On a blistering hot late summer day at a state prison in rural Rosharon, Marquieth Jackson sits behind security glass. His muscular arms poke out from a white jumpsuit and his hazel eyes peer into the visitor’s room.
More than 30 miles to the north, his mother’s brown eyes stare out at criminal justice activists seated around a table at the Texas Organizing Project’s Midtown office.
As the Harris County director for the nonprofit project, Tarsha Jackson tackles a range of criminal justice issues, and it’s not unusual to see the 46-year-old leading a protest or speaking at a rally or press conference.
Her road from loan counselor to prison reformer began when Marquieth was arrested 16 years ago for kicking a teacher in elementary school. Her years-long struggle to help her son now has catapulted her to the forefront of the Texas criminal justice reform movement.
“She’s very passionate about her work, that’s why she’s good,” said state Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, who has helped advise her through Marquieth’s struggles. “Her son’s in a difficult situation, but she’s using his circumstances as motivation to help others.”
Tarsha Jackson learned about the legal system in fits and starts, beginning in 2001 when she answered a call from police at her desk at Wells Fargo Bank.
Marquieth was in fifth grade at Spring ISD’s Wunsche Multipurpose School, which then offered special education programs. At the time, Marquieth refused to be placed in time-out, so he kicked his teacher, Tarsha recalled. The school called police and the 10-year-old was charged with assault on a public servant.