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Houston County Courier - Local News
Stories Added - December 2010
Copyright 2010 - Polk County Publishing Company

Officials dedicate HCJC
Houston County Courier

By Lynda Jones
Managing Editor

Dedication ceremonies at the Houston County Justice Center opened on Saturday, Dec. 4 with the singing of the national anthem. The scene was very Texan, with lawmakers standing at attention with their stetsons placed over their hearts. Next, Houston County Precinct 1 Commissioner Roger Dickey led the crowd in the invocation. He asked for God’s blessings and protection for all the men and women who will be walking through the new HCJC doors, day in and day out, and for those who will be incarcerated there from time, with hopes they will benefit from a positive influence while they are there. Precinct 4 Commissioner Kennon Kellum recognized the many Houston County officials who were present. In fact, only a handful were absent from the dedication ceremony. Kellum noted, “The county only works well when the officials you put in office work together, and I think we’re fortunate to have a group of elected officials that work together.” Precinct 2 Commissioner Willie Kitchen told the audience, “As elected officials, it’s important to us that we receive the approval of the citizens that we represent, and it’s obvious by your presence here today that you’ve granted us that approval.” He then thanked the citizenry for that approval. Kitchen recognized another group of special guests, including the mayors and some council members from Grapeland, Crockett and Lovelady, as well as representatives of Trinity County and Tyler County. The 911 coordinator for the Deep East Texas Council of Governments attended, as did Jim Landrum and Allen Cheatham of Vulcraft and Mike Starkey of the Texas Jail Commission. “It does my heart good to see you here,” Sheriff Darrel Bobbitt said. As Houston County Judge Lonnie Hunt introduced Sheriff Darrel Bobbitt, he said, “This man has a big job, and we’re fortunate to have him doing it.” Bobbitt told the audience, “It does my heart good to see you here. As a sheriff, I was told a long time ago, every time you go out on a call the odds are about 50 percent you’re going to make one side happy and one side mad, so it’s really good to see friends that come and support us, other officials of the county that come and support us. We need your support. It’s very valuable.” Next, Bobbitt said, “I’ll say first, that I thank God, not only for this facility, but this county and our elected officials. “If you knew the circumstances we were facing when we first arrived here, the over-population, the lack of room, the lack of resources, believe me, it was ya’ll that directed our path to where we are right today and I want to say thank you very much.” The sheriff continued, “I want to thank you who have been so supportive through this endeavor. This endeavor has actually lasted for several years now to where we are now. “It’s been a long road getting here. As a matter of fact, when we took office three terms ago, 10 years ago now, this was the issue we faced as soon as we walked in the door. And that was the overpopulation. “A lot of people said, you can do this, and you can do that, but, you know, the truth is, we were required to follow the law just as the rest of the offices in maintaining the population that was within the jail commission’s directions.” “We’ve worked through every possible avenue to try to keep the population down. Believe me, we’ve worked the system,” Bobbitt said, “Our county, our courts, our judges, our prosecutors, they’ve all worked hand in glove with us to try to alleviate this problem.” He explained, “It was just something that grew and grew until finally we got to the point we had to make some very hard decisions. And that’s why we’re here today.” Bobbitt also thanked Hunt and the Commissioners Court. He said, “Let me tell you, it’s not easy for commissioners and judges to get up in front of their constituents and people out in the county and say, ‘We’re fixing to spend $13 million.’ It’s not easy.” “They would like to just not face the problem, but I’m glad to say we have a commissioners court and a judge and other county officials that were strong enough to make some strong decisions.” Bobbitt also thanked the architects and construction company who worked diligently with the county. Bobbitt also thanked his staff, “Within the past two years we've been functioning in the sheriff’s office and working to get this facility built, so it stretched my staff very thin.” He went on to praise Mary Jordan, his administrative assistant, for diligently staying at the office and keeping it running while he and Deputy Chief Ronnie Jordan were strung out between the two buildings. “She didn’t get to be in the limelight. She didn’t get her picture on the front page. Believe me, she was the nuts and bolts of that office that kept that thing together. I really appreciate Mary today,” Bobbitt said. “I want to give a special, special thank you to Ronnie Jordan. Ronnie Jordan is my chief deputy and I get to say that for just the next few days. Ronnie in just a few days is going to be your justice of the peace. “He was duly elected and he’s a fine man. For the past two years, Ronnie has stepped up, took on some responsibilities, not only as the chief deputy, but spearheading much of this jail down here,” Bobbitt said. “Ronnie has worked tirelessly on this thing for two years. I’m glad to call him my chief, I’m honored that I’m going to be able to call him my justice of the peace here for the next four years, and I’m most blessed though that I’m able to call Ronnie Jordan my friend. He’s done a fantastic job up here”. Bobbitt also thanked audience for coming, for the public support of the sheriff’s office on a day to day basis. Hunt told the crowd the county didn’t build the facility for the inmates, but for the safety of the community. As members of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office conducted tours of the facilities, safety features were consistently identified to visitors. For example, there are safety vestibules outside multi-occupancy cells. Jordan explained how that when a prisoner is brought to a cell, the jailer unlocks the vestibule door, and does not unlock the door going directly into the cell until the vestibule door to the hall is closed and locked. Jailers are protected in circular areas in the hall outside dorm cells. They are surrounded by glass where they can see in any direction, and they are protected if there should be a breach of security from the cell. In that area, the jailer has communication with the central control area. There are cameras throughout the building and on the outside of the building, enabling jailers in the control room to constantly monitor all activity inside and out. Jordan also told visitors in his tour groups how the structure is designed for expansion as the jail population grows. Most visitors left the tours saying the new HCJC is a beautiful facility, but they were happy no doors were locking behind them and they were able to go on with the rest of their Saturday plans.

 

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