DPS Black History Month Spotlight: Warden Johnny Hawkins

Author: Kirsten Barber

For Black History Month, the Department of Public Safety is spotlighting employees who have gone above and beyond – either through their job or in their free time – to support COVID-19 safety and healing in their communities. Find more inspiring stories here.

Polk Correctional Institution has named their warden, Johnny Hawkins, as one of their COVID-19 heroes during the pandemic. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Warden Hawkins has expressed concern for all persons within the facility and has taken action to ensure the health and safety of staff and offenders. He always makes it a priority to pass down information on new health guidelines or precautions.

Every day he demonstrates his concern for all inside Polk Correctional Institution by making sure all are informed about COVID-19. He checks to confirm everyone is wearing the proper protective equipment daily, social distancing is being adhered to and is persistent about cleaning throughout the facility.

When the COVID-19 vaccine became available to those who work within prison facilities, Warden Hawkins led by example and was one of the first to receive a shot. 

Outside of work, Warden Hawkins has several ongoing volunteer and philanthropic initiatives, but one that Polk Correctional Institution staff pointed out was his efforts to sponsor and provide for a local family in need last year. He even got staff involved in this initiative. Together as a team they collected donations ranging from clothes to food to cleaning supplies, which were all delivered to the family. 

When asked last year who inspires him, Warden Hawkins answered with General Colin Powell, the first African American to serve as Secretary of State. “His actions and accomplishments have inspired me in life and leadership,” Hawkins said.

Warden Hawkins wears many hats as the head of Polk Correctional Institution, however, being the warden and keeping the staff members safe is by far one of his favorite hats to wear.

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