STANLEY – Former Stanley Prison Warden Dan Benik pegged June 2002 as the worst month in the history of the prison.
Benik was told to fire them all 75 employees, and that the project was being abandoned.
Instead, Benik presented a plan to temporarily house 300 minimum security prisoners. They moved in, but had no food source — food service at the prison wasn’t operational at the time.
Benik and his team brainstormed to launch a military field kitchen, which fed the inmates in the initial stage.
The prison began accepting inmates in September 2002.
In January 2003, the state considered the prison officially open. It reached its full capacity of 1,540 inmates by October.
“We had four busloads of prisoners every week,” Benik said.
The medium-security prison is marking its 10-year anniversary this month. The prison occupies 45 acres inside the secure perimeter that is surrounded by an additional 55 acres of state-owned land.
The Stanley Prison is the only institution whose design construction wasn’t state-driven. Wisconsin purchased the prison from a private builder in November 2001.
The facility has seen four wardens, six deputy wardens and five security directors.
Corrections Program Supervisor Cheryl Webster, who has worked for SCI since its beginning, said the biggest change she has seen is the resiliency of the staff in handling change in management.
“There were rough patches, but it built great teamwork,” she said.
Benik said when he thinks back to his time served as a warden for SCI, the people he worked with stick out most in his mind.
“The best thing about it is the people,” he said.
Former Stanley Mayor Dave Jankowski credited the facility with enabling a stronger economic base for the city.
The prison itself employed about 370 people and encouraged business development, Jankowski said.
“(The prison) is a good community member,” he said.
Jankowski added that development to the north and south of Highway 29 would have been doubtful without the prison.
“It contributed to making Stanley much more of a destination place,” he said.
SCI comprises five units devoted to different missions. Within individual units are three wings that each house 100 inmates. A segregation building, designed for inmates who require isolation, can accommodate 130 inmates.
Inmates arrive through the intake unit, or unit 2. They are processed and assigned via social worker to one of the housing units. Unit 1 is typically reserved for mentally ill, at-risk or vulnerable inmates. Unit 3 houses inmates required to engage in programs such as domestic violence, anger management and cognitive interventions. Unit 4 is geared towards inmates who are approaching their release dates and Unit 5 is populated with inmates enrolled in school.
Inmates can obtain their General Education Diplomas, high school education degrees, vocational degrees and college diplomas through a series of classes taught by certified teachers.
On Friday: Check with Chippewa.com for more on the Stanley Prison's 10th anniversary.