The Providence Journal profiles Ashbel T. Wall, the Yale-educated intellectual who found his passion in the despondent world of captivity. The Rhode Island state official is now the nation's second-longest serving director of corrections, with nine years on the job. And he might be the only one who lists his home address in the phone book. The Association of State Correctional Administrators recently honored Wall as director of the year.
“Rhode Island's a small place and if people want to find you they can,” says Wall, 55. “I am a public official and I'm not afraid. And I think that if I have an unlisted phone number and try to hide my address it sends a message that I've got something to fear. And as far as I'm concerned, I don't.” His public accessibility – a measure of how the job of Rhode Island corrections director has changed during his tenure – is a point of pride with Wall. Besides the overarching mission of protecting the public from criminals, Wall says his job includes demystifying a department that is now also striving to reduce crime by smoothing inmates' transitions back into society through education and treatment programs.