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Myrl Alexander, former ACA President and Bureau of Prisons Director, dies.

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., at the age of 34--making him one of the youngest wardens in BOP history.

In July 1945--just 10 weeks after Germany surrendered in World War II--Alexander was detailed from his assignment as warden at Danbury to accompany BOP Director James Bennett to Germany to establish control over civilian prisons in the American occupation zone. One month later, Bennett returned to Washington, D.C., leaving Alexander in charge. Holding the rank of brigadier general, he served as chief of prisons until June 1946. One of his top priorities during this period was to ensure that Nazi officials were removed from positions of authority.

From 1947 to 1961, Alexander was assistant director of the BOP, in charge of field operations. From 1951 to 1955, Alexander also contributed "Jottings on Jails and Jailers," a regular column for Prison World and the American Journal of Correction, predecessors to Corrections Today. In 1956, he was elected ACA president and in 1957 his book, Jail Administration, was published.

Alexander retired from the BOP in 1961 to establish and serve as director of the Center for the Study of Crime, Delinquency and Corrections at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Ill.

However, in August 1964, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy appointed Alexander to replace retiring BOP Director James Bennett. In an effort to achieve more community involvement in corrections, Alexander helped draft the 1965 Federal Prisoner Rehabilitation Act, which increased halfway house, work release and study release opportunities for inmates. He believed his efforts to expand community-based options was one of his most important contributions to corrections.

Alexander maintained a strong interest in international corrections. In 1965, he was appointed to the 10-member U.N. Advisory Committee of Experts on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders. He also was active in the U.N. Congresses on the Prevention of Crime in 1965 and 1970. In July 1967, Lyndon B. Johnson awarded him the President's Award for Distinguished Federal Civilian Service. He served as BOP director until January 1970, when he rejoined the faculty of Southern Illinois University.
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Title Annotation:In Memoriam
Publication:Corrections Today
Article Type:Biography
Date:Apr 1, 1993
Words:688
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