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

Online Finding Aids

For Further Reading

Contact Us

More Exhibits

Convict Diet in the 1920s

Biscuits and Gravy;
Bacon; Coffee
Sugar; Syrup

Cornbread; Bacon;
Lima Beans; Tomato;
Stew; Hominy; Potato;
Pudding; Syrup;
Pickles; Pimentos

Cornbread; Bacon;
Stewed Potatoes;
Grits; Gravy; Corn;
Syrup; Pickles;

Peppers; Candied Pumpkin

The Perpetual Inquiry (1911-1927)

The Committee on Prisons and Prison Labor

Page 1 | 2 | 3

Field officers, 1920

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.

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.

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.

Escape Analysis, May and June 1928

CPPL Report on a Texas penal colony, 1931

Complete Table of Contents

Quick Links to Major Topic

Page last modified: August 23, 2019