Brad Cain took over as superintendent of Warner Creek Correctional Facility in June, and while he’ll only be occupying the position for about six months, he believes a lot can be done in that time.
Cain was originally asked to take WCCF through to closure. Though he had recently retired, he accepted the challenge. Then Gov. Kate Brown reversed her decision to have the facility shuttered and the job description changed, but Cain was still up to the task. “I like taking on challenges like this,” he said.
Cain grew up in a law enforcement family. His mom was a juvenile counselor before moving into adult parole and probation, and his dad was a police officer for years.
Cain said he had planned to go to college to become a state police officer before his mom mentioned that working for the Department of Corrections could make a good career option. He took a DOC test in Pendleton, did well, and subsequently decided to take the DOC path. He attended Treasure Valley Community College and majored in law enforcement.
Cain started as an officer at Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution in Pendleton in 1990 and worked his way up in the ranks. He eventually became superintendent of Powder River Correctional Facility in Baker City and then took on the superintendent role at Snake River Correctional Institution in Ontario.
Having worked as the fire crew administrator — responsible for overseeing fire crews within the DOC — Cain was familiar with WCCF. He said it took a while to discuss with his family the possibility of working as superintendent at WCCF, but they have been very supportive. He is currently splitting his time between Lakeview and his residence in Fruitland, Idaho.
“This place has built a great foundation of safety and security,” he said of WCCF. His time at the facility will give him the opportunity to look at “normalization” — making the environment less prison-like.
He also plans to implement principles of “The Oregon Way” — a philosophical approach to corrections used by the DOC that is based on best practices in security and the belief that humanizing and normalizing the prison environment is beneficial for employees and adults in custody.
Employing such principles gives AICs opportunities to change and allows for teachable moments, Cain said. As many of the AICs do not have long to wait before they are released, “They need opportunities to practice pro-social communication,” Cain noted. He plans to increase the focus on job opportunities for the AICs, job skills, how they treat others and how they treat the staff.
Cain is also working to identify additional programs and job opportunities that can be incorporated at WCCF. There used to be a call center at the prison that gave AICs work opportunities. They would receive points for each job they worked which would then equate to money or credit that could be used at the canteen.
WCCF’s population is currently at 278; its max capacity is just over 400. Cain said the prison’s shower facilities are being upgraded and the smaller population allows units to be emptied and AICs moved elsewhere so work can be performed. “In the next few months, we’ll probably fill back up pretty quickly,” he said.
Cain is also focused on getting more corrections officers hired. WCCF is currently down 12 officers. While the shortage is manageable in the short term, he said, it is critical to get the positions filled so WCCF does not have to rely on mandatory overtime, which wears staff out. DOC recruitment staff from Salem will be visiting California prisons that are closing to look at bringing in staff from there, he said.
Cain will also be involved in recruiting the next WCCF superintendent before he leaves.
“We have a wonderful group here — great staff,” Cain said, adding, “I’m really excited to work with them as a team member. We can do a lot of good things in six months and I’m really excited about that.”