An employee publication of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice
The Extra Mile
Waking up Tuesday, February 16, 2021, Correctional Officer Michael Odirih put on his uniform and went about his morning routine thinking it would be like any other work day at the Goree Unit in Huntsville.
However, like most Texans, Odirih woke up to snow covered yards, and roads layered with ice.
“It was snowing – everywhere was full of snow. That should have been my ‘Monday’ coming back to work,” Odirih said. “I got in the car - my tires were spinning, it wouldn’t go. I went back upstairs, tried to call some friends that have a truck, but they live far away and they even told me they can’t go to work. I sat there and it kept going through my head, what people are going through.”
After checking in with his family, who currently live in California, Odirih began thinking about his other family - his family in gray.
With hazardous road conditions leaving many unable to drive to work, Odirih knew his fellow officers and TDCJ staff needed him to be there to help keep the unit properly running.
“Where I work is considered my family too. So, when I’m checking on my family, I’m also checking on my work, because some people might be stuck and have family at home and have kids at home,” Odirih said. “You’ve got single mothers, you’ve got single fathers, you have people that are stuck here with just the kids at home. So that’s when I called.”
For Odirih, there was only one thing left he could do - walk the six miles from his house to the facility.
As he recalls the frozen trek to work, Odirih says despite the chilling temperatures, he kept pushing forward and was driven by his duty to help his family.
“I know I can’t relieve everybody, but if I come to work, I can relieve one person. If somebody comes to work, it relieves another person so they can take turns and get back to their family,” Odirih said. “I’ve got to take care of my family. I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do, to make sure my family is alright.”
Odirih’s commitment isn’t uncommon amongst the staff of the Goree Unit, according to Senior Warden Cynthia Tilley. Like many of his fellow officers, Odirih takes pride in his work and service to those around him.
“He has a strong work ethic and he is always seen with a smile. As we thanked Officer Odirih for the example he showed, he spoke of how he was raised by his father to be the man that you can count on during times of normalcy and trials,” Tilley said. “He takes pride in being there for his wife and children as he provides for them as well as taking pride in his extended family, being responsible at work not to let them down. This is a powerful young man with a gracious heart that has earned a lot of respect and our hearts are filled with gratitude.”