Field officers in 1920. The officers wear their own clothing; uniforms were not issued until the 1950s.Topical photographs, photographs, Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.
The Committee on Prisons and Prison Labor
An organization of Texas women, many of whom had been leaders of the women's suffrage movement, kept the issue of prison reform alive in the 1920s. The Texas chapter of Committee on Prisons and Prison Labor (CPPL) lobbied for studies of prison conditions, vocational training for convicts, and anti-crime reforms such as child welfare laws and strict enforcement of prohibition.
Escapes became rampant in the late 1920s, reaching six percent of the prison population by 1929. This 1928 document encapsulates some of the escapes from Blue Ridge Farm in Fort Bend County.
The CPPL researched and issued reports, such as this one on creating a penal colony.
Violence would kick-start another round of reform. In 1925, an auditor sent by a legislative investigative committee was beaten up on the streets of Huntsville. Angry lawmakers put forth an amendment to the Texas constitution, approved by voters in 1926, which ended the governor’s control of the prison system. The three-member board of directors was abolished in favor of a new entity called the Texas Prison Board comprised of nine members serving overlapping terms. The board was authorized to hire a general manager to handle daily operations of the prison. This form of management would remain in place until the 1990s.
Texas is the state most closely associated with the use of the death penalty. Learn more about why the 1923 legislature passed a law ending the practice of hangings in county jails and moving all executions to Huntsville, where the condemned would be put to death in an electric chair.