LAWRENCE CO., Ill. (WTWO/WAWV) – This woman has some pretty big shoes to fill over in Illinois.
She’s serving as the acting warden of the Lawrence Correctional Center just west of Sumner, a role she’s been in for over a year.
She’s got a long history in the criminal justice field, but what makes her approach to rehabilitation a little more unique is her background in psychology.
Dr. Dee Dee Brookhart was nominated by her husband for Nexstar’s Remarkable Women competition.
He witnessed her balance her day-to-day job of rehabilitating offenders along with the home-life demands of caring for her aging mother. It gave him some perspective on her accomplishments.
I would like to nominate my Wife, Dr. DeAnna Brookhart. She is currently the acting Warden of Lawrence Correctional Center just west of Sumner, Illinois. After obtaining an Associate’s degree at Lincoln Trail College in Robinson, IL, she went onto Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, IL graduating with her Bachelor’s Degree. She then pursued and obtained her Master’s Degree from St. Mary-of- the-Woods in [West] Terre Haute, IN. She later followed up and achieved her Doctrine in Psychology from Southwest University in Louisiana. She has made such a difference in so many people’s lives. Focusing on true rehabilitation of the offender population the facilities where she has worked, she has been instrumental in incorporating programming so those within would have a chance once released. Her Career started at Robinson Correctional Center in Robinson, IL where she hired on as the facility Psychologist. It was not long before her talents were recognized and she took the position of Clinical Services Supervisor. She later promoted to Assistant Warden of Programs at Robinson C.C. She then transferred to Lawrence Correctional Center as the Assistant Warden of Programs and is currently the acting Warden at that facility. Always having the best interest of her staff and Offender population in mind, she is an amazing manager. This year has been rough for her as we moved her Mother into our home, who is currently on Hospice Care. Juggling between the stress of work and caring for her Mother, it has not been easy to say the least. Please consider Dr. Brookhart as she is an amazing Woman always trying to do the right thing. I have watched her help so many people through the years. She is truly my hero. Thank you.”Jake Brookhart
It’s not always the brightest of days at the Lawrence Correctional facility in Illinois.
However, inside acting warden Dr. Dee Dee Brookhart’s office, you can quickly see where her sanctuary lies.
“Home is where I go to refuel and unwind,” Dr. Dee Dee Brookhart said.
She urges employees to separate home from work.
“We do this because of personal satisfaction or this is what we wanted to do when we grew up, but what really matters is what you have at home and the value that you place there,” she said.
Brookhart says she’s in the business of working with people. So home life gives her a break every now and then, for the most part.
That doesn’t mean she’s not passionate about rehabilitating offenders.
“A lot of people don’t understand that some of the guys in here don’t know any better because they haven’t been taught so we try to give them those skills.”
With a doctorate degree in psychology from Southwest University in Louisiana, it’s no surprise that Dee Dee places an emphasis on mental health behind bars.
She says often times prison is one of few options to receive help.
“We’ve implemented re-entry programming where they do cognitive behavioral educational treatment so that they can … Get rid of criminal and addictive thinking patterns and start thinking about things in a different way.”
The reward is seeing inmates return to their families and contribute to society.
“I think her strength lies on the fact that she came up through the clinical side … Getting offenders to where they’re ready to go back into society which is something that I think that progressively the department is moving toward stronger and stronger each year … That’s her main focus and I respect that,” Jake Brookhart, Dee Dee’s husband, said.
Jake nominated her for Nexstar’s 2020 Remarkable Woman. He too works in the correctional field as the assistant warden of operations at Robinson Correctional Center. He’s been in the field since 1990 and has several more years on his wife’s 23 years in the business. Still, he says she’s the one who’s taught him so much.
“I’ve watched her grow in her position, I’ve watched her move through the different positions she’s held and she’s an amazing manager, she actually cares about the people,” Jake said.
The Brookharts moved Dee Dee’s mother, Doris, into their home for hospice care a couple of years ago. This past winter, her health really declined.
“It was rough watching my wife struggle with it.”
Still, Dee Dee was able to juggle her responsibilities. It was then that Jake saw an ad for Nexstar’s Remarkable Women nomination.
“At first, I just clicked passed it, and then I caught myself and thought, you know what? I know a remarkable woman and I know who I’m going to nominate,” Jake said.
Dee Dee has a positive perspective on recently losing her mother.
“I can honestly say that it was really quite a peaceful and beautiful thing to go through,” Dee Dee said.
She says it was an honor to give back to her mother in her final days. That’s after her mother gave her a lifetime of support.
“Having a mom like her who is very strong, having a wonderful, supportive husband and family and some really great friends, makes doing difficult work very easy.”
Going on 18 years of marriage, it wasn’t easy for Jake to keep his nomination secret. So when Dee Dee got the voicemail from our station …
“I almost deleted it, because I thought it was a spam call,” Dee Dee said. “Then I texted my husband and said what on earth did you do?”
But she appreciates the nod from her husband, who calls her, his hero.
“I work off of her strengths and she works off mine, and we bounce ideas off of each other whenever we’re going through situations and it works out,” Jake said.
Dr. Brookhart says what she wants for her three children is just to be happy.