Profile: Marin Fox Hight

2008 County corrections director

Marin Fox Hight does not seem surprised by her current station in life, but others are. “I’m not what people expect when they think of someone running a jail,” she says.

It may be her relative youth—she’s in her mid-30s, runs marathons, and has a four-year-old daughter. It may be that she’s a woman in a field that, despite some broken glass ceilings, remains top heavy with men.

Hight takes the rest in stride. She supervises two detention facilities, 90 staff represented by four unions, the county’s probation and offender services programs, and an average daily inmate population of 321. She operates in a very public and political arena where she reports to three elected county commissioners and can easily find herself on the front page of the local paper. “I have to behave myself,” she volunteers, suppressing a grin.

She is also part of a growing number of Evergreen graduates, faculty and students who are using their talents and passions to change correctional institutions and help inmates rebuild their lives. Greeners hold leadership roles at the highest levels of Washington state’s Department of Corrections, including secretary Eldon Vail ’73, deputy director Dan Pacholke ’08, and Hisami Yoshida ’84, a former prison superintendent who now oversees federal Prison Rape Elimination Act compliance in all Washington corrections facilities.

“It seems like prisons and Evergreen are strange bedfellows, but actually we’re not,” says faculty member and forest ecologist Nalini Nadkarni, who has created numerous partnerships between Evergreen and the corrections system to introduce programs that engage inmates in sustainable practices. “If we’re heading students toward careers that involve service and helping improve the world, then corrections is an extremely logical place to be.”

“We have people at their worst, and we have an opportunity to give them some tools to help them not come back,” says Hight. “I think we have to provide those opportunities. That may sound liberal or ‘hug-a-thug,’ but it’s a sound investment than can save the taxpayers in the long run. I take people’s lives seriously—both the people who work here and the people we house here.”