History of the Walls Unit

Walls Unit CJ Talk Flyer

On November 5th at 3pm in the Thomason Room, SHSU Special Collections will be hosting a talk by Jim Willet, Former Warden of the Walls Unit and Director of the Texas Prison Museum.

The Walls Unit (Huntsville Unit) began operations in 1849 and is the oldest building in the Texas prison system. The unit remains attractive to this day and currently houses the State of Texas execution chamber.

Willet will discuss the history of the unit and his time overseeing the execution of inmates.

After the talk, attendees will be able to view exhibits featuring items from a number of high profile criminal justice manuscript collections. Staff members will gladly answer questions about these collections and help you find potential resources for research.

If you are interested in Criminal Justice or the history of the Huntsville, then this is the event for you. Because of the size of the Thomason Room, space is limited so get there early for a seat!

If you would like to follow the event online, you can find us at @SHSUArchives or #WallsTalk

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Criminal Justice Clipping Collection, 1864-2011

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Credit to the Huntsville Item

The Texas Criminal Justice Newspaper Clipping Collection (1864-2011; three boxes) contains newspaper clippings concerning criminal justice in the state of Texas.  The collection’s main focus is the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and includes many articles from the Huntsville Item and various other publications.  The Texas Criminal Justice Newspaper Clipping Collection contains many Texas prison subjects including: death row, prison personnel, prison administration, facilities, escapes, convict labor, the prison rodeo, court cases, corruption, and female inmates.

The picture featured above is an article from the Huntsville Item concerning the possible ending of the Texas Prison Rodeo which was held in Huntsville, TX.

View a detailed finding aid of his collection at Sam Houston State University’s Archon page and see just what materials are in the collection.

Criminal Justice Clipping Collection finding aid

James V. Bennett visiting with a prisoner in his cell

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James V. Bennett speaking to a prisoner in a prison cell

James V. Bennett played a vital role in the creation and initial operation of the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Bennett began his federal government career in 1919 when he was named an Investigator for the U.S. Bureau of Efficiency. Bennett penned “The Federal Penal and Correction Problem” in 1928, which was vital as a catalyst for the creation of the Bureau of Prisons. As Director, Bennett, was a very active reformer of correctional policies and was an advocate for the rights of prison inmates. He was instrumental in opening special institutions for juveniles, rehabilitation centers and halfway houses.These efforts are reflected in his mantra that “We must not rob a man of all hope.” The first “open prison’ was instituted by Bennett in 1938 in Seagonville, Texas. This was a no walls, no bars and a gun free facility. He became president of the National Parole Conference in 1939 and later served as President of the Washington Council of Social Agencies. The Celler-Hennings Act was enacted in 1958 as a result of Bennett’s advocacy for more equity in the process of federal sentencing. The Act empowered the Federal Bureau of Prisons to make sentencing recommendations to the judiciary as well as recommendations relating to sentencing reform.

View photographs from the James V. Bennett Collection, 1905-1971: here

View Finding Aid for the James V. Bennett Collection, 1905-1971 : here

Austin H. MacCormick Papers, 1923-1978

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Picture of Austin MacCormick (Second to left)

Austin H. MacCormick was influential figure in the field of Criminal Justice and the Texas prison system. MacCormick held such positions as as Executive Officer of the U.S. Naval Prison, Assistant Director of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, Professor and Dean of Criminology at Berkeley, and Director of the Osborne Association of New York. His impact on Texas prisons came as a result of his surveys of state prison systems in the southern states. His first survey in 1944 of the Texas Prison System exposed harsh conditions and practices of the prison farms.  By 1947, the prison conditions in Texas had continued to decline and MacCormick made his findings public which created a demand for corrective action.  With a directive from Governor T.C. Jester and under the leadership of Prison Director O.B. Ellis, Texas Prisons instigated comprehensive reforms that made Texas one of the top three prison systems in the country.

