Glen Whorton recalls ‘extremely interesting job’ working for department of corrections
When Nevada native Glen Whorton left the Army in 1973 and returned to Carson City, he had two career options in front of him.
“In Carson City, people were saying you could work at the Nugget or you could work at the prison,” he recalled.
He chose Nevada State Prison.
Whorton, who lives in the Johnson Lane area with his wife, Val, spent more than 30 years working for the Nevada Department of Corrections. He retired in 2007 as deputy director of operations, a position he was appointed to by former Gov. Kenny Guinn.
Working for the department of corrections is “an extremely interesting job if you’re interested in people,” Whorton said. “Every single day is different, every single day is interesting.”
As a child in Springfield, Mo., he could look across his family’s cornfields and see the federal prison. After he and his family moved to Nevada, he became friends with the son of the head of Lake’s Crossing Center in Sparks, and he remembers riding his bike around the facility.
“From early on, it (being around prisons) wasn’t the kind of thing that was particularly fearful,” he said.
He graduated from Sparks High School in 1965 and the University of Nevada, Reno in 1970 with a degree in history and journalism before serving three and a half years as a first lieutenant in the Army. Whorton also has a master’s in criminal justice administration from the University of South Carolina.
After he was discharged from the Army, “I wanted to come back to Nevada,” he said. “It was my home.”
He still remembers Dec. 3, 1973, his first day as a correctional officer at Nevada State Prison.
“Everybody remembers the first day they go to prison,” he said. “It’s pretty dramatic … I was not trained. I had no idea what to expect. The culture was absolutely foreign to me. They sent me to a post, handed me a rifle and said ‘have a nice day.’
“Inmates were interesting. The staff was interesting,” he said. “It was very much an old-school type of prison when I started there.”
He said he saw tremendous change during his time with the department of corrections, most notably the way inmates were managed. He said he saw the treatment of inmates shift from idiosyncratic to objective and predictable.
Although he worked at numerous facilities throughout the state, a large portion of Whorton’s career was spent at Carson City’s now-closed Nevada State Prison. Located at 3301 E. 5th St., the prison opened in 1862 and closed in March of 2012. The prison pre-dates Nevada’s 1864 statehood.
“That’s what’s really interesting about NSP,” he said. “It’s integrated into the history of the state.”
Whorton knows much of the history of the facility, including an 1871 prison escape in which the warden was shot and the nomination of an inmate in the early 1900s by the Socialist Party to run for president. The facility was also the first to use gas for executions, he said.
In 2012, Whorton helped form the Nevada State Prison Preservation Society, a group focused on changing permitting for the old prison so the site can become a public facility. He and about 70 other area residents are seeking to convert the old prison to a historic experience featuring tours, displays and presentations.
“The history about this prison is very interesting,” said Douglas County Sheriff Ron Pierini, who is also interested in helping preserve the site. “When I worked at NSP in 1975-76 as an investigation officer I learned about prisons and the importance to treat inmates fairly and by the law.”
Whorton said he does not have an estimated cost of money needed for the conversion, or a ballpark timeline.
The International Footprint Association Carson Valley Chapter recently presented Whorton with a $1,000 check toward that cause.
For more information about preservation efforts, follow the Nevada State Prison Preservation Society on Facebook.