James Bennett and the United Arab Republic


These pictures show James Bennett, second director of the Federal Bureau of Prison, visiting the United Arab Republic sometime during the late 1950s. He was there to take part in a review of this short lived political union between Egypt and Syria’s prison system.  Bennett made a name for himself as a penal reformer and advocate for the improvement of inhumane conditions in prisons.


The James V. Bennett Collection contains a number of photographs and documents related to prisons and prison reviews from around the world. To see the photographs, view the James V. Bennett photographs in our Digital Collections by clicking the link below.

James V. Bennett Photographs

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

James V. Bennett Collection, 1905-1971

Charles Spear Collection, 1840-1851

Charles Spear was a Universalist minister in the mid-1800s who supported the abolishment of the death penalty in the United States. He was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1801 and worked toward social change throughout his life. Dismayed by the negative social view of the incarcerated, Spear began working to promote prisoner rights and prison reform. He worked with ex-prisoners and helped them to adjust back into society. Spear traveled the country speaking on the conditions of prisons and promoting new ideas and practices to reform both inmates and prison administration. He even traveled to England to seek support for the elimination of capital punishment in the United States.

The Charles Spear collection contains a signature book carried by Charles Spear and his brother during their travels and contains signatures of prominent people of the time including Julia Ward Howe, Samuel Fessenden, George Peadody, Robert Rantoul, John Jay, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Henry Ward Beecher, Arthur Tappan, Charles Barnard, Josiah Quincy, Thomas Starr King, Edward Everett, Jared Sparks, George Bliss, Marshall Wilder, Freeman Hunt, Lydia Sigourney, Henry Longfellow, Horace Greeley, George Copway, David Wilmot, Salmon Chase, William Seward, Henry Clay, Charles Sumner, Thurlow Weed, General Winfield Scott, and Jenny Lend. The book also contains copies of the signatures of Abraham Lincoln and Edwin Stanton.

The collection also includes Charles Spear’s original correspondence, prison journal notes, and his book, Essays on the Punishment of Death. The Charles Spear collection is located in Thomason Special Collections at the Newton Gresham Library, the finding aid can be accessed here:

Charles Spear Collection, 1840-1851


Jane Howe Gregory Research Collection


Jane Howe Gregory was a researcher and advocate for prison reform in Texas. She was an active member of the Houston community as President of the Houston Museum of Science Guild, a member of the Board of the Houston Seminar and the Advisory Board of Neuhaus Education Center. She volunteered at the Harris County jail and helped organize literacy programs in the Texas prison system.

The materials of this collection represent Jane Howe Gregory’s extensive research into the Texas Penitentiary, mostly focusing on issues surrounding female inmates. Journal articles, class notes and photocopied prison records are the most common types of materials in this collection. Prison statistics and prison reform pertaining to female prisoners are the most common themes throughout the collection. Also present are newspaper articles, correspondence and records of  prison statistics.

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



Austin H. MacCormick Papers, 1923-1978

MacCormick 001

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.


James V. Bennett Collection, 1905-1971


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.