The Austin H. MacCormick Papers (1923-1978; eight boxes) consist of documents, reports, brochures, and correspondence concerning Austin H. MacCormick throughout his career as one of the nation’s most influential criminologists and prison reformers.  The documents, brochures, and correspondence portray Austin H. MacCormick’s personal life and career as influential figure in federal and state prison reform and his work with adult and juvenile prisons throughout the nation.  Some of the many subjects include: state and federal prison conditions, prison reformation, juvenile detention centers, probation, parole, correctional standards and staff training.  The collection includes over twenty five individual state correctional system reports conducted by Austin H. MacCormick and other criminologists of the time.

View a detailed finding aid of his collection at Sam Houston State University’s Archon page and see just what materials are in the collection.

https://archon.shsu.edu/index.php?utm_campaign=archon&utm_medium=referral&utm_source=blog&p=collections%2Fcontrolcard&id=6

Sanford Bates Collection, 1906-1972

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Sanford Bates (on left) outside the Bureau of Prisons.

Sanford Bates had a storied career in the field of law and criminal justice. He was practicing lawyer in Boston, member of the Massachusetts Legislature and Senate, first Massachusetts Department of Corrections Commissioner, and first Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons.  Sanford Bates also served as the Executive Director of the Boys Clubs of America, New York State Parole Commissioner, and Commissioner of Institutions and Agencies for the State of New Jersey.  Sanford Bates was involved with the United Nations and other international commissions during the later years of his life.

The Sanford Bates Collection (1906-1972; forty one boxes) consist of documents, reports, brochures, and correspondence concerning Sanford Bates throughout his career as one of the country’s most influential criminologists and prison administrators. His contributions to prisoner rehabilitation were vast and the collection includes many of his progressive papers.  Some of the many subjects include: state and federal prison administration, juvenile delinquency, probation, parole, correctional standards and staff training.  Along with the publications by Sanford Bates, the collection holds articles by many significant criminologists of the time, criminal justice newsletters and articles, and Bates’ personal library of books.

View a detailed finding aid of his collection at Sam Houston State University’s Archon page and see just what materials are in the collection.

https://archon.shsu.edu/index.php?utm_campaign=archon&utm_medium=referral&utm_source=blog&p=collections/controlcard&p=collections/controlcard&id=2

James V. Bennett Collection, 1905-1971

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James V. Bennett played a vital role in the creation and initial operation of the Federal Bureau of Prisons. A graduate of Brown then George Washington University, Bennett began his federal government career in 1919 when he was named an Investigator for the U.S. Bureau of Efficiency. Bennett penned “The Federal Penal and Correction Problem” in 1928, which was vital as a catalyst for the creation of the Bureau of Prisons.

The creation of the Federal Prison Industries Inc. in 1934 can be considered as one of his most significant achievements during his tenure. He worked as Assistant Director for the Federal Bureau of Prisons up until 1937 when he was named Director following Sanford Bates’ retirement. As Director, Bennett, was a very active reformer of correctional policies and was an advocate for the rights of prison inmates. He was instrumental in opening special institutions for juveniles, rehabilitation centers and halfway houses.

The materials that make up the James V. Bennett Collection, 1905-1971 represent a major part of the life and work of James V. Bennett. Significantly, they portray his role as the Director of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons and a prison reformer. This is achieved primarily through his articles, newsletters, books and as well as other materials. There are also many articles and speeches by Mr. Bennett. The most popular theme is prison policies and reform. This collection also contains numerous correspondence and case histories of prison inmates. Pictorial documentation of Bennett as well as many other important personnel is also represented in this collection. There are also several recordings with songs reflective of prison culture.

View a detailed finding aid of his collection at Sam Houston State University’s Archon page and see just what materials are in the collection.

https://archon.shsu.edu/index.php?utm_campaign=archon&utm_medium=referral&utm_source=blog&p=collections/controlcard&p=collections/controlcard&id=3

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