A New Kind of Prison Gang Initiative
When filmmakers finished using a Jessup Correctional Institution van a few years back, then Security Chief Allen Gang instructed an officer to thoroughly search it.
Sure enough, the officer found several pieces of metal wire used to hang window shading.
“That can be used as a weapon,” Gang said holding up the hanger. “That can be used by an inmate to hurt a correctional officer.”
Gang is back at the Jessup facility, this time as the new warden. The vehicle scan is an example of the meticulous detail that Gang, the longest serving security chief in the over 25-year-old institution history, employs in keeping the peace among 1,750 inmates, many in maximum security.
“This is a passion for me, more like a vocation,” the African native said. “This is our family, our community.”
Gang, 46, doesn’t do it alone, holding admiration and respect for the close to 500 prison staff, he said.
“Prisons are like small towns and the warden is the mayor,” Gang said. “We can’t do it without dedicated, committed staff. Every piece of the puzzle is important.”
The respect is mutual.
“He’s consistent, he goes by the book,” said Sergeant Leon Crump, who retired with 20 years of service and recently returned to work with Gang. “I can go to him and get a good response.”
Allowing inmates to see Gang walking around the compound and having access to him is equally important, he said. During his first week back at Jessup, he met with inmate leaders to hear their concerns.
“I take my rapport with the inmates seriously,” Gang said. “You have to let them know that they are important as a person.”
When Gang walks the compound, inmates approach. He digests their pitch, often making ruling on the spot, an umpire calling balls and strikes.
“They know I’m going to make tough decisions and I’m going to tell them things they don’t want to hear,” he said.
Staff integrity remains paramount, said Gang, a married father of two daughters.
“We can’t prepare them for going back into society if we’re bad examples,” he said.
Gang attended the University of Maryland Baltimore County before earning a master’s degree in social work at the University of Maryland Baltimore, becoming a licensed social worker. He joined the department in 1998, becoming Jessup security chief 10 years later.
Prior to his new post, he served as assistant warden at Patuxent Institution, where he often played on the facility soccer team. An avid runner, he finishes first annually in the department run at the Run and Tug Special Olympics charity event.
Gang views corrections as a meaningful career, recommending it to those who want to make a difference in society.
“Unfortunately, prisons are always going to be here,” he said. “It’s not about locking people up, it’s about rehabilitating them.”
Gang admires his fellow wardens, seeing them as a critical resource, he said.
“I know they have a tough job,” he said. “I want to be a resource to them too.”
Gang once visited a restaurant where a former Jessup inmate served as his waiter.
“I’m very proud of you,” Gang told the man. “Keep up the good work.’”