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Two profiles in front of a Black History Month banner
Illustration by scoutori on Depositphotos

Sometimes, Black people who make history are too modest to call attention to themselves and their achievements, but the Goodwill Excel Center at the Gregory S. Coleman unit (formerly Lockhart Correctional Facility) refuses to be modest about our 2022 Black History Month honoree: Warden Jennifer Brown.

We did not have to cast a wide net to find our honoree. According to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, only one in four wardens are female. Their records further indicate that one in five wardens are Black, and one in 10 are Black and female. Aside from these statistics, there are many other factors that set Warden Brown apart. 

She recognizes that even in prison dreams can be fulfilled and great accomplishments can be realized. Her unbounded commitment to the Coleman Unit is always on full display. She has a beautiful heart and her bruising honesty never waivers. The encouragement she gives to help others visualize their own greatness is a balm for wounded souls.

For the past two years, she has guided this facility through a global pandemic with equanimity and responsibility. She does ordinary things that keep us safe, whether applauded or not. She pushes through fear. Often she delivers food to her fatigued staff who are tirelessly working during this unprecedented time. 

During the latest omicron surge, it was mesmerizing watching the warden sweeping, mopping, cleaning restricted housing, delivering mail to people in quarantine and offering encouraging words. 

Our pod was in isolation waiting on her daily rounds, so we could ask the same questions we asked the day before. The ladies in the dorm kept asking, “Where is Warden Brown?” 

I would reply, “She’s probably in mobile,” meaning the car that circles the prison’s perimeter.

Warden Brown leads by example and we are grateful for her powerful leadership. We salute her courage, applaud her perseverance, and embrace her strength. 

Warden Brown is a fearless fighter. She leads with might and majesty. Her unique perspective of what prison life should look like is enduring and endearing. This will be the legacy she leaves.

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

Cheryl L. Jackson is a writer incarcerated in Texas.