Sunday Sitdown

Martha Jackson

Houston County Jail Administrator

By Greg Ritchie

Messenger Reporter

The Messenger continues its Sunday Sitdown reports where we speak with our local pastors, educators, businesspeople, students and interesting people of all walks of life in Houston County. To see the full video interview, please click on the link below. The Messenger would like to thank Cutshaw Chevrolet in Grapeland for sponsoring this week’s edition.

What is the toughest job of running the jail?

“Well the toughest part of this job to me is having an on-call policy for jail staff. We have to have so many officers per inmate per the jail commission. Right now, we are staffed to the bare minimum. So when somebody is sick or cannot make it to work, then somebody has to fill that spot. Each jailor is assigned three to four on-call days during a four week period. Okay, if somebody can’t make it in, then they’re expected to be here. What makes it so tough for me is that it takes away from their family, their friends and their children. They’ve already put in long hours and now they’re having to work an extra day. That’s really kind of disheartening to me but we have to do that.”

What is your favorite part of the job and what keeps you going?

“Trying to make a difference in people. And I set some goals that we’ve tried to obtain. One of the largest goals is to pass the annual general inspection by the Jail Commission. These men and women work really hard and they work long, hard days to accomplish that. I also like trying to make a difference with some of the people that come in. We have people that come in and they don’t understand the process. It might be their first time or they are upset. Sometimes, I’ll just talk to them like a mother and tell them, ‘You know, this is a process. We have to get through this process. And once you’ve completed this process, you can have a good life, if that’s the choice you make.’ For example, this very week, we had a mother call and tell us how much she appreciated that we took care of her son and what we did for him while he was here. That makes you feel good; you feel like you’ve accomplished something.”

What are some things people may not know about our jail?

“Some people may think we, ‘lock them up and throw away the key.’ But we know that doesn’t  happen. I’m not sure the general public understand exactly what goes on inside this jail. We have church services for both males and females several times a week. We have medical staff working seven days a week. We are sufficient in having our own kitchen and our own laundry. We have visitation for the inmates – every weekend, Saturdays and Sundays. We have clergy visits, attorney visits – some in-person and some on zoom. We have zoom court, we have court at the courthouse and with all that going on, we’re booking people or releasing people and trying to take care of 100 plus inmates a day.”

Tell us about the team that helps you run the jail.

“Our team consists of men and women of all ages. Bad storms really set us back as far as activities and stuff like that. But the team members worked at night, came in early so the other team could get home before it got dark on the bad roads. We had some team members that would pick up others so they wouldn’t have to drive on the bad roads. Then we’ve had a staff shortage – it’s been like nothing I’ve ever seen. And it’s not just this jail, it’s surrounding counties and all over the state of Texas. Some of them have been here eight years or more, some less but they still work together as a team. I would like to mention the really great job they do and I appreciate them very much. The jail staff do not get the recognition they should. I want them to know I appreciate the great job they’ve done – and are doing – and not only for me, but for the department and for the county itself.”

Greg Ritchie can be reached at [email protected]

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