Tour de law enFORCEment


Conversations with the Cops—All of Manatee County’s law enforcement agencies speak with juniors about the challenges and rewards about their job. Foster noted that she learned lots of valuable information from the panel. “Captain Schafer at the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office is so crucial in helping us organize this event,” said Foster.

Denny Lu, Editor

To start off the new year, juniors, as part of the Junior Leadership Manatee program, visited the Manatee County Correctional facility for the innovative Law and Government Day. Students woke up bright and early at 7:00 AM to travel out to north Manatee County. They arrived at the facility with a great greeting from all branches of law enforcement. Every year, student participants of JLM utilize a partnership between the Manatee Sheriff”s Office to offer participants an immersive tour of their facility. During these challenging times of the COVID-19 pandemic, visitors to the facility had to follow all masking protocols to ensure the safety of officers, inmates, and JLM tourers.

Kelly Foster, the chair of JLM has always found value in showing the students the infrastructure and functions that go on behind the scene at the jail. As a proud alumnus of the adult Leadership Manatee program, she toured the facility with other JLM classes for Law and Government Day.

“Law and Government Day is part of JLM’s program where we have different tours, and for this tour we wanted to show students that there are careers in law enforcement from dealing with child to adult persons. An example of this great job opportunity is administering Teen Court,” Foster said.

Once securely inside the facility, the students had an in-depth discussion about the different departments and roles that come together to manage the jail and ensure that inmates are securely housed for public safety. Representatives from all the major law enforcement agencies of Manatee County were able to take time out of their day to answer questions about careers and the evolution of policing within the community. The jail had a spacious conference room for students to distance themselves as the law enforcement agencies spoke. Jordan Rydzinski, junior at Manatee High School, was pleased with the presentation that the officers provided.

“I learned a lot about how the jail system works. When the panelists were talking, I felt all my questions about law enforcement were answered,” said Rydzinski.

Roaming the Ranch—Juniors tour the farming complex of the Manatee Correctional Facility. Rydzinski observed many of the important cost-cutting measures that help save our county jail money. “It’s cool to see the prisoners can learn to grow their food,” said Rydzinski.

Many of the group’s junior selected groups of eight to pair and visit different stations across the correctional complex. Students were able to experience the ranch-style farming center, where inmates were able to learn vocational trade skills such as agriculture and aquaculture so they can go back into society looking for meaningful jobs. Captain Stanley Schafer and jail tour guides showed JLM how the prison combines cost efficiency and inmate vocational training. At the Manatee Correctional Facility, inmates grow lettuce, tend cows, make mattresses, sew clothing and do much more.

The JLM students agree. It takes much effort to manage a correctional facility, and sometimes, it’s a combination of responsibilities, including enforcement, culinary, and farming, that goes on. Every year, this tour captivates students with a different perspective about how law enforcement and our justice system works.