Myrl Alexander, Former ACA President and Bureau of Prisons Director, Dies

Article excerpt

Myrl E. Alexander, a leading figure in American corrections and ACA president in 1956, died of cardiac arrest Jan. 14 in Corpus Christi, Texas. Alexander served as director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons from 1964 to 1970 and, as a one-time chief of prisons in Germany, was one of the few individuals ever to head prison systems in two countries. Alexander was 83, and recently had suffered a series of strokes.

Upon learning of his death, current BOP Director Kathleen M. Hawk said he "devoted his career to securing better living conditions for prisoners, more effective prison programs and a greater appreciation of the professionalism and hard work of corrections personnel. He played a vital role in creating modern, safe, humane and progressive prisons in the United States."

Anthony Travisono, former ACA executive director, said that as president of ACA, Alexander's vision "was very broad. He wanted to involve all professionals working in the field of corrections--not just people working in institutions." Alexander had a very humanizing effect on corrections, Travisono said, because he believed that "staff are the most essential component in dealing with inmates--not architecture or regulations."

In his presidential address to ACA, Alexander discussed what he called "a bill of rights for the person under restraint in a free, democratic society." Alexander said inmates had a right to clean, decent surroundings, to maintain family and community ties, to develop and maintain skills as a productive worker, to receive fair, impartial and intelligent treatment while incarcerated, and to enjoy positive guidance and counsel from correctional personnel.

Graduating from Manchester College, North Manchester, Ill., Alexander's corrections career began when he accepted a job in 1931 as a junior warden's assistant at the U.S. Penitentiary in Atlanta. He went on to assignments at the federal prisons in Lewisburg, Pa., and Leavenworth, Kan., before being named parole executive of the U.S. Parole Board in Washington, D.C., in 1937. From 1940 to 1943 he served as associate warden at USP-Lewisburg, and in 1943 he became warden of the Federal Correctional Institution at Danbury, Conn. …