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Making Sure Everyone Goes Home Safe

January 28, 2016

By Andrew Garber

DOC Communications

Megan Abram sitting at her station in the control booth.

Megan Abram at her station in the control booth (Tim Kelly , DOC Communications)

MONROE – Megan Abram is a gate-keeper in the true sense of the word – no one gets through the massive steel doors leading into the Washington State Reformatory during the day without her scrutiny.

Abram checks every prisoner, correctional officer, maintenance worker, volunteer and visitor who passes by the main control room. It’s her job to ensure no one comes in – or goes out – without permission.

But that’s just the most visible part of her job. Abram, and the sergeant with whom she works, are the Reformatory’s central nervous system. “If anybody needs anything, this is where they call,” said Abram, 34, who has worked for DOC nine years.

Perhaps her most important role is knowing where everybody in the prison – more than 700 offenders, staff, contractors and visitors – is at a given moment, and making sure they’re safe.

She constantly surveys a bank of monitors that show views of the prison, as well as incoming and outgoing radio calls. Her phone rings constantly from staff throughout the prison as she helps coordinate the movement of officers, maintenance workers and offenders to different areas.

Abram memorizes the call signs of staff and is always listening for a call for help, or even the click of a radio.

“I can see if you make radio transmission,” she said. “If you hit your button and don’t say anything, I’ll make sure you’re okay and that there’s not something happening to you. If we can’t get ahold of you, I’ll say ‘hey does anyone have eyes on this person.’ If not, then we send out an emergency response team.”

Abram said she’s “very OCD” about her work, which in her case is a good thing because “you have to pay really close attention to what’s going on.”

In addition to scanning monitors, listening to radio traffic and answering phone calls, Abram also tallies up counts of offenders and staff each day.

“We account for everybody. All the numbers have to add up,” she said. “If we have discrepancies, they are easily fixed most of the time. We’ve had a couple of incidents where offenders were hiding and we had to find them, but that’s the exact purpose of doing the counts.”

When she’s not performing those duties, Abram also checks out equipment, such as non-lethal devices to security staff, and helps coordinate medical responses.

Abram, who works a 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. shift, said it’s the type of job that goes by in a flash. “I came in this morning and haven’t stopped since I got in. It’ll be 2 p.m. before I know it,” she said.

Her supervisor, Sgt. Heidi Davis, nominated Abram for the Reformatory’s employee of the year in 2015, an honor she won. “Megan takes her job to the ultimate level,” Davis said. “She goes above and beyond.”

For her part, Abram says she loves her job.

What does she enjoy most?

The end of the day when correctional officers file by at the end of their shift, heading home for the day. “I like making sure everybody gets home safe,” she said.