At a time when both Utah State Prison staff and inmates were prohibited from wearing facial hair, Gary Webster began what would be a 22-year career in corrections sporting a handlebar mustache.
But Webster's stint as a rebel was short-lived: The policy was changed soon after he started working for the Utah Department of Corrections in 1967 as a social worker. Nonetheless, Webster kept the fancy mustache through jobs in and out of the prison system over the next decade, flouting fashion if not authority.Webster finally adopted a more conservative look in the 1980s as first executive secretary to the part-time Board of Pardons, then as chairman and member of the full-time board created by the Legislature.
Friday was Webster's last day as a member of the board. His term ended March 1, but he agreed to stay on while Gov. Norm Bangerter searches for a replacement.
Despite his disappointment at not being reappointed, Webster has nothing but praise for the man chosen to replace him, H.L. "Pete" Haun, who retired as the chief U.S. probation officer in Salt Lake City to take the post.
Back in the days of his handlebar mustache, Webster and society believed the solution to criminal behavior was rehabilitation. That was what he learned while earning his master's degree in social work at the University of Utah.
Webster readily admits being naive when he started his first part-time job at the Utah State Prison in 1967 while still in school. He took the job not realizing corrections would become his career.
"I was from a middle-class, working background. I had never been in trouble," he said. "My naiveness served me well. It gave me a chance to learn from the inmates. I was burned - the inmates took advantage of me."
He soon hardened to the ways prisoners attempt to manipulate those who imprison them. Society, too, was becoming disenchanted with rehabilitation as the number of inmates in Utah and around the nation skyrocketed.
"It was seeing people go and then come back," Webster said. "Having people say to you, `You'll never see me again,' and then seeing them again in a short period of time."
A month ago, he said, a heroin addict appeared before the board. Webster recognized him as one of the first inmates he worked with as a social worker.
Witnessing the change in drug use among inmates, from prescription drugs such as "speed and downers" to the most dangerous of illegal narcotics including cocaine and heroin also helped shaped Webster's attitude.
"Addiction helps keep them in a life of crime," he said, adding he has come to realize that the only way to successfully reduce crime is to curb drug abuse.
Today, Webster believes that rehabilitation means offering an opportunity for inmates to change themselves, such as education, jobs and counseling that includes their families so they will have support on the outside.
"I would describe it as a practical approach. The fact of the matter is that 99 percent of these people are going to be released," he said.
For six years - since July 1983 after the Legislature decided the workload was too much for the then five-member, part-time board - Webster has reviewed some of the state's most notorious criminals.
The first case he presided over on his first day as a board member was that of Marc Schreuder, who, at his mother's request, shot his grandfather, multimillionaire auto parts dealer Franklin James Bradshaw.
He had no trouble choosing the toughest case he heard as a board member, that of Pierre Dale Selby - the "Hi Fi Shop killer."
The board unanimously rejected Selby's appeal for clemency, and his Aug. 1987 execution was the state's first in 10 years.
Webster is not certain what the future holds for him. He is looking for another job, possibly with the state as a victim counselor, as well as considering going into private practice as a marriage and family counselor.