Despite having worked at several prisons around the state, the new warden at Limestone Correctional Facility is no stranger to the Tennessee Valley.
Christopher Gordy, a Warden III in the state Department of Corrections, assumed the lead role at the prison on March 1 as part of a realignment plan. Gordy replaced Dewayne Estes, who was transferred to St. Clair Correctional Facility.
“I’m very familiar with this area because I went to school at Alabama A&M,” Gordy said. “I’m blessed that my predecessors have set down a good, strong foundation and my goal is to continue to create and make this a safe environment for my staff to work.”
Gordy, 52, was transferred from Ventress Correctional Facility in Clayton, which is in southeast Alabama. The Eufaula native also previously worked at William E. Donaldson Correctional Facility in Bessemer.
He’s been involved in corrections for 24 years and said he still loves what he does. He also has family members who are employed by the state prison system, including his wife and oldest son. The couple has five other children and five grandchildren.
Gordy said he plans to be involved in the community and plans to meet with local officials in the coming months.
Gordy began his collegiate career at Alabama A&M in Huntsville in 1981, and initially majored in pre-medical.
“I got bored, so I changed my major to computer science and mathematics,” he said.
Despite graduating cum laude, Gordy said he had a difficult time finding work in Alabama, though he received several job offers from northern companies.
“Me being stubborn and freshly married, I moved back to Eufaula,” he said. “They had just opened up (Ventress) in Barbour County, so I got hired on as a cadet. I enjoyed what I did, so I made it a career. Because I had a four-year degree, I was able to move up in the ranks.”
Gordy was promoted to Warden I in 2007 while at William E. Donaldson, and was promoted to Warden II four years later. He received the rank of Warden III in December 2012 at Ventress.
Because of his own education, Gordy said he plans to make educational programs a top priority at Limestone Correctional Facility.
“If an inmate has 10 years (in prison) and he’s able to get his (graduation equivalency diploma) in 10 years, it not only benefits him, but it also benefits us,” he said. “He may be able to get out and find a good paying job instead of breaking into someone’s home. … The goal of these rehabilitative programs is to get these guys back into society and set them up for success, not failure.”
Gordy described himself as being “program oriented” and doesn’t see the need to cut any of the prison’s current programs. Of those now available to prisoners, he views the prison’s substance abuse program as being just as instrumental in rehabilitating a prisoner as education programs.
“We have a lot of inmates convicted of drug offenses, including trafficking and selling,” he said. “Plus, a lot of them were using, so that leads to the robberies, burglaries and homicides. The substance abuse programs are helpful, as is the relapse therapy program. If (a prisoner) does relapse, we have the mechanism to help him.”
An overcrowded prison
Though he’s still getting settled in at Limestone, Gordy said the prison is the largest facility he’s worked at. With a prison population of 2,091 as of Wednesday, it’s also the most populated prison in the state.
When asked if he felt the prison had enough employees to accommodate the tremendous population, Gordy said the prison could use more help.
“In terms of being adequately staffed, I would say no,” he said. “But, we have the largest population in the state so we have the largest staff as far as employees and security staff.”
A bill passed this week by the Senate Judiciary Committee would create a Class D felony for lower-level drug and property crimes in the hopes of easing prison overcrowding.
“Any type of prison reform for those guys who are committing first-time property offenses would help the prison system,” Gordy said. “We’re bursting at the seams (at Limestone).”