Tim Buchanan meets with every prisoner when they arrive at his correctional facility. "It is not my place to judge these men for the offense which lead to their incarceration," the 45-year-old Warden says. "but rather to instill the concept of accountability for their choices they make moving forward."
What does it take to be a prison warden?
The answer to that question is rapidly shifting.
“Corrections has changed,” explains Warden Chris Hendry, Martin Correctional Institution (Indiantown, Florida). “We’re not ‘prison bosses’ anymore. We’re not in the same environment we used to be.”
I sat recently with a state-level corrections leader who had made time in his busy schedule to have lunch. He was feeling the need for prayer. Though he is a man with an impressive career of leadership, he is new to his job and new to the entire field of corrections.
This winter I saw a prison leader do something that almost never happens. At a Midwest prison, where men are enrolled in a Prison Fellowship seminary-level training program, the warden allowed close to 400 prisoners to gather in the gymnasium to drink coffee, have cookies, sing, hear the Gospel, and interact with 30 volunteers.
When I first arrived, I could only see the prisoners through the lens of their crimes. However, as I watched the assistant warden and interacted with the inmates myself, I realized that they are just like me. We are all broken sinners in need of redeeming grace. None of us is a statistic to the One who leaves the 99 to seek out the one lost sheep.