Warden Edsel Taylor begins his mornings at MacDougall Correctional Institution in Ridgeville, South Carolina with the usual staff briefings, followed by checking emails and getting all his obligations out of the way. It's then when he begins his favorite part of the job: touring the housing units and yard of the institution. It's here that he spends his time communicating with staff and around 700 inmates currently held in the facility. It's a routine that Taylor has been doing for the last 50 years at MacDougall, and its one that has led to him having one of the most unique and enriching experiences in the corrections held.
In October 2019, Taylor celebrated his 50th anniversary at MacDougall Correctional Institution, the last 46 spent as the warden. This milestone makes Taylor the longest-tenured correctional employee in the U.S., according to The Post and Courier. They also report that the next closest individual to the title is a warden at a Louisiana correctional facility who has held the position for around 30 years. Taylor was surprised with a celebration at the facility surrounded by dozens of family, friends and employees.
Bryan Stirling, the director of the South Carolina Department of Corrections, spoke highly of Taylor to The Post and Courier.
"MacDougall is one of our institutions that is a shining light, and one of the reasons for that is because it's got good leadership, and it's got a very good warden," Stirling said. "He's dedicated his life to the state and the department."
Becoming a warden
In an exclusive interview with Corrections Today, Taylor spoke about how he started working at MacDougall following his time in the Vietnam War. With a background primarily in teaching and coaching, Taylor approached MacDougall, which at the time was a juvenile facility, for a coaching job. He ended up working as a coach and teacher for about four years but started to want more.
"I started applying for warden positions and associate warden positions and was lucky after a few tries to gain a warden's job at our central reception and evaluation center," Taylor said. "That would have been around 1974. And it went on from there. I've been a warden ever since."
The transition from coach to warden was quite a challenging one, but Taylor found it one worth taking on. Over his 50-year career, Taylor saw how the role of warden changed dramatically.
"Probably the greatest change I have observed as a warden has been the change from having the...