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

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

er, is, to say the least, cowardly. Many convicts have been
goaded to insolence, and even to desperation, by such treatment.


You cannot be too particular in the selection of guards. Em-
ploy no one who is not sober and moral, and is not endorsed
by some known responsible party. Require the oath to be taken
before placing a guard on duty. When you get a good guard,
try and keep him. When you find one is becoming negligent and
careless in the discharge of his duty, you had better get rid of
him before such carelessness results in the escape or attempt to
escape, and probably death of a convict. Nine-tenths of the es-
capes result from carelessness on the part of guards. There would
}be but few escapes if the guard watched the convict as closely as
the convict watches him.

Do not let your guards go on duty in the day after being up
and frolicking the night before. Permit no familiarity between con-
victs and guards, especially enforce § 13, Art. iv. Of the Rules.

You cannot discipline properly your convict force until you
first discipline your guard force.


Escapes are too frequent, and every precaution must be used
to prevent them. There are some sergeants who never have an
escape. This is not because they have better convicts, but because
they exercise more vigilance and are more particular in the selec-
tion of guards. The sergeants as a general thing who comply most
strictly with the rules have the fewest escapes or attempts to escape.


It has been reported to Gov’r Roberts, and the asst.-superin-
tendents believe, that at some few camps the convicts are afraid
to make complaint of their treatment. Bulldozing sergeants and
guards will not be tolerated.
A sergeant who works and governs
his men according to the rules, conscious of the rectitude of all his
acts, need not fear anything a convict reports, and he will always
assure the convicts under his charge that they are at perfect liber-
ty to report any of his acts. All complaints will be fairly investiga-
ted. No convict must be punished, directly nor indirectly, for
complaining to the proper authorities.


These must in all particulars be substantially complied with. I
have sworn to do it, and so have you and your guards. We are
all officers of the State, having in our charge and power the cri-
minals of the State. Theirs is a hard lot at best. Let us use our
utmost endeavors to keep them securely, but at the same time to
to treat kindly and humanely these unfortunates.

I am, very respectfully,

Sup’t Texas Pen’y

We fully endorse and approve the above Circular Letter of the superin-
tendent of the penitentiary, and desire all sergeants and guards employed ei-
ther directly by us or by parties working convict labor to comply with its re-
quirements and suggestions.

CUNNINGHAM & ELLIS, Lessees Texas State Pen’y.

Item pr., Huntsville, Texas

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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