Since January, Rodriguez has been the top boss at the Bee County Jail. And she’s the first woman to ever hold the jail administrator’s job here.
“Everybody (the inmates) thinks I’m such a mean person,” Rodriguez said last week.
Sheriff Carlos Carrizales Jr. explained it better. “She’s like a Marine Corps drill instructor,” he said with a grin.
Rodriguez started handling county jail inmates almost a quarter century ago.
“I got hired on Oct. 16, 1988, as a jailer,” Rodriguez said. “I started at the old jail. I worked the night shift.”
In 1990, when the current jail and sheriff’s office building was completed, Rodriguez moved to the new facility with the rest of the jail staff.
Rodriguez said the secret to her success is that she never compromises with the inmates. There are rules to follow, and she makes sure everyone walks the straight and narrow.
“They know with me they aren’t going to get away with anything,” Rodriguez said.
The administrator has never been a stranger to most of the inmates in the cells she supervises.
She is the daughter of Salvador and Eloisa Barrientes Sr. She was born in Beeville and grew up here, graduating from A.C. Jones High School in 1988.
Her mother died when Rodriguez was a child, and she was raised by her Aunt Lillie.
Carrizales said when he first took over as sheriff in January 2005, he asked Rodriguez if she was ready to take charge of the jail.
She declined the offer. But the next opportunity was just as good for the sheriff. Seasoned Texas Department of Criminal Justice correctional officer Mike Page offered to take the position.
But in December, Page opted to return to the state prison system to put in the two years he would need to qualify for state health insurance coverage in his retirement.
Again, Carrizales went to Rodriguez and asked her to take the job. She did.
“She’s the ultimate professional,” the sheriff said. Since she took over, the jail has passed two unannounced inspections. One was federal, by the U.S. Marshals Service, and one was by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards. The jail passed both.
“When the jail inspectors come in and give their final reports, they always mention Chach,” Carrizales said. “They always want to take her to another jail where they’re having problems.”
Rodriguez has 33 jailers on staff to oversee 95 male and eight female inmates. Only 10 or 11 of the jailers are full-time employees, Rodriguez said. That makes it hard for the jail to keep employees.
“They get their training here,” the sheriff said. Then they find better jobs elsewhere and leave.
Meanwhile, working in a county jail can be exciting at times. Rodriguez said the fights in the cells are the most serious threat to the jail staff.
The administrator said “going into a cell not knowing what’s going to happen” is the scariest part of her job. “When there’s a fight, you’ve got to go in there and stop it.”
Surviving the dangers has its rewards, but it takes a while to earn them.
Rodriguez made sergeant in 2002. But the next promotion came more quickly, in 2005, when she made lieutenant.
Carrizales and his chief deputy, Alden Southmayd, said they have the utmost faith in Rodriguez’s ability.
“I think she’s doing a fine job,” Carrizales said.
But Rodriguez refuses to take all the credit for the successes the jail has seen recently.
She thanked her entire staff, but she said she especially appreciates the job her lieutenant, Robert Bozant, and her sergeant, Margie Diaz, are doing there.
After all the years on the job, the entire crew at the Bee County Jail, including both the deputies and jailers, are an important part of her life.
“The sheriff’s office is like my second family,” Rodriguez said.
Gary Kent is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 120, or at reporter@mySouTex.com.