Fear, Force, and Leather: The Texas Prison System&rsquot;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 Diet in the 1920a


The Perpetual Inquiry (1911-1927)

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Field officers, 1920

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.

Escape Analysis, May and June 1928

CPPL Report on a Texas penal colony, 1931

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.

Learn More

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.


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Page last modified: January 11, 2016