I had arrived in Seattle and landed my first job. The job I had been formally educated to do. I was hired to be the Assistant Director of one of the largest Work Releases in Seattle, Washington. If I told you I was not nervous, I’d be lying, I learned my predecessor lasted one day!
The correction staffers were curious but not really thrilled to have a new assistant director. I was told while working shifts which staffers revealed that they blatantly didn’t care who I was, I wasn’t their boss, they had seniority over me because they had worked there longer. Interesting I thought, as not one of them stepped up to interview for the position I had just landed. So, my first week was spent working the different shifts, getting to know the staff and the men who were serving out the remainder of their prison sentences, the 70 male residents of the Bishop Lewis House.
It didn’t take me long to get the respect of those who said they wouldn’t treat me as their superior. I reviewed all employee files and called each staff member in, one by one, to my office. I asked them what their strengths and weaknesses were and asked them how I could assist them with their career goals and their ideas for advancement. Bluntly, I announced to them they would ‘advance right out of a job‘ if I did not see an increase in their performance level by meeting specific goals we would set together. I had no choice but to play hardball right out of the gate to get them to see me as a superior. This job was no joke! We had a community to serve and protect from some very dangerous men who were getting out of prison whether we assisted in this transition or not. Coddling staff was not in my job description.
That was my bottom line! The staff had no additional resources for employment advancement other than through me. I laid it all on the table and respect was gained through my adherence to structure and title, not seniority. They accepted me or resigned. I laid out the simple facts before them, and my job was firmly in hand. (Those ‘problem’ staff that I was told to get rid of when I was hired, were no longer problems.)
I LOVED my job. I don’t know how else to say it. I was genuinely concerned about the welfare of these residents; regaining social skills and entering the working force while maintaining the integrity of the facility and community safety that was required by law. I would ensure these men received the necessary classes and supervision for re-entry into society and the family units that these men would effect upon their release. This job was hard. This job was demanding. This job was necessary! I was serving my community and the individuals who would feel an impact these men had on them.
Everyone gets released from prison, eventually. Unless your name was Charles Manson, you will be a free man again one day. (By the way, Manson was incarcerated many times and released until his mass-murdering group of followers went over the edge of sanity.) This is just a fact. Everyone gets out of prison. Work-release is a way to ensure this is done as safely and securely as it can be.
In my fifth month of employment, my boss was moved to a superior department head position, and my title became Director of the Bishop Lewis State Work Release. Then came the first black tar heroin epidemic to hit the Pacific Northwest. The Bishop Lewis House experienced its first overdose death from this epidemic of a specific black tar heroin strain in a bathroom stall … I would also be involved in a short-term, profoundly secretive, ‘partnership’ with a regulated Government agency narcotics unit, to assist in the sweep to remove this particular deadly strain of black tar heroin from Seattle.