Fear, Force, and Leather: The Texas Prison System&rsquot;s First Hundred Years 1848-1948

Thomas J. Goree, Circular to Sergeants in charge of convict camps, April 2, 1880

Page 1

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | Back to exhibit

Thomas J. Goree to Sergeants in charge of convict camps, April 1880


Circular Letter.

Office of Superintendent of Texas State Penitentiary,
Huntsville, Texas, April 2, 1880

To Sergeants in charge of Convict Camps of the Texas State Penitentiary:

It has just been three years since I was first appointed super
intendent of the Texas penitentiary. During that time, with the
assistance, first of the board of commissioners, and afterwards
of the board of directors and assistant-superintendents, and also
with the hearty co-operation of the lessees and several sergeants,
very great improvement and progress has been made in the
management and treatment of convicts of the Texas State peni-

The convicts are now better fed, better clothed and better
treated in every respect than they have ever before been; but
from reports made me from time to time by the ass’t-superin-
tendents, and from personal inspection of some of the outside
camps, I am satisfied there is still much room for improvement
in some, if not all the camps.

To call your attention to certain rules, which are not always
observed, and to present suggestions looking to the better man-
agement, comfort and care of the convicts under your charge, is
the object of this letter.


The rules require that the lessees and employers of convict
labor shall provide secure and commodious prison-houses, to be
made comfortable, etc. It is also made the duty of the sergeant to
see that the prison-house is secure, commodious, and kept clean
and whitewashed frequently. Now there are a few prison-houses
which are not secure; many are not sufficiently commodious; and
many others not comfortable either in summer or winter. Now
it is your duty to demand such prison-houses as the law con-

With the exception of the r’y [railway] construction trains, and a very
few stationary camps, the buildings are not kept neat and clean,
nor whitewashed as required.

From reports received of some few prison buildings, they are
not much better than secondclass [sic] hogpens [sic].

If it be possible for one or more sergeants to keep clean buil-
dings, all can, and must do it.


It is each sergeant’s duty to see that the convicts are furnished
with necessary bedding, hats, shoes, and clothing, and when
furnished to see that they are properly taken care of; also,
to see that the clothing of the convicts be washed and changed
once every week, and the bedding frequently aired and sunned.
There has been little or no complaint of the want of a sufficien-

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | Back to exhibit

Thomas J. Goree, Circular to Sergeants in charge of convict camps, April 2, 1880. Texas State Railroad Records, Records Relating to the Penitentiary, Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

Page last modified: August 16, 2011