A trouble making brother led Linda Pugh down a 35-year career path at the Warren County Jail.
Pugh is the jail administrator and has held the position since 1997.
“I can’t believe I’ve been here this long,” she said.
The Vicksburg native handles everything needed for the jail to run smoothly on a daily basis. She said some other jails refer to this role as the warden.
She actually had dreams of becoming an elementary school teacher, but that’s not the path she took. Instead, she had a random thought to apply for a position at the Warren County jail.
“One day I just decided to apply,” Pugh said. “I had a brother here that got in trouble one time, something small but definitely still a crime. You used to have to bring money to the inmates.”
When Pugh was bringing her brother a few dollars one night, she stopped and had a conversation with one of the female officers about working at the jail.
“She told me to apply, and I did,” Pugh said.
On the same night she applied, Captain Ervin Grant, who is now deceased, called Pugh to offer her the position of adult detention officer working the swing shift. For Pugh, the swing shift meant she would work midnight to 8 a.m. or 4 p.m. to midnight, or one day shift and one occasional Saturday.
“I told him, ‘Yes, sir,’ and I reported to the jail at midnight on Halloween night in 1985,” Pugh said. “I’ll never forget it, and I’ve been at the jail ever since.”
Since 1985, Pugh has seen generations of families make appearances at the jail.
“I see people of the same families, and they come in and say, ‘Ms. Linda, you still here?’ and I say ‘Yeah, I’m still here, and you still coming here.’”
Pugh said she sees fathers, uncles, sons, moms, aunts and cousins of the same families over and over. Sometimes they are all in the jail together.
Even though she chose the criminal justice path over her original plan of becoming a school teacher, she sees how the two relate.
“The criminal field and the education field have similarities,” Pugh said. “You have people who come in here that are not even able to write in complete sentences. Some inmates come in here and say, ‘Linda, I only have a sixth grade education or a ninth grade education.’”
She said in all her years working at the Warren County Jail she has yet to meet an inmate who has finished high school and gone on to graduate from college.
In years past, Pugh said vocational-technical classes were allowed to bring in a library for inmates to check out books, but times are different now.
“Crime and people change, and the way things have changed now, we don’t allow it anymore. The sheriff now only allows the chaplains,” Pugh said.
As the jail administrator for nearly 25 years, the female warden has never been assaulted by another inmate.
“I would never believe it would come that a woman would serve in this role,” Pugh said.
Pugh is the first woman and the first African American to ever hold the position in Warren County. One small study’s respondents put the number of African American women wardens at about 3% nationally.
Pugh said “I tell all the female officers, ‘Listen to me. I’m the first, and I hope I’m not the last.’”
“Looking back now, this job just feels right,” she said. “It is kind of like a dream.”