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Xavier Magazine | October 19, 2017

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Wanza L. Jackson

Wanza L. Jackson
By France Griggs Sloat

Wanza L. Jackson Bachelor of Science in business administration, University of Cincinnati, 1985; Master of Science in criminal justice, 1992 | Warden, Warren Correctional Institution.

 

On the Inside | Jackson’s entry into corrections began in 1989 when she got a job in the personnel office at the Lebanon Correctional Institution, north of Cincinnati, where her husband was a corrections officer. She had no contact with inmates and never considered a career in corrections, but the seeds of her future were planted.

Life-Changing Event | The death of her husband in a boating accident in 1991 caused her to reevaluate her life and work. “I had not seriously thought of running a prison, but I knew I wanted to do something more challenging than personnel. I started setting goals, and I thought with my business degree I could become an administrator handling budget issues, or a deputy warden.”

The Big House | She earned her master’s degree in criminal justice, and in 1993, Anthony Brigano, a 1975 graduate and warden of the Warren (Ohio) Correctional Institution, appointed her deputy warden. She was responsible for eight major prison operations.

On Top | “It’s like a little city and you’re the city manager. You have to make sure it operates efficiently. Becoming deputy warden was the toughest transition I ever made. I felt I had to really prove myself, being a female and with only three years with the state.”

In Charge | Seven years later, she was appointed warden of the Dayton Correctional Institution—although she initially hesitated because by then she was remarried and had two children. She became warden at Warren in July 2002 when Brigano moved to Lebanon.

On Guard | Jackson is responsible for the welfare of 1,056 inmates and the safety of 420 employees. The inmates are all men and all felons.

Full House | Among the inmates: Donald Harvey, the nurse convicted of poisoning more than 30 patients at a Cincinnati hospital.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T | Jackson requires inmates to address her as Warden Jackson. On her weekly rounds, she meets face-to-face with inmates. Though unaccompanied, she remains in radio contact with guards in observation rooms.

Turn Around | She avoids reading the inmates’ files because knowing their heinous crimes might cloud her ability to treat each fairly. Her hope: They are rehabilitated while incarcerated.

Balancing Act | “That’s the balance we have to stay focused on—providing security and rehabilitation. When they leave, they will have had the chance to do something to change the way they think about things and maybe change their behavior.”

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