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Warden: 'It's more than babysitting inmates'

Jeff Krueger started as a correctional officer and advanced through the BOP system, moving to 13 duty stations in the past 29 years


By Lisa Trigg
The Tribune-Star, Terre Haute, Ind.

When Jeff Krueger was earning his bachelor's degree at Indiana State University in the late 1980s, he was not looking at a career in prison administration.

But his degree in business administration  -- focused on computers -- took him far in his career within the Federal Bureau of Prisons. It eventually brought him back to Vigo County, where he is now complex warden at the federal correctional complex on the city's south side.

A Terre Haute native, Krueger shared his experience Wednesday as a guest speaker to students in ISU's Criminology and Criminal Justice program. He started as a correctional officer and advanced through the BOP system, moving to 13 duty stations in the past 29 years.

The positions in which he served -- including at the BOP's central office in Washington, D.C. -- brought increasing responsibility, and the nation's capital was an eye-opener, he said.

"I'm just a poor, dumb country boy, raised in Terre Haute with a cornfield on three sides of me and a dirt road in front of me," Krueger told the students.

Most of the public may have its views on the prison system influenced by Hollywood portrayals such as "Shawshank Redemption" or "The Green Mile," he said, but there might be only a sliver of truth in those movies.

The mission of the federal prison system is to protect society; confine offenders in a controlled, safe, humane, cost-efficient, and appropriately secure environment; and to provide opportunities for offenders who will be released to become law-abiding citizens.

When released from prison, most offenders go back to their communities.

"If we don't provide re-entry opportunities, they are probably going back to the same crime-ridden environments they came from," Krueger pointed out."That's not what we want."

To accomplish its mission, the Bureau of Prisons has a variety of facilities and security levels for the more than 185,000 federal inmates -- both male and female.

Terre Haute's correctional complex is the only federal prison in Indiana. It includes a penitentiary, medium security prison and a minimum security camp. The complex houses more than 2,600 inmates currently. The majority -- about 1,378 -- are at the penitentiary, with about 905 at the prison and about 338 at the camp.

The average age of the offenders is around 40, and 95 percent are U.S. citizens. The majority of inmates in the penitentiary are there for weapons, explosives or arson-related crimes, with drug convictions being a close second.

The majority of offenders in the medium-security prison are there on drug crimes, and 58 percent of the inmates in the camp are there for drug crimes, with 23 percent incarcerated for fraud, bribery or extortion.

As for staff, the ratio is about 1 correctional officer for every 7 offenders, according to statistics shared by Krueger.

The prison has 825 authorized staff positions, but can hire only 717 staff members due to budget restrictions. Of those staff, 392 are correctional officers. The prison has 13 different departments that cover operations including food service, psychology, human resources, health services, religious services, education and recreation and financial management.

"It's more than babysitting inmates," Krueger said of the many career fields needed at the correctional complex.

A typical day at the prison begins with breakfast at 6 a.m., work at 7:30 a.m., lunch at 11 a.m. followed by work or afternoon education. Dinner is at 4:30. Inmates are counted five times each day.

All inmates at the Terre Haute complex have a job. Their pay starts at 11 cents and tops out at $1.10 per day. With that money, inmates can buy extra food and items through the commissary system. The most popular product sold is Ramen noodles, followed by soda pop and snack chips.

Contraband is a constant problem. Inmates often make weapons out of plastic, wood or metal, and Krueger showed photos that included a weapon made by an inmate who saved and melted plastic wrap from his food.

The pay scale for prison employees varies according to job, Krueger explained. A correctional officer will start at around $40,500 per year, while a registered nurse starts at about $56,000 per year.

Krueger said sharing his personal story of employment with the BOP is important to him because ISU was good to him, and he thinks many of today's students would do well in corrections.

Criminology student Destiny Brown of Bloomington was one of many students who approached Krueger after his presentation.

"I'm very, very interested, and I'd like to get the experience of working in a prison," Brown said.

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(c)2017 The Tribune-Star (Terre Haute, Ind.)
 

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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