Have you ever wondered what it is like in the penitentiaries of Texas? Have you been craving another binge watch session of “Orange is the New Black”, “Wentworth” or “Prison Break”? Maybe you have a favorite prison movie? “The Shawshank Redemption”, “The Green Mile”, “Cool Hand Luke” or “Stir Crazy” make your cinematic classic list? The Texas Prison Museum may be a great fit to get a more realistic view of the penal system’s history including some pretty awesome artifacts.
Huntsville, Texas is a prison town. Sam Houston State University and Huntsville State Park are located there, but outside of the large David Addickes created Sam Houston Statue you pass on I-45, I truly believe that the prison is the equally recognizable attraction for the area. The Prison employs 446 individuals, not all of whom are security related. The prison offers educational programs as well as community work projects s and volunteer initiatives. The Correctional Facility itself houses “The Walls Unit”, which is the most active execution chamber in the United States, since Texas reinstated the death penalty in 1982.
However, while the museum can provide information on the correctional facility, both historically and present operations, no one is trying to sell you on the amenities. The daily reality of incarceration is not one to envy. There are schedules, limitations and very obvious space (overcrowding) issues just on face value.
Which is why when I reflect on not only the history of incarcerations in Texas, I have a big respect for individuals who spend their lives serving the inmate populations. I would rather focus on the humanity of the lives that are affected by incarceration than glorifying or solely focusing on those who are sentenced to death. Overall, a frank conversation not only about the conditions that the incarcerated experience, but how to rehabilitate individuals is something that I think will be helpful to understand and improve quality of life all around.
An attraction of the Texas Prison Museum is a device by the nickname of “Old Sparky”, a decommissioned electric chair after the practice of execution by that manner was deemed unfit. You can buy shirts with the chair’s illustration on it, among other tchotchkes in the museum’s gift shop. Possibly, a more fitting highlight are hand crafted items including belt buckles, keychains and leather work. Created by inmates, the items can be customized as well as support an actual industry.
The song this week is Sam Cooke’s “Chain Gang”, which I wanted to highlight the production of actual incorporation of verbal sounds to create the beat. By doing so, and layering the tracks creates a chorus that feels bigger than one man. If I have learned anything from this weeks location, it is that the correctional system, not only in Texas has the ability to affect well more than the parties sentenced to stay in it. So, keep your head up, and let’s take care of one another.
Until next week!