Penology for Profit
A History of the Texas Prison System, 1867-1912
Texas History - Criminal Justice
6 x 9, 232 pp.
12 b&w photos., 11 tables.
Pub Date: 06/01/2000
Texas A&M Southwestern Studies
Price:        $32.95 s

Price:        $19.95 s


Published by Texas A&M University Press

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American Association for State and Local History. Certificate of Commendation. Presented September 1989.
Ottis Lock Award for the Best Book on East Texas History. Presented September 1989.

Penology for Profit

A History of the Texas Prison System, 1867-1912

By Donald R. Walker

Before the discovery of oil and the advent of Progressivism to Texas, the state dealt with prison overcrowding by leasing convicts and their labor to private industry and funneling the profits into the state's coffers. In this book, Donald R. Walker examines economic, social, and political aspects of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Texas that resulted in the leasing system and its eventual demise.

Convict leasing resulted in high mortality rates among prisoners, and stories of abusive guards and intolerable conditions were common. Blacks, who lacked social standing, legal counsel, and the rights to vote, testify, and sit on juries, made up a disproportionate amount of the prison population and were usually sent to work in the fields. In the twentieth century, revenues from the oil industry eased the financial woes of the state, and a movement for social reform gained momentum. Investigative journalism revealed to the public the abuses of prisoners, and in 1912 the state retook control of the prison system.

Relying mainly on primary sources, including eyewitness accounts from prisoners, prison records, private correspondence, and newspaper accounts, Walker gives details and statistics of prison management in Texas during that era that will interest scholars of corrections management, Texas, black history, and the South.

What Readers Are Saying:

"Donald R. Walker . . . proves conclusively by use of primary sources that the emphasis was on prisoners' profitability and not on their reformation." --Review of Texas Books

"His discussion of the origins of the Texas prison system and the relationship of early concepts of penology in Texas both to general theories of penology in the U.S. and to the economic and political realities arising from the limited resources of post-Civil War Texas are focused, clear, and enlightening." --Choice

"A useful contribution to the history of the American prison and an interesting chapter in the history of southern Progressivism." --Journal of American History

"A provocative analysis of the development, role, and problems of the Texas prison system through the latter part of the 1800s and early 1900s. . . . this important study documents the influence of social, political, and economic events in Texas that led to the emergence of the practic of leasing prisons to private industry and the eventual demise of this practice in the twentieth century. . . . an excellent overview of the development of the penitentiary system, including the reasons for its existence, the varying philosophical orientations that supported divergent operating policies, and the forms of convict labor characteristic of prisons in the United States. . . . This book contributes a great deal to our understanding of the role and operation of prisons and is a welcome addition to scholarly analyses of corrections in the United States. This is a studious, well researched, and well-written study of the Texas prison system." --Western Historical Quarterly

"Excellent book . . . a major contribution to the history of prison reform in the United States. This work is required reading for students of criminal justice, corrections management, and progressive reform, as well as the history of Texas and the South." --Journal of the Southwest

"Walker's book raises issues that have relevance today. . . . a solid, stimulating book concerning a persistent problem in American society." --Southern Historian


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