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Lebanon County Correctional Facility has a new warden.

At their Jan. 21 meeting, the county commissioners promoted Tina Litz to the position, where she replaces the retiring Robert Karnes. A 25-year Lebanon County employee, she was most recently deputy warden for treatment at the prison.

The vote was 2-0, with third commissioner Jo Ellen Litz abstaining to avoid conflict of interest, as Tina Litz is her cousin by marriage.

Litz, 44, who was selected from 14 applicants, took over as warden Feb. 8. In the midst of her busy schedule, she answered some questions in writing from LebTown:

Tina Litz (Provided photo)

What got you interested in this career?

I always was drawn to the criminal justice system — I grew up on the north side of Lebanon. I saw a lot of good and bad things happen and I just had a drive to want things to be better and people to do better.

I started working at Lebanon County Correctional Facility at age 19, and worked part time as a correctional officer while I went to York College to complete my B.S. in criminal justice and a minor in sociology.

I also worked as a full-time correctional officer. I transferred after a bit and then worked as an adult probation/parole officer for six years before coming back to work at the prison as the counselor for the male population for approximately 14 years. I got promoted to director of training and did that for approximately four years before being promoted to deputy warden of treatment, and now warden.

What influence did Warden Robert Karnes have on you?

Warden Karnes was here when I was hired at 19. At the time, he was a sergeant, I believe, and then he was promoted to captain while I was back and forth from college. As warden for 16 years, he taught me the emphasis on training, continuing to learn, and always to listen — not to respond.

I also learned the old-fashioned way, boots to the ground. Be present for fellow administration, staff and the incarcerated population. I stayed motivated in learning and following up on opportunities offered by the Department of Corrections to enhance leadership skills and open-minded philosophies. I have embraced every opportunity to network, ask questions and better myself as well as my co-workers.

What kind of prison is Lebanon County Correctional Facility?

We house several classes of people. Our primary function is to house people who have been accused of a crime and are awaiting trial but could not secure bail. We also have individuals who have been sentenced to 23 months or less, who will serve their time with us, as opposed to those sentenced to longer than 23 months, who we only hold until they get transferred to the Department of Corrections. Lebanon County Correctional Facility also houses local probation/parole violators as well as child support/domestic relations individuals. Prior to COVID-19, our overage daily population was closer to 500 inmates or more. Currently, we ebb and flow between 287 and 300.

What are your biggest challenges?

COVID-19 has been an issue for everyone — trying to keep staff and incarcerated individuals as safe as possible in a confined institution can be challenging. We encourage mask wearing and other COVID-19 mitigation strategies worked out with our contracted medical provider. We try and continuously educate and adapt and adjust as we need to.

Across the state and country there is a need for correctional officers, which are often one of the most under-acknowledged and underappreciated professions. Lebanon County Correctional Facility has a dedicated staff that essentially shows up day in and day out. The community doesn’t typically view them as important but they are.

We are currently hiring. Anyone interested should contact our director of training, Scott Richmond, at (717) 274-5451, ext. 5447.

Also, our job is to try and work with other community stakeholders to find and provide resources for those incarcerated. A portion of our population as a county prison will be re-entered into our community. We have to keep working collectively to encourage better choices/decisions to be made in order to not re-offend or delve back into addiction. A big challenge is finding housing for those with mental illness.

What are positive stories you can share? People probably think you only see the worst of human nature/behavior.

One specific technique I was taught was to practice the pause — not everything needs a reaction. A misconception is that many professionals in the field are tainted by what they see and endure. I have to say that I have been blessed to be surrounded with some of the best of the best that continue to guide, educate, and support me. They are too humble for me to list names but I hope they read this and know that they are appreciated.

There are people in this facility that do not behave well and then there are some that are model incarcerated individuals. Everyone has a story.

I have kept in touch or run into to people who used to be in jail, or who I used to supervise while they were on supervision. Incarceration doesn’t have to define them. It’s the actions and paths that they choose upon release that in all actuality count.

My trainer was a former client I supervised on parole 20-plus years ago when I was a Lebanon County probation/parole officer. He was on supervision for a DUI. He has since quit drinking and works a full-time job and then trains clients out of the passion he has for people to be fit, encouraging them to meet their health goals.

We often joke about who keeps who accountable now.

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Paula Wolf worked for 31 years as a general assignment reporter, sports columnist, and editorial writer for LNP Media. A graduate of Franklin & Marshall College, she is a lifetime resident of Lancaster County.