Reflecting on 30 years as correctional officer, life of service
The Army veteran shared some of those stories and others about his life during the Woodford County Library’s Friday Coffee Club last week.
Working a 3 to 11 shift one night, Beagle said he and other correctional officers discovered a loaded .38 caliber revolver under an inmate’s mattress in an institution where no one – not even officers – were allowed to carry guns.
Another night, Beagle said he got a telephone call at home telling him to go into work. “Come to find out one inmate stabbed another inmate to death” – using scissors out of a barber’s kit, he recalled.
Other memories are more funny than serious, including the world champion yo-yo man carrying a briefcase filled with yo-yos and someone knocking at the door who turned out to be a bearded lady. “I never will forget that,” said Beagle.
He also remembered being told to lockdown the facility’s rear “Receiving and Discharge” gate because of a hostage situation. The hostage ended up being a female inmate and an escape plan was foiled by this case of mistaken identity.
One inmate from Memphis, Tenn., hesitated when Beagle asked him what crime he’d committed before he finally said, “Me and two of my buddies came up with this plot to steal Elvis’s body…”
Jennifer Beagle Wiedenhoefer, who spent a summer working with her dad, said he was always very respectful to everyone – “whether you’re a warden or an inmate” – and they in turn respected him, which taught her how to act in the workplace. Beagle, who retired from the Federal Bureau of Prisons in 1995, said he started working as court security officer in the Woodford County Courthouse Annex three years later. He came out of retirement again a little more than a year ago and now works part-time at the courthouse’s secure entrance.
Born in Madison County during World War II, Beagle said he joined the United Stated Army “when I got of age.”
He finished basic training at Fort Knox and learned how to drive a tank before being sent to Fort Benning, where he became a military taxi driver on the sprawling base.
Given a special driving assignment under the cloud of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Beagle said he remembers being “scared to death with two generals sitting in the backseat.” He spent his next two years as the personal driver for a colonel, which he described as “a good job because I didn’t have to do any more KP (kitchen patrol or police duty).”
After completing his three years of military service in 1965, Beagle was hired at the U. S. Public Health Service Hospital (now Federal Medical Center) in Lexington. So began three decades with the Federal Bureau of Prisons, including his stretch at a warehouse facility where inmates manufactured a variety of products in five different factories.
A print plant was prohibited from hiring anyone incarcerated on counterfeiting charges – “even though they were our best printers in the whole institution,” said Beagle, eliciting laughter from attendees at last Friday’s Coffee Club.
His wife of 50 years, Maude, two daughters, Wiedenhoefer and Laurie Harper, and other family members were among those in the library’s community room listening to Beagle’s stories of life and work.