Keith Smith is back where he was earlier in his career, and this suits him just fine.
He became the new warden a week ago at the Toledo Correctional Institution, Ohio's newest prison, which marks its 10th anniversary this year.
As the major in charge of security at the North Toledo lockup a decade ago, Mr. Smith was heavily involved in its opening and the implementation of practices and protocols that remain in effect to this day. He then was promoted to deputy warden for operations.
The homecoming has been sweet. "It's just nice to be home," he said.
Mr. Smith, 44, returns to ToCI, as the Toledo prison is known in corrections shorthand, from the Mansfield Correctional Institution, where he was warden.
The move was lateral, and one he sought. When he took the Mansfield job in 2008, his family remained in the Toledo area and he made the two-hour commute each way every day.
When the Toledo position opened, he happily applied for it. He succeeds Robert Welch, who spent two years as the Toledo prison's warden before becoming administrator of the Correctional Medical Center in Columbus.
"The wonderful thing about having him back is that he was so involved in the activation of the institution when it opened," said Meredith Rinna, who is the warden's assistant and has worked at the prison since it opened.
As warden, Mr. Smith oversees about 1,140 inmates and 360 staff members, 246 of whom are corrections officers.
The prison is one of 12 in the state housing close-custody inmates, a designation between medium and maximum security. It also houses minimum-security prisoners. It is significant to Toledo as an employer and for its institutional presence but isn't in the news much.
Mr. Smith said he wants to preserve this low profile, and noted that the warden meets regularly with Toledo officials.
Mr. Smith grew up in Allen County and started his corrections career as an officer at the Allen Correctional Institution, where he spent 12 years, including three as the regional commander of the special response team that is called in to quell large prison disturbances. He holds a bachelor's degree from Bellevue University in Nebraska and an associate's degree from the University of Northwestern Ohio in Lima.
He said his professional philosophy is simple: "Protecting society is our primary goal."
Of the inmates, he said: "Our goal is to get them not to reoffend. But rehabilitation depends on the offender. We want to make them productive citizens when they leave."
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