Archive for Thursday, September 1, 2005

Warden’s a people person

September 1, 2005

David McKune doesn't seem like the kind of person you'd expect to be in charge of a state prison that houses about 2,444 inmates in minimum-, medium- and maximum-security facilities.

McKune doesn't fit the Hollywood stereotype of a warden; instead he's affable and he speaks with enthusiasm about his staff and optimism about the inmates.

McKune used a parable to explain why he left a position most in the field would consider to be more prestigious - deputy secretary of corrections for Kansas - to become warden at Lansing Correctional Facility: A nurse works her way through the ranks at a hospital until she's head nurse, and one day she asks herself, "Where are all the patients?"

"It's all about the people," McKune says of his job.

McKune describes himself as open-minded when it comes to correctional policies and philosophies.

"Whenever the central office (of the Department of Corrections) introduces an idea, I'll be the one who raises my hand: 'We'll try that.'"

McKune gets ideas from other prisons as well. As an auditor for the American Correctional Association, he has the opportunity to tour prisons throughout the country. At a Florida facility, he saw a prison store being run by inmates.

"Letting the inmates run the store!?" McKune described his reaction, a normal one for prison administrators to what seems a counterintuitive policy. After he'd researched the program and its methods for ensuring accountability so that all the goods would not be simply given away - the employees are responsible down to the last item for inventory, and anything missing comes out of their paychecks - he ran the idea by his staff, who received the notion with predictable coolness.

McKune convinced his staff, and six years later, the prison store has virtually no loss, McKune said. Plus, he was able to take the staff that had previously worked in the store and put them to better use in other positions, he said.

David McKune

David McKune

Name: David McKune

Occupation: Warden, Lansing Correctional Facility

Education: BA in sociology, McPherson College; MA in administration of justice, Wichita State University

Family: Wife, Susan; son, Austin; daughter, Carolyn

How long have you lived in Lansing and what brought you here? Since 1987; my job.

What do you like most about Lansing? I grew up in a small town where everybody knew everyone. Lansing is a little bigger, but you still know your neighbor. And you have access to the big city still.

What do you do for fun? Photography and bike riding.

What would surprise people about you? That I'm a warden. When they first meet me and I tell them, they say "You're too nice to be a warden."

What's the best advice you ever received? Before you act - before you talk - before you write - let it sit. Never say anything in anger.

What organizations or clubs do you belong to? Santa Fe Trails Bike club, Leavenworth Bike Club, advisory committee for the Grossman Center, advisory board for the Regional Prisons Museum

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