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 2

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | Back to exhibit

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


cy of clothing, but the bedding, at most camps, is not what it
should be. Do you yourself not feel better in the morning
after sleeping on a comfortable, clean bed? So will the con-
vict. If you want good work out of him during the day
make him comfortable at night. Under no circumstances fail
to have the clothes washed and changed as required.

Greater cleanliness will produce better health. At some
camps the convicts work, eat, and sleep—in dirt.


It is your duty to see that the convicts are furnished with a
sufficiency of good, wholesome food, properly prepared.

I have recently inspected the white convicts’ camps containing
nearly 600 men, and not a single complaint as to quantity,
quality, or variety of food furnished, but at some camps com-
plaints made to its preparation. To the proper preparation
of food, you must pay more attention. If you have not proper
cooking apparatus or utensils, demand, and have them furnish-
ed. On some of the farms the variety of food is not given that
should be. You must compel the employer to furnish it, or
report him to the asst-supt, or myself.


It is your duty to use every effort to keep the convicts in
good health. Protect your men from undue exposure. When
they come in wet see that they have dry clothes, make the pri-
son building comfortable for summer and winter; have the food
well prepared; keep prison-house building and clothing clean;
have facilities for them to wash regularly their hands and faces,
and to bathe their bodies frequently. In short treat them as
human beings. Do not keep a convict at any labor that he is
physically unable to perform. If you have no suitable work
that he can do, report the fact to the lessees and superintendent,
so he may be returned to the walls.

Do not take it for granted that every convict complaining of
being sick is only trying to play off. It is better to be imposed
upon occasionally than to force a sick man to work. You can
soon tell whether a man is really sick or not. Men have been
punished for failure to do work when subsequent developments
showed they were sick and unable to perform the work required.
Be particular that no sick man is required to work.

It is too often the case that sergeants in their desire to make a
good showing of work done, overtask their men. I know that
the lessees do not, and cannot believe that other employers of
convict labor wish to make money at the expense if the health
and life of the convicts.

When you see a convict gradually failing, do not work him
completely down, but let him stop in time and recruit [sic]. A few
days’ rest in the building, or a change to lighter work, will often
be sufficient to recuperate a man.


When a convict becomes sick, stop him from work and give

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