Ennice has been the deputy director of the Northwest Joint Regional Correctional Facility (NWJRCF) at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., for 12 years — but this is not the first time he has served at the base. Ennice is a retired Army first sergeant who was a Military Police correctional officer for 20 years on active duty. In addition to being stationed at NWJRCF, Ennice worked at a variety of different locations, including Fort Riley, Kan., and the U.S. Penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kan. After retiring, Ennice came back to NWJRCF in March 2001 as a civilian. “The thing I like best about my job is being around the military,” Ennice said. “It is my comfort zone. Even the military inmates have a certain level of discipline.”
“I joined the Army when I was a wide-eyed young kid. I really wanted to go to Vietnam, but by the time I joined, [the war] had ended,” said Ennice, who is from Cleveland. “I really wanted to help people and make a difference in crime. There was terrible crime in Cleveland in the 1970s.” Ennice thought about becoming a police officer. “I can take a bad guy off the street and arrest him, but that’s where it ends,” he said. “As a correctional officer, I can make more of an impact in reducing crime by dealing with inmates during a long period of time.” “Ennice is simply ‘the heart and soul’ of our organization. He is an engaged leader [who] cares about the civilians and soldiers [who] work with him,” Lt. Col. Robert A. Davel, facility commander at NWJRCF, said. “I’m indebted to him for the mentorship that he has provided me on a daily basis.”
NWJRCF, located between Tacoma and Olympia, Wash., is a medium custody facility that can house up to 150 military inmates who are serving up to 10-year sentences. It depends on the crime, but about 10 percent of the inmates go back to the military upon release, while 90 percent are discharged. “Vocational training is extremely important. These guys are war fighters. They don’t have a particular skill set that will help them in the civilian sector,” Ennice said. “Training can give them the confidence so that when they get out of the facility they have skills that can convert. I look at jobs that are currently thriving and that will still be thriving 10-15 years down the road.”
Ennice met with several colleges in the area and asked them to help put together a training curriculum. The horticulture and landscaping program he helped develop is extremely popular. Landscapers are in great demand in Washington, known as the Evergreen State. Inmates learn the skill set and are able to take care of the grounds. During a drought last summer in the Midwest, food banks were suffering. The facility donated more than 7,000 pounds of fresh produce grown by the inmates to local food banks.
“There’s no telling how many children benefitted from this, who normally would not get fresh vegetables,” Ennice said. “When they hear about how the food they grew in their garden went to feed kids, it’s amazing. That’s part of their rehabilitation as well.” The carpentry program is also growing, and participants make special memorial gift boxes for the families of fallen soldiers. Other programs include barbering, K-9 Companions, and the repairs and utilities program that works with the base’s Department of Public Works to keep up maintenance of the facility (built in 1957). “My biggest challenge is the age of the facility. Every day there is something different. We need to stay compliant with American Correctional Association standards and continue to run a safe facility,” said Ennice, who is a subject matter expert on policy, procedures, standards and day-to-day operations. Under Ennice’ guidance as ACA accreditation manager, the facility was accredited with an overall accreditation rate of 97.9 percent. Army Corrections Command received the ACA Golden Eagle Award—the first Armed Forces branch to receive this recognition. “Every facility under Army Command had been accredited. We were the last facility to go, and we stepped up to the plate to ensure we locked it down,” Ennice said. “When the [Army] received the award at the ACA conference, I felt so much pride.”