General George S. Patton once exhorted, “Accept the challenges so that you may feel the exhilaration of victory.”
And, William Decker is primed to experience that exhilaration, as is evidenced by his recent promotion to the position of programming department manager at Wyoming Women’s Center. According to Decker, the challenge was a welcome one.
“I’m constantly challenging myself,” Decker said. “I am constantly pushing myself further and further.”
And, the newly promoted corrections professional stated that the position promised the sort of challenges that he was seeking in his professional life.
“I was looking for a change,” Decker said. “I was looking for a job with greater challenges and greater responsibilities. I felt that, by now, I was ready to apply the skills that I have acquired in a position such as this. I thought I was ready not only to apply my skills, but to learn and grow in this position as well.”
Among one of the chief challenges cited by Decker was the need to remain versed on the policies and procedures of the Wyoming Department of Corrections (WYDOC). Given the Department’s enshrinement of a more progressive form of corrections and its ongoing commitment to attain American Correctional Association (ACA) accreditation, the state entity is in the process of continually revising and perfecting its practices. Thus, change is, paradoxically, the one invariant feature of WYDOC. Of course, this state of perpetual flux makes maintaining familiarity with policies and procedures somewhat problematic. Decker elaborated on this demanding aspect of his newly acquired position
“One of the challenges is trying to keep with the times because corrections are always changing,” Decker said. “I need to make sure that I am on top of things. I need to keep up with the times so we don’t lag behind. They’re pushing us harder everyday to keep things going. It really makes you stay on your toes because you are constantly reading. You have to stay abreast of everything and all the changes.”
Moreover, Decker must now shoulder the responsibility of presiding over all of WWC’s caseworkers. A former caseworker himself, Decker is acutely cognizant of the demands of the position. As a programming department manager, those demands are compounded by the somewhat intimidating task of overseeing the efforts of several caseworkers.
“Basically, right now, it is going to be supervising the caseworkers and all of their case loads,” Decker said. “I have to make sure they get all of their jobs done. So, it’s more of supervising what I would be doing on a daily basis.”
But, the fledgling programming department manager isn’t backing down from these challenges. Instead, he is gripping the proverbial bull by the horns and hanging on for the ride.
“I’m very excited about getting it and I’m very excited about rolling up my sleeves and getting things going,” Decker said.
Decker has no scarcity of credentials when it comes to tackling his role. He has a Bachelor of Science in Administration of Justice with minors in Sociology and the Legal Environment of Business. Additionally, he has worked in the field of corrections for 18 years, thereby gaining a greater understanding of those who have fallen on the wrong side of the law.
Decker began his criminal justice odyssey as a deputy sheriff in Pennsylvania. Yet, his role in law enforcement underwent a pivotal shift when he became a probation officer. With this vocational transposition, Decker entered into the field of corrections. After working as a probation officer for 14 years, he became a work release coordinator at a prison. Equipped with the experience he gained in this position, Decker eventually moved to Wyoming, where he went to work as a caseworker at the Honor Farm in Riverton. After a year, he did a lateral transfer to WWC in Lusk, where he has worked as a caseworker for three years. According to Decker, WWC’s staff composition and the demographics of its inmate population (namely their gender) were the two elements that drew him to the institution.
“It’s a very professional place, from the warden right down to the office,” Decker said. “But, I think what appealed to me most was the challenge of working with the female offender.”
And, Decker is certainly no stranger to diversity among offenders. The course of his unfolding career has allowed him to observe the singular and unique journeys of offenders from deviance to social re-assimilation.
“I’ve worked with offenders throughout my whole career so far,” Decker said. “I worked with offenders from the whole gambit. I got to work with them from arresting them and putting them in prison to rehabilitating them while they’re on probation or parole. Then, I got to work with them inside the facilities. It’s actually kind of neat because I’ve done the whole circle in my career so far. It’s interesting seeing all of the different aspects of how criminals get into the system and how we help to reform them. “
While Decker possesses nearly two decades of corrections experience, he certainly hasn’t dismissed the necessity of continued professional development. Last year, the seasoned corrections employee went to Cincinnati to build his knowledge of gender-specific assessments.
“I think it’s good to try to learn all that you can,” Decker said.
Yet, professional development is not the only rationale underpinning the continual expansion of Decker’s correctional repertoire. According to the former caseworker, the honing of his skills is ultimately geared toward the successful rehabilitation of the offender.
“Probably the greatest drive I have is trying to make sure that the offenders have a chance,” Decker said. “I really want to see them succeed.”
Of course, helping to rebuild shattered lives is no easy task. Socioeconomic disparities, destructive behavioral propensities, educational deficiencies, and other criminogenic needs complicate the rehabilitation process. Decker elaborated on the plethora of obstacles that beset the offender.
“Every one of them can be a challenge,” Decker said. “Whether it’s learning disabilities or poor social skills or inadequate work skills, each offender brings her own set of challenges. But, I’ve always felt that each of them is a human being and that you have to treat them like human beings.”
As one might surmise, facing the numerous internal and external obstacles to the offender’s reformation can be daunting, if not downright demoralizing. In the face of such insurmountable odds, one lone caseworker can seem analogous to Sisyphus incessantly rolling his stone up a mountain only to see it roll back down again. Even an adept correctional professional is not immune to imbibing an occasional sense of futility. Decker stated that, in order to combat this recurring disconcertion, he seeks solace in the serene pastoral milieus of Wyoming and the perpetually welcoming embrace of family.
“Every now and then, I get myself into a little funk where I keep asking myself, ‘Is this worth it?’” Decker said. “I do things to get myself out of that. One of the ways I do that is by enjoying the outdoors. I enjoy hunting a lot. I also take time off to see my family. When I get away for a week or so, it gets that spark going again.”
Yet, cathartic excursions are not the only accelerants that rekindle Decker’s fire. At the end of the day, the programming department manager thrives on the satisfaction of a job well done. While Decker certainly does not labor under any quixotic illusions, he revels in the prevention of recidivism and the reconstruction of broken individuals.
“It’s very rewarding to see them (inmates) leave and not come back,” Decker said. “We all know that you can’t save the world, but saving your own little piece of it.”
William is the son of Mr. and Mrs. William Decker of St. Marys.