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

Excerpt, Report of the Texas Prison Centralization Commission, 1929

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Excerpt from Report of Texas Centralization Commission, 1929



Granted that the building of a new prison is imperative and that it should provide for industrial activities as indicated hereinbefore in this report, we think same should be located near Austin, the seat of govern- ment, for the following reasons:

1—In order that it be convenient and practicable for the proper co-operation between the prison management, the Governor, the Pardon and Parole Board, the Board of Control, the Highway Commission, and the other departments and agencies of Government interested in and responsible for proper prison manage-
ment. Especially important, it seems to us, is the neeed [sic] that the location be convenient for frequent inspections by the Governor and by the Pardons and Parole Board and by the Legislature.

2—Because Austin is a city where reside the medical experts which the prison management can employ for special and part time duty.

3—In order that there be a practicable and convenient co-operation between the prison authorities, the Board of Control, and Highway Department in the matter of manufacture and distribution of the various products contemplated to be manufactured and produced for the State Institutions; and as to road building,
if such should be engaged in by the prison authorities.

4—There is now located, in the vicinity of Austin, seven State eleemosynary institutions, containing an inmate population of approximately five thousand (5000) persons being one-third of the population of the eleemosynary institutions of the State. The manufacture and delivery to these institutions of the merchan-
dise and food products contemplated to be provided by the prison system would be especially facilitated by the location of the prison plant near Austin. The Board of Control has already determined that there should be one central dairy and hog raising farm provided near Austin for these seven eleemosynary institu-
tions. Much more practicable and economical does it seem to us that these activities be engaged in by the prison population for the benefit of these institutions than that some should be operated by paid employees.

5—Much, if not all the state printing, which amounts in the aggregate to hundreds of thousands of dollars per year, could be done by the prison, if same were located near Austin.

6—There are many sites available near the city of Austin for the employment of prisoners in sand, gravel and rock quarry activities. These kinds of activities are such that they could be made to use carrying numbers of men as the conditions required; and the product of their labor, not being perishable, could be held and supplied whenever there was demand for same, regardless of whether there was demand at the time produced. With a great road building and other construction program now in progress in the state, it seems to us that no more profitable employment could be provided for prisoners than the excavation of sand and gravel and crushing of rock and the quarrying of building stone.

7—The making of automobile license plates and road signs could be engaged in regardless of where a centralized prison is located.

8—Texas is practically at the beginning of an extensive road building program. Prisoners are being successfully and satisfactorily used in large number in other states in building roads—we see no reason why they cannot be so employed in Texas.

9—The many lines of activity, as found in other prisons, and as might be found practicable to use our prison population in Texas may be indicated by the attached memorandum of information of activities, etc., at the various other prisons visited by the Commission; and be reference to the various commodities and
food products now purchased by the Board of Control and which, as opportunity offered, might profitable be manufactured and produced by the prison population. The various activities suggested to be engaged in by the prison population should, of course, not all be inaugurated, but some of them should certainly be en-
gaged in at the earliest possible moment. Among these would be the manufacture of all clothing, including shoes, needed for all the State eleemosynary institutions and the prison system; the printing of a large portion of the state’s printing needs; the production of all the dairy and food products that it is practicable
to produce for State institutions; and the production of sand, gravel, crushed rock and building stone, and the manufacture of automobile license plates.

It is the thought of this Commission that all the activities to be engaged in along the manufacturing and production lines should be solely for the State’s use and not for general sale.


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Excerpt, Report of the Texas Prison Centralization Commission, 1929. Texas Prison Centralization Commission enabling legislation and report, Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

Page last modified: February 10, 2016