Today, the Jones brothers are still keeping up with one another. Each now serves as a senior warden, the only two siblings working in that capacity for TDCJ. Mark, 40, has served as senior warden at the Hamilton Pre-Release Therapeutic Community facility in Bryan since May 2005. James, 42, took over as senior warden of the Goodman Transfer Facility in Jasper in September 2006. In recent years, just two other brothers Jim and Bruce Zeller - served as senior wardens simultaneously for TDCJ.
James and Mark Jones are the second and third of five boys raised by David and Helen Jones in Madisonville, where the two brothers starred for the high school football team. James was an all-state and all-district running back for the Mustangs while Mark earned all-district honors as a defensive back. Younger brother Jeffrey drove a TDCJ offender transportation bus for 10 years before leaving to drive a van for a parcel delivery service. The oldest and youngest brothers in the family operate a pallet business together.
The family patriarch, David, worked for TDCJ for more than 20 years, starting a correctional officer at the Ferguson Unit near Midway and ending his career with what is now the Facilities Division at the Ellis Unit. Mark and James said their father’s career no doubt influenced their own career paths.
“My dad, that’s what he did, and you think about what your dad did,” Mark said. “I remember when, as kids, he used to take us down to the Ferguson Unit to get a haircut. But I never thought I’d be working at the prison.”
Mark, though, joined TDCJ right out of high school. At that time, James was wrapping up his studies at Navarro Junior College in Corsicana, where he had been awarded a football scholarship and was also looking for work. Although Mark likes to playfully point out that he has more time with TDCJ than his older brother, they both applied for jobs with the agency practically in tandem.
“Actually, we were supposed to start (the training academy) on the same day,” James said. “We got our letters to start at the same time, but I was up at school and couldn’t make that class.”
Both brothers were promoted to sergeant at the units where they got their start. Mark also earned a promotion to lieutenant at Eastham before moving to the Boyd Unit near Teague as a captain in 1994. He rose to the rank of major at the Huntsville Unit in 1997 and then to assistant warden at the Ellis Unit two years later. Mark was named senior warden at the Havins State Jail in Brownwood in August 2004, nine months before his move to Hamilton.
James and Mark each worked at the Ellis, Boyd, and Huntsville units during their careers, though at different times and in different capacities. James was promoted to lieutenant at Boyd in 1991 and moved two years later to the Holliday Transfer Facility in Huntsville, where he was promoted to captain. He rose to the rank of major at what is now named the Polunsky Unit in 1997, the same year his brother attained the same rank at the Huntsville Unit. In 2000, James moved to the CID Region I Office in Huntsville as an assistant regional director. The following year, he was promoted to assistant warden at the Lewis Unit in Woodville. He held the same position at the Polunsky and Huntsville units prior to his promotion to senior warden at Goodman.
Mark and James have many other things in common besides work. They were both born on the eleventh day of the month. They are both soft-spoken family men of deep faith who often repeat each other sentences and agree with other’s assessments without argument. Both of their wives work for TDCJ. Each has two girls. And, of course, they share a brotherly bond.
“I would say that he’s probably my best friend,” James said of Mark.
“He’s more than just a brother, he’s a close friend,” Mark responded. “I can sit down and talk to him about anything. And he’ll come talk to me the same way.”
The brothers talk two or three times a week by phone but don’t ask each other for advice on how to run their units.
“We never have to call each other for advice on how to deal with a particular situation,” Mark said. “We do share ideas with each other.”
Because they look and sound somewhat alike, Mark and James, who is the quieter of the two, have often been confused for each other over the years.
“I remember one time down south we were both going up for a position, and the first thing they asked me was, ‘Didn’t you just leave out of here?’” Mark said.
“They had us back to back,” James said with a laugh.
The brothers say they achieved their original career goals when they reached the rank of captain. Now that they are senior wardens, neither has specifically set a new goal. Both say they are happy where they are.
“It’s always been security, dealing with the offender population, working with people. It’s what I love doing,” Mark said.
“But you never know,” James said. “We might get to the point where we say, ‘Hey, let’s try this, too.’”