A New Walking Program and the Benefits at Wilkinson County Correctional Facility
It’s a beautiful Thursday afternoon at the Wilkinson County Correctional Facility in Woodville, Mississippi. And for the last hour of the workday, these staff members are walking around the perimeter of the facility, getting their exercise.
Warden Scott Middlebrooks (now the warden at the Graceville Correctional Facility in Florida) is among them; in fact, he was the one who approved the walking program called ‘Witness the Fitness’, when the idea was presented to him by staff members. Those interested and who have supervisor approval, are able to join in on the walk for the last hour of the day, then clock out at their normal time.
“It really took off,” says Warden Middlebrooks. “I was amazed. I really wasn’t expecting it to be that popular, but the staff really enjoyed it.”
“It’s nice,” staff member Michelle Higginbotham says. “It’s good to see people out there; people laugh, they get on, they take pictures of themselves, posting it on Facebook. ‘Look how many laps I walked,’ really proud.”
Warden Middlebrooks noticed something interesting.
“And one correlation I saw was the staff that were participating were less likely to call in sick or miss work.”
Staff member Angela Coleman explains the benefits of the walking program that she’s noticed.
“[It’s] a way of spending time, releasing stress; health reasons. It also helps me sleep good at night, too.”
The Witness the Fitness walking program caught the attention of the American Correctional Association. They wrote a report and published it in their Corrections Today magazine.
“It’s been a tremendous benefit to the institution and to the company,” explains Warden Middlebrooks further. “The staff have been in better moods, and it’s just amazing how excited they are throughout the day talking about, ‘okay, we’ll see you at 4 o’ clock, you gonna walk today?’, ‘yeah, I’m gonna walk today.’ And the peer pressure really helps.”
Clarissa Credit is another staff member who participates in the walking program.
“I love walking with my fellow co-workers,” she says, “and it’s good for my blood pressure, and it’s just good exercise, and it makes me sleep good…I’m grateful, I love it.”