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BOP officer lends helping hand in Hurricane Andrew's aftermath.

When Hurricane Andrew ripped through Florida and severely damaged the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Miami, Bureau of Prisons staff from around the region were called on to help. The contributions of Senior Officer Specialist Randall Erskine are a good example of the vital assistance many BOP staff provided.

The day the hurricane struck, Erskine was working at the Federal Correctional Institution in Estill, S.C. On a few hours notice, he and 17 other Estill staff were sent by bus to Miami. Just getting to the prison turned out to be an all-night ordeal.

"It was a mess," Erskine said. "There were no road signs or traffic lights, so it was very difficult to know where you were. We just had to pick our way through what was left of the streets."

The Estill staff reached the Miami facility by 6 a.m. Inmates were boarding buses for transport to other facilities. Erskine was assigned to help supervise the inmates for a bus trip to FCI-Tallahassee, where the inmates would be temporarily housed. Fortunately, the inmates were quiet and the trip uneventful. "I think they were just glad to get out of there," Erskine said.

After the 12-hour trip, the bus arrived in Tallahassee at 4 a.m., and Erskine finally got a few hours of sleep at a local hotel. He then helped bus another group of inmates to a facility in Jessup, Ga.

When all the Miami inmates had been safely transferred, Erskine was assigned as compound officer at the facility. He was responsible for ensuring that the facility was secure and that no looting took place. After a few days, he also was assigned as a forklift operator, moving incoming supplies such as tents, food and clothes donated by the BOP and other facilities. Erskine worked 12-hour days and had a two-and-a-half hour daily commute to and from his hotel due to traffic and poor road conditions.

Despite spending 15 days in Florida performing physically exhausting work, Erskine says he did not consider it drudgery. "It was actually pretty interesting," Erskine said. "I felt like I was helping people out."

Erskine's contributions did not go unnoticed by his superiors. "Randy is one of those rare individuals who easily adapts and excels in the correctional environment," said G.L. Ingram, Mid-Atlantic regional director for the BOP. "He earned the respect and appreciation of staff and inmates alike."

One noteworthy task Erskine tackled in Miami was the capture and return of several monkeys that had escaped from a nearby zoo and taken up residence at the prison. With three other officers, Erskine cornered the monkeys in a room and captured them with a sheet. "Since the zoo was so close to the facility, there were all kinds of critters crawling around," Erskine said. "Thankfully, the monkeys were all we had to deal with."
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Title Annotation:Best in the Business; Bureau of Prison's Senior Officer specialist Randall Erskine
Author:Ogburn, Kevin R.
Publication:Corrections Today
Date:Jun 1, 1993
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