in Texas Prisons: A Timeline
An “Act to Establish a State Penitentiary” is passed by the Texas legislature. The Huntsville “Walls” Unit, though not yet fully constructed, accepts its first inmate on October 1.
Prior to 1865 and the end of the Civil War, only the most serious white criminals were sent to the penitentiary. Blacks remained on slave plantations.
Civil War ends. Thirteenth Amendment is ratified, prohibiting slavery and involuntary servitude except as a form of punishment. (Texas ratifies the amendment on February 18, 1870, prior to its readmission to the Union.)
Texas prison population is roughly 165 inmates.
Board of Public Labor is created by the Eleventh Texas Legislature with responsibility to retain contracts for the use of inmate labor. The private-lease system is created.
Texas prisoners under the lease are sent to racially segregated camps to work on railroads, public utilities, and plantations. Serious criminals, most of whom are white, remain in Huntsville Walls Unit in cells
Lease system ends, and contract-lease system ensues. Agricultural prison farms expand.
East Texas Penitentiary in Rusk, Texas, is constructed to help relieve overcrowding in Huntsville Walls Unit.
Texas begins to purchase large tracts of land in southeastern part of the state. State prison farms become operational: Wynne in 1883; Harlem I and II in 1885; Clemens in 1893; Ramsey I and II and Imperial and Blue Ridge in 1908; Central in 1909; Darrington and Eastham in 1917; and Retrieve in 1919