A.T. Wall, Longest Serving U.S. Prisons Chief, to Retire

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After 30 years in top posts in the Rhode Island prison system, Ashbel T. Wall — the longest serving corrections director in the U.S. — is retiring at the end of January, the Providence Journal reports. Looking back on how much has changed in three decades, Wall, 64, said the prison system is no longer under the thumb of organized crime. The inmate count is down by 30 percent, from a peak of 4,000 in 2008. The racial and ethnic makeup of the staff looks a lot more like the makeup of the changing population of Rhode Island than it once did. “We need to have people who understand the customs, who speak the language, who can be role models,″ Wall said. “It’s a security consideration as well.”

Wall is the first prominent state official to confirm plans to take advantage of the one-time payment of up to $40,000, that Gov. Gina Raimondo has offered long-time state workers as an inducement to retire, as a deficit-cutting move. “For nearly two decades as the director of corrections A.T. has been a model of professionalism and has earned the respect of his peers across the country,″ she said. “A.T. is [also] directly responsible for efforts that have saved lives in Rhode Island,″ she said. “Under his direction, we’re offering medication-assisted treatment for inmates … struggling with substance use disorder.” Wall began his career in corrections in 1976 as a line probation officer. After graduating from Yale University and Yale Law School, he served as a prosecutor in New York City before joining the Vera Institute of Justice.  A 2009 profile described Wall as “Yale-educated intellectual who found his passion in the despondent world of captivity.”

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