Former prison warden makes airport security her business

By Joel Hall


Jan Lennon Washington, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport's aviation security manager for nearly six years, took over security less than a year after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

"Security at that point was no longer a convenience," said Washington. "It really showed the need for security and for prevention, because everything is always after the fact."

Starting in June 2002, Washington had the task of quickly assessing all of the security matters of the airport and implementing the new Transportation Security Administration safety measures.

"We had to work more efficiently with the resources we had," said Washington. Directing a staff of nearly 50 employees, Washington helped reassess the security of passengers entering and exiting the airport, employees working in the airport, and construction happening in and around the airport.

One of the premier changes Washington helped implement was a series of defined access areas for passengers and employees. Before, traffic at the airport was less controlled. Washington helped define specific pedestrian routes.

"You are able to track people better," said Washington. "We have not, in the five years, had any major security breech that we were not able to take control of and diffuse the situation."

While the Baltimore native holds a pre-law bachelor's degree from North Carolina Central University and a master of science degree in criminal justice administration from Coppin State University, her previous security experience comes from working in the Virginia prison system.

From 1994 to 2000, she served as a captain at the Riverside Regional Jail in Hopewell, Va. During her tenure, she managed construction at the new facility, created a command unit, and implemented several new policies and procedures. From 2000 to 2002, she served as deputy superintendent of the Pamunkey Regional Jail in Hanover, Va.

"You're dealing with a lot more direct risk," working in a prison rather than an airport, said Washington. However, "I always managed by intellect than by force. You can go into a riot and diffuse it before it happens, but if you go in there with that macho, negative attitude, you're only inciting chaos."

Washington said the main reason the airport is able to function safely is because of staff cooperation.

"We have great coordination with all of our entities here," said Washington. "I go to other airports and they don't have that camaraderie.

"We don't have the vast problems that a lot of other airports have, and we are the busiest, so that says a lot about us," Washington said.