Three Rivers students visit historic jails

Live Oak County Judge Jim Huff talks to Three Rivers Elementary School fourth-graders about the importance of doing the right thing and trying out of trouble during the group's recent visit to historic county jails.

GEORGE WEST – Three classes of fourth-graders from Three Rivers Elementary School got a glimpse of old style justice during visits to the historic Oakville Jail and the old jail facilities at the Live Oak County Courthouse in George West on Thursday, May 23.

Some of the old jail facilities which were built in 1962 will be removed from the Live Oak County Courthouse in order to return the building’s exterior to the same look it featured in 1920, when the building was completed.

But old jail cells on the courthouse’s third floor which housed prisoners for decades before the 1962  jail opened will remain in place, and visitors will be able to see the type of accommodations prisoners once received.

During the students’ visit, County Judge Jim Huff explained the need for them to be quiet so that business could be conducted in the courtroom upstairs. 

“The current jail at capacity can hold 96 or 98 prisoners, and we have prisoners not only from Live Oak County, but from other counties (including McMullen County),” Huff told the students.

Tadlock said that the jail currently held about 58 inmates.

Justice of the Peace Geneva Garcia also joined the tour.

Students and the adults touring the old jail had to navigate narrow steps to reach different levels of the jail.

Linda Tadlock, a fourth-grade teacher, explained that the county seat — and along with it, the courthouse and jail, was moved from Oakville to George West in 1919.

“In 1919 when construction started, the cost of this building was $175,000,” Huff said. “George West donated $75,000, and the commissioners court dedicated a portion of taxes to raise the other money.

“That was a lot of money in 1919, but we’ve spent millions just trying to keep the courthouse up since then.”

Huff told the students that additional tours of the old jail facilities will be offered before they are torn down.

“In the 1960s and 1970s, a woman cooked at the jail and her husband was the jailer,” Huff said. “They lived at the courthouse.”

He also told students that the hook hanging from the ceiling near the old 1919-1920 jail area was allegedly where a prisoner would be hung for execution.

“Supposedly this place has a ghost,” Deputy Tadlock told the student. “I don’t believe in ghosts.”

One of the students expressed concerns that a ghost might bite him.

At the end of the tour, Judge Huff took time to explain the juvenile justice system and told the students that children ages 10-17 were jailed at a juvenile detention facility in Sinton — located in neighboring San Patricio County.

Teachers, Judge Huff and Deputy Tadlock talked about the importance of following the rules and not hurting anyone so that the students would not have to go to jail one day.

Huff also said it was important that no one is bullied.

“One of the things at the top of my list that I don’t put up with is bullying,” Huff said. “If you know about someone bullying, you need to tell an adult so we can take care of it.”

Deputy Tadlock told the students to make sure they behaved so they could avoid going to jail, a place where their cellphones, iPads and computers would not be allowed and where they wouldn’t even be able to use the bathroom in privacy.

Huff told the students that this was a great time to decide to make good choices and avoid getting into the type of trouble that could result in them going to jail.

“Right now you’re an open book,” he said. “Make sure you don’t fill that in with a criminal record, because it will stay with you. It will affect the kind of job you can get, and where you go to college. It’s important to decide right now to do things the right way.”

Jeff Osborne is the editor of The Progress. He can be reached at 361-786-3022 or theprogress@mysoutex.com.