Transforming lobby helps ease visits for children
For over two decades, Correctional Officer Michael “Mike” Webb has helped CDCR fulfill its mission.
As the General Population (GP) Entrance Gate Officer for Pelican Bay State Prison, he is the first line of defense in the entry and exit of the secure perimeter.
Meticulous about record keeping, he ensures accountability of both staff and items entering the secure perimeter.
According to his co-workers, Webb is kind, compassionate, generous, and humble.
Recently, he played a large role in remodeling the GP Entrance Building, geared toward children who visit their loved ones.
Wall art, action figures, play area, a television playing cartoons, and garden wagon are only a few examples of his thoughtfulness that helps brighten the day of these children during their visit.
A conversation with Officer Michael Webb
How long have you worked for CDCR? In which institutions/locations?
I began my career with the Department on October 8, 2001. I have been blessed to work alongside the many staff who work at Pelican Bay State Prison.
What do you find most satisfying about your job?
Many staff at Pelican Bay are tasked daily at the beginning of their shift with a heaviness in their walk. As the gate keeper, I attempt to provide an encouraging greeting to those entering and exiting the secure perimeter.
The brief encounters allow for conversations that are equally beneficial and uplifting for both myself and others. I’m grateful to have been allowed the opportunity to be a part of something much greater than myself. To experience kindness, care and concern that transcends the badges of corrections that has become an extended family.
How does your position help fulfill CDCR’s mission?
My current position at Pelican Bay is “The Keeper of the Gate” at the General Population Entrance. I take pride and ownership of my position because it allows me to protect the Warden’s land. My interaction with both staff and visitors has allowed me the opportunity to encourage and to be encouraged through professionalism and kindness.
The phrase “iron sharpens iron” has become the foundation of continued growth and professionalism with both the department’s staff as well as the public. When we work together we are able to sharpen and improve upon one another.
Remodeling the lobby
When I assumed the post as the GP Entrance Officer, the lobby had a very sterile and unwelcoming appearance.
I had a vision for change that would be more welcoming, which is why I am appreciative of Warden Jim Robertson for sharing my vision and allowing the transformation of the lobby.
The carpentry shop was generous enough to build a mobile garden cart that allows staff and visitors to engage in the beauty of nature. Visitors are enjoying the opportunity to water and maintain the garden. Staff have been bringing in plants to share for others to enjoy.
We also created a kid’s corner with a big screen TV and a DVD player where we play classic Saturday morning cartoons. We have super hero pictures on the wall and coloring books. We allow the children to sign and post their art on the wall, where staff acknowledge their work with a “good job.”
These changes have provided a positive interaction with both the public and prison staff.
CDCR has always been a department of change, and by having an administration that supports new ideas is a successful story of the positive change that is possible. Who doesn’t love a success story?
What advice would you give to someone considering a career in CDCR?
When choosing a career in corrections, take time to recognize the opportunities you are presented. This department gives you the opportunity to improve your financial situation, as well as career advancement. Make sure that you apply the oath that you swore to uphold, especially to live an unsullied life.
Your actions, both at work and on personal time, will affect you, your community, and the Department.
Should you choose to embark on a career path with corrections, the experiences you have will allow for growth in yourself. You will learn to be part of a team to overcome adversity. Remember these words of wisdom, “In the end, we are all a memory, keep making it a good one.”
Describe a typical work day.
My day starts with an early morning wakeup and a look in the bathroom mirror for a moment of reflection to recognize the gift of life that has been given to me.
I arrive early to my post so that I can conduct a security check around my area. I pause at the mobile garden cart to admire the variety of plants and look on the countertop for a beautiful orchid that has been giving so many people a glimpse of genuine beauty.
With a “good morning,” I greet the waiting correctional staff with a smile and wish my partners a safe journey home, or to have a good overtime shift.
My job assignment requires me to prevent the introduction of contraband items into the prison. When I look into the incoming bags and lunch boxes, I often comment on the different types of lunches and snack items that are brought in. So much can be discovered, even from the preparation of the meals. I usually receive a smile of affirmation when I acknowledge a great meal plan, or a meal packaged with love.
Bringing positive attention to what someone is doing for one’s self, even through their choice of foods, can bring a purposeful start to someone’s day.
Another duty is to evaluate staff IDs. I am able to draw attention to a wonderful smile and remind people to guard it closely, because it starts from within. On Fridays through Sunday, we have visitors.
The garden cart has allowed an opportunity for a positive dialogue between officers and visitors. The children who are taking the opportunity to create pieces of art can be presented with words of encouragement. We never really know how encouraging words, such as “great job,” can positively impact others.
Do have any interesting hobbies?
I enjoy extended walks in nature because they bring me peace and an appreciation for life. Things in this world are never random and nature allows me the opportunity to appreciate just how blessed we all are.
When I joined the department, I wasn’t able to fully envision the opportunities that would become possible for my family. My wife and I had a dream of having a self-sustainable life that included a hobby farm. My appreciation for plants and nature started well in advance of my career choice. Through hard work and determination I have been able to transform a dream into a reality.
Submitted by Nancy Sandquist, Executive Assistant to Warden Robertson
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