Rising Through the Ranks in Texas Corrections

Senior Warden Billy D. Hirsch, Goree Unit
Senior Warden Billy D. Hirsch, Goree Unit

Billy D. Hirsch made his career in the Texas state prison system, working his way up from a corrections officer at the Estelle Unit, to Assistant Warden of Death Row, and to Senior Warden of the Goree Unit in Huntsville.

Hirsch, who received his Bachelor and Master’s degrees at Sam Houston State University, will talk about career opportunities available at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) in security, classification, industry and agriculture at Real Talk w/CJ on April 24. He also will discuss what it takes to operate a prison in Texas.

“It should be an eye-opening experience about what corrections is,” said Hirsch. “Our mission is to protect the public and rehabilitate offenders.” Hirsch has served for 18 months as Senior Warden at the Goree Unit, which houses 1,321male and female inmates. The diverse unit, located just four miles from downtown Huntsville, houses a sex offender treatment unit, a dynamic risk assessment program for sex offenders before they are released to the community, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement program, an inmate trustee program that serves TDCJ administrative offices and local warehouses, a female transitions unit, and a horse breeding program for TDCJ horses.

The Goree Unit in Huntsville houses 1,321 inmates.
The Goree Unit in Huntsville houses 1,321 inmates.
“We have 100 mares,” said Hirsch. “Every horse used at TDCJ was bred and born here.”

Hirsch began his career at the Estelle Unit and attended the TDCJ Academy right here in the Criminal Justice Center. He worked at that prison for 15 years, promoting his way up to Lieutenant at the facility. As a Captain, he was transferred to the Ferguson Unit in Midway, where he worked in administrative segregation. In 2002, he was promoted to Major and went to the Eastham Unit in Lovelady, where his oversaw the agricultural unit, which included cattle, swine and crops. “We produced our own food,” said Hirsch. “We were the food sources for our own facility.”

Photo of gurney in Texas' Death Row.
Hirsch served as Assistant Warden for Death Row at the Polunsky Unit.
In 2005, he was transferred to the Polunsky Unit in Livingston, where he was assigned as Assistant Warden for Death Row. In that position, he had to deal with many issues, including protests, the execution process, and contraband interdiction.

Hirsch oversees all the operations of the Goree Unit. In addition to the traditional male inmates, the facility houses an average of 50 female inmates on their way to other facilities. It also is a designated ICE facility, where offenders with immigration status issues are interviewed. A U.S. Magistrate also holds court within the facility. The unit has a 321-bed trustee program, which provides labor to the TDCJ administrative facilities and three warehouses in Huntsville.

Hirsch received his Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice in 1999 and his Master’s in Criminal Justice Leadership and Management in 2011 from Sam Houston State University.

Member of The Texas State University System