The Elephant Keepers is a book is about hope and finding possible solutions to the never-ending cycle of incarceration and identifying ways to improve the lives of the thousands of professionals working inside the system and the people it serves. It is a collection of stories from my personal experience and the experiences of countless other corrections staff with whom I have spent years working next to or received mentorship and guidance to help me get through some very difficult times in my life.
Many of these people came into and out of my life and I learned from them. I found inspiration and the will to continue working in a very difficult environment. There are stories of my friends and colleagues who selflessly placed themselves in harm’s way every day and never asked for recognition. It is also a collection of experiences from working with offenders, which taught me a lot about human nature.
The title of my book comes from an earlier article I published many years ago called “Of Elephants and Men” in the American Jails magazine. The article was related to my running of a prison that exclusively housed young gang members from various gangs who were responsible for prison violence in many facilities across the state. Eventually, what worked in turning this group of offenders around was to create a mentorship program with older, more seasoned, inmates, staff engagement, and enhancing programmatic opportunities.
People, like elephants, require prosocial environments to thrive and both species require nurturing and mentorship in creating positive outcomes. The theme of my book is ultimately about the nature of things and how we find ways to engage, interact, survive, overcome, and find balance in a social structure – even one as extreme as the environments in a prison or in a jail facility. It is a story about personal loss, professional ups and downs, and finding peace in a chaotic world while remaining empathetic and kind towards others.