What is the image that comes to mind when you think of a prison warden?
For many, the first image is one formed from cinematic portrayals of prison officials. From the sadistic Captain in "Cool Hand Luke" to the outwardly pious, secretly cold and calculating Warden Norton in The Shawshank Redemption, these characters are almost universally presented as villains. They value power and control at the expense of those under their authority.
But what is it that motivates actual, real-life prison wardens?
In most cases, the men and women in charge of corrections facilities are legitimately concerned about making their prisons places of transformation, reducing recidivism, and eliminating in-prison violence.
They want to tell stories of the changed lives of those who have spent time behind bars. And they want to be seen as a key reason for the culture change taking place in America’s prisons.
In 2014, Prison Fellowship launched Warden Exchange, a seven-month program bringing together prison administrators across the country. These administrators share ideas and stories, developing best practices and thoughts for future reforms.
The program is rooted in the belief that the moral rehabilitation of prisoners is the key to breaking the cycle of crime.
In "Cool Hand Luke", the Captain tells prisoners who have just witnessed the beating of the titular character, "What we've got here is failure to communicate. Some men you just can't reach." Wardens who are a part of Warden Exchange would beg to differ. They believe that no prisoner is beyond transformation, and that moral rehabilitation begins with treating each prisoner as a human being first.
And by communicating with each other about how to change the prison culture, lives are being changed.
To learn more about Prison Fellowship’s Warden Exchange program, and how you can be a part of changing prisons across the country, click here.