SB: Let’s start with how you came to this career choice.
MCH: I went to college at Grambling State University as a computer science major. I learned early that I’m just not a computer person. I visited my sister Shajuana who worked at the prison in Houston and she took me to work with her. My life changed that day and from that point on I knew I wanted to go into criminal justice so I changed my major and finished school in 1997. I started with the sheriff’s office in August of that year and have been here ever since.
SB: What is your primary role as a warden?
MCH: To supervise approximately 170 deputies and staff. I supervise the day-to-day of three facilities with three captains at each facility and make sure they’re doing what they should be doing which is maintaining the safety of inmates and deputies. I have an assistant, Captain Stokes, who makes sure our goals are met.
SB: Do you believe the purpose of a prison is to punish inmates or to rehabilitate them?
MCH: I’ve seen it both ways. When an offender comes in and “punishment” is enough to make them not want to come back, those are success stories. We have those that commit horrific crimes and they should be punished. We have drug rehab programs where we see success stories from completing the program. I think about my life and the things I’ve done that I’m not proud of but I was young. People make mistakes and if you learn from those mistakes, that’s what matters most.
SB: How do you deal with prisoners who don’t have much of a chance of getting out and don’t want to cooperate?
MCH: Well we respect all of them. We do have those who will never get out and we treat them the way they treat us. Respect me, and I’ll respect you. It’s not about the crime they committed. It’s about their attitude. We find when we respect them, they respect us. Our job is still to keep everyone safe.
SB: If you had the opportunity to reinvent a prison without political or financial constraints, what would it look like?
MCH: I think I’d just improve what we have already—for the 23 years I’ve been here, this is how it’s been. What we have works. I think we offer what we need and it’s up to them to accept it. The change would come from [the inmates].
SB: Does being a woman in your position influence your decisions at all?
MCH: I’m more compassionate for certain topics but that doesn’t influence the way I do my job. I consider myself fair. I’m easy to get along with but I’m not a pushover. I get respect and I give respect. Women and men here respect each other’s opinions and we’re out here to do a job and the number one thing is making sure the citizens of Bossier City feel safe.
SB: You’re obviously a strong woman. Do you ever find being a female in your seat more difficult than if you were a man?
MCH: Yes, in the past it seemed you had to almost put out more effort. It seems like you have to make yourself stand out more because a lot of people don’t feel that women can lead which is not true. Women are stepping up in all professions. Back in the day men held all the seats. Today, women step in and are doing a great job. We just have to work harder to prove ourselves.