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There are many things in life that I have done willingly and with no fear. From leaving a great job at Dell Computers to following my dream of becoming a journalist.

But never had I willingly walked into a place I know I shouldn't be in, unless I have good reason to. Last week, I boldly went where I had never gone before: to the Matagorda County jail. Sure, I have gone to get the arrests for our popular cops and courts page, but I never wandered behind the opposite side.

How did I manage this? I got accepted to the Matagorda County Law Enforcement Academy and as a member I get to ride with officers, volunteer where I am needed and learn some interesting law enforcement things, including volunteering at the jail.

And me being the curious reporter that I am, I took the opportunity without thought.

That morning, as the jail guards explained to us before we went in what was going to happen and what we needed to do, I began to feel fear. "Should I keep standing here listening to him give instructions," I thought, "Or should I make a run for it?" This was a volunteer job and surely there was no need for me to be here if I didn’t want to. But I gave them my word, and volunteer I would do.

Once inside the jail we were asked to be silent as we walked the hallways. It was cold and smelled like a high school locker room.

I walked through security, past two small metal doors, and was directed to the end of the hallway, where I faced a big, thick metal door with the words, “cell M.”

We were all wearing blue latex gloves and comfortable clothing.

I stared at the door in disbelief. Was I really going inside? I asked myself. If I was really here as a prisoner, would I feel this fear?

We were then asked to step inside the jail cell.

A wave of fear crawled up, and I started to feel a little faint. Nervousness, tingling and warmth took over my body, and I began to sweat a little.

I always joke that I hope I never get to go inside for real. Well this time, I was. Once inside, we were greeted with metal bars, that once walking in, there was no turning back. Everything was metallic. Metal bunk beds, table, a toilet with no privacy wall and a shower. The only comfort was the sight of a television. At least I can know what’s going on outside of these four walls.

We were instructed to look under the bed, and confiscate any items inmates were not allowed to have.

As I looked through inmate belongings, pulling covers and sheets, I couldn’t help but tear up. I was going through someone else’s belongings, seeing hand-written letters, books they have probably read a million times and Bibles they had under their pillows. A little part of this cell was their own.

And I began to wonder what I would do if I ever ended up inside this cell.

Would I sit in bed all day reading or would I watch endless hours of television? As a child, the thought of jail freaked me out. As an adult, being confined in a cell, scared me.

I was only inside that jail for a few hours, but it was enough to scare me to never joke when I get the arrests every week. This was an experience I will remember forever. The fear and sadness I felt while I was there matched the emotion that overcame me the first time I ever had to cover a drowning. These things stay with you and every time you listen to a song, or smell something familiar from that day, the feelings come right back.

I am so glad to be a part of the law enforcement academy; this program is allowing me to get a behind the scenes glimpse of what men and women in uniform do every day so our community can be safe.

My hope is to leave this program and have a better understanding of what law enforcement does every day.

This is something everyone in the community should learn to understand.