First Available Cell: Desegregation of the Texas Prison System

By Chad R. Trulson; James W. Marquart | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER 8
7,000 Days Later

In the first chapter we discussed the zones of desegregation and how desegregation efforts often move from the outer fringes or zones inward—from the least to most contentious areas. We also showed, in Chapter 3, how U.S. military units were desegregated by way of social clubs, recreational areas, base transportation, and divisions first—efforts that paved the way for the racial mixing of fighting units, or the final zone.

The decades between 1960 and 1990 involving the Texas prison system clearly illustrate our theory about racial desegregation in TDC. Texas prison officials over these decades desegregated the prison units, work areas, field force and line squads, cell blocks, tiers, and dormitories—all areas except double cells. Prison desegregation was accomplished from the outside moving inward. Yet, by 1991, only the most contentious zone remained segregated, prison cells.


Predictions of a Bloodbath

Publicly, TDC administrators voiced a strong commitment to cell desegregation. There was a disjunction, however, between their public comments and the opinions of unit level personnel, including wardens, officers, and staff. With some variation, those at the unit level responsible for implementing desegregation on a day-to-day basis were highly skeptical of this courtmandated policy. These cellblock level bureaucrats believed that cell desegregation would result in “blood on the tiers,” that the racial mixing of the most violent and least stable individuals in Texas was a recipe for disaster. As one warden expressed to a racial desegregation committee as late as 1990, “In-cell

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