Pugh nears three decades of service as jail administrator

Published 3:22 pm Monday, August 24, 2015

Linda Pugh has spent more time in the Warren County Jail than most criminals.

Pugh, the county’s jail administrator, will celebrate her 30th year working inside the facility in October.  Such a feat is rare in the corrections aspect of law enforcement, where burnout and turnover are common.

“There’s so much excitement every day. You never get bored on the job,” Pugh said.

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She began her career as a corrections deputy in October 1985. She became administrator of the 128-bed jail in 1997.

“Some people think it’s hard working in the jail. It’s just everyday life. This is my life,” Pugh said.

As administrator, Pugh is supervisor of the 14 civilian employees who work in the jail as well as receiving bonds for released inmates and overseeing inmate discipline issues.

“It’s high stress every single day,” said Sheriff Martin Pace who began his career with the sheriff’s office as a jailer. “There is no slow day in the jail.”

Despite being responsible for the staff who keeps them behind bars, when inmates see Pugh outside the confines of the jail, they are almost always friendly, she said.

“At least four days a week, I meet an inmate somewhere,” Pugh said. “There have been a lot of them who come up though. I’ll see them in the street and they “Miss Pugh, I will never come back to your jail. They’ll end up thanking you in the long run.”

Of course, every jail has a few troublemakers.

“You’ve got a few there’s just no turning around,” she said. “I really, truly believe some of them will come a long way.”

Pugh attended Jackson State University before graduation from Alcorn State University with a degree in elementary education. The two fields might seem unrelated but Pugh said she sees every day though talking to and reading letters from inmates how important education is.

“The most common characteristic among county jail inmates is a lack of education. Education in the home and education in schools is so vital to preventing crime,” Pace said.

Running the jail — a place where few come willingly — comes with inherent challenges, and one of the biggest in Warren County comes from the age of the jail.

“This building was built without any consideration for visitation,” Pace said.

Instead, visitors are led into secure cellblocks, giving them opportunity to smuggle in cellphones, tobacco and drugs.

“It’s a big challenge because of contraband. It’s not just here; it’s everywhere,” Pugh said.