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

10—The population of the State is growing westward and, therefore, Austin will become, all the time, more near the center of the population, reducing cost of transportation of prisoners and making the prison
more accessible to any persons who may have reason to visit it.

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RECOMMENDATIONS AS TO DISPOSITION OF PRESENT OWNED PROPERTIES

It is our recommendation that a board, composed as the Legislature may determine, be created and authorized to make disposition of all the present owned properties of the prison system, except the Imperial,
Harlem, Darrington and Ramsey farms. It is our judgment that all the other farms should be disposed of as early as practicable and recommended by the Prison Board, and as fair price can be secured for the same
—proper reservations, however, by the State, as mineral rights. We recommend construction on the Imperial farm of a modern fireproof prison camp of the kind and character as now maintained on the prison
farms in Virginia, such camp to house not less than five hundred prisoners. We also recommend modern Imperial, Harlem, Darrington and Ramsey farms, but of concentration of farming activities on these farms.

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IMMEDIATE NEEDS OF THE PRESENT SYSTEM REGARDLESS OF WHERE CENTRAL PRISON
PLANT IS ESTABLISHED

Regardless of where new central prison is located, it is imperative that improvements in the way of buildings and equipment be provided for the present farming activities, this both for the protection of the
public from escapes and from the standpoint of economic operation. Regardless of the viewpoint the Legislature might have as to the continued ownership of the present owned farms of the system, certainly it will be many years before all of the farms are disposed of and if recommendation of this Commission is followed, the ownership of Imperial, Harlem and Darrington, and possibly the ownership of the Ramsey,
will be continued many years. And while a new prison system is being constructed and for many years after the construction of same, if not permanently, many of the prisoners must be employed on the above
mentioned land, and as stated above, in order to prevent escapes and to save money for the taxpayers of Texas, to make provision for the proper housing of the prisoners needed for these farms and to furnish
adequate equipment for the cultivation of same. To this end, it is our judgment that there should be immediately constructed a central camp (we would recommend such permanent fireproof construction as is now
had by the State of Virginia on its farms—which has hereinbefore been referred to) of sufficient size to take care of some five hundred prisoners. Such a camp would be the central headquarters camp, serving the Imperial, Harlem, Darrington and possibly the Ramsey farms. [A] Smaller modern camp should also be built on the Harlem farm (this smaller camp to house approximately 200 men); one on the Ramsey farm (suf-
ficient to house approximately 200 prisoners); and a similar camp on the Darrington farm (of sufficient size to house approximately 100 prisoners). The more elaborate hospitalization requirements for this entire farming activity could be provided at the main buildings on the Imperial.

The additional men provided for on these farms would enable the clearing and putting in cultivation of several thousand more acres of land on the Ramsey and Darrington farms. This would enhance the value
of these properties.

There should be provided additional livestock and implements for the proper cultivation of these farms and the drainage of same. There should also be additional livestock provided for these farms because there is acreage available for the care of same and adequate men to look after the same. This acreage that is not in cultivation should be made to produce some returns for the State of Texas, and in our judgment, no better way to provide said returns is available than by the growing of more livestock. In addition to agricultural implements, tractors and graders are needed in order to provide for proper drainage of much of these
lands. Of course the overflows are not going to be prevented except by enormous expenditure of funds which we are not disposed to recommend unless it should be determined to keep these farms for all time.
$*____________ could profitably be put in livestock and $*____________ in graders and other farming equipment.

These several buildings would cost between $150,000.00 and $250,000.00, depending on the size, character of construction and equipment. We recommend an appropriation of not less than $200,000.00 for this construction.

Respectfully submitted,

W.A. PADDOCK,                        FRED E. HORTON,
DR. A.C. SCOTT,                      FRANK L. TILLER,
JOSEPH WEARDEN,                      EDGAR E. WITT,
J.D.H. HOLDERRY,                     W.A. WILLIAMSON,
E.H. ASTIN,                          J.W. STEVENSON,
LEE SIMMONS,                         JOHN F. WALLACE
RABBI HENRY COHEN,

*Data will be furnished to the Legislature by Prison Board giving amount needed for emergency.

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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: August 16, 2011