Washington State Penitentiary draws from within for new superintendent

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WALLA WALLA — A new superintendent has been appointed to helm the Washington State Penitentiary.

Don Holbrook, an associate superintendent at the prison’s West Complex, will replace Steve Sinclair effective Thursday.

Sinclair then will take over as assistant secretary for prisons, based in Tumwater, overseeing operations in the state’s 12 prisons.

That position previously was held by Dan Pacholke, who began his new job as deputy secretary for the Department of Corrections on April 1.

Sinclair was appointed superintendent at the penitentiary in 2008. He also spent about a half year starting in September 2011 as acting deputy director of prisons, Command A. In that post, he oversaw the operations of six major facilities, as well as investigations, intelligence and high-security operations.

He has served the Washington state Department of Corrections for more than 25 years, including leadership roles at the agency headquarters and Clallam Bay Corrections Center, as well as the penitentiary.

Sinclair and his penitentiary staff played a significant role in reducing violence at men’s prisons across the state by successfully managing high-risk gang members who were transferred to the prison’s West Complex, according to a release by DOC Interim Communications Chief Norah M. West.

She added Sinclair brings a strong background in emergency operations and managing high-risk offenders. He also understands how to create safe environments through a comprehensive range of programs and initiatives such as Correctional Industries, education and sustainability.

Holbrook served as acting superintendent at the penitentiary during Sinclair’s six-month absence.

He started at the penitentiary in 1989 and worked his way up to captain in 2004 before being named an associate superintendent.

West’s release says, “He brings an in-depth knowledge of current WSP operations as well as a historical perspective that will serve him well as the superintendent of one of our highest-security facilities.

“Holbrook has experience as an operations and security manager and has been instrumental in the development and implementation of transitional programing in the West Complex to help reduce violence as well as offender idleness.

“He also is an active member of the community and continues to strengthen the relationship between WSP and the greater Walla Walla area.”

Terry McConn can be reached at terrymcconn@wwub.com or 526-8319.

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