Clarence Robert Melvin Kastama was born and raised on a farm in Northern Minnesota by bilingual parents of Finnish decent. While successful farmers – at one time farming 1,200 acres – neither parent had more than a sixth grade education. Their son, who for perhaps obvious reasons shortened his name to Bob, would ultimately earn a Ph.D.
Bob Kastama followed Jim Spalding as penitentiary superintendent on July 1, 1981 – the first day of the newly created Washington State Department of Corrections. While Kastama’s tenure as superintendent lasted only ten months, there were significant accomplishments during that brief period. Work was completed on what was known as “the quadrant system,” which broke the walled institution into four parts separated by state-of-the-art movement controls. A gate/pass system was implemented. The last remnants of the Biker’s club – their bikes – were removed. Unit team management was implemented.
Bob Kastama, a participatory management sort of guy, was not a good fit for the top-down, quasi-military, management style of his superiors, Walter (Kip) Kautzky, and Amos Reed. He also had what he called “a rigid set of ethics.” Speaking his mind, and asserting his independence, got Kastama into hot water more than once. In May 1978, Kastama elected to resign rather than be fired.
Larry Kincheloe was a military man. After nearly 15 years in the army, and three tours of infantry duty in Vietnam, Kincheloe moved to Washington State as an adviser to the Army National Guard. In his spare time he enrolled in a master degree program at Pacific Lutheran University where his studies kindled an interest in corrections. By coincidence, Kincheloe lived across the street from the house Douglas Vinzant used when he was in Olympia in his roll as Director of the Division of Adult Corrections. After discussing ideas with Vinzant about his master’s thesis, Vinzant offered Kincheloe a job at the penitentiary as an associate superintendent.
A few months later, when Vinzant was fired and Genakos resigned, Kincheloe thought his days were numbered. While he had almost no experience in corrections, Jim Spalding kept Kincheloe as his associate superintendent for custody. Spalding saw that Kincheloe got along well with staff, an important asset, especially given staff attitudes and morale at the time. He also believed that Kincheloe possessed the qualities to be an effective member of his management team.
By 1982, Kincheloe was no longer a novice at prison management, and Kip Kautzky, also a military man, appointed him to replace Kastama. He remained penitentiary superintendent until January 1988, when he moved into central office. During Kincheloe’s tenure as superintendent, the long-range plan for upgrading the penitentiary that was developed during the early days of Spalding’s superintendency, was finally completed. Numerous operational changes, including much improved staff training and supervision, occurred during Kincheloe’s watch. By the time he left, a new kind of order was in place at the Washington State Penitentiary.