Former prison warden finds new calling

February 26, 1997


Staff Writer

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Robert C. Holland reaches for the telephone panel on the counter before him.

"Good afternoon, Courthouse . . . hold on please."

Holland, 69, has been a part-time receptionist at the Franklin County Courthouse since 1995. He sits in a cubicle about the size of a prison cellblock.

Holland is familiar with cellblocks. For 20 years he was the warden at the Franklin County Prison.

Holland took the receptionist job because he likes meeting people and because it gave him a chance to put his government knowledge to work.


"I know a lot about Franklin County government because I worked in it for over 20 years," Holland said. "I like the job in the courthouse because I see a lot of people I've known over the years."

When he's not answering the county telephone, Holland keeps busy at a family business. He and his wife, Isabel, operate the Framing Studio, a Chambersburg business that opened in 1982.

For years, though, Holland worked in prisons.

He became warden at the Franklin County Prison in 1972, the same year the prison opened, and retired in 1992.

Holland's first prison job was in his native Blair County, Pa., in 1950. He was a correctional officer there until he transferred to the State Correctional Institution in Huntingdon, Pa.

In 1967 he returned to the Blair County Prison as warden, and stayed until the Franklin County Prison opened.

Holland and his wife raised six children, some of whom grew up inside the Blair County Prison yard.

"That was a big thing in those days," Holland said. "I guess that's why none of my children went into prison work. They had enough of it growing up.

"I always enjoyed the work," said Holland, who remains active in the Pennsylvania Prison Wardens Association.

"I met a lot of nice people in jail," he said. "It was my job to provide safe, humane treatment. The inmates respected me. They always called me Mr. Holland."

He remembers his first day on the job in Blair County in 1950. An inmate was brought in to start serving a sentence on the same day.

"He ended up spending most of his life in jail, in Blair County and in Huntington. He seemed to follow me wherever I went," Holland said. "Whenever I'd go out in the yard with some visitors he'd come up to me, put his arm around me, smile and say, `Mr. Holland and I started in this business together on the same day.'"

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