Marion prison’s first female warden says she’s enjoying the challenge
A prison warden is more like a mayor than a prison guard, Lisa Hollingsworth says.
Hollingsworth should know after serving a few months as the first female warden of the United States Penitentiary at Marion.
Appointed April 27, Hollingsworth is one of 27 female wardens in the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
“I think it’s challenging,” she said. “It’s not a job for everyone because there is the possibility of violence. But it’s exciting because we can change lives for the better and we are providing a service to the community.”
Hollingsworth, 44, has 23 years with the bureau, having started as a college intern majoring in criminal justice. Through her years of experience with the bureau, she has learned that a warden must learn to balance management of both the inmate population and the facility.
Among her duties, the warden must:
- provide oversight to the entire institution.
- manage the inmate population.
- maintain the facility from both a safety and security standpoint.
- provide for basic needs of inmates, including food.
- provide educational opportunities, job opportunities and recreational outlets.
Hollingsworth said that being a female is no problem because good management is not accomplished through force but through communication. Good communication is the first line of security, she said.
“That’s not to say that there’s not a potential for violence, but we have controls in place that lessen the chance of violence. We have good communication, good programs and clearly established boundaries,” she said.
“I think it is sometimes misunderstood that we are coddling the inmates. But they are going to return to the community eventually and we are preparing them to be better citizens.”
Early in her career, Hollingsworth worked in the Washington D.C. offices of the Federal Bureau of Prisons. After graduating from college in May of 1986, Hollingsworth went to work at the Federal Correctional Institution at Bastrop, Tex. There she worked with case management staff on another internship and was then hired as a full-time case manager in August of 1986.
As a case manager she established programs to meet the educational needs of the prisoners, found work assignments for them while they were in prison and located halfway houses for them upon release. She also helped place them in drug and anger management programs.
“I think we are putting more focus on reentry and giving the prisoners a chance to succeed,” Hollingsworth said. “I think we are helping them to find training that will help them find jobs (and) teaching them about financial issues and helping them develop resumes. We are giving them information that will help them adjust to the community.”
The total number of inmates in Marion’s medium security facility is 910. There is also a minimum security federal prison camp with 290 inmates. Hollingsworth oversees the management of both.
There are currently 58 women working at the Marion institution. Of the 58, 11 are correctional officers or guards. Total staff is 314, including 170 guards.
“I think it is discouraging at times because the correctional staff are not always recognized for the challenges they overcome and the good work that they do,” Hollingsworth said.
The prison was opened in 1963. The prison operated as a maximum security facility until September of 2006 when the prison closed for renovation and was reopened as a medium security prison in March of 2007.
Since changing to medium security, community volunteers now have more access to the prison. Hollingsworth invites anyone interested to contact the prison for more information.
Marion Daily Republican