Peoria County Jail Superintendent Ronda Guyton retires after 28 years

Updated: Aug. 30, 2022 at 9:00 PM CDT
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PEORIA (25 News Now) - Ronda Guyton’s journey at the Peoria County Sheriff’s Office started 28 years ago.

“I was actually very nervous and then there was an incident that kind of scared me because it was something that I wasn’t used to,” said Ronda Guyton, Jail Superintendent at the Peoria County Jail.

Guyton started in corrections and has moved up the ranks since, having several job titles since as Deputy, Field Training Officer, and more.

Former Peoria County Sheriff Brian Asbell named Guyton Jail Superintendent in 2017, a move that was historic.

Guyton is the first woman and first African American to hold this position in the sheriff’s office.

“It was another ceiling broken, another opportunity for another woman to step into this role. So it was important to me to make sure I did my very best so that I paved the way for the next woman who was going to go into this role, regarding if she was African American.”

Guyton’s primary duties at the jail are care, control, and custody of the jail.

She visits a few times a week to ask detainees and officers what they need. She tells 25 News requests are sometimes as simple as more food options.

“Everybody that comes to jail is not a bad person. Sometimes people are dealing with a mental illness or it can be a traffic offense, s if we can do a good meal why not?”

Throughout the years Guyton has worked to bring change to the jail and she said that starts with forming relationships with detainees.

“I don’t use the word inmate. I use detainee when I’m talking to a detainee and I say ‘How are you sir? How are you mam?’ If I mention them by first name all of those things make a difference. Coming in and changing the culture of what people believed the jail to be is important to me and I think we accomplished that.”

Culture change is an area Guyton has made a life practice based on personal experience.

We recently spent some time at Harrison Homes in Peoria, where Guyton grew up.

Her mother lives with mental illness and she says police were often at the door, including a domestic battery incident where police arrested a man and her family went to a shelter for the night.

“Every time something happened the police came and even if it was just a short period of time things were better. I wanted to be that for someone else...and give them peace.”

She added there’s nothing easy about poverty and growing up with a lack of education.

Guyton got pregnant in eighth grade and says her teacher told her she’d be nothing, but she proved them all wrong.

Her childhood is part of the reason she continues to give back.

She can tell people she’s been there and if she can do it so can they.

“This is what starts your foundation with everything that’s going on. The good, the bad and the ugly, I’m always going to be proud to say I’m from Harrison Homes.”

Over the years Guyton has made a name for herself in the community and the sheriff’s office.

Now after almost 30 years Guyton is retiring.

Sheriff Chris Watkins says when he started she was his Field Training Officer.

“She taught me the ropes of being a police officer. I was with her for a month and I just remember she was always making everything positive. She’s one of the most strongest people I’ve ever met,” said Sheriff Chris Watkins, Peoria County Jail.

Guyton recently turned 50 and said early retirement was never part of her plan. She thought she had at least eight more years of work

“Unfortunately being diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer that’s changed what I was going to do. My decision was whatever time is left I’m going to do servicing my community, what I’ve always done...my travel agency and just keep moving.”

This is her second fight with the disease and this time there’s no cure.

Guyton is scheduled for surgery at the end of September.