The Most Unlikely Place
Between 1892 and 1954, Ellis Island was the primary immigrant processing station in the United States. Over 12 million immigrants came through here during this period, from a multitude of lands and speaking a multitude of languages. They were tested and examined for medical problems and other concerns, then let out the “back door” and dispersed throughout the country.
In one sense, America was indeed a great melting pot, where people from various countries and walks of life came together. However, complete ethnic and racial mixing never occurred. For many immigrants, Ellis Island was their only experience with intense interracial or interethnic contact. Once out the back door, most immigrants sought refuge with their fellow countrymen in the neighborhoods of great American cities.
In a sense, Texas prisons function like miniature Ellis Islands: men and women from different walks of life, experiences, races, and ethnicities are transported here, examined, and processed. Yet Texas prisons are places where the melting pot is maintained and long-term mixing is achieved. Indeed, the caged melting pot in Texas may be one of the most desegregated places in American society.
In this book we have examined how the Texas prison system accomplished desegregation and maintained this caged melting pot while situated within a state that had a long history of forced and de facto racial segregation. What remains is a discussion of why desegregation in Texas prisons unfolded without the dire consequences many had predicted. In the final chapter, we examine the factors that we believe can explain TDC’s relatively successful outcomes in the aftermath of large-scale prisoner desegregation. To begin, we focus on research regarding racial and ethnic contact.