Fear, Force, and Leather - The Texas Prison System's First Hundred Years, 1848-1948


Rough Beginnings, 1849-1861

War and Collapse, 1861-1871

The Lease Era, 1871-1883

Convict Leasing, 1883-1909

Scandal and Reform, 1909-1911

Perpetual Inquiry, 1911-1927

Reform and Reaction, 1927-1948

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Convict Leasing and State Account Farming (1883-1909)

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Top Men Bring a Good Price

At first, the state charged the farms different rates depending on the value of the crop raised. Sugar plantations paid the highest rate, $17 per month for a fit young field hand ($387 in 2009 dollars). Cotton plantations paid $16.50 a month, while farms growing corn paid $15.50. Eventually, the state divided their workers into two tiers and charged a premium for the best hands. By 1908, first-class workers — young, fit, and usually African-American — commanded $31 a month ($707 in 2009 dollars). Second-class workers—older, slower, or white or Hispanic—brought in $29 ($661 in 2009 dollars).

Penitentiary Board minutes, November 1903


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Page last modified: July 29, 2019