By Carol Stiffler

After a brief search for a new warden at Newberry Correctional Facility, Acting Warden Don Curley was officially named warden of the facility, beginning his permanent post on April 2, 2023. He had been serving as acting warden since August 2022.

Curley replaced short-time warden Erica Huss, who was transferred in name to the facility when former Warden Catherine Bauman was transferred to the Alger Correctional Facility. Huss went on leave shortly after her transfer was announced, never actually arriving to Newberry, and Curley had served as acting warden since the departure of Bauman.

Curley has been employed at the Newberry facility since September 1995. He transferred to Newberry from the Standish Maximum Correctional Facility, where he had worked as a corrections officer for three years. Newberry’s prison was not yet open and was in the process of organizing as a level two prison when Curley arrived.

Now a level one prison, the Newberry Correctional Facility currently has 1,095 inmates in residence. That’s just 13 people below its maximum capacity of 1,108.

“It’s a little city of its own,” Curley said.

Curley is responsible for overseeing the entire operation, from maintenance to food service to detailed written reports for his supervisor.

Curley, who could have retired years ago, will have worked 31 years in the industry in May, and plans to stay for a while. He’s well known by now, having worked his way up through the ranks from corrections officer to sergeant, lieutenant, captain, resident unit manager, inspector, assistant deputy warden, acting warden, and now warden.

“With the exception of being in Kinross for a few months, I’ve been here the entire time,” Curley said. “People here know me; the staff knows me.”

Curley is well known outside the prison as well. He’s a former member of the Newberry Fire Department, was a member of the Eagles Club, and is still a member of Newberry Elks Lodge #1705.

That makes him a known entity, and, he hopes, an approachable one.

“When people see me on the street, they can ask me questions,” he said.

Though his management style may differ from previous wardens, procedures at the facility will not change. Those are dictated, and Curley will fulfill requirements as directed by the Michigan Department of Corrections.

The dog training program will continue at the facility, he said. There are just two or three dogs in training at the prison at the moment, but Curley is expecting more to arrive soon.

A $3 million paving project is slated to begin this summer, when prison roads and parking lots will be redone. The facility is also currently collecting bids for a water and sewer project to replace its antiquated sewer lines.

COVID continues to ebb and flow, affecting inmates and staff at times, though Curley said it hasn’t been an issue in recent weeks.