But residents came to town council meetings complaining about Benton’s availability. He wasn’t Jenkins.
There were council members wanting accountings of his time, to which Benton would explain there had to be more to policing than just being seen when a community’s law enforcement was a one-man department.
Coming to meetings to support the young marshal was then-Dubois County Sheriff Donny Lampert, and a veteran local police administrative assistant. And, at many meetings, there was Benton’s wife, Amber.
“I couldn’t be more proud of him, in all his jobs,” Amber says. “He gives his full heart. Even if that means coming in from the prison and leaving to go straight to town. He seriously has the biggest heart.”
Benton, center, speaks during a monthly town council meeting at Birdseye Town Hall on Nov. 7.
Benton soldiered on, and the criticism eventually lessened.
“It was bad,” he says of the early going. “There’s been several who have changed their opinion of me. It doesn’t matter what you do, some people you just can’t please. My saying, ‘They can’t eat me and they can’t take my birthday.’ I just smile and go on.”
A typical work day finds him rising at 3 a.m. and getting to Branchville in time to talk to departing night shift personnel. He works four, 10-hour days at the medium security Perry County facility where offenders generally have 10 years or less to go on their sentences.
Benton’s title at the prison is security threat group coordinator, a term used to refer to gangs in order to take away the recognition that the word gang connotes.
As a correctional police officer, he carries a gun and his work station has posters of gang tattoos, insignia and profiles.
There’s also an internal affairs component to his responsibilities.
Benton goes to work at the Branchville Correctional Facility on Oct. 10.
“If corrections officers, volunteers or staff are in the wrong, we investigate them too,” he says. “Any crime that can be tied to the prison system, we investigate.”
He has arrest powers and jurisdiction throughout the state. When not investigating crimes in the prison, he might be assisting with a parole skip.
Benton’s direct supervisor, Lead Investigator Jeff Hendershot, says he can flip any type of investigation to Benton.
“He’s like a machine,” he says.
“Benton takes his job very seriously,” says Warden Kathy Alvey. “He’s pretty squared away. He’s our [security threat group] coordinator, so he’s very knowledgeable with the different types of gangs. He’s very active on where they live, where they work and who they associate with.”
Alvey says Branchville’s offenders refer to the whole staff as petty.
Benton works in his office at the Branchville Correctional Facility on Oct. 10. His office is located at the facility but he has jurisdiction throughout the state.
“We are petty,” she says. “We stop the small stuff before it gets too large.”
As a result, Hendershot says Branchville likely has the lowest number of conduct reports submitted in the state prison system.
“We run this place the way it’s supposed to be run” Hendershot says. “We hold people accountable. If you sit a grown man down and talk to him like he’s a grown man, you’ll get good results.”
Benton says Branchville is like its own little city. It has a certified plumber, electrician, heating and air conditioning technician, and mechanic, and offenders are assigned to each of them.
Benton, Hendershot and other correctional police watch security cameras to monitor the facility, but much of what they see on the screens is ongoing vocational and educational programs for citizens who will be returning and reintegrating into society.
And when Benton’s day is done at Branchville?
“I’ll come home, kiss my wife, say hi to my kids (infant daughter Aliza and 6-year-old Adylyn), switch uniforms and usually come here for a couple of hours,” Benton says while in downtown Birdseye.