We have had a lot of great speakers visit our Rotary Club and give informative and fun presentations.  Part of the reason we have a great Rotary Club is because we are able to find such great speakers.

Photo: Mark Gulden, Broomall Rotary Club President, Warden Laura Williams, and Rick Flounders, Rotarian. By: Leslie Stack

The Broomall Rotary Club was honored to have as their guest recently, Warden Laura Williams from George W. Hill Correctional Facility. As you can imagine, Warden Williams is one of a handful of female Wardens across our state and country, but has grown through the ranks to become a Warden that both inmates and staff respect. She creates a professional environment that encourages the values of integrity, courage, ethics, honor, respect, service, duty, innovation, transparency, accountability, sustainability, equity, and correctional excellence.

Originally from Pittsburgh, Laura came to Delaware County just two years ago as the George W. Hill Correctional Facility went public after being the last correctional facility to do so. Now, as a public facility, she insists on transparency and honesty when reporting the conditions, events, and statistics within the facility, which was not the case when it was private. She also spoke about, contrary to TV and media portrayals, a challenge as warden is combating boredom in the facility. There are not enough staff and programs to keep the incarcerated persons engaged. They are each assigned a tablet to have access to the internet, but without programs and scheduled activities, boredom is a real issue. A priority is the training and counseling that the inmates receive during their incarceration that helps them succeed on the outside and prevents recidivism. One of the main goals is education, job training, and counseling while inside that will help them be successful on the outside.

Warden Williams told the group that 70% of the incarcerated persons are waiting for their trial or to be processed through the system. A majority of them are male and they currently have two minors awaiting their trials. All males, females, and minors are separated. She spoke about the collaboration between the facility and local colleges called Inside/Out Prison Exchange where students and inmates attend classes together. The program is in its 27th year of operation, starting at Temple University, and has expanded across the country. The course “Effective Speech” CAS100A is taught on-sight at the facility by Penn State Brandywine Professor Dr. Angela Putman. The George Hill Facility has graduated 18 Penn State students and 12 George W Hill students in the two completed classes thus far and is anticipating another class in the fall of 2024.

Some of the programs that Warden Williams has developed at the facility are Healthcare Services, both physical and behavioral; Re-entry and programs that concern mother and fatherhood, youthful offenders, EDSI, DCCC, and, of course, the Inside/Out Prison Exchange; Education and workforce which helps with GED preparation, GED testing, Flagger certification, and job readiness; Substance use and mental health support with PREP, anger management and sexual offender rehabilitation; Chaplaincy Servies supporting all denominations; Law Library Services providing physical law library spaces and notary services; and case management.

We at the Broomall Rotary Club thank Warden Laura Williams for taking the time to educate us on what goes on at the George W. Hill Correctional Facility, what programs are available to the incarcerated persons and what are the responsibilities of a warden at a county facility. She makes a difference in the lives of all 160 incarcerated persons each day.