His name is Billy. No last name. Just Billy. Not his real name. He’s 21. Maybe 22. For nine months his address was 5001 Maloneyville Rd., Knoxville, Tennessee. Billy lived in Pod 1B (or 1Baker as they say there) at the Knox County Detention Center.
Billy has an intellectual disability. He’s a lanky 6-1. Inside of Billy’s mind lives a little boy between 6 and 9 years old. He can’t read. Can’t write. Playing cops and robbers in the day room was his favorite game. Cinnamon rolls and candy were his favorite things from the commissary.
He had a favorite buddy, too. You can’t write about Billy without writing about Stephen Dale Moyers, 34, a corrections officer for the Knox County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) for four years, the last three in Pod 1B.
Moyers is a Halls guy, born and reared there. Still lives there. Graduated from Halls High School in 2005. Loves go-cart racing and used to live and breathe NASCAR. After driving a delivery truck locally for 10 years, he decided to try and join KCSO. “When I was a kid, I always knew I was going to be a first responder. Took me longer than I thought it would. But I’m doing this because I have always loved helping people. It’s as simple as that.”
Back to Billy. He was jailed on multiple charges in January 2020 – joyriding, criminal trespassing, possession of a weapon, evading arrest and three counts of felony vandalism. He vandalized three school buses, off school property but near where the buses were parked. A bus driver found him in the morning sleeping on the back seat of a bus.
“He was trying to get a bus started because he thought he could drive it to Florida to visit his grandparents,” Moyers says.
This Billy and Moyers relationship needs explaining. When Billy was jailed, he spent four to five weeks in the medical ward. Moyers watched him at morning roll calls and talked with Sgt. Ryan Kidd about moving him to 1B. “In my heart I felt empathy for him. I knew in my mind that he had committed crimes. I understand that, but something in me kept screaming that he’s really a kid and not an adult. And with my background I thought I could help him.”
Help Billy he did. Others noticed. On March 18, 2021, Moyers was honored as the 2020 Corrections Officer of the Year. He was nominated by Sgt. Kidd, one of his primary mentors. “Officer Moyers sets the standard of the way we handle mentally impaired inmates,” Kidd wrote. “He chose to do these things because he understands that not everyone who comes into the jail is a bad person, and sometimes they need a helping hand.”
Detention Center Chief Jimmy Stephens added: “…Officer Moyers volunteered his own time in 2020 to assist one of our inmates suffering from a serious mental illness in communicating with attorneys, social workers and program employees in order to help the inmate get assistance and have care in place for when he was released. As an agency we are very appreciative of Officer Moyer’s work ethic and professionalism.”
Moyers had previously taken and was certified in Crisis Intervention Training. He took a Mental Health First Aid course along with other mental illness courses. At first Billy would not speak to Moyers in 1B. That changed after three days. Their conversations never ended until Billy was released in September 2020 – 7 ½ months later.
How did Moyers help Billy?
“We talked a lot. We’d play games like cops and robbers. He enjoyed being a copycat. I would focus on keeping him busy. I taught him how to clean his cell. He didn’t want to shower and we solved that. Same for getting his clothes to the laundry. I felt like I was talking to my kids at home. I helped him memorize his grandparent’s address in Florida and color pictures and we mailed them. I’d help him make phone calls to them and others. I was working to make him enjoy life more.”
It was not lost on Moyers that other inmates could possibly take advantage of Billy. “I was 100% aware of the danger of potential abuse by inmates, abusing him physically or sexually. Yes, I was very aware of this,” Moyers says.
Moyers calls his feelings for Billy “more like affection than love. I saw a need and someone I could help and that drove me to want to help Billy. That was triggered by my CIT training.” Part of this is also his Christian upbringing in the A Avenue Church of Christ in Vestal. Today he and his family attend the South Knoxville Worship Center.
When Billy was released, Moyers escorted him to the release office and then to the center’s lobby to reunite with his parents. Today, Billy’s in a residential center in Chattanooga, safe, off the streets and enjoying life with daily professional assistance.
Not long ago, Moyers was promoted to a supervisory position in the KCSO Inmate Industries. He supervises work crews and spends time utilizing another of his skills – repairing most any type of machinery. “I love it and always have and I’m repairing our lawn mowers now and other things we use. But my goal is to get back to 1B and the inmates. That’s what I love.”
Tom King writes Our Town Heroes each Monday. Suggest future stories at email@example.com or call 865-659-3562.