Prisons are not necessarily known for being places that create special people. That wouldn’t be the case when it comes to James S. Campbell.
An employee of Yacolt’s Larch Correction Center (LCC) for 32 years before his death from a heart attack at his home Aug. 28, Campbell began his career as a corrections officer before becoming a sergeant and eventually plant manager.
On Sept. 27, his family of fellow employees and 22 members of his actual family came together at LCC to dedicate the multi-purpose building in his honor.
Containing both the visiting room and training center, as well as facilities that can be used by both officers and inmates, the multi-purpose building serves a variety of needs for the LCC, which Campbell was a big supporter of.
“Jim helped put the building up in Spring 2009 and worked on it until it was finished in October, 2010,” said Superintendent Eleanor Vernell. “There wasn’t a single part of this facility that he hadn’t touched in the time he was here.”
Campbell also made it his business to get to know each and every employee. Every day, he would come through the Administration Building to say good night to everyone, making Campbell an integral part of not only maintaining the physical plant, but also the morale of the institution.
“He made it a priority to create a family-type atmosphere among staff at the prison,” said Admistrative Assistant Gwen Sidlo. “Jim truly cared about the facility and often said Larch was his facility.”
Working with Campbell for just under three years, Vernell said Campbell’s pride in his work and the facility extended past just the staff he worked with at the time.
“When I first started in 2010, the idea had come up for starting a memorial fence for former employees as well as memorial bricks,” said Vernell. “Jim went out and supplied the bricks that we ended up using.”
After Campbell’s death, Superintendent Vernell requested permission to dedicate the multi-purpose building to honor Jim’s dedication and commitment to LCC.
“I wasn’t sure about dedications and how they worked, but we had to do something for Jim, so I called headquarters,” Vernell said. “They cleared it through any potential ethics issues and it was quickly approved.”
The dedication brought together everyone who mattered in Campbell’s life, both at Larch and at home. They all shared stories and memories of Jim, while also celebrating the impact he’d made in his work.
“One of his co-workers mentioned how when we were doing pepper spray training, each employee had to be sprayed to understand how it worked,” Vernell said. “When it was Jim’s turn, he got sprayed once in the face, opened his eyes and said they needed to hit him again because it had no effect. That was Jim.”
Custody Unit Supervisor, Mike Albert, had been employed at LCC as long as Campbell, and shared many fond memories of working with him through the years. Vernell spoke of Campbell’s character and intregrity, while Deputy Director Earl Wright remarked on his dedication and service to LCC.
Sidlo said both the LCC family and Campbell’s actual family is still trying to cope without him and while it’s been a struggle, the James S. Campbell Multi-Purpose Building gave them all a chance to come together and celebrate his commitment and dedication.
“Jim was truly irreplacable,” Vernell said.
Larch Correctional Center is a minimum security facility first opened in 1956 and holds 480 inmates.