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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Former Austin, PA Resident Is Warden Of Federal Prison

Article Photos

Muncy Mayor Anthony Rizzo, left, chats with David Ebbert, warden of the Allenwood Federal Correctional Complex after Ebbert’s presentation to the Lycoming-Sullivan Boroughs Association on Wednesday evening at the Valley Inn in DuBoistown. Ebbert said that his everyday dealings with inmates at the medium-security facility are nothing like what is portrayed in movies and on television.
R.A. WALKER/Sun-Gazette
Muncy Mayor Anthony Rizzo, left, chats with David Ebbert, warden of the Allenwood Federal Correctional Complex after Ebbert’s presentation to the Lycoming-Sullivan Boroughs Association on Wednesday evening at the Valley Inn in DuBoistown. Ebbert said that his everyday dealings with inmates at the medium-security facility are nothing like what is portrayed in movies and on television.

Former Austin Resident Warden Of Allenwood Prison
David Ebbert is a graduate of Austin Area school and Mansfield University and is currently serving as the Warden of the Allenwood Federal Penitentiary in Allenwood, PA.

David is the son of Ronald and Priscilla Ebbert and brother of Andrea (Ebbert) Yoder, who still reside in Austin, PA.

Warden gives glimpse of life inside a prison

By R.A. WALKER rwalker@sungazette.com

The warden of the medium-security facility in the Allenwood federal prison complex offered a reality check Wednesday night concerning life inside his facility.

It's nothing like the prisons portrayed in the media, Warden David Ebbert said.

Movies and television focus on what sells and that usually means "the worst of the worst," he said, "(and that's) nothing like what I deal with every day."

The 45-year-old Montoursville resident and Mansfield University graduate was the guest speaker at this month's meeting of the Lycoming-Sullivan Borough Association.

A 22-year veteran with the federal Bureau of Prisons, he encouraged anyone with a skill or degree and looking for a challenging job to consider a career in corrections.

Most of his staff have degrees, he said, and are dedicated professionals.

Corrections is a growing field. There are more inmates in this country's prisons than in any other country.

"It seems," suggested Ebbert, "the more civilized you are, the more prisons there are."

Allenwood houses about 900 of the federal government's male inmates in three facilities - low, medium and high security.

The medium facility contains inmates with sentences up to about 15 years and histories of little or no violence.

It's not a country club, but Ebbert said annual inmate interviews show at least 85 percent of the inmates feel safe in the facility.

They try to keep the inmates occupied - all are required to work at prison jobs.

Working inmates are paid 12 to 40 cents an hour and, if they still owe fines or restitution, up to 25 percent of what they earn can go toward those payments.

Ebbert and his staff do their best to "give (the inmates) the opportunity to prepare themselves" for life on the outside once released. Inmates are offered the chance to learn skills, which range from the building trades to raising trout and bass.

Ebbert has served at prisons both locally and in other parts of the country. His first work was at the old Lewisburg Penitentiary, where a conversation with an older inmate left a lasting impression.

"You see those trees," said the inmate, pointing to trees towering over Lewisburg's tall wall. "When I got here, you couldn't see them. When I got here, cars were round."

Even prison inmates who have release dates in their futures may have little to look forward to on the "outside" and are "going back into nothing in a lot of cases," Ebbert said. Many return to prison.

Ebbert said that, as professionals, he and his staff understand they are there to protect the public and do what they can to control and change inmates, using budgets and programs controlled by elected officials who answer to the taxpayers.

A career in corrections has challenges on a daily basis, and modern correction officers are far from the "knuckle-dragging prison guards" of popular fiction.

It's a career that requires good people who have people skills.

"If you can judge people, that helps," Ebbert said. "When I talk to (inmates), I treat them like men."

Multiple talents are needed to operate a modern prison that, in a way, is a town unto itself.

In addition to correction officers and administrators, plumbers are needed, as well as doctors, sociologists, teachers, secretaries and - right now - more dentists.

This story is re-published in Solomon's words, with permission, at the courtesy of R.L Walker and the Williamsport Sun Gazette.