones better than when they came in.”
After serving as jail administrator for 24 years, Troutt retired from the position Friday.
She began her career with the county as a deputy clerk for the court system in 1991. She later went on to become the assistant jail administrator in 1995 and was soon promoted to jail administrator two years later.
Since that time, the jail has expanded from an inmate capacity of 213 to 958 with the most recent addition. The number of employees has also grown from 43 in 2003 to more than 160 currently.
“She has just done a great job,” said Sumner County Sheriff Sonny Weatherford, who described Troutt as a caring and godly lady who “has just made a true change for the positive” at the Gallatin facility. “She has always wanted to make sure that we had some type of program that (inmates) could go through to better them for whenever they were released back out into the public.”
According to Troutt, addictions to legal and illegal substances remain the primary reason for incarcerations locally.
In 2007, the department launched the Homeward Bound program to provide prisoners with the opportunity to take part in counseling, education and other classes to help better prepare them to make a positive change in their lives once they are released. Approximately 650 inmates have graduated from the program so far.
“They are not bad people,” Troutt said. “They just have a bad problem.”
Troutt will be replaced by Jerry Scott, who was hired last month to be the next Sumner County Jail administrator, according to Weatherford. Scott most recently spent two years working with the jail program in Shelby County. Prior to that, he was with the State of Tennessee and the Greene County Sheriff’s Department.
As for Troutt, she said she hopes her time at the jail led to not only a positive impact on inmates’ lives but also to improvements in the work environment for employees.
“I had no idea there would be this kind of turnout,” Troutt said about her retirement reception Friday. “I’m so honored and humbled. It means the world to me and I’m blessed.”