Warden announces retirement
Kraus will end tenure in '08

LAWRENCEVILLE - In the case of Jim Kraus - a man regarded as a proactive, gentle and somewhat atypical prison warden - three decades behind the badge is enough.

Kraus announced Wednesday he'll retire in January, capping a career in Gwinnett County law enforcement that dates back 33 years. He's been warden of the Gwinnett County Corrections Department since 1996.

Last year, Kraus was elected president of the Georgia Prison Wardens' Association - a high point in his decorated law enforcement career.

"I can never be accused of being a job-hopper since Gwinnett County has been my only full-time employer since I graduated from college in 1974," Kraus said.

Before migrating southward, Kraus' involvement with the law took flight in the Buckeye State.

He graduated Kent State University in 1974 with a bachelor's degree in criminal justice, then started that same year in Gwinnett as a rank-and-file police officer.

Kraus was eventually promoted to assistant police chief, a post he held for 11 years until his 1996 appointment as warden.

"(Kraus') many years of experience have proven valuable to Gwinnett," said County Administrator Jock Connell, "and I appreciate his dedicated service."

Kraus pointed to the opening of the county's 800-bed Comprehensive Correctional Complex as a career highlight.

"I was assigned to replace the outdated, circa-1950s prison by overseeing the design, construction and completion of the new facility," said Kraus in a release. "The (facility) is the largest county-owned-and-operated correctional facility in the state of Georgia, and we have proudly occupied it for five years now."

Outside of uniform, Kraus has busied himself with volunteerism. He serves with several agencies, including Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful, the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life and Gwinnett Technical College.

When asked to run the Department of Corrections a decade ago, Kraus was admittedly hesitant, he told the Post last year.

His predecessor, Sandra Blount, had been fired for mismanaging an incident with an employee who became romantically involved with a female inmate and supplied her with drugs.

County officials were considering closing down the correctional facility completely, uncertain whether such a department was cost-effective.

Then Kraus stepped in.

"I had to ask myself, 'What if I can't turn it around?'" Kraus said in 2006. "I have more of an impact on offenders' lives now than I did when I was policing. I see more of them on a regular basis.

"It's just that duty called from another perspective."