As a Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) veteran with more than 20 years of experience, Nicole E., warden at Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) Marianna in Florida, is dedicated to the continued improvement of operations for both staff and inmates at her facility. Her many accomplishments as warden of FCI Waseca in Minnesota from March 2010 to December 2012 show her skills in not only leadership and staffing, but in creating innovative programs and services. “Nicole is a dedicated corrections professional who gives careful attention to both parts of our public safety mission: custody and reentry,” Charles E. Samuels Jr., director of the BOP, said. “She is responsible for bringing a multitude of programs to the inmate population designed to assist offenders prepare for a successful return to the community. Nicole is viewed as a leader by her staff and the inmates under her care.”
Nicole began her career in corrections as a recreation specialist at the Idaho Department of Corrections before receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in criminal justice from Boise State University. Nicole joined the BOP in 1991 as a correctional officer at FCI Sheridan in Oregon, and was later promoted to case manager. She was one of the first women on the Special Operations Response Team. She has held many other positions since then, including unit manager at Federal Detention Center SeaTac, executive assistant at FCI Tucson, regional executive assistant at the North Central Regional Office in Kansas City, associate warden at Federal Correctional Complex Victorville and associate warden at United States Penitentiary Marion in Illinois.
At FCI Waseca, Nicole lead a full-time staff of 242 correctional workers in the management of the facility, housing nearly 1,100 female offenders. In her first few months at FCI Waseca, she recognized a need to improve the staff mentor program, which had become ineffective and idle. “As warden, I was concerned about the opportunities to educate the staff on career advancement in the agency and how to develop ways to build a cohesive unit of employees to improve efficiency to advance succession plans,” Nicole said. By assigning a class mentor to each new employee orientation class, she provided an out-let for new employees to express their needs and questions during their first year of employment, better helping them assimilate into the correctional culture. She also held discussion forums and offered monthly training sessions on conflict management, stress relief and resume writing. “Mentoring has given the staff at the institution the ability to seek ways to find empowerment when working with other staff and inmates,” Nicole said.
Nicole put an emphasis on recruiting qualified female employees at FCI Waseca in response to the staffing needs of the Prison Rape Elimination Act initiatives. In an effort to increase workplace diversity and accommodate the new mission of the institution, Nicole increased the female staff at FCI Waseca from 21 percent to 40 percent. In addition, the facility partnered with the National Institute of Corrections to provide advanced female offender training. “I have seen dramatic results in the way staff have improved their communication skills with the inmates,” Nicole said.
In addition to her work with staff, Nicole has also improved the learning environment and morale of the inmate population with an overall 82 percent enrollment increase in education and recreation classes. She accomplished this by adapting traditional education and recreation programs (and creating new ones) to better serve the female population, and to better prepare them for successful reentry. Nicole was also instrumental in increasing inmate participation in the Education Department’s Adult Continuing Education classes to a 62 percent rate of non-duplicated enrollment by establishing new programs, such as Microsoft Office classes, GED classes and other release preparation classes.
Nicole has achieved all of this, and much more, through hard work and dedication to the field of corrections. When asked about her plans for the future, Nicole said, “I still have many more years and contributions to make to the corrections arena and will devote the next several years to my continued growth, professionally and personally.”