WDOC Appoints First Female and First African American Warden at Penitentiary
Announced in a press release, the Wyoming Department of Corrections (WDOC) has announced Neicole Molden as the new warden for the Wyoming State Penitentiary starting Dec. 17.
Molden will be replacing Michael Harlow who served as the Wyoming State Penitentiary's warden since June 2020 after being transferred as warden of the Wyoming Honor Farm.
According to the release, Molden was hired by the WDOC in 2009 as a unit manager supervisor, and has worked as an associate warden and most recently as a deputy warden at the Wyoming State Penitentiary.
Over the course of her career with the WDOC, Molden has worked at the Wyoming Women's Center for two years, then at the Wyoming Medium Correctional Institution in Torrington for eight years as a unit manager.
Molden will be the first woman and African American to serve as warden at the Wyoming State Penitentiary, was the first woman and African American to serve as deputy warden, and was the first African American woman associate warden at the Wyoming Women's Center.
Molden said as a warden she hopes to be able to provide a better experience for inmates so that they get along better with each other and be social.
"I'm a pretty involved person, especially when it comes to the operations and the inmates," Molden said. "I try to stay really involved in the inmate population to keep them busy, to keep them educated. I think I'll do more...I'm looking at teaching some classes myself. When I was at the women's center I taught a confidence class for the women as the associate warden, so I plan on doing something like that for the men too. But I just want to find more activities to keep them busy, to give them more pro-social skills."
Molden said while they have had some COVID-19 outbreaks at her facility, last week there were 77 cases among inmates and staff, they have been diligent in trying to keep the inmates safe.
"We've had to be very creative, we've had to find ways to keep the inmates safe, to keep the staff safe. That's numerous cleanings, different face masks every day, sometimes they're locked down a certain amount of time depending upon if there's a big outbreak, we normally have to lock them down a certain amount of time until we get the numbers down. Once the numbers are down it's back to regular business, but we have to remind them to wash their hands, sanitize everything, sanitize the telephone before you use it. I know the inmates get tired of hearing it, but it affects them so we're just trying to do what's in the best interest for the inmates."
As far as being a person of color, Molden said she's glad for the opportunity she's been given and that there aren't many African Americans in Wyoming to be hired in high-level positions.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 1.3%, or 7523, of the population in Wyoming is Black.
"I've had great opportunities, everyone's always been welcoming of me," Molden said. "I think it just depends on what people want. A lot of people don't want to live in Wyoming, especially people of color is what I'm finding. So you're not going to find a whole lot of high-ranking African American officials I think."