Mosley: It’s not always a ‘man’s world’ for warden

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 24, 2002

Features Editor

When women’s liberation opened the door to the men’s world, more women rushed in than crossties on a railroad or stars in the sky.

Today, there are very few professions in which women haven’t made their presence known.

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But, perhaps, no woman is more in a man’s world than Gwen Mosley, literally.

Mosley is the warden of Easterling Correctional Facility, an all-male medium security prison in Clio.

Before women became liberated, 99.44 percent of wardens of all-male facilities were probably male. Today, Mosely is still in the minority, but she believes a woman is fully capable of doing the job.

"I don’t see my job as ‘scary,’" she said. "Some people might, but I don’t. For me, it’s a challenge and an opportunity to try to make a difference in someone’s life. Working with the prison system has been very rewarding. I believe this is where I am supposed to be and it’s where I want to be."

Mosley grew up in both the North and South, in both the big city and the small town, in both a industrial environment and a farming community and her diverse background prepared her for what, might be, one of the most challenging jobs for either man or woman.

She was born in Pittsburg, where her father worked for U.S. Steel and spent much of her childhood between the Steel City and Troy.

"In Pittsburg, the schools were integrated, but in Troy, they were segregated," Mosley said. "I liked coming to Troy and being in a segregated school because everyone knew everybody and everybody was so closeknit."

The South was a good place for Mosley to be as a young girl.

She remembers seeing signs designating blacks or whites areas and she remembers "testing" them at times.

"But, I don’t ever remember being mistreated," she said.

When the time came for Mosley to choose an institution of higher learning, she naturally chose Troy State so she could be near family and friends.

She had always enjoyed being around people and lending a helping hand when she could, so social rehabilitation seemed the perfect choice when she had to declare a major.

Her major/minor combination, social rehab and criminal justice qualified her for a counselor’s position in the state prison system. She applied, got the job and has been "in prison" since that time.

Her climb up the career ladder is a classic one – from bottom to top.

And, never did she dream growing up, neither in the Steel City nor the cotton belt, that she would one day be on top in a man’s world.

Mosley moved up steadily and surely through the ranks of male and female – from correctional officer, to sergeant and lieutenant, to work release manager to deputy warden and, then, warden of Easterling in 1996.

She has served at Draper and Ventress, but her real fit is at Easterling.

Most women wouldn’t want Mosley’s job, but she can handle it. She knows it;

her staff knows it; and the inmates know it. For Gwen Mosley, being the warden of an all-male "prison" is a can-do job.

"It does have its days," she said, with a smile. "I’m aware of the environment in which I work. I am aware that we house convicted felons. And, although we are a minimum to medium level facility, we do house maximum security inmates, pending transfer. But, that’s the work I do – we do. We come and go to work just like everyone else. It’s just a very different workplace from most other people."

Mosley said her job consists primarily of administrative duties – overall management of the facility, personnel and budget matters and, of course, maintaining security.

What she enjoys most is the interaction with the inmates.

Although that might seem odd to some people Mosley said these men are human beings who have done unlawful and bad things.

"They are human beings and me must always remember that," she said. "But they are in here and we’ve got to keep them here. Sometimes they think we are mistreating them and some of them have been thinking that for a long time because they’ve been here for a long time.

"So, every now and then, we will have an incident – something small – and some inmates will take advantage of that opportunity to escalate it into something else. But, you can expect disturbances when you have a large number of people locked up."

The large number of people is the biggest headache and worry of Mosley’s job.

"Easterling is a 600-inmate facility," she said.

"We have about 1,200, and it’s been that way almost since in opened in 1989. That puts a real strain on the physical plant and it’s hard on the inmates being double bunked and doubled up."