I met Mary Ann in prison in 1989. She worked as a classification officer at the Palmer Correctional Center and I was the Master appointed by the Alaska Superior Court overseeing the State of Alaska compliance with the terms of a consent decree. Classification is the matrix that determines the level of security for individual prisoners, from minimum to maximum. If you want to mess with a prisoner classification is a good place to start. Mary Ann taught me the ends and outs of the classification matrix.
Alaska’s prison system was under Court supervision due to a class action lawsuit filed on behalf of prisoners. In the 1970s Alaska’s prisons were more jail than prison, housing pre-trial detainees with sentenced prisoners. After 10 years of construction and program development, the State had appealed to the Judge to be released from Court supervision.
I was appointed as Master by Superior Court Judge Douglas Serdahley to visit 13 prisons from Nome to Ketchikan and report on the State’s compliance with the terms and conditions of the consent decree. I liked to say you can call me “Master”. I served in that capacity for three years, until the consent decree was lifted.
Mary Ann and I became friends, and remain friends to this day. Mary Ann and sister Melissa just came to Long Island and we had a wonderful visit, catching-up, bobbing in the pool and eating Alaska salmon and halibut caught my Melissa.
Mary Ann is the most traveled woman I know. She has traveled to so many places including Syria (before the war) and Chernobyl – not the usual tourist destinations people dream of. She and Melissa are going to Iran in December. Iran, really!
My other common bond with Mary Ann is we share being fired from jobs we loved, and fought our way back. Mary Ann was fired from her job at the Department of Corrections twice, but she retired from the DOC after 30-years’ service (with 2 involuntary interruptions). Mary Ann was wrongfully terminated in both instances, which is why the union got her reinstated. We are “Principled Bitches”. Mary Ann blew the whistle on the DOC, got fired, and got her job back because she had the stupid bosses dead-to-rights. Most people get fired and are so humiliated they just want to put it behind them. Not us. It is the boss that is wrong, not you. Being vindicated is a great feeling, walking back into the workplace you were summarily removed from is beyond words.
Mary Ann did that, and DOC learned not to mess with her, as much as they wanted too. I love the fact Mary Ann retired as the Chief Classification Officer overseeing the entire population in classification matters.
Mary Ann and I can laugh out loud when we talk about our careers, the ups and the downs – the stories we can tell. We are enjoying retirement with pensions and lots of great stories. But, most of all we share friendship then, now and forever